Twentieth Century Fund

Commonly known as the 'Million Guinea Fund', it was inaugurated by the WM Conference in 1898 under the skilful management of Sir Robert W. Perks. It aimed to raise one guinea from each of the 500,000 WM members, plus support from a substantial number of adherents and from other Methodist denominations. Rich and poor members were expected to contribute the same amount, but many wealthy members found as many as 500 poorer ones on whose behalf they could contribute. Some poor members saved their contribution by walking to work or forgoing modest luxuries. There was also provision for Sunday School children to contribute one shilling, for which they received a Wesley medallion. (90,000 of these were struck.) Adult contributors received a printed certificate.

The Fund's aims included a new membership drive, support for home and overseas missions and NCH, and the building of what became Westminster Central Hall, as a 'visible and monumental memorial'. The Fund reached a total of £800,000 and was made up to £1m (approximately £60m today) by anonymous donations by Joseph Rank. It was wound up at the Conference of 1904, though the committee continued to meet until 1909. An 'Historic Roll', made up of 50 large leather-bound volumes and containing the names of all who contributed, is still housed at Westminster Central Hall and is now accessible on microfiche. John Ackworth's fictional The Making of a Million: Tales of the Twentieth Century Fund (1899) was dedicated to R.W. Perks.

The Bible Christians also had a New Century Fund, inaugurated at the Conference of 1899. It aimed to raise at least £25,000 in two years, to be distributed among the Chapel Free Loan Fund, the Preachers' Annuitant Society, ministerial education and the Missionary Society (with China having first claim). By the target date of 1901 only 52% of the total aimed at had been raised and the Fund was kept open. By April 1905 £21,462 had been received and the Fund closed soon after that. The remnants of the older Thanksgiving Fund and James Thorne Centenary Fund had been incorporated into it.

  • Methodist Recorder, 18 April 1901
  • Denis Crane, Sir Robert W. Perks Bart, MP (1909) pp.140-60
  • R.G. Burnett, Through the Mill (1945) pp.97-98
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988), p.601-4
  • Richard Ratcliffe, The Wesleyan Methodist Historic Roll (Federation of Family History Societies (2005)