Birstall Methodist Chapel - Bramwell (1793)

A revival began before Bramwell arrived.

'At the beginning of the late war a day was appointed by the Government for fasting and prayer, and many attended the meetings held. On these the power of God rested; many were converted and the good work continued to increase until Conference.'

From, 'The Christian Minister in Earnest' by Thomas Harris, p43.

A love-feast was held in Birstal chapel on Christmas-day, which proved a great spiritual victory, no less than fifty sinners having laid down their arms, and surrendered themselves to the Lord of Hosts. The same ancient and omnipotent influence, which in apostolic days had pierced its thousands to the heart, under a single sermon, was here recognised in the conversion of these fifty. The scruples of the leaders gave way before such evidences of Divine patronage. From that time they too lent themselves to the work and mightily did it prosper under their hearty co-operation. At the following love-feast, on Easter Sunday, fifty more of Satan's followers came over in a troop to the banners of the Messiah. The Birstal circuit was soon in a state of great commotion. Mr Bramwell was regarded as the presiding genius of this auspicious movement. Wherever he went, the angel that "troubled the waters" seemed to accompany him, and to produce such a healing excitement, that whosoever plunged boldly in was made whole. When his warning voice was raised, it was raised in power, and, whether in cottage or in chapel, in prayer or in preaching, it pierced to the heart, and left there a solemn echo, which none could readily suppress. The ordinary services were not enough for an extraordinary occasion. The sermon and its attendant proceedings were often but a prelude to a less formal, but far more effective, intercession with heaven: it was at the prayer meetings which followed, that the peculiar energy of the revivalist was most strikingly displayed. These were sometimes continued until nearly midnight. Similar meetings took place at various private houses, under his direction, and largely fed the flame which was glowing throughout the circuit. The fame of this great work travelled into other quarters, and many came from a distance to observe it more narrowly. Various were the opinions it excited. Some, who were prompted by mere curiosity in their visit, were suddenly seized by the same influence which had prostrated others, and returned home, not to tell of the follies they had witnessed, but of the reformation they had undergone. It was no rare thing for a scoffing spectator to carry back with him a regenerate heart. Even a listener at the door has been known to yield to the spell of these occasions, and tremblingly entering the place, has laid down his heavy load of guilt, and left with no other burden than the light one of Christ.

The result of all this religious activity exceeded the expectations of most, and the change produced in the societies was sufficient to astonish both pastors and people. "While Mr Bramwell continued with us," said a veteran member, Mr Thomas Pearson, senior, of Gomersal, who is but recently dead, "the work went on progressively; and there was such an alteration throughout the circuit as was never before witnessed.” When he left them, after two years' sojourn, the number of members had been doubled, and many others had attached themselves to the Wesleyan worship, either as hearers or avowed disciples.

Many extraordinary incidents illustrative of Mr Bramwell's singular success in prayer occurred in this district. One is related by Mr Thomas Jackson, a local preacher in the Dewsbury circuit: Whilst Mr Bramwell was at his (Mr Jackson's) house on one occasion, an individual came to request that the former would visit a gentleman who was apparently on the eve of death. The summons was pressing: the sick man was in peril of his soul; no preparation had been made by him for the mysterious transition. But strange to say, the man of prayer would not move! Regardless of the entreaties of the messenger, as well as of Mr Jackson's, he sat silent for some minutes, lost to all appearance in painful meditation. At length, however, he rose; but instead of repairing to the house where the sufferer lay, he fell on his knees, and requested his companions to join him in prayer. His petition was fervent, and faith soon appeared to triumph over all uncertainty. "Lord," said he, at last, "we believe thou wilt save the person about whom we have been talking." God did so: in a few days afterwards it was ascertained that the patient had "passed from death to life," instead of the dreaded contrary.

From, 'Memoir of the life and ministry of William Bramwell' by William Bramwell and his family. P43-4.

It should be noted that the this was the beginnings of the 'Great Yorkshire Revival'.

Additional Information

The existing building is 1846, but is now offices. The photo shows what looks like the imprint of the original chapel and the small building is John Nelson's study, probably built by him.

Related Wells