Halifax Methodist Chapel, Nottingham - James Caughey (1846)

The revival in Nottingham was more glorious than all. Mr Caughey opened his commission there on the 10th of May 1846, and in the short space of one month upwards of fourteen hundred were converted to God. Sunday, the 31st of May, and two days following, Mr Caughey spent at Castle Donnington, and one hundred and eighty persons were converted to God. He then returned to Nottingham and completed his engagement on the 12th of June.

From 'Methodism in Earnest' at www.revival-library.org

William Booth at the age of fifteen was very impacted by these meetings. He had just given his life to the Lord. 


'The preaching of Mr Caughey creates a very great sensation in the town; the chapel is crowded even in the aisles during every service, and at its conclusion numbers of penitents make their way to the communion-rails, near the pulpit, to seek, under the terrors of guilty consciences, benefit there. It was announced on Wednesday evening, that two hundred persons had given in their names as having received conversion under Mr Caughey’s ministry since he came to Nottingham, and we believe his visit will not soon be forgotten. There is nothing in the manner in which the reverend gentleman commences the service to lead the reader to expect what is to follow. He gives out the hymn in a calm, easy, unappreciating style, and in a tone so conversational, that persons sitting in a distant part of the chapel find it impossible to gather the purport of his words. It is more with the air and tone of a man reading a paragraph from a newspaper to a select party than that of a preacher proclaiming an important message to a large congregation.

In his prayer, too, very few indications are given of the astonishing power he possesses over the mind; though it is not without its peculiarities. He lifts his hands towards heaven, and keeps them in that posture during the whole of his supplication, like Moses, when Israel fought in Rephidim; and once or twice, perhaps, at some point of deeper feeling clasps his palms together, and then re-elevates them into the same poetic attitude. But, generally speaking, his prayers have rather the tone of calm disquisition than address to the Deity; and nothing at all in them expressive of power, except when a gush of deep affectionate feeling makes its way through the mild tranquillity, or at rarer intervals flashes out for an instant the lightning which has been so calmly folded in its mantle of quiet cloud.

His reading of Scripture betrays even less of power than his prayer; it is not performed without a certain subdued feeling; but there is a peculiar off-hand style with it, and a certain tone of dramatic appreciation, without any great apparent solemnity or reverence in the delivery. It is not till he prepares to name his text, that any extraordinary power is manifested; he generally prefaces it with some observation on what he has felt during the day, or since he entered the pulpit; or with an appeal to a certain character whom he prophesies to be in the congregation. Then, indeed, it becomes plain, however, the prejudiced visitor may have doubted it before, that the man is in earnest — terribly in earnest; and that every word he says he both feels and believes.

On Tuesday night, when the preliminary parts of the service had been gone through, and the Bible lay open before him. Instead of taking his text, as it was natural to expect he would, he startled the congregation by a searching appeal to some backslider, whom he individualised as present among them; and in his manner of doing this showed great knowledge of human nature, and an intimate acquaintance with the subtleties of the mind. Such a character, if present in the place unless his heart were triple brass, must have been struck as with a thunderbolt. Of the heart indeed his dissections are masterly; he is evidently well versed in its anatomy. As he represented a certain character, a backslider perhaps, or a defrauder, or a profane person, many eyes seemed fraught with the anxious inquiry, “Is it I?” until at length, as the lineaments of the portrait became clearer and more distinctly defined, the shrinking look and trembling frame declared in unmistakable language, ''It is I!”

In his manner of looking at a text there is something original; ingenious and unexpected terms are given to the different parts of it; and as each is illustrated, it tells with surprising power upon the congregation. This effect is heightened by a certain abruptness of delivery, which, scorning all preface and apology, rushes instantly to its point and takes possession of his hearers by storm. His eloquence, too, is not an even, uninterrupted flow of words, but his speech is forced out in jerks of great intensity, with an interval between each burst. It must be allowed that his style is highly poetical; not that he indulges in fine, unusual words and strings of epithets; there is no attempt at display of this kind; simple and plain, his style is yet remarkable for its poetic effectiveness; and to this, he owes a considerable portion of the influence he exerts over his hearers.

On Tuesday night, the force with which he imaged a fold of sheep, to illustrate the conduct of the newly converted mind, was singular; it was not only quite evident that every word he said he saw visibly before him, but he made his hearers see it too; the swine prowling about the fold and leering at the flock, manifesting no desire to be numbered among the sheep, was forcibly contrasted with the lamb which went bleating around to spy an entrance, and at last, when the door was opened by the shepherd darted in. The effect of such passages as these was very much increased by the minister’s appropriate attitudes and gestures; not his mouth only, but his eyes and hands and his whole person combining to give utterance to his eloquent thought. Every scene he drew was visibly before the eyes of the congregation; where he pointed with his hand, they looked; and the vacant air in front of the pulpit which he chose as the canvas on which to paint his vivid designs, was evidently no longer a vacancy to his hearers, as was quite manifest from the fixed stare with which they gazed into it. When he spoke of angels as hovering over the people, and occupying the ring enclosed by the gallery of the chapel, and invented conversations which he said they might be then holding with respect to certain individuals in the place, the silence that prevailed among the people was profound; they scarcely dared to breathe, and seemed as if they really were hearing the rustling and flapping of the invisible wings. But as this picture was allowed to fade away, and an appeal to the feelings of the people followed, and when the solicitude of the souls of the departed after the eternal welfare of their friends below was dwelt upon, a universal sob burst from the assembly, and even the faces of the rugged and weather-beaten men were illuminated by the reflection of the lamps in the water upon their cheeks. At times this emotion assumed a more frantic character, shouts, groans, and all manner of pious ejaculations rising from all parts of the house, until the preacher’s voice became inaudible, and the whole place resounded with the wailings and cries.

The arrangements were extremely well ordered and efficient; during the prayer-meeting which succeeded the service, numbers of persons were observed in all parts of the chapel, who had been appointed to lead up to the communion-rails those who were desirous of being publicly prayed for; and as they obtained assurance of what they sought, led them out orderly at the vestry door.' 

This came from an old newspaper and is recorded in 'The Life of General William Booth', by Harold Begbie, Volume 1, pages 10-13.

The Rev. Isaac Page, who was a boy at the time of Caughey’s visit, remembers seeing crowds of people clambering over the iron railings in front of Wesley Chapel an hour or more before the meeting opened. 'The chapel, which seated eighteen hundred people, was densely thronged in every part, and numbers were unable to enter at the crowded doors. People remember seeing the tall figure of Caughey standing up to preach in a breathless silence, and being startled by the suddenness with which he thrust out an arm, pointing upwards with a straight accusing finger, and exclaiming, “There is a young man in the gallery who had an awful dream last night; he thought the Day of Judgment had come!” A hymn introduced by James Caughey was sung all over Nottingham, as seventy or eighty years afterwards the “ Glory Song,” introduced by another American evangelist, was sung all over London.

'The Life of General William Booth', by Harold Begbie, Volume 1, pages13.

Additional Information

A bigger church was built as a result of these meetings, but it was destroyed in 1966.

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