Family History Federation

Souls For Your Hire by R. Keith Parsons B.Sc. B.D.

“Souls for your Hire” a history of the Northlew Weslyan Methodist Circuit, Devon 1811-1932 by Rev. R. K. Parsons.

A review of the original by Michael E Thorne 1972

The history “Souls for Hire”, is an admirable publication of 223 quarto pages including an index and a map, 100 copies were produced. The material was divided into two parts, Part 1 is an account of the growth of the Circuit, together with the Northlew Society, Part 2 contains the stories of the other Societies with as much detail as surviving records permit. In the very early years, the Circuit was Weslyan, but it became and stayed Bible Christian, first forming part of the Shebbear Circuit, then from 1841 to 1857 it was a Mission, finally becoming an independent and self-supporting Circuit in 1858, remaining so until 1932.


Extract from:

Records of the Northlew (originally Bible Christian) Methodist Circuit, which from 1908 – 1946 was known as the Northlew and Okehampton Circuit.

The Bible Christian, the Methodist New Connexion and the United Methodist Free Churches united in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church, which in the Northlew Circuit consisted solely of former Bible Christian Chapels. By the Methodist Church Union Act of 1929 the United Methodist, the Wesleyan Methodist and the Primitive Methodist Churches united to form the Methodist Church. In this circuit there were no Primitive Methodist Chapels, and the United Methodist and Wesley Churches did not actually unite there until 1934. The Northlew Circuit underwent various changes and amalgamations as follows:

1. Northlew (Bible Christian) Circuit 1841 – 1907. Formed in 1841 from part of the Brentor and Shebbear Circuits.

2. Northlew and Okehampton (United Methodist) Circuit 1908 – 33. This consisted mainly of the same places as the first circuit but presumably was renamed in recognition of the fact that the circuit had included Okehampton since its transfer for geographical reasons from Chagford Circuit in 1879.

3. Northlew and Okehampton (Methodist) Circuit 1934 – 46. This was an amalgamation of the second circuit, the Northlew and Okehampton (United Methodist) Circuit, with the Okehampton (Wesley) Circuit, whose records are in D. 1812.

4. Northlew (Methodist) Circuit 1946 onwards, consisting of the Northlew half of the third circuit.

As the strength of the Methodist cause in the area fluctuated, so chapels were opened and closed, and societies and preaching stations in cottages and other buildings were begun and discontinued. The following table attempts to show which places were included within the Northlew circuit and thus appear in the records at various dates.

The earliest of the Societies was that at Northlew which commended about 1811 and which, like all other Methodist Societies in Devon at that time, was Wesleyan Methodist. However in 1815 an itinerant Wesleyan Methodist preacher called William O’Brian, who was evangelising in N. Cornwall and Devon, broke away from the main Methodist body and started to found his own Societies, thus forming a new denomination, the Armenian Bible Christians later known as Bible Christians.

The Northlew Society had opened its first chapel in 1815 just at the commencement of the rift and, finding its loyalties divided, compromised by inviting the Bryanites and Weslyans to preach on alternative Sundays. However by 1817 the Northlew Society had split into two: the Bryanites gained control of the chapel and the Wesleyans had to meet in private houses until they built their own chapel in 1860.

The Northlew Society was originally in the Wesleyan Okehampton Mission Station. Thus for information on the Northlew Weslyan Methodists both before and after 1817 it is necessary to consult the records of the Okehampton Circuit, 1812D-O. After the split in 1817, the Northlew Bible Christians joined the Bible Christian Shebbear Circuit which in 1828 was reduced in size by the creation of the Brentor Circuit out of the Southern part.


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