John Wesley and Henry Venn
History of Huddersfield
I rode over the mountains to Huddersfield. A wilder people I never saw in England. The men, women and children filled the streets and seemed just ready to devour us.
John Wesley’s diary from June 1757 does not speak well of my hometown, thought the ‘mountains’ he rode over, Saddleworth Moor, would have brought him to the village of Meltham, south of the town. Whether it was to the people of Huddersfield itself or to those of Meltham is still debated. As I will show in the next blog on Huddersfield’s history there was rebellion in the area at that time.
A contrast to this was another village, Golcar to Huddersfield’s south west, whom Wesley described as “gentle as Lilies when compared with the uncouth & ignorant peoples of Bolster Moor & Scapegoat Hill.” The people of Golcar are still called Lilys, and there is a Golcar Lily Pub and restaurant, which, ironically, is on Bolster Moor. The reason for Wesley’s better reception in Golcar could be because the area had been settled by the Huguenots, French protestants escaping the persecutions of Louis XIV, the Sun King.
Henry Venn, another of the early Evangelicals, was in Huddersfield shortly after that, as Vicar of Huddersfield. Previously vicar at West Horsley in Surrey, where he increased the number of communicants from 12 to 60 in four years and where his views changed from high church to evangelical. He became Curate at Clapham, where he met Gorge Whitefield in 1754 and founded what became known as the Clapham Sect, which included reformer William Wilberforce.
Other Evangelicals thought that revival was impossible in a place like Huddersfield, Venn disagreed and became vicar from 1759 to 1771. A biography of 1869 says:
He went there a poor man, without rank or influence, and with nothing but God’s truth on his side. He found the place a huge, dark, ignorant, immoral, irreligious, manufacturing town. He left it shaken to the centre by the lever of the gospel, and leavened with the influence of many faithful servants of Jesus Christ, whom he had been the means of turning from darkness to light.