Mitcheldever - Primitive Methodists (1833)

Micheldever is a large village six miles from the ancient city of Winchester, containing from 1000 to 1200 inhabitants. "In the winter of 1833 — 4," says Mr Bishop, "we had a blessed work of God in this place, and the society numbered nearly one hundred members. The down on which the Winchester race-course runs lies about midway between Winchester and Mitcheldever. On this extensive down we held a camp-meeting on Sunday, May 25th, 1834. Within a circle of a few miles there is a considerable number of villages, in several of which we had been most violently opposed, and in which we had not as yet been able to effect an establishment It was expected that multitudes of persecutors from these places would be present at the camp-meeting; and such were the apprehensions of our people, who well knew the temper and character of the inhabitants, that, for weeks previous to the Sabbath on which the meeting was held, their anxieties and prayers were chiefly concerning it. It constituted the all engrossing subject of their conversation and occasioned alternate fears and hopes. No farmer could be prevailed upon to lend us either waggon or cart for a pulpit Bat when the appointed day arrived, our friends met in the name of the Lord: and while we were engaged in the open prayer-meeting, a splendid springs van approached from the direction of Winchester. This belonged to a Mr Topp, who then resided in the city. He was a spirited man, independent of favours and fearless of frowns. Having by some means learned how we were likely to be circumstanced, he determined that we should not be destitute of a pulpit, and therefore brought this beautiful van, which had a high tilt, and when the tarpaulin covering was loosened on one side and turned back over the top, it formed the most agreeable and convenient camp-meeting pulpit I ever stood in. By ten o'clock we had a large congregation, composed principally, however, of our own friends. About this time another waggon arrived on the ground, which was also followed by a cart, in the same service. Mr Topp had brought in his waggon a good supply of bread, cheese, and beef; and at dinner time gave a general invitation to all present to partake of his bounty. Very different, however, were the contents of the other waggon and cart; and equally opposite were the principles and objects of their proprietors. These two vehicles were laden with barrels of beer, &c., which the parties placed and tapped close by the spot on which we had commenced our meeting. The weather was very warm, and the presence of this inflammable material greatly increased the anxiety we all felt in reference to the results of the day. But as comparatively few besides our own friends were present, the morning services were concluded without any interruption and were marked by much gracious influence. God in an eminent manner was in the singing, praying, and preaching, and the people were filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost.

"Dinner was very soon dispatched, and the societies from the various villages were severally grouped together and engaged in prayer. It was delightful to witness this. While these prayer-meetings were proceeding, we decided to remove our locomotive pulpit about half a mile across the down, to avoid immediate collision with the beer-sellers. As two o'clock P.M. approached, the people began to arrive from all the neighbourhood around, and great numbers from the city of Winchester. Probably there were present, at one time in the afternoon, from 5000 to 6000 persons; and not fewer than 3000 of them belonged to the ranks of our most violent persecutors. It was now that interruption and even danger were apprehended. A deep solemnity pervaded the hearts of our people, and this gave a character to all the religious exercises, especially to the preaching and praying. The Mitcheldever Society constituted one of the praying companies, and they prayed until it seemed as if heaven and earth were brought together. At first, I trembled lest their fervency should enrage the persecutors; but there was no remedy; it was impossible to restrain them. I then joined with them, and felt perfectly free to live or die; and, contrary to our expectation, when we returned to the preaching stand for the second course of sermons, the vast concourse of people stood as if they were entranced; the preachers had extraordinary liberty, and the word was indeed with power; the people in prayer, wrestled with God and prevailed, and the song of praise seemed to make the place a paradise. The entire day's services were brought to a close in peace, and the impressions made were unquestionably such as never will be forgotten by the multitudes who were present on that memorable day.

“This powerful meeting gave a mighty impetus to ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ in the county of Hants. The infant churches, which hid been recently planted in the various surrounding villages, were greatly invigorated; while the hard moral soil of those neighbourhoods, which had hitherto violently resisted our entrance into them, and which was so much in harmony with the flinty character of the material soil of the same localities, was, in several instances, softened into 'good ground,’ to receive the 'good seed' of the 'glorious Gospel of the blessed God.’”

From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p273-5.

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