- Thomas Woodcroft (fl,1780) was a button manufacturer of Sheffield, Yorkshire. He was one of the original trustees of the Norfolk Street chapel in 1780 and also served as either chapel steward or treasurer of the chapel building fund. Source: History of Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield by Revd. T. Alexander Seed (Sheffield Wesleyan Mission, 1907), 40, 42 and 49
- James Rogers (1749-1807) was born near Guisborough in North Yorkshire and entered the itinerancy at an early age in 1774. His active circuit ministry was exercised in England, Scotland and Ireland. Rogers superannuated due to ill health in 1806. The last few months of his life were spent in retirement in Guisborough where despite declining health he continued to preach twice a week until shortly before his death which occurred because of a chest complaint. His Conference obituary remarks that until the time of his final illness, he contined to rise every morning at six despite his poor health, and read his bible for an hour. In 1778 Rogers married Martha Knowlden and they had two children. After her death, he married the noted female Methodist Hester Ann Roe of Macclesfield. Source: Minutes of Conference 1807, An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Preachers…1739-1818, compiled by Kenneth Garlick and A Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland, edited by John A. Vickers (Epworth Press, Peterborough 2000), 299-300
- Samuel Birks (1725-1825) was the son of Samuel Birks senior of Thorpe Hesley near Rotherham in Yorkshire. Samuel had the unusual distinction of hearing John Wesley preach as early as 1733 when at the age of seven, he went with his father to hear John deliver the sermon at Wentworth Parish Church - John had accompanied Samuel Wesley senior on a visit to the nearby seat of the Marquis of Rockingham. This marked the commencement of an involvement with the Wesleys and Methodism that was to last for over ninety years. Samuel's father attended the preaching of the independent evangelist David Taylor in 1738 and afterwards despatched his twelve year old son to escort the preacher to Thorpe Hesley, an experience which Birks was fond of recalling in later years. Taylor's sermon led directly to the founding of a religious society in the village. The early Wesleyan itinerant John Nelson preached in Birks's house as early as 1741. In 1743 Samuel Birks senior escorted John Wesley to Rotherham and Sheffield and the following year, Charles Wesley visited Thorpe Hesley, again accompanied by Samuel senior. The small party was ambushed by a mob close to the village and were rescued by Samuel Birks junior who had been on his way to plough a nearby field; the stocky eighteen year old charged the rioters on horseback, giving his father and Wesley the opportunity to escape. It was said that the young man later attended the preaching in a very gleeful mood. Birks remained intimately connected with Methodism for the rest of his long life and in the 1820s was able to provide the historian James Everett with valuable first-hand recollections of the early days of the movement in what became its heartland. Among the people with whom he was personally acquainted was the near-legendary Grace Murray - Birks was one of the small group in 1749 that witnessed her departure from Syke-House on the way to her wedding to John Bennet. In addition to his involvement with Methodism in his native village, Birks played a significant role in the Rotherham society and was the first name on the list of trustees of Sheffield's Norfolk Street chapel in 1780. Birks was married and the name Edmund Birks also appears in the list of Norfolk Street trustees, who may be a son or another close relation. He died 'in great peace' in his home village at the age of ninety-nine years and six months on August 11th 1825. Source: Samuel J. Russell, Historical Notes of Wesleyan Methodism in Rotherham Circuit (1910), pp.1-25-7, and A Biographical Dictionary of 18th century Methodism by Samuel Rogal (Edwin Mellen Press 1997), History of Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield by Revd. T. Alexander Seed (Sheffield Wesleyan Mission, 1907), 49, Methodist Magazine 1825, 718 and Historical Sketches of Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffieldand its vicinity by James Everett (Sheffield, 1823), 4, 6-8, 14, 36, 40, 43, 47-48, 60, 79 etc
From Aberdeen to [Thomas] Woodcroft, merchant in Sheffield. Bardsley did not arrive here until Thursday so he only received Woodcroft's letter then. It rejoices his heart to read that the [Sheffield] congregations are so good and the 'leting' [ie renting] of seats is going well. [In early Methodism there was no weekly collections at Sunday services. To meet running costs, there arose the practice of regular worshippers paying a rent for their pew or seat. This survived at some chapels until as late as the 1960s.]
Bardsley feels sorry for John Bristol - 'The being at the head of a party is poor employ. Jere [Jeremiah] Cocker must be very unhappy, being forsaken of all'.
He hopes that the Lord will direct with regard to the choice for next year's preachers. If dear [John] Pawson is appointed to Sheffield, Bardsley will be pleased for them.
Bardsley was glad to hear of the revival at Epworth.
He hopes that they shall have the pleasure of seeing dear Mr [John] Wesley here - Woodcroft must pass on his regards. [John Wesley visited Sheffield on May 10th 1782]
Bardsley was sorry that Woodcroft's journey to Edinburgh did not go any better. He would be glad to hear anything about their good friend Mr Duke Hare [the top of the page is missing].
Reference is made to the loss of Woodcroft's son[?] William. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail. Blessed be God that dear 'Nanny is spared to you & that your number is made up. May your little daughter be the Lord's for ever'. He is pleased to hear that Woodcroft's wife is likely to 'do well' [with regard to her health?].
Bardsley hopes that the Lord will not allow their Manchester friends to be hurt - 'I hope you will be directed in the setling of the chapel'. [Probable reference to Oldham Street Chapel which opened in 1781.]
Bardsley intends to write to Southampton soon.
He was sorry to hear that their worthy friend Mr Smith has left the society. 'I remember Mr [James] Rogers and I desireing them to oblige us while we stayed as they knew dear Mr Wesley's mind. As to seting [seating?] on one side or the other, it was a matter of indifference to me, only we were desirous to oblige our dear aged father [John Wesley] and you know we all owe him more than that. I am very sorry that my dear brother Rogers [James Rogers was Bardsley's colleague in the Sheffield circuit in 1780] made a publick affair of it; I hope e'er now he is sorry and I trust Brother Smith will look over it, as he is a lover of peace'. [This is probably a reference to the dispute that occurred in 1780 at the time of the opening of Sheffield's Norfolk Street Chapel. There was a feeling within the society that the sexes should be allowed to sit together, contrary to Wesley's dictat that services must be strictly segregated with women on one side and men on the other. After some wrangling, Wesley's view triumphed.Source: History of Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield by Revd. T. Alexander Seed (Sheffield Wesleyan Mission, 1907), 43-45]
Any way, since Bardsley and Woodcroft first knew one another, many worse things have happened among the Methodists and yet they remained determined to spread the good news - [the top of the page is missing].
Since Bardsley wrote last, he has been tried from several quarters. Some of his friends have fallen from grace and his mind has been very upset with one thing and another. Woodcroft should not therefore add to this burden, but should rather 'keep your station and endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ'. Spiritual matters are discussed. He would be pleased to be told in Woodcroft's next letter that he has indeed got over this trial. Indeed, 'I desire it as a particular favour that you and my dear friend Mr [Samuel] Birks will endeavour to accommodate matters between Mr Smith and Mr Rogers. "Blessed are the peace makers.'.
His love should be passed to Mr and Mrs Smith - he hopes that they can get over this trial for it is a trick of Satan designed to prevent them from getting to heaven. If Bardsley was at Sheffield again [top of the page is missing], 'I would be very thankful to sit upon one of the benches or to preach in the morning pulpit. I intend to write to Brother Smith'.
The account that Woodcroft gave of Mr Andrews's death was very 'awfull' ['awfull' in the sense of inspiring awe rather than the modern sense of the word] . 'O that God may preserve us from wicked men and wicked spirits. Mr Watson's end was alarming. O, that the inhabitants of Sheffield may turn to God.'.
His love should be passed to his good friends Mr and Mrs Birks. He would be very pleased to see them and dear Billy. Thank God that Mrs Birks is feeling better.
In a postscript, he asks how dear Mr Wesley has gone on at Sheffield. They are experiencing something of a revival here.