Reference NumberA-2-N
TitleBarnsley Methodist Circuit
DescriptionRecords of Barnsley Methodist Circuit and its precedessor circuits and of the constituent chapels of those circuits.

Catalogues referenced A-2-N/1-16 are those of the various Barnsley Methodist Circuits, arranged by denomination and then chronologically, concluding with those of the former Wombell and Hoyland Methodist Circuit and its predecessors.

The records of each Circuit are catalogued under seven main headings:
1. Registers and Membership
2. Circuit Administration (including minutes, accounts and statistical schedules)
3. Circuit Personnel (including Ministers, Local Preachers and Trustees)
4. Property: records relating to Chapels
5. Property: other than Chapels (including Manses)
6. Circuit Organisations and Events (including youth groups, women's societies, missionary societies and guilds)
7. Publications and Miscellaneous (including preaching plans and circuit magazines)

Catalogues referenced A-2-N/17-115 are those of individual Methodist chapels, arranged alphabetically by place name.

The records of each Chapel are catalogued under eight main headings:
1. Registers and Membership
2. Society and Leaders (Church Council from the mid-1970s onwards)
3. Trustees (Property Committee from the mid-1970s onwards)
4. Legal Documents
5. Chapels, Schoolrooms and other buildings
6. Sunday School (including minutes, accounts and registers)
7. Organisations and Events (including women's societies, youth groups, choirs and music, and social events)
8. Publications and Miscellaneous (including magazines, souvenir booklets and photographs)

The boundaries of Barnsley Methodist Circuit and those of the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley are not conterminous. The records of some chapels situated beyond the boundaries of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough are included in the following catalogues because they were part of Barnsley Methodist Circuit.
The records of some chapels which are situated within Barnsley Metropolitan Borough are not held at Barnsley Archives because they belong to Methodist Circuits whose records are held by the archive services of adjoining metropolitan areas.

The following catalogues do not relate to the circuit or chapel records of the Wesleyan Reform Union, which remains a Methodist denomination separate from the mainstream Methodist Church. For records of the Wesleyan Reform Union please see the catalogues under the reference A-2259-N.
Wesleyan Methodists
Primitive methodists
United Methodists
Protestant nonconformists
Nonconformist chapels


SiteBarnsley Archives
Access ConditionsAccess to Methodist records is subject to the provisions of the Standing Orders of the Methodist Conference: there is a general restriction on access of thirty years (excepting material which has already been made public) and a restriction of seventy-five years on material of a confidential nature.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryONE.
Methodism was founded in the middle of the 18th century by the Rev. John Wesley and his brother the Rev. Charles Wesley. They were both clergymen of the Church of England and originally intended Methodism to be a reform movement within the Church of England, but by the end of the 18th century it was clear that they had in fact created a new denomination.

The denomination founded by the Wesley brothers came to be referred to as the WESLEYAN METHODISTS.

Methodists gather their Societies and Chapels into local groupings called 'Circuits'. The BARNSLEY WESLEYAN METHODIST CIRCUIT was founded in 1802. (Prior to that date the Wesleyan chapels in the Barnsley area had been part of the Wakefield Circuit.) The head chapel of the circuit was at Pitt Street, Barnsley.

For records of the Barnsley Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, please see catalogue A-2-N/1.

The personal authority of the Rev. John Wesley held Methodism together during his lifetime, but after his death in 1791 there began to be dissent among Methodists about how the denomination should be run - particularly whether authority should rest with the ordained clergymen alone, or whether the ordinary members should have a say in church government. This resulted in the formation of a number of separate breakaway Methodist denominations.

The PRIMITIVE METHODISTS were formed 1811. Initially they were distinguished by the comparatively plain design of their chapels and the direct style of their worship. Primitive Methodism tended to be more of a working-class denomination by comparison with the middle-class Wesleyan Methodists.

BARNSLEY PRIMITIVE METHODIST CIRCUIT was established in 1821, although its earliest surviving records date from the later 1820s. The circuit continued under that title until 1892, when it was divided into two new circuits: BARNSLEY FIRST PRIMITIVE METHODIST CIRCUIT (whose head chapel was at Westgate in Barnsley) and BARNSLEY SECOND PRIMITIVE METHODIST CIRCUIT (whose head chapel was at Buckley Street, Barnsley).

For records of these three Primitive Methodist Circuits, please see catalogues A-2-N/2, A-2-N/3 and A-2-N/4.

The earliest of the denominations to have broken away from Wesleyan Methodism was the METHODIST NEW CONNEXION, founded in 1797.

BARNSLEY METHODIST NEW CONNEXION CIRCUIT was established in 1811. (Prior to that date the chapels in the Barnsley area had been part of the Sheffield MNC Circuit.) The head chapel of the circuit was initially at New Street in Barnsley, before the Society built a new, grander chapel called Ebenezer at the junction of Sheffield Road and Doncaster Road.

For records of the Barnsley Methodist New Connexion Circuit, please see catalogue A-2-N/5.

Further splits in Wesleyan Methodism occurred in the period from the late 1820s to the late 1840s. Although the catalyst for such splits was often a relatively minor matter, they all reflected the underlying tension over the relative authority of the clergy (gathered together in a governing body called the Conference) against that of the ordinary members of the denomination.

The PROTESTANT METHODISTS were a small breakaway denomination based around Leeds which was founded in 1828 as the result of what was known as the Leeds Organ Dispute. BARNSLEY PROTESTANT METHODIST CIRCUIT was founded around the same time.

The tensions in Wesleyan Methodism rumbled on and in 1836 the WESLEYAN METHODIST ASSOCIATION was formed. The Protestant Methodists agreed to merge with this new denomination, and so the Barnsley Circuit of the Protestant Methodists became BARNSLEY WESLEYAN METHODIST ASSOCIATION CIRCUIT.

In 1857, several small denominations, including the Wesleyan Methodist Association, agreed to merge, and came together under the new title of the UNITED METHODIST FREE CHURCHES. Hence the Barnsley Wesleyan Methodist Association Circuit became the BARNSLEY UNITED METHODIST FREE CHURCHES CIRCUIT.

Through all these changes of title, the head chapel of the circuit was the chapel on the east side of Blucher Street, built in 1829.

For records of these three Circuits, please see catalogues A-2-N/7, A-2-N/8 and A-2-N/9.

Meanwhile, the most serious of the splits in Wesleyan Methodism had occurred in the late 1840s.

The leaders of the breakaway denomination had been expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists for challenging the authority of the Conference, and so their new denomination was called the WESLEYAN REFORMERS (also known, somewhat pointedly, as the FREE METHODISTS).

In 1857 the Wesleyan Reformers in many parts of the country decided to join in the merger of small denominations which created the United Methodist Free Churches, mentioned above.

But in other places, including Barnsley, the Wesleyan Reformers opted to remain separate from other denominations and to organise themselves under the heading of the WESLEYAN REFORM UNION, which was founded in 1859.

The Wesleyan Reform Union has opted not to join in any of the subsequent unions of Methodist denominations and remains a separate denomination at the present time (2019/2020).

For this reason, BARNSLEY WESLEYAN REFORM UNION CIRCUIT remains independent of the mainstream Methodist Church, and those of its records which are held here at Barnsley Archives are in a separate series of catalogues under the reference A-2259-N.

The later 19th century and the 20th century saw successful re-unions of Methodist denominations. The re-union of 1857 which created the United Methodist Free Churches has already been mentioned.

In 1907, that denomination united with two others, the Methodist New Connexion and the Bible Christians (which had no chapels in the Barnsley area but was very strong in the West Country) to form the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.

The effect on the Barnsley circuits was that Barnsley Methodist New Connexion Circuit became BARNSLEY EBENEZER UNITED METHODIST CIRCUIT, and Barnsley United Methodist Free Churches Circuit became BARNSLEY BLUCHER STREET UNITED METHODIST CIRCUIT.

For records of these two Circuits, please see catalogues A-2-N/6 and A-2-N/10.

The most significant re-union of denominations came in 1932, when the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists all combined to form the present-day METHODIST CHURCH.

It often took local circuits a year or two to work out how to re-organise themselves most effectively to suit local conditions. For two years the five Barnsley circuits of the new Methodist Church carried on with their respective boundaries unchanged.

Then, in 1934, all the old circuits were abolished and their constituent chapels were divided into two new circuits, created on geographical lines - BARNSLEY EAST METHODIST CIRCUIT and BARNSLEY WEST METHODIST CIRCUIT.

For records of these two Circuits, please see catalogues A-2-N/11 and A-2-N/12.

In 1953, six chapels from Barnsley East Methodist Circuit were transferred to the new Wombwell and Hoyland Methodist Circuit - see below.

In 1971, the Barnsley East and Barnsley West circuits merged to form the new BARNSLEY METHODIST CIRCUIT.

In 1982, the boundaries of Barnsley Methodist Circuit were extended when it merged with Wombwell and Hoyland Methodist Circuit - see below.

For records of Barnsley Methodist Circuit, please see catalogue A-2-N/13.

In 1862, part of Barnsley Primitive Methodist Circuit was separated to form the new HOYLAND PRIMITIVE METHODIST CIRCUIT. The head chapel of this new circuit was Mount Tabor Chapel, King Street, Hoyland.

When the Primitive Methodists joined with the other denominations to form the Methodist Church in 1932, the boundaries and constituent chapels of the Hoyland Circuit remained unaltered, but its title changed to HOYLAND METHODIST CIRCUIT.

In 1953, a re-organisation of the local circuit boundaries resulted in the abolition of Hoyland Methodist Circuit: three of its chapels which lay in the area of the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham were transferred to the new Wath and Mexborough Methodist Circuit while the remainder were transferred to the new WOMBWELL AND HOYLAND METHODIST CIRCUIT. This new circuit also included six chapels transferred from Barnsley East Methodist Circuit, seven from Wath upon Dearne Methodist Circuit and two from Sheffield North East Methodist Circuit.

For records of these three Circuits, please see catalogues A-2-N/14, A-2-N/15 and A-2-N/16.

Wombwell and Hoyland Methodist Circuit was abolished in 1982 and merged with Barnsley Methodist Circuit.
Extent286 boxes
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