[part 2]

The Story of Primitive Methodism in the Isle of Man


THE MISSIONING OF DOUGLAS. – From a letter, which later will be given in full, we learn what is probably the exact date when Douglas was first missioned.
" We have begun preaching in Douglas; one of our preachers has preached there at the Market Place these five Sabbaths last past, and has been attended by amazingly large congregations."

[Derbyhaven] Derby Haven. House where J Butcher held the first service on the Island.
The date when the letter was written is " May 5th, 1823," so that reckoning back for " these five Sabbaths last past " will bring us to tine' last Sunday in March, which fell on the 28th that year. Open air services were continued regularly through the summer, Butcher preaching in the Market Place or sometimes on the beach where now stands our Loch Parade Church. A strong Society was early formed which in midsummer grew into several classes, meeting in the homes of the members. As the autumn drew nigh the rapidly growing Church began to think and talk about building. Land was purchased in Factory Lane, now Wellington Street; the deed is dated 12th August, 1823; and the three preachers, J. and T. Butcher and Sherman, held a service on the plot in September. Building operations soon began, and early in 1824 the chapel was opened at a cost of £935. The debt, when finished, was £350.This was by far the most commodious chapel built for many years, and was prophetic of the coming days, when Douglas would stand at the head of the Island Circuit. The town of Douglas had then a population of 8,000 (now nearly 25,000) and for our Church became a new centre from which the work extended to Laxey, Onchan, Union Mills, and Baldwin.

This rapid survey will show that much more " land had been possessed " during the second period of two months. Butcher, who possessed the faculty of a wise general, was careful to make sure of his strategic positions and to keep open his lines of communication, and he became bolder with every new advance. From farmhouse to village, from village to town; and, as he marched forward, his army grew and his forts were-strengthened. . In all this arduous work Butcher was alone, preaching. and leading the classes. At the end of the first month presumably he had asked for a young man to assist him, for we find the Bolton Circuit pass a resolution at a meeting which appears to have been held on February 1st, 1823:-
" That Brother Butcher be wrote to inform him that we cannot send him a young man through the medium of another Circuit, and also, considering our embarrassment, request a speedy payment for the books, but, if he likes to continue according to the agreement, he may."
[Clycur] Clycur farm, date on front 1780 where Butcher preached and formed one of the first societies

Hardly the most likely kind of resolution to encourage a lonely man on a new mission- But those were heroic days. Butcher did continue, and more, is joined by a young man some time after this, and that young man no other than his own son, Thomas. Where Thomas came from we have not the slightest idea. He flashes like a meteor into the ranks of the ministry, travels with his father the rest of the year, and became Superintendent of the Island Circuit in 1824. The first reference to Thomas is a letter he writes to the " Magazine " of 1824.
" Sunday, April 20th, 1823. I led a lovefeast at Castletown at nine o'clock in the morning. Such alove feast I never was at before. Simplicity and godly sincerity rested on everyone. The power of God came down and filled the place. We bad three up at once-to speak. I did not allow .them to speak above two or three minutes each,. and I believe there were not more than seven out of all the roomful but whatspake. After speaking we fell into-prayer; two souls got into full liberty that I know of. But how many more I know not, for there were many crying out for mercy. Since then I have been round the Circuit, and in every place there are some who are rejoicing that ever they came to the lovefeast at Castletown. Praise the Lord.-T. Butcher."

This letter, given at length, will show, not only that the work continued without abatement, but also that Thomas Butcher must have been a young man of the right stamp for this new field. I have also heard that Mrs. John Butcher was an excellent woman, and rendered considerable assistance in the work of evangelisation. The Manx people have a homely way of giving the differing characteristics of the three. They say, John Butcher, such was his forceful style in preaching to the unsaved, " knocked them down "; Mrs. Butcher, the mother, with her womanly sympathy, " succoured them "; while Thomas, the son, with his more persuasive and instructive method, " lifted them up and set them on their feet again."
How the work progressed generally for the two months following the March Quarterly Meeting maybe judged from the following letter, written by some of the leaders of the Island to the authorities of our Church in England: _
Kirk Arbory, Isle of Man, May 5th, 1823." Dear Brethren and Fathers in the Gospel, _ We: have pleasure of informing you that the preachers you have sent to us have, by their preaching and the blessing of Almighty God, been rendered instrumental in the salvation of many souls. We have now in Society about 200 members, and the work appears to be as prosperous as if it were just beginning, for the people flock to hear them, as doves to the windows,' from distances of four and five miles, and are crying, 'Come, preach for us.' But we, have but two preachers; they can compass only about twelve to fourteen miles in length on one side of the Island. And as we have no local preachers we cannot reach the places as we could wish. We have some who are nearly ready for exhorters. We have begun to have some prayer meetings, and they: are a great blessing to us. We have begun preaching in Douglas; one of our preachers has preached there at the Market Place these five Sabbaths last. past, and has been attended by amazingly large congregations.
" We remain, in the bonds of love and fellowship," A.C., J.G., J.C., C.C."
This joint-letter was not an official document, but written out of the fulness of the heart of those who cared more for the prosperity of God's work than for their own recognition. How fain would we know their full name! But no key has [Clycur Chapel] been found to unlock the mystery of these initials. If, however, we cannot have their names, we may locate their church. In Kirk Arbory, or Parish of Arbory, is situated the village of Colby, where a vigorous Society had been formed, from which this letter came, and to which Society, in all probability, the writers belonged.

Clycur Chapel, on site of first chapel in Island

Two other short letters which we have found embedded in the early Magazines give us a view of the work as it went forward during the next month. The first is from T. Butcher.


" Sunday, June 15th, at nine o'clock in the morning, I held a lovefeast at Ballasalla in a large barn, crowded full, and it was a glorious time. Glory be to His holy name.-T. BUTCHER."

From the second letter, which gives us a wider view of the field, we learn that there had been an increase of 250 members for the quarter.

"Douglas, Isle of Man, June 13th, 1823. "Dear Brethren in the Lord,-I have pleasure to inform you the, the Lord is making bare His arm in saving sinners. Truly we duty say the harvest is white over, but the labourers are few. We have 360 members in the Island. - J.K."

Peel Old Chapel Peel Old Chapel

It was at the Conference held this month that the Isle of Man was made a separate Circuit. In five months, almost single-handed, with no local preachers, and only a few class leaders to help him, Butcher had made a Circuit with 360 members. There are a few, but not many, like achievements.

Peel New Chapel Peel New Chapel

It was at the Conference held this month that the Isle of Man was made a separate Circuit. In five months, almost single-handed, with no local preachers, and only a few class leaders to help him, Butcher had made a Circuit with 360 members. There are a few, but not many, like achievements. Was not Bolton Circuit's foresight fully justified in recording " that Bro. Butcher is the fit and proper person ' ?


The growing importance of the Manx Mission, together with the appeal of the Manx leaders, pre-vailed with the Conference, and an additional preacher was appointed for the next Connexional year. The preacher was


who, with the Butchers, shares the Honour of pioneering our Church on the Island, and whose "Journal," although meagre, is almost the sole guide in our chronicle for the rest of this year, 1823. Sherman tells us that he left Congleton on July 11th for the Island. In Liverpool he had to wait several days for a passage, but used the opportunity in preaching; and several were converted. He reached the Island safely after an all-night passage on the 16th, and preached in Douglas on the following day "to many' people, and had a good time." He continues :--"I found Thomas Butcher had laboured so hard that a little rest was necessary for him. I took his appointment for him until the 25th, during which the Lord was with us; many joined Society, and some found liberty of soul. Praise the Lord. I shell went, as appointed by the committee, to Castletown."

From the " Journal ', we notice that the work was carefully organised, and the movements of the preachers, J. and T. Butcher and Sharman, directed by a committee, presumably, meeting in Douglas. The Circuit which comprised the Island was divided into three sections, or, as Sherman calls them, " rounds," and each preacher spends a month on one round. After taking T. Butcher's work for a week, Sherman went for a month to the Castletown side.

" It was appointed that I should preach at Castletown, Colby, Port Iron, Howe, Kirk Santon, Balla-salla, and Derby Haven. These places had been opened by John Butcher, and had classes in them. I continued to labour hero until September 6th. God was with me; the Society increased. In that time we bought ground to build a chapel in Castle-town, and John Butcher and I preached on the ground to many people. The Lord was with us. Praise Him."

We next find Sharman on the Douglas "round," which included Laxey, Clioun [sic Union] Mills, Baldwin, -and Onchan. Here he meets with Thomas Steel, of Tunstall, who greatly assists them in the work, " preaching occasionally, and is made A great blessing to our Society in the Island. We preachers believe the Lord Sent him. May God still be with him. Several new classes have been raised, and some of the vilest of the vile brought in."

No chapel had yet been built in Douglas, but ground had been purchased and " consecrated " by the holding of a preaching service upon it. At this service and at the large Camp Meetings held in September the three preachers took part.

The third " round ,' comprised Peel, Glen Maye(Raby), Renshent, Clougher, and Kirk Michael. Sherman writes:-

" October 1st, 1823, I was appointed to Peel. This place, noted for drunkenness and hardness, gave me some concern But I knew only one way, which was, as Mr. Steel advised me, to give myself to prayer."

For some time the ground continued hard, but prayer won the day. Indifference was broken down, prejudice was disarmed, the congregations increased, and Sherman had the joy of saying, as the result of his month's labour-
"In which time I joined in Society fifty-three, and about seven got liberty, and many were left in distress."

To give more Extracts from the "Journal " would be very largely a repetition of difficulties overcome, of triumphs won. Henry Sharman Laboured for only twelve months on the Island, but has left a noble record. A young man of great energy, endurance, and considerable culture. During the twelve mouths he walked 2,200 miles, and preached 400 times! In the immense labour which this involved he was carried forward by the joy of saving men. And he had few services without conversions. The Rev. Thomas Russell, who suffered imprisonment on the Berkshire Mission, was converted under Sherman. Hundleds on the Island, not only among the poor, but also among the gentry, were attracted by his preaching, and many were awakened. A clergy-man who had become careless and intemperate was arrested by the plain, earnest works of our preacher, and became a changed man. In a short time his Empty church filled, and he became a popular and evangelical preacher. Thy bishop's Stewards was also a trophy of Sharman's, and the bishop himself became a friend. They met one Sunday morning, Sharman was walking from Ramsey to Peel, and was overtaken by the bishop, who was riding. The bishop offered Sherman the spare horse which he had with him. The offer was accepted, and the people of Peel were astonished to see the Primitive Methodist preacher and the bishop ride together into their town. The bishop shook hands with Sharman, and bade him God speed. This simple incident did out cause a great amount of good; it largely changed public opinion in our favour. The local press had been cynical, but veered right round, and began to be friendly, and tell of the self-denying labours of our preachers.

The end of the first twelve months is approaching. The Manx Mission had proved a decided success. We quote once more from Sharman's " Journal ":-

" December 1st, 1823, was our Quarter Day. We that day had found that God had blessed us, both temporally and spiritually. We were able to send the money we awed to Bolton Circuit, and were very little short in paying all besides. We found also that we had 643 members in the Island. Thank the Lord for all His benefits."

Is not this a worthy achievement? In less than twelve months a Circuit of 643 members! The progress was unusual - perhaps abnormal - for we shall have to notice serious declensions. Had there been less care in counting? Had J. Butcher's slower and surer methods been departed from ? Or was it simple evidence that the preaching and methods of our preachers found a ready response in the fervent temperament of the Manx people? The last surmise best fits the facts of our history. Our first preachers met with general favour; there was aloofness in some places, but little or no active opposition

The work, too, began to consolidate, and chapels were being built. Sharman finishes his brief journal:

"December 21st, 1823. My brother Butcher and I opened Castletown. Chapel, and four more are in building in the Island."

The old chapel is still to be seen. It was originally built with a house at the end, which was afterwards thrown into the main building. Clycur Chapel had been built at harvest time, so that the four which were building would be Douglas, Quines Hill, Ramsey, and Ballasalla.

Sharman preached the opening sermon from the text, " And on this rock will I build My Church." The chapel, built of stones from the seashore, cost £200; the debt when finished was £100; It contained 369 lettable sittings, and 135 free. When opened, the membership was 59. Hugh Bourne preached in it many times, and it became the scene of hundreds of conversions.

This chronicle of the first year of the progress of our Church on the Island is imperfect; there are many gaps in it, and yet sufficient is given to lead the slowest temperament to admit that Bolton did a wise thing when it sent Butcher to the Isle of Man. The investment proved a most prudent and successful one. As Mr. Kendall says in the " History,' " Nor only was Bolton nothing out of packet by its venture, but it had also the satisfaction of knowing that. by its enterprise it had added a miniature kingdom to the Connexion, and set a worthy example before other Circuits (Vol. II., 41).

Knocksharry Chapel Knocksherry Chapel near Peel [sic Knocksharry - built 1843]

(To be continued. )





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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001