Manor Alley   Click to enlarge
The medieval port, otherwise known as Kingston-upon-Hull, grew rapidly with the new docks after 1774 and became both a WM and a PM Conference town. Elizabeth Blow, who periodically crossed the Humber from Grimsby, stayed with the Medforths in Humber Street and this led to a Methodist society being formed about 1746, meeting in Ropery. John Wesley first visited in 1749 and on a return visit in 1759 met his old friend Charles Delamotte.Wilberforce House, birthplace of the antislavery campaigner to whom Wesley wrote his last-known letter, is preserved as a museum in his memory.

Hull became a circuit in 1771. The Manor House Tower, originally used by a Baptist congregation, was used for Methodist meetings from 1757; Manor Alley Chapel, described by Wesley as 'one of the prettiest preaching houses in the country', replaced it in 1771 at a time when the population of Hull was growing rapidly. It was in turn replaced by George Yard Chapel in 1787. .

George Yard   Click to enlarge
From 1891 this became the centre of the new Hull WM Mission. It was replaced in 1905 by the Queen's Hall, but because of population moves away from the 'Old Town area it was never as successful as the other Mission centres, King's Hall and Thornton Hall. It closed in 1960 and has since been demolished. Wesley, Humber Street (1832-33) was the precursor of the mission; it was remodelled in 1887 to become Wesley Hall, and it too was replaced by the Queen's Hall in 1905.

Great Thornton Street   Click to enlarge
Great Thornton Street, a fine Greek Revival, temple-like building which became the conference chapel, was built in 1842 to a design by H.F. Lockwood of Hull. It was destroyed by fire in 1907 and was replaced by the Thornton Hall (by Gelder & Kitchen), where J.A. Broadbelt had a successful ministry, 1908-1914. It was destroyed during the blitz in 1941. The King's Hall, Fountain Road (1910), the third mission centre, replaced a chapel in Scott Street built in 1804; it closed in 1968 and has since been demolished.

Waltham Street   Click to enlarge
The work of the Hull Mission is now centred on the site of the Waltham Street chapel (1814) and its ancilliary buildings (1853). The chapel was a well- proportioned classical building by William Jenkins, with one of the earliest Methodist organs (1832). The chapel itself closed in 1932 and was then used by the Mildmay Mission, but was demolished after war damage in 1949. The present Central Hall was added on its site in 1960.

One prominent local WM was Thomas Thompson, who in 1791 drafted the 'Hull Circular', a plea for Methodists to remain loyal to the CofE.. Notable figures in the twentieth century were T.R. Ferens, W.A. Gelder and Joseph Rank.

A business trip to Nottingham in 1817 brought Richard Woolhouse into contact with Primitive Methodism and the activities of female revivalists, including Ann Carr; this marks the origins of PM work in Hull. William Clowes came to the town in January 1819. Six months later it became the head of a circuit, already with about 300 members. Mill Street chapel (later known as West Street) was opened that September, only 100 yards from WM's Waltham Street. It closed in 1910, and West Street Memorial, Chantelands Avenue, recalls the work there. Hull became Clowes' power base and he is interred in the PM Corner in the Hull General Cemetery, Spring Bank. Clowes Memorial, Jarratt Street, opened in 1852, closed in 1932; Clowes Memorial, Greenwood Avenue, was built in 1957. Great Thornton Street (1849) was only 120 yards from its WM neighbour. Many large PM chapels were built in the town, such as Jubilee, Spring Bank (1863-64 by Joseph Wright); replaced in 1959, it has been an Anglican church since 1972. By the later part of the 19th cent, Hull PM seemed to find it easier to build large chapels than to find congregations to fill them. Opponents of Methodist Union in 1932 formed the PM Continuing Circuit, with a church in Redbourne Street and others at Driffield and Patrington.

Hull was the centre of rapid PM expansion, especially in the north; in 1825, for example, the circuit included East Yorkshire, the North East, part of Cumbria, London and Sheerness, although the latter especially was adversely affected by the secession of John Stamp in 1841. In the 1830s also it had missions as far afield as the Hampshire coast and Isle of Wight, and at one stage the Channel Islands were also part of the circuit. This demonstrates the important role of the 'independent' PM Districts, and of Hull in particular, at that period.

Hull was served by some of the leading ministers in the PM Connexion. George Lamb served in many of the town's circuits and the now closed Lamb Memorial, Lambert Street was built in 1887. Edwin Daltoncame in 1910, retiring here in 1919. The Hodge family were generous supporters, commemorated by Samuel Hodge Memorial, Lincoln Street (1878, closed 1935), and the 1,400-seater, Henry Hodge Memorial, Williamson Street (1873, closed 1940) - both demolished. Frank Baker was brought up at St. George's Road PM. and later served in the Hull (North) Circuit, 1955-59.

Of the UM tradition, the MNC opened Bethel in 1799 (destroyed by a bomb in 1941); its Sunday school in Dagger Lane was the oldest in the town. A further chapel, Zion, came in 1849, replaced in 1869 by Stepney, Beverley Road (by William Hill); it closed 1966 and was later demolished. One prominent MNC family was the Needlers, confectionery manufacturers. Askew Avenue (1932-34) in a housing estate in West Hull was the last UM building scheme prior to Methodist Union.

The WMA had a presence in the town, for a time using Tabernacle, Sykes Street (1835), which was used by a succession of congregations. Jehovah Jireh, Little Mason Street, a former Baptist chapel, was also used, probably from 1837 to 1856.. The WR used a former Independent chapel (built 1851) from 1853; Zion, Walker Street from c1855, (later used by an independent Meth. congregation 1871-76), and then in 1886 replaced by new premises in Campbell Street (closed 1943). Boulevard UM, opened in 1907 and closed in the 1960s.

Hull also experienced some minor Methodist secessions, the details of which are not fully clear. The Christian Temperance Brethren, probably linked to the expulsion of John Stamp from PM, opened their short-lived chapel in Paragon Street in 1843. (There is evidence of this secession also spreading to Leeds.) Osborne Street Baptist, built 1823, was used from 1826 until 1876 by a Methodist congregation and then, until 1904, seemingly by Stamp's supporters as 'PM New Connexion'.

Hull was named the 'City of Culture' for 2017, with over 80 churches joining forces to provide a programme of events under the heading of 'Believe in Hull: Communities of Culture'.


John Wesley's Journal:

April 1752: 'When I landed at the quay in Hull, it was covered with people inquiring, "Which is he? Which is he?" But they only stared and laughed; and we walked unmolested to Mr. A----'s house…

'I went to prayers at three in the old church - a grand and venerable structure. Between five and six the coach called and took me to Myton Car, about half a mile from the town. A huge multitude, rich and poor, horse and foot, with several coaches, were soon gathered together; to whom I cried with a loud voice and a composed spirit, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Some thousands of the people seriously attended, but many behaved as if possessed by Moloch. Clods and stones flew about on every side, but they neither touched nor disturbed me…

'The mob, who were increased to several thousands, when I stepped out of the coach into Mr. A----'s house, perceiving I was escaped out of their hands, revenged themselves on the windows with many showers of stones, which they poured in, even into the rooms four stories high. [It was eventually dispersed by the constables, but] they rallied about twelve and gave one charge more, with oaths and curses, and bricks, and stones. After this all was calm, and I slept sound till near four in the morning.'

July 1759: '… it was judged quite necessary I should go to Hull, lest the little flock should be discouraged….

'I had a far finer congregation at Hull [than at Pocklington]; so, for once, the rich have the gospel preached.

'At night Charles Delamotte called upon me, and seemed to be the same loving, simple man still. I should not repent of my journey to Hull, were it only for this short interview.'

June 1761: 'I rode to Hull, and had there also the comfort of finding some witnesses of the great salvation.'

April 1764: 'I preached at five, two hours sooner than was expected. By this means we had tolerable room for the greatest part of them that came; and I believe not many of them came in vain.'

July 1766: 'I preached before the time appointed at Hull; by which means the room was but moderately filled. It was near full at five in the morning; at noon I believe few were unaffected.'

June 1772: 'I preached … in the new house at Hull, extremely well finished, and, upon the whole, one of the prettiest preaching-houses in England. The next evening we were crowded enough. Being informed that many Antinomians were present, I preached on "God sent His own Son … that the righeousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

July 1774: '… Hull, where the house would not near contain the congregation. How is this town changed since I preached on the Carr!'

June 1784: 'I preached … about six at Hull. Afterwards I met the society, and strongly exhorted them to "press on to the prize of their high calling." '

June 1786: 'I was invited by the vicar to preach in the High Church, one of the larfgest parish churches in England. I preached on the Gospel for the day - the story of Dives and Lazarus. Being invited to preach in the afternoon, the church was, if possible, more crowded than before; and I pressed home the prophet's words, "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; call ye upon Him while He is near." Who would have expected a few years since to see me preaching in the High Church at Hull?'

June 1788: 'In the evening [I] explained and applied those remarkable words of our Lord, "Whosoever doeth the will of God, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother. The new preaching-house here is nearly as large as the new chapel in London, It is well built, and elegantly finished; handsome, but not gaudy.

[Next day] 'We had a large congregation at five, larger than even that at Birmingham, which exceeded all the morning congregations I had then seen.

[Sinday] 'Mr. Clark, the vicar, inviting me to preach in the High Church, I explained (what occurred in the service of the day) what it is to build our house upon the rock, and applied it as strongly as I could. I dined at the vicarage with Mr. Clark, a friendly, sensible man, and, I believe, truly fearing God. And such, by the peculiar providence of God, are all the three stated ministers in Hull. He said he never saw the church so full before. However, it was still fuller in the afternoon, when, at the desire of Mr. Clark, I preached on St. James's beautiful account of the wisdom which is from above. At six in the evening I preached in our own house, to as many as could get in (but abundance of people went away), on Gal. vi.14.

June 1790: 'I preached … in the evening to one equally serious, and far more numerous [than the congregation at Beverley] at Hull.

[Next day] 'I preached at seven in the morning, and at six in the evening, to as many as our house could contain, the ground being too wet for the congregation to stand abroad.'

Primitive Methodism

'Between 1819 and 1827 Hull was more successful as a centre of growth than its Tunstall counterpart. Seven years after commencing work in Hull, Clowes had created twenty-one new northern circuits with a total membership of about 12,000. [Stephen] Hatcher notes certain differences between the two centres. Hull had a stronger economic base. It is possible that the people of the adjacent agricultural community of the East Riding, whose territory had endured recent hardship from the enclosure movement would be more receptive to Primitive Methodist preachers. Hull Primitive Methodists 'appear to be less often in conflict with the law in the open air and in less conflict politically'. They were also resistant to what they saw as 'the aggressive encroachment of the teetotal movement'. In terms of worship and church order, Hull appears to have been more traditional. As Hatcher says:

A picture emerges of a Hull Primitive Methodism that was a little less angular and a little more comfortable, but no less zealous than that of Tunstall. At a lower level on the social scale, there was in Hull Primitive Methodism a hint of Wesleyan Methodism, or for that matter, even of Wilberforce. Leading participants from Hull Circuit were also well enough educated and organised to have gained connexional control by 1843.'

Kenneth Lysons, A Little Primitive: Primitive Methodism from Macro and Micro Perspectives (Buxton, 2001) pp.54-5, quoting Stephen Hatcher's unpublished thesis on 'The Origin and expansion of Primitive Methodism in the Hull Circuit' (1993)

  • WM Magazine, 1815 p.77
  • Jane Garbutt, Reminiscences of the early Days of Primitive Methodism in Hull: or, Jottings from Memory (Hull, 1886)
  • W.H. Thompson, Early Chapters in Hull Methodism 1746-1800 (Hull, 1895)
  • WHS Proceedings, 12 pp.121-32
  • H.B. Kendall, Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church (1906)
  • Conference Handbooks, 1920 (WM), 1938
  • Leonard Brown, 'William Clowes in the North of England', in WHS Proceedings, 37 pp.169-72
  • Frank Baker, The Story of Methodism in Newland (Kingston-upon-Hull, 1950)
  • George Sails, At the Centre: the story of Methodism's Central Missions (1970), pp.70-1
  • Geoffrey W. Oxley, 'The Account Book of the Hull PM Circuit 1825-1833', in WHS Proceedings, 45 pp.183-84
  • J. Hogg, To Those in Need: the story of the Hull Methodist Mission (Hull, 1987)
  • Stephen Hatcher, 'The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in Early Primitive Methodism, with particular reference to the Hull Circuit and its Branches', in WHS Proceedings, 47 pp.221-31
  • David Neave, The Lost Churches and Chapels of Hull (1991)
  • Stephen G. Hatcher, 'Mission alongside the Poor: the Hull Primitive Methodist Circuit, 1838-52', in Epworth Review, 23:1 (January 1996) pp.96-104
  • Martin K. Batstone, The Fruitful Mother and the Forgotten Son: the story of William Clowes and the rise of Hull as the centre of the Primitive Methodist Movement (2015)