Pages vii-xix

Two Calvinistic Methodist Chapels, 1743-1811: The London Tabernacle and Spa Fields Chapel. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1975.

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The two manuscripts printed in this volume are almost the only surviving archives of two London chapels of great importance in the eighteenth century, the London Tabernacle and Spa Fields chapel. (fn. 1) These were the principal chapels and headquarters of two different forms of Calvinistic Methodism, George Whitefield's Connexion and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. (fn. 2) Because so little has been written about the history of either Connexion or the English Calvinistic Methodists in general and because neither manuscript has been used by earlier historians, they are of particular importance. The Tabernacle manuscript is part of the archives of the Presbyterian Church of Wales (Trevecka MS. 2946) which are now deposited at the National Library of Wales, (fn. 3) but was known only to the historians of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism. The Spa Fields manuscript was found amongst the archives of Cheshunt College, Cambridge (MS. D1/1) when they were arranged and catalogued a few years ago. The two manuscripts also provide an interesting contrast to one another: the Tabernacle volume is the record of a Methodist chapel and denomination which was run largely by poor and unknown men, while the Spa Fields volume is of a wealthy chapel founded and controlled by a dowager countess. In addition the Tabernacle volume contains the early minutes of the English Calvinistic Methodist Association. The two volumes help to remind us of the great variety in early Methodism.

The Calvinistic Methodists

In England, unlike Wales, the great numerical preponderance of the Arminian Methodists has almost caused the existence of other kinds of Methodism to be forgotten. The amalgamation of almost all the Arminian Methodists into 'The Methodist Church' in 1930 has given the followers of John Wesley a monopoly of the title, and the fact that the only remaining English organisation of Calvinistic Methodists calls itself the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion has concealed the existence of other kinds of Methodism. In Wales, however, there is a large and thriving Calvinistic Methodist Church (now more generally known as the Presbyterian Church of Wales) which makes it necessary in that country to describe 'the Methodists' as 'the Wesleys'. English history has largely ignored the Calvinistic Methodists or confused them with the Arminians. In English Methodist histories the important early Calvinists, George Whitefield, Howell Harris and Lady Huntingdon, are treated as eccentrics or schismatics who can only be described as Methodists while they agreed with John Wesley. Sometimes Evelyn Waugh's parody of early Methodist history (fn. 4) seems to be echoed in more serious works.

In fact the early Methodists were a very mixed group in which Arminian views (fn. 5) seemed unlikely to prevail for many years. The Methodist movement began spontaneously in several different places in Great Britain as a new kind of evangelism. The earliest manifestation of this new religious spirit was probably in South Wales about 1735. At Whitsuntide in that year a young Welshman, Howell Harris, experienced conversion in his parish church of Talgarth near Brecon, and about the same time a Cardiganshire curate, Daniel Rowland of Llangeitho, also found salvation. (fn. 6) From their preaching and the subsequent conversion and preaching of William Williams of Pantycelyn came a lively and active Methodist movement in South Wales which was Calvinist in doctrine.

George Whitefield was also converted in 1735 and the Methodist revival in the area around his home at Gloucester has been linked with his name. However, just as Griffiths Jones had anticipated the work of the Methodists in South Wales without ever adopting the title of Methodist, so there was a group of evangelists in the area between Bristol and Gloucester led by Martin Lloyd who were the precursors of Whitefield and his followers. (fn. 7) That these Gloucester and Bristol Methodists had close links with the Welsh movement is not surprising because the two towns were on the direct route from South Wales to London. Yet for some considerable time the Methodist leaders, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Howell Harris and William Williams, were not acquainted. (fn. 8) All the evidence suggests that the early Methodist movement was more of a grassroots affair than has been generally believed.

Charles and John Wesley were unusual amongst the Methodist leaders because, although sons of a Lincolnshire incumbent, they had nonconformist ancestors. (fn. 9) They both went to Oxford where they founded the 'Holy Club' which Whitefield later joined and continued. After being ordained the two brothers went in 1735 to the new colony of Georgia on behalf of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. On his voyage out John Wesley met a party of Moravians who were also going to Georgia, and he was strongly influenced by their doctrines and by their calm behaviour during a storm. On his return to England in 1737 he attended Moravian services and he was converted on 24 May 1738.

The Moravians, or United Brethren, are one of the most interesting of the small Protestant sects and played an important part in the early development of the Methodist movement. Their church traces its history back to John Hus and the Bohemian Brethren who had been influenced by John Wyclif's writings. After many years of persecution in Bohemia and Moravia the Brethren had split and been driven into hiding. In 1722 refugees renewed the church in Germany on the estates of a friendly Lutheran, Count Zinzendorf. From 1732 onwards the Brethren's settlement at Herrnhut became the centre of great missionary activity in different parts of the world. (fn. 10) In Great Britain and other Protestant countries the Moravians refused to proselytise, but their missionary fervour made a great impression and many early Methodists saw the Brethren's church as their ideal. The Moravians helped to spread Methodism throughout Britain and influenced its organisation. Eventually, under considerable pressure, they accepted some Methodist societies as Moravian churches at the end of the eighteenth century.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Moravians was to persuade the Methodists that they could remain in the Church of England without surrendering their evangelical work. Under Count Zinzendorf in Germany the Brethren thought of themselves as an ecclesiola, a church within the Lutheran church. Prominent features of their distinctive Moravian practices were the societies which held additional preaching and prayer meetings to those provided by the parish church; the division of church members into choirs or bands; (fn. 11) the revival of the agape of the early Church as the 'lovefeast'; and the extensive use of the lot (sortes sanctorum) to decide questions of church business. Except for the lot, which proved very difficult in practice, the early Methodists adopted all these Moravian customs. (fn. 12) In Britain the Moravians eventually had a number of centres. Their societies were not Moravian congregations and the society members remained Anglicans or, less often, Protestant dissenters. The Moravians also had some town churches which were congregations, but their ideal was a religious settlement which aimed at being self-contained and self-supporting with workshops (fn. 13) for the members and schools for their children. The early Methodists were influenced by this ideal too and several attempts were made to establish Methodist communities. Perhaps the best known and longest surviving was Howell Harris's 'Family' at Trevecka.

John Wesley attended Moravian services at the society in Fetter Lane in the City which was established about 1735, and he visited Herrnhut in 1738. In July 1740, however, he quarrelled about doctrine with the Moravian leader in England, Philip Henry Molther, and broke away with some followers to establish his own society at the Foundery on the east side of Windmill Hill (now Tabernacle Street). (fn. 14) Unfortunately Wesley felt obliged to defend his position against the Moravians with a sermon on free grace which he subsequently published. A copy of this reached Whitefield in Georgia (where he had followed the Wesleys) and he saw in it an attack on Calvinism. Whitefield published his reply to Wesley's sermon in December 1740. (fn. 15) In the course of five months the Methodist movement had split into its three main groups: the Moravians who made the Fetter Lane society a town church in 1742 (fn. 16) and established their British headquarters there, the Arminian Methodists with their headquarters at the Foundery, and the Calvinistic Methodists who made their headquarters at the London Tabernacle in 1741. The divisions were not complete for many years and were deplored by the Methodist leaders who continued to preach in one another's societies by invitation, but the main lines had been drawn and individual societies were often very antagonistic.

The Moravians never actively sought converts, but some of the Methodist societies joined them and they became particularly strong in parts of southern Yorkshire and Lancashire, North Wiltshire and Berkshire and at Devonport. Most of Wales was Calvinist and in England the Calvinistic Methodists were strong in Gloucestershire, parts of Essex, around Birmingham and in the dockyard towns of Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. The Wesleyans were strongest in the north-east of England, Cornwall and parts of the Midlands. All three groups were very active in London and the Bristol area where several Methodist schools were established at Kingswood. (fn. 17) Both the Arminian and Calvinistic Methodists were active evangelists and their supporters clashed from time to time in different towns (73).

John Wesley was much more concerned with the organisation of his societies than George Whitefield was with his. Whitefield spent much of his time preaching in North America and Scotland and his particular concern was with the Orphan House which he had founded at Bethesda in Georgia. He therefore allowed John Cennick, a Methodist layman from Reading, to organise the English societies. The Welsh societies had their own separate organisation in which Howell Harris played an important part. Both the English and Welsh Calvinistic Methodists had a more democratic form of government than the Arminians who were dominated from the beginning by John Wesley. In December 1745 John Cennick decided, after some hesitation, to join the Moravians and Howell Harris was invited to take his place as organiser of the English societies (60). Harris had already attended some meetings of the English Association, (fn. 18) but now he divided his time between the two countries, making his English headquarters at the Tabernacle. He was made a trustee of the Tabernacle; (fn. 19) he reorganised the English societies on the Welsh pattern with conferences, associations and bands; (fn. 20) and he was also responsible for the compilation of the records of the Tabernacle and the English Association which are printed in this volume.

Howell Harris, like the other Methodist leaders, believed that the societies must remain in the Church of England. Like the Moravians, he believed that all evangelical Christians should be united in one body. In his diaries he makes frequent mention of discussions on these subjects referring to 'Universal Union' and being 'engraffted fully to the Established Church'. (fn. 21) Harris, however, was prepared to go much further in his pursuit of ecumenicism than most of his contemporaries. He continued to favour the Moravians, he refused to quarrel with the Wesleys, and he frequently tried to mediate in local disputes. As a result he came to be regarded with suspicion by other Calvinistic Methodists, and the break came in 1748 when he quarrelled with George Whitefield. (fn. 22) At the end of 1749 he withdrew from the English Association (107) and two years later he left the Welsh Association. He retired to his home at Trevecka where he founded a religious settlement (Y Teulu) on Moravian lines.

With Harris's withdrawal the Tabernacle volume comes to an end and so does most of our information about the English Association. He took the volume with him to Trevecka, and his successors were apparently not so concerned about recording their activities. The English societies seem to have left the Church of England and adopted a Congregational system in the second half of the eighteenth century. From the church registers we know that there was some kind of informal organisation which enabled the churches to exchange preachers. (fn. 23) In 1781 the Gloucestershire churches had their own Association which was in dispute with the Welsh Association about the church at Haverfordwest. (fn. 24) Unfortunately none of its records seem to have survived and the Gloucestershire churches have few eighteenth-century records. (fn. 25) In the nineteenth century the churches belonging to Whitefield's Connexion joined the Congregational Union and eventually became part of the Congregational Church. (fn. 26)

Because of the lack of strong central direction the English Calvinistic Methodists began to fragment earlier than the Arminian Methodists. About the middle of the eighteenth century Rev. Benjamin Ingham, a Methodist clergyman who had joined the Moravians, established his own Connexion of Calvinistic Methodists in the north of England. (fn. 27) In 1760 his sister-in-law, Selina Dowager Countess of Huntingdon, took the first steps which led to the establishment of her Connexion in the south of England. She had been a supporter of the Methodists since her conversion in 1739 and at that time had tried to encourage preaching on her husband's estates in north-west Leicestershire. (fn. 28) However, until 1760 most of her time had been devoted to her children and the management of the family estates. When freed from these cares she began to take a more active part in evangelisation again. The first Methodist society she established was at Brighton in 1760 and she sold her jewels to build a chapel there. Other chapels followed at Bath (1765), Tunbridge Wells (1769), Worcester (1773), Basingstoke (1777) and Spa Fields, London. In other towns her supporters found less elaborate meetingplaces, usually with her assistance. George Whitefield was a close friend and left the Bethesda Orphan House to her care in his will. Howell Harris, who had resumed his evangelical journeys in England and Wales in 1762, was equally close. (fn. 29) The Countess's Connexion remained distinct from both Whitefield's Connexion in England and the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. (fn. 30) In general the relationship was friendly and there was a considerable interchange of preachers between the three Connexions.

Unlike George Whitefield, Lady Huntingdon closely controlled the administration of her Connexion. Since she provided at least part of the money to build each chapel and subsidised the ministers and exhorters who preached there, she felt entitled to interfere in their affairs at will. In 1768 she established her college to train evangelical ministers in Wales. This was in a farmhouse half a mile from Howell Harris's settlement at Trevecka, so that he could supervise it. (fn. 31) At her death it was taken over by a group of trustees who moved it to Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. In 1782 Lady Huntingdon and her Connexion had seceded from the Church of England because of lawsuits about Spa Fields chapel. However, when she died nine years later she had not succeeded in establishing an organisation to run the Connexion. Her responsibilities passed to her companion, Lady Anne Erskine, and after her death to a group of trustees, some of whom were not members of the Connexion. (fn. 32)

Spa Fields chapel, like the Tabernacle, was the informal head of its denomination. Throughout most of the nineteenth century, when the Connexional trustees and the ministers and congregations were usually in conflict with one another, Spa Fields was almost the only unifying influence. In 1863 the ministers and congregational representatives met there when they proposed to break the deadlock with the trustees by joining the Free Church of England. (fn. 33) It was the demolition and rebuilding of Spa Fields chapel which led to the arrangement of a compromise between trustees and congregations in 1885. In 1884 a history of the chapel was published anonymously to commemorate its impending closure. (fn. 34) The author made certain allegations against the trustees in their dealings with the congregation. When the trustees decided to call a meeting of the Connexion to reply, it was discovered that everyone was weary of the eighty years of controversy within the Connexion, and a reconciliation took place. (fn. 35) Since that time the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion has been a small and peaceful denomination.

The London Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at Moorfields was built in 1741. On 25 March in that year George Whitefield wrote: 'My friends are erecting a place, which I have called a Tabernacle, for morning exposition.' (fn. 36) A society must have been formed soon afterwards because Howell Harris made his first visit on 9 July and wrote in his diary

To the Tabernacle against 6 to 8. Was led to set them to be moderate against censuring others—meaning the Wesleys. (fn. 37)

On 7 December Whitefield wrote in another letter

The work of God advances here greatly. We have a large society, consisting of several hundred, and a noble place to meet in: I have called it a Tabernacle, because, perhaps, we may be called to move our tents. (fn. 38)

By 4 February 1741/2 Harris was writing the first of many letters to 'the dear Society at the Tabernacle'. (fn. 39)

While all this agrees with the account of the Society's origins in the minute book (51), the traditional date of foundation was 1742. This seems to have been caused by a misunderstanding of a letter which Whitefield wrote on 11 May 1742 which described the Whitsuntide Fair at Moorfields and his preaching there. (fn. 40) At the end of the account he wrote

I think I continued in praying, preaching and singing (for at times the noise was too great to preach) about three hours. We then retired to the tabernacle . . . This was the beginning of the tabernacle society. Three hundred and fifty awakened souls were received in one day and I believe the number of notes exceeded a thousand.

Whitefield, writing before Whit Monday 1742 (7 June), was clearly describing the events of Whit Monday 1741 (18 May) for his correspondent. Later writers on Whitefield, however, assumed that he was writing about Easter Monday 1742 (19 April) and made alterations in the text of the letter. (fn. 41)

The wrong date has been well publicised because the scene described so vividly by Whitefield inspired Eyre Crowe at the end of the nineteenth century to paint 'Whitefield preaching at Moorfields in 1742'. Since its appearance at the Royal Academy it has been a favourite with writers on Whitefield. (fn. 42) There is no other evidence about the date of foundation of the Tabernacle. Despite the statement in the minute book (7), no trust deed was enrolled in the court of Chancery in its early years. The register of baptism does not begin until 1768. (fn. 43)

Although Whitefield regretted that the Tabernacle was so close to the Foundery and built the Tottenham Court chapel in 1756 for this reason, (fn. 44) his supporters undoubtedly wanted a meeting place as a counter-attraction to the Foundery. When Howell Harris was in London in the spring of 1740 he attended the Foundery frequently. In the following year he went to the Tabernacle instead and noted: 'I hear Mr Wesley said if you would be saved stay here, if you would be damned go to the Tabernacle'. (fn. 45) Harris did not believe that Wesley had said this, but it was probably believed by most of the Calvinistic Methodists and shows the stresses between the two Methodist societies at this early date. The proximity of the Tabernacle to the Foundery meant that they were competing for hearers and converts and this can hardly have contributed to an harmonious relationship.

Because George Whitefield was so frequently absent from England he left the affairs of the Tabernacle in the hands of its members. Until December 1745 John Cennick was his deputy and presided over society conferences as well as association meetings. After he joined the Moravians Howell Harris took his place. After his withdrawal we have no evidence about who succeeded him. In general the Tabernacle followed the precedents of the seventeenth-century dissenters and the Moravians, and allowed society members to vote on business matters. In this they were very different from both the Wesleyans and Lady Huntingdon's Connexion where almost all the decisions were made by John Wesley and the Countess. (fn. 46) At the Tabernacle there was a general monthly conference of the whole society and weekly conferences of the ministers and exhorters. (fn. 47) On Wednesdays the superintendents or visitors of the choirs (into which the society was divided) met the ministers. (fn. 48) Love feasts and exhortations were also held on Wednesday evenings, and by 1746 the ministers were meeting different groups of the society on almost every evening of the week. (fn. 49)

The conference decided questions of admission to, or expulsion from, the society. The tickets admitting members to services or communion were issued quarterly by the ministers and visitors with the advice of the conference. For a time the conference ran a workshop which was closed (2). In 1745 it started an employment exchange (22). It tried to provide help for poor members of the society and ran a school for members' children. It accepted some responsibility for the other societies in the London area and for the collections made in England to support the Orphan House at Bethesda. One of the members made the arrangements for printing and selling Whitefield's works, and in 1747 the conference took over the responsibility of printing a Calvinistic Methodist magazine. (fn. 50)

After Howell Harris's departure from the Tabernacle, the information available about its history is rather scanty. The chapel was rebuilt on a larger scale with a house adjoining for Whitefield's use in 1753. (fn. 51) It was this building in which Rev. Samuel Davies heard Whitefield preach in 1754:

went in the Evening to hear Mr Whitefield in the Tabernacle, a large spacious Building. The Assembly was very numerous, tho' not equal to what is Common. He preached on the Parable of the barren Fig-Tree, and tho' the Discourse was incoherent, yet it seemed to me better calculated to do good to Mankind than all the accurate, languid Discourses I have heard. (fn. 52)

Although Whitefield bequeathed both the Tabernacle and the Tottenham Court chapel to his executors, Daniel West and Robert Keen, in 1770, it is probable that the congregation continued to govern itself on traditional lines. Various statements have been made about the ministers who officiated there, (fn. 53) but the evidence of the registers is that there was no stated minister as late as 1840. Baptismal entries from 1768 onwards are usually signed by Rowland Hill, Torial Joss, J. A. Knight or Andrew Kinsman of Plymouth, all of whom were members of the Whitefield Connexion. (fn. 54) The Tabernacle probably broke its last links with the Established Church after Whitefield's death in 1770 and it was a Congregational church by the end of the century. (fn. 55)

Most of the Tabernacle's congregation lived in the suburb of Shoreditch. In 1795 and 1796 the baptismal register gives the parish of forty-seven. Twenty came from the parish of St Leonard Shoreditch, and eleven from St Luke Old Street. Of the remainder three lived in St Botolph Aldersgate, and two each in St Matthew Bethnal Green, and St John Hackney. Four parishes within the city walls and three others outside (Clerkenwell, Stepney and Tower Hamlets) were represented by one family each. A new church was erected in 1868, but the movement of population away from the city in the late nineteenth century affected the Tabernacle's congregations severely. By 1904 attendance at Sunday evening services was less than one hundred, the lowest for any Congregational church in the area. (fn. 56) About this time it changed into a mission with social aims for the poor, but without much success. From 1920 onwards it had no minister, but it was not finally closed until 1958. (fn. 57)

Spa Fields Chapel

In 1777 a group of Calvinistic Methodists in London leased the Pantheon in Spa Fields for preaching. The Pantheon had been built a few years earlier as a place for drinking 'tea or spiritous liquors', but had proved unsuccessful. (fn. 58) The congregation was at first known as the Clerkenwell Society (108), then as the Northampton Chapel (after the name of the field on which it was built) and when it became part of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, as Spa Fields. Initially the society was independent of the Connexion, and it remained so until William Sellon, the incumbent of St James Clerkenwell, began proceedings against the Anglican ministers who preached there. Some of these were preachers in the Connexion and interested the Countess in the case. She thereupon took over the lease of the building and incorporated the society in her Connexion. (fn. 59)

When Sellon had started his first round of lawsuits the society had elected a committee to defend the ministers and a subscription was raised to pay the expenses. After Lady Huntingdon took over the lease Sellon began a fresh series of lawsuits in the Bishop of London's consistory court. She defended her ministers on the grounds that they were her chaplains and Spa Fields was her private chapel. (fn. 60) She paid the cost of the later lawsuits herself, but the original committee remained in existence and paid the remaining expenses of the earlier suits (which Sellon had won). On 25 January 1780, however, Lady Huntingdon appointed a new committee to run Spa Fields chapel (111). Six members of the original committee served on it, but six new members were substituted for the other seven. Although the new committee had a power of attorney from the Countess (178) it was expected to consult her before taking any action. It undertook some responsibility for the chapel debts, made payments on behalf of the Countess and sometimes took action for the benefit of the Connexion as a whole. It worked with the other London chapels, Mulberry Gardens and Zion, about matters of common interest, but it was never permitted the freedom of action which the Tabernacle committee enjoyed. Despite, or perhaps because of, this the committee came into conflict with Lady Huntingdon from time to time. Her decisions were frequently arbitrary and made without reference to those most affected by them. In her later years she also incurred more debts on behalf of the Connexion than her friends thought advisable and this too led to disputes. (fn. 61)

By the summer of 1781 the Countess had decided with her usual impetuousness that she must secede from the Church of England. The consistory court had rejected her plea that Spa Fields was her private chapel and she had been unable to get any support from the Bishop of London. Both the Welsh and English Calvinistic Methodists advised her against such an extreme step as secession, but in January 1782 she and three of her ministers made a formal declaration of withdrawal from the Established Church. (fn. 62) The new denomination was soon provided with a doctrinal standard—the fifteen Articles, which were a Calvinist version of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England. (fn. 63) The Countess's ministers ordained students from Trevecka College at Spa Fields. But the government of the Connexion remained firmly in the hands of the Countess. For many purposes Spa Fields became the unofficial head of the Connexion, more particularly because the Countess stayed in the house attached to the chapel when she was in London. Just before her death the Countess tried to arrange for the future government of her College and her Connexion by proposing two 'Plans', but without much success. The Plan of 1787 for the College was largely in the hands of Spa Fields members and had a limited success when the Apostolic Society was formed to carry on the College after the Countess's death. (fn. 64) The Plan for the Connexion put forward in 1789 was strongly criticised, and a second Plan was issued which excluded most of the Spa Fields committee from the government of the Connexion. (fn. 65) Because of this and other difficulties it was never implemented. In her will Lady Huntingdon left the Connexional property to her companion, Lady Anne Erskine, and other trustees. Lady Anne lived permanently in the chapel house at Spa Fields and so was probably able to interfere more in the conduct of chapel business. There are very few minutes in the book for this period (1791-1807), but at least one refers to these difficulties (236). After Lady Anne's death the committee achieved more independence and Spa Fields became in fact 'the head and centre of the Connection' (243). Unfortunately no later minute books have survived to throw light on the contributions of Spa Fields to the Connexion during the nineteenth century. Only the registers of baptisms and burials and some early account books remain. (fn. 66)

At the end of the eighteenth century Spa Fields drew its membership from a wider area than the Tabernacle. This was almost certainly because its members were wealthier than those attending the Tabernacle. Of ninety-nine entries in the baptismal register for 1799 and 1800, almost half the families (forty-seven) lived in the parish of St James Clerkenwell. Fifteen came from St Andrew Holborn, six from St Leonard Shoreditch and four each from St Luke Old Street and St Pancras. The remaining twenty-three came from nineteen different parishes, almost all outside the City walls. (fn. 67) If baptisms may be used as a guide, the Spa Fields congregation was twice as numerous as the Tabernacle's.

It is difficult to trace the later history of Spa Fields in detail because no minute books after 1811 have survived. In 1846 the chapel was partly rebuilt and the congregation decided to appoint a permanent minister for the first time. It was probably the last Connexional chapel to abandon the principle of an itinerating ministry. By 1874 the congregation was concerned about the future of the church because the lease of the site would expire in 1886 and the lessor was known to be unwilling to renew it. Other sites were considered but nothing was done until 1882 when the Metropolitan Board of Works announced that it needed the chapel frontage for street widening. Disputes with the Connexion's trustees about the future of the church led to Mr Willcocks' history and the conference of 1885. After the reconciliation (fn. 68) the site was sold to the Anglicans and, in 1886, a new chapel was built in Wharton Street, Lloyd Square. However, the congregation dwindled. By 1904, like the Tabernacle, it had fewer than one hundred attending evening service. (fn. 69) Throughout the early years of the twentieth century it continued to decline. It was finally closed in about 1934 and the building was acquired for a Pentecostal church.

Editorial Note

The two volumes here transcribed were compiled for different purposes. The Tabernacle volume contains draft minutes, some of which were written and amended during the meetings to which they refer. It was compiled for internal purposes only. Most of the volume is in Howell Harris's difficult handwriting and it is a very personal record. The Spa Fields volume, on the other hand, is a much more formal record of proceedings apparently written up at leisure (fn. 70) and with the intention of providing a permanent and public record of the committee's proceedings. Towards the end of the volume a number of extraneous matters have been included for the same reason. More attention has therefore been paid in this transcript to the mistakes, alterations and other minutiae in the Tabernacle volume because they are important for an understanding of the manuscript.

In both volumes the punctuation has been modernised to improve intelligibility and excessive capitalisation has been reduced. Where possible the original spelling has been retained, but abbreviations have been expanded and apostrophes (supply'd, shou'd) have been eliminated. In the Tabernacle volume some of the entries are so difficult to read that some words can only be identified from their context. In these cases modern spelling has been used. The word deleted in square brackets indicates that the preceding paragraph has been struck through.

Both volumes are small and flimsy. Sheets slightly smaller than quarto have been folded in half to form a single gathering. The Spa Fields volume has a paper cover, but the Tabernacle volume has none. A list of contents has been included in the latter at a recent period. The Tabernacle volume has been paginated from both ends in separate sequences, but the flyleaves (which include some of the text) were not numbered. The Spa Fields volume was foliated by the editor when cataloguing the Cheshunt College archives. References are given in this transcript to the recto and verso of each folio.


The Tabernacle volume is reproduced by permission of the Historical Society of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. I am particularly indebted to the Society's editor, the Rev. Gomer M. Roberts, who first drew my attention to the manuscript and has since assisted me in innumerable ways. The original is deposited in the National Library of Wales, and the staff there (in particular Miss Monica Davies) have been very helpful.

The Spa Fields volume is reproduced by permission of the Governors of Cheshunt College Foundation, Cambridge. The President of the College, the Rev. J. E. Newport, kindly obtained this permission and has greatly assisted my work in the College archives. His secretary, Mrs R. Richardson, has also been very helpful.

Dr G. F. Nuttall of New College, London, has encouraged my interest in the Calvinistic Methodist movement for many years. He has read a draft of this introduction and supplied me with many useful references. Dr Albert Hollaender, formerly Keeper of MSS. at the Guildhall Library, identified various references to the two chapels and the staff of the library of the Institute of Historical Research have provided others.

My wife has read the typescript and proofs and my daughter Alison has helped to compile the index. Although I typed the final version of this book myself, two typists, Mrs J. G. Gardner of Southampton and Mrs J. Ashman of Cambridge, struggled with successive versions of the Tabernacle transcript with great patience and care. I am indebted to them all.


  • 1. The latter was originally called Northampton chapel, but 'Spa Fields' soon superseded it in general use and is used throughout this introduction.
  • 2. Although both the manuscripts printed here usually spell this word 'Connection', the modern practice of the denomination is used in this introduction.
  • 3. For the Trevecka MSS. see M. H. Jones, The Trevecka Letters (Caernarvon, 1932).
  • 4. Vile Bodies (1930), chapter 9.
  • 5. Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch theologian, denied the predestinarian views of John Calvin (1509-64). Briefly Arminians believed that anyone could be saved: Calvinists that only the elect would be saved.
  • 6. See R. R. Williams, Flames from the Altar (Caernarvon, 1962).
  • 7. E. Welch, 'A forgotten thread in Congregational history', Trans. Congregational Historical Soc., xxi (1972), 84-93.
  • 8. See A. A. Dallimore, George Whitefield, i (1970).
  • 9. Neither Whitefield, some of whose relations were clergymen, nor Howell Harris had any family links with the older dissenting churches.
  • 10. See J. Hutton, A History of the Moravian Church (1909).
  • 11. The usual division was into married men and women, single men, single women, and different groups of children.
  • 12. C. W. Towlson, Moravian and Methodist (1957) and W. G. Addison, The Renewed Church of the United Brethren (1932).
  • 13. The Tabernacle society appears to have attempted unsuccessfully to maintain a workshop (2).
  • 14. Hutton, Moravian Church, 288-300.
  • 15. George Whitefield's Journals (1960), 563-88. John Gillies, Memoirs of the Life of Whitefield (1772), 68-71.
  • 16. They occupied a former Congregational meeting house between Nevill's Court and New Street (W. Wilson, History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches . . . in London, iii (1810), 420). They left Fetter Lane in the Second World War.
  • 17. A. G. Ives, Kingswood School (1970), 227-33.
  • 18. Howell Harris, Reformer and Soldier, ed. T. Beynon (Caernarvon, 1958), 48, 51.
  • 19. Howell Harris's Visits to London, ed. T. Beynon (Aberystwyth, 1960), 79.
  • 20. Selected Trevecka Letters, 1742-7, ed. G. M. Roberts (Caernarvon, 1956), 192-7.
  • 21. Howell Harris, Reformer, 22, 152; Howell Harris's Visits to Pembrokeshire, ed. T. Beynon (Aberystwyth, 1966), 115.
  • 22. Visits to London, 12-13.
  • 23. See E. Welch, 'Andrew Kinsman's Churches at Plymouth', Trans. Devons. Assoc., xcvii (1965), 212-36.
  • 24. E. Welch, 'A proposal for an agreement', Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Hanes y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, lii (1967), 40-1.
  • 25. I am indebted to the County Archivist of Gloucestershire and his staff for information about the surviving church records.
  • 26. In 1972 the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church of England joined together to form the United Reformed Church. It is possible that some of the Whitefield churches remained outside this union.
  • 27. R. W. Thompson, Benjamin Ingham (Kendal, 1958). A few Inghamite churches survive in South Lancs. and at Brantford, Ontario (D. F. Clarke, 'Benjamin Ingham, 1712-72', Proc. Wesley Hist. Soc., xxxviii (1972), 170).
  • 28. Leics. Record Office, DE 23/1. Leicester Museum Archives Dept., 14D32 (12 Oct. 1739). Her efforts in Leicestershire led indirectly to the formation of the New Connexion of General Baptists.
  • 29. Selected Trevecka Letters, 1747-94, ed. G. M. Roberts (Caernarvon, 1962), 91-3.
  • 30. The Countess had one chapel in Wales, at Swansea, although she sometimes assisted other Welsh societies.
  • 31. G. F. Nuttall, The Significance of Trevecca College (1969).
  • 32. One, Thomas Haweis, was a beneficed Anglican clergyman.
  • 33. Circular of the Free Church of England, no. 1 (Oct. 1863), 22-5. The Free Church of England was founded in 1843, was associated with the Connexion for a few years after 1863 and is now an independent denomination.
  • 34. F. W. Willcocks, Spa Fields and its Associations (1884).
  • 35. Report of Proceedings at a Conference of the Ministers and Managers of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion together with the Trustees, held at Union Chapel, Islington (1885).
  • 36. John Gillies, A Select Collection of Letters of George Whitefield, i (1772), 257. The Tabernacle lay to the west of Windmill Hill (now Tabernacle Street).
  • 37. Visits to London, 22.
  • 38. Gillies, Letters of Whitefield, i, 344. Most of the chapels in the Whitefield Connexion were called the Tabernacle from this example. Whitefield thought that the Tabernacle was too close to Wesley's Foundery and so might have to be moved.
  • 39. Trevecka Letters, 1742-7, 4.
  • 40. Gillies, Letters of Whitefield, i, 384.
  • 41. A. D. Belden, George Whitefield the Awakener [1930], 130-1, and A. G. L. Harland, The Tabernacle in Moorfields [1909], 9-10.
  • 42. For example, it appears frequently in the Evangelical Library Bulletin.
  • 43. P.R.O., RG 4/4523. This register was not compiled until June 1784; the first part is a copy.
  • 44. This is now Whitefield Memorial Church in Tottenham Court Road.
  • 45. Visits to London, 22, 28.
  • 46. The Countess in particular was much nearer the 19th-century concept of proprietary chapels than the 17th-century one of congregations of 'saints'.
  • 47. In 1744 both were held on Monday evenings (Visits to London, 40-50).
  • 48. Visits to London, 46. In Feb. 1743/4 there were six choirs.
  • 49. Visits to London, 42, 44. See also 42.
  • 50. See 39. Apparently the only surviving file of this publication is at the National Library of Wales. From Mar. 1741 to Nov. 1742 it was called the Weekly History. This was followed by 84 undated numbers of the Christian's Amusement, presumably for 1743 and 1744. No later copies of the Weekly History or the Monthly History mentioned in these minutes have been found.
  • 51. Gillies, Life of Whitefield, i, 201, 221.
  • 52. G. W. Pilcher, The Rev. Samuel Davies Abroad (Chicago, 1967), 47.
  • 53. Gillies, Life of Whitefield, i, 356 and Harland, Tabernacle, 13.
  • 54. P.R.O., RG 4/4523. Cradock Glascott, one of Lady Huntingdon's ministers, signed it in 1776, and John Berridge, another Anglican clergyman, in 1779.
  • 55. Similarly, the Plymouth Tabernacle obtained an ordained minister of its own in 1763 (Andrew Kinsman) and became a Congregational church in 1797 (Trans. Devons. Assoc., xcvii, 212-35).
  • 56. The Religious Life of London, ed. R. Mudie-Smith (1904), 184.
  • 57. Congregational Year Books, 1900-59. No records of the Moorfields Tabernacle later than 1749 are known to the Rev. J. H. Taylor, an expert on London Congregational records.
  • 58. Greater London Record Office, DL/C/281; Willcocks, Spa Fields, 8.
  • 59. For a full account of the origins of the chapel see E. Welch, 'Lady Huntingdon and Spa Fields Chapel', Guildhall Miscellany, iv (1972), 175-83.
  • 60. Greater London Record Office, DL/C/281.
  • 61. This account of the Countess's difficulties, based on her later correspondence preserved at Cheshunt College, is confirmed by the Spa Fields minute book.
  • 62. Guildhall Miscellany, iv, 180. One of the ministers, Cradock Glascott, soon returned to the Church.
  • 63. Printed in Appendix I (252-8).
  • 64. Cheshunt MS., C18/1. The Apostolic Society committee became the College Trustees.
  • 65. The first Plan has not survived; the second is printed in Appendix II (259-64).
  • 66. The registers of baptisms (1783-1837) and burials (1778-1849) are in the P.R.O. Account books for the chapel (1794-6), the chapel school (1782-1807) and for charities (1780-6), which are in Cheshunt College archives.
  • 67. P.R.O., RG 4/4536.
  • 68. Willcocks, Spa Fields, 73-9; Cheshunt MS. G 3/14.
  • 69. Religious Life of London, ed. Mudie-Smith, 184.
  • 70. The delay in writing up the minutes may account for some of the missing entries in this book.