From Sarah Crosby (and Anne Tripp) in Leeds to Madeley. Fletcher's letter arrived safely with the half bank notes, for which they were grateful. They fear however that Fletcher may be overextending herself [financially] such are the demands upon her.
The prices of meat and bread etc have increased around this area, but the Lord is merciful to them still.
As for [Richard] Taylor, he now lives with the woman and all the neighbours say they are living as man and wife for they use just one bed even though they are not married. She is almost blind and as for religion, it appears that she knows nothing about it. Crosby does not know her, but others say that she has lived a strange life with her brother and sister, long before [the Methodists] knew anything about them. They are known as 'people of bad principle' [The following sentence is difficult to read due to a missing piece of paper]. A very respectable person has told Crosby that there was much singing and dancing at their house, when they first moved in, by way of a house-warming.
Crosby is afraid that not everything that Taylor writes to Fletcher is true. Reference is made to 'Liden' [?] writing to Fletcher - she appears by the state of her dress, to be very proud and possibly of a carnal nature. 'The blind fidler as they call him, comes of a respectable family…is by profession an organist, tho almost BLIND, & has no imployment'.
[Taylor] seems to be in rather better health than for some years past. His hand is not as lame and he can walk much better and quicker than was previously the case. He may live for many years yet.
She supposes that Fletcher may have heard of the sudden death of James North, who went to Wakefield to fetch his daughter - she lives in Sheffield. She was to visit her father at his house in Rothwell. He dined with his son, who lives in Wakefield and seemed well. A little after dinner he complained of feeling sick, sat down and would have fallen, had not his son grabbed hold of him. North never said another word, nor showed any signs of life. They therefore have another [chapel] trustee to choose '& have now the majority on the right side. All glory to God'.
Mary Barritt is not dead but is doing good. She is not far from Leeds at present. '[William] Blagborne who wishes all to do good, must not have her [to preach] here, because it is a trial to the other preachers [Alexander Suter and Richard Rodda]; as they cannot see it in the light HE DOES, & he wd not willingly pain their minds'.
They hope to hear that Fletcher's health is improved, and Sally's [Sarah Lawrance] also. Dear [Elizabeth Ritchie] says that she [Sally] was much improved when she [Ritchie] left Madeley and thinks that Mr B's prayer must have been answered for her, and much good was done during the visit. [Ritchie] came here the day after Fletcher's letter arrived. She [Ritchie] sends her love and says that Mr B's leg soon got better. She and her friends thought that it was a very profitable visit - 'She never heard Mr B. so lively'.
Crosby is shortening this letter in order to enclose an account of the blessed work in Cornwall, which Mrs Mather sent in her last letter back in May [from London, where her husband Alexander was a minister at City Road]. The account was read here one Sunday evening to a crowded chapel and has done much good. [Alexander] Mather has now travelled to Cornwall at the earnest request of the preachers [there]. Mrs Dobinson wrote some time since [from Derby] in answer to Crosby's letter to her and says that she has many friends but none like Crosby's dear friend [Alexander] Mather.
She has written to Fletcher to give the most accurate picture about [Richard Taylor] - what people here think about him and those who he associates with. 'But I should not wish to hear any fending [defending?] or proveing about his ways, as I have no acquaintance with HIM or THEM: nor can anybody PROVE that they sleep together; tho every body BELIEVES IT. I am sorry that I cannot send you a better acct with truth & hope in future I shall not need say anything abt him. I truly pitty him, when I see him, & sometimes pray for him. He seeks freedom with STRANGE preachers…'
'The accounts wch come every week, to Mr [Alexander] Mather from Cornwall, are animating indeed! The following was given by Mr Owen Davies'.
From Owen Davies in Penzance to Alexander Mather in Leeds dated April 3 1799.
The work of God in this circuit will cause many to rejoice and give thanks to God. At their Love Feast on Easter Sunday, the Lord began to work in such a manner as never before seen in Penzance. Some that had spent years seeking, that night found God to their 'unspeakable joy'. Since that night, they have added a hundred new members to the society. 'The flame of love, wch that night was kindled in the hearts of our brethren from the circuit, they carried into their different societys, & it soon spread thro the whole…'
To give some idea of what is happening here, Davies will say a little of what he has been doing for these last few weeks. 'At St Ives, many were convinced, & deeply distresst, on acct of sin, & several were justifyd - the evening following at another place, there was great distress, the stout hearted trembled, but 3 only justifyd the next evening at St Just, more were cast down, than I cd get an acct of, & at the same place the next Satterd [Saturday], the power of God filld the chapel, in a very remarkable manner: & I cannot yet tell the number of conversions. The next evening at Morvah, many were troubled, & 3 justifyd. As I went to Lelant[?] on Mond [Monday], I was met by a person from Mr Boil [John Boyle], a fellow labourer [preacher] desireing me to come & assist him at St Ives; the work was so wonderful, he wanted help. After preaching at Lelant I went. Our meeting continued till 12 o'clock, after wch we added ovr 120! to the society. The 18th we were favourd with a refreshing season at Penzance, & added many to the society. At Marrazion we cd not break up till morning: numbers found the Lord & rejoiced in his love - again at St Just 30 souls found pardon! & I added to the society 107! - the night following at another place we had nothing but crys & groans! and we had a remarkable time at the Copper House; before 12 o'clock, 15 were I think clearly justifyd! At 12 I was sent for out of the chapel, to a house in the town, I took Mr Hinis[?] with me; we found in the house, 3 young men, who had for some time made it THEIR BUSINESS to pour contempt upon sacred things. They even went to St Ives; the distance between 3 & 4 miles, to mock the distrest, but this night in our meeting were ALL ARRESTED by God's convicting spirit…they set off home immediately to prevent detection. But so keen & strong were their convictions, they cd not conceal them. They roared aloud, thru themselves on the ground, & lay groaning for mercy! We prayed till 2, found peace!…I went with a weary body to my lodgings. While there taking a little refreshment, a cry was heard at the door, for me to go to another house in the town; wch when I entered I found a widdow, her son & daughter and servt maid; all on the ground at prayer, whose united cry was, Lord be merciful to me a sinner! but what struck me…was the widdow's youngest son, a boy about 14 years of age, who had found peace a fortnight before, praying over his mother, bror [brother], sisr [sister] and servant…this melted my heart more than anything I have seen…we have added [to the society] since the 26 of March 800! & since New Years Day 1500!…'
Mather has also sent another account from the Redruth circuit, where a preacher writes that 'a young woman who had recently found the Lord, going to work at the mine: Her companions agreed to ridicule, tease & persecute her…she kneeled down to pray for them. The mighty power of God attended her prayer, they fell around her…& crys for MERCY was heard on every side! From the women it spread to the men above ground, from them it ran like fire to the bottom of the mine. They came pouring up, & from the moment they came to the place of prayer, convictions [unreadable word] up on them. One of our local preachers, being present, wisely, brut them all the chapel wch was not far distant. The meeting continued till 6 the next morning and at that time, & in the course of the day; our friends compute an HUNDRED souls THERE found mercy…'
At the place where [John] Wesley first preached in Cornwall, only two people (excepting young children) 'remain unconvinced'. All the others are members of the society. Dear Mrs Mather also added in the letter 'you wd have been pleased to see that good King [George III], you so often pray for, rideing slowly by HERE [City Road Chapel, London] on Wed. [Wednesday] with scarcely any attendance. He rather stopt when he came opposite ye chapel, to look at it. & a little further the people quite stopt him, to huzza, & he took of his hat, & seemd quite pleased. The King rode thro many parts of the city, & went over London Bridge'.
- Alexander Suter (1754-1817) was converted by the ministry of the Wesleyan preacher Thomas Olivers and was appointed by John Wesley to be a class leader in London. Suter entered the itinerancy in 1779 and exercised an active circuit ministry in Scotland and England until poor health forced him to supernnuate in 1812. Source:Minutes of Conference 1817
- Richard Rodda (1743-1815) was born in Sanscreed, Cornwall, the son of poor parents. His mother and sister were converted by the Methodists and Rodda followed suit at the age of fifteen. He worked as a tin miner and was at one point press-ganged into the Navy but was released through the good offices of a Quaker friend. Rodda began to preach and entered the itinerancy in 1769 after being introduced to John Wesley. His active circuit ministry of thirty-three years was exercised mainly in the south and west and was characterised by great hardship. He superannuated because of declining health in 1802 and spent the rest of his life in London. Source: Minutes of Conference 1816 and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Owen Davies (1752-1830) was born in North Wales. He entered the itinerancy in 1789 and exercised an active circuit ministry in England and Wales until poor health forced him to superannuate in 1818. He had spent several years in charge of the work in North Wales and was responsible for the transition of several missions into regular circuits. Davies spent his retirement in Liverpool. Source: Hill's Arrangement 1827 and Minutes of Conference 1830
- John Boyle entered the itinerancy in 1790 and exercised an active circuit ministry, mainly in the west of England until 1802 when he is recorded as having left the ministry of his own volition. Source: Minutes of Conference 1802
- William Blagborne entered the itinerancy in 1785. He served circuits in several parts of England until superannuation in 1802. After a period of retirement in Bath and York, he reentered the active ministry in 1808. He was removed from the Legal Hundred by the Conference of 1809 on account of his 'having gone to America'. Source: Conference Minutes 1799-1809 and Conference Journal 1809
- James North (1725-99) was born at Rothwell near Leeds, of Anglican parentage. He began to attend Methodist preaching in 1747 and was converted through the ministry of William Nelson, brother of the famous itinerant John Nelson. North succeeded in persuading his family to join the Methodists and they later founded the first Methodist society in Rothwell and were instrumental in the erection of the first chapel. For many years, North served as a local preacher, class-leader and chapel trustee. He was invited by John Wesley to join the itinerancy but declined on the grounds that he could do more good in his own neighbourhood. North married in 1755 and fathered five children, three of whom survived him. He provided hospitality for visiting preachers and often preached himself to good effect in surrounding villages and as far afield as York. He died suddenly in April 1799 while at his son's house in Wakefield, where he had arranged to meet his daughter to accompany her back to Bothwell. Source: Methodist Magazine 1800, pp.197-202