William Grimshaw of Haworth
Noted Evangelist of the 1700s and Collaborator with the Wesley Brothers
William Grimshaw, from Frank Baker’s Biography
One of the best-known members of the Grimshaw family is William Grimshaw, who was deeply involved in the evangelical movement in England in the mid-1700s. He is considered by the Methodist faith as one of the founding fathers of that denomination.
Thanks go to Mavis Long for pointing out the webpage on William Grimshaw before his conversion to evangelical Christianity, which is included below.
At least four books have been written about William’s life1,2,3,4, the most recent published in 1997. He was born in Brindle in Lancashire County (southeast of Preston and about 10 miles west of Grimshaw in Eccleshill). Apparently, his family has not yet been “connected” to the original Grimshaw family tree. He was educated for ministry in the Church of England.
During his tenure as head of the church in Haworth, he became a strong evangelist and worked closely with the Wesley brothers during the era when the Methodist church was founded. He did not completely sever his ties with the Church of England, but he preached in many parishes outside his own and gained a significant reputation for the power of his sermons and the large number of conversions to evangelical Christianity for which he was responsible.
The church at Haworth at which he was rector from 1742 until his death in 1763 is shown in the figures at the bottom of this webpage. A stone fount in the adjacent cemetery with his name on it is also shown in the figures. Also shown is the Black Bull Inn, where William (apparently known to some as the “flogging preacher”) would forcibly round up patrons during his church services and “encourage” them to join the service.
The Haworth church and community are even better known for the family of a subsequent rector, Patrick Bronte (see photo of list of rectors from inside the church, shown in the photos on this webpage), the father of the Bronte sisters (Emily, Charlotte, Anne) who achieved fame as authors of great literature (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, etc.)
A portrait of William is included in his biography by Faith Cook1 and is presented in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Drawing of William Grimshaw from Faith Cook’s biography
The above image was apparently derived from an earlier image from Baker4 (p. 82) which is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Image of William Grimshaw from Frank Baker’s biography
The church guide which is available to visitors provides the following summary of the church and the influence of William Grimshaw and Patrick Bronte:
We welcome you to the Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth. Although the present building, apart from the tower, is just over 100 years old, generations of Haworth people have worshipped here for nearly 700 years: the old Church was built in 1655 and enlarged by William Grimshaw in 1755. He was Haworths greatest incumbent and a great friend of John Wesley, drawing great crowds during the Evangelical Revival, and being instrumental in building the first Methodist Church on West Lane in Haworth. The Pewter Flagons (one of which can be seen in the York Minster Crypt exhibition) dated 1750, were provided by Grimshaw to hold wine for as many as 1,000 communicants. Other relics of the time include the Communion Table, Candelabra in the Bronte Chapel, the Stone Font in the Churchyard and the little pulpit in the church at Stanbury, one mile west of Haworth.
1820 saw the start of Patrick Brontes forty-one year ministry in Haworth which was to bring the village lasting fame. There are numerous mementos of the Bronte family in the Church: see first of all the Bronte Chapel (This was completed in 1964 by local craftsmen, including a warden, a choir member and the organist) and the monument (cut by John Brown, a friend of Branwells. Close by is the family vault (which is completely sealed) situated near the family pew in the Old Church; Anne was the only member of the Bronte family to die away from Haworth; she was buried in Scarborough. Near the chapel is a display case showing old documents including the marriage certificate of Charlotte to the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls, who had been a curate for eight years. There is also an eighteenth century register recording the death of William Grimshaw (though he was buried ten miles away at Luddenden Foot near Hebden Bridge) and the 17th century Bible kept by Mr. Bronte in his study.
Williams brother, John, was also in the ministry. He, however, apparently had no affinity for Methodism.
A description of the known ancestors and descendants of the two Brindle Grimshaw reverends was published by Baker5. This Brindle line of Grimshaws, as outlined by Baker, is summarized in Figure 3. According to Baker, there are no known living descendants of either William or John Grimshaw. It has not yet been determined how this family “ties in” to the Eccleshill, Clayton-le-Moors or other earlier Grimshaw line.
Figure 3. Family Line of William Grimshaw of Haworth
|—–Henry Grimshaw* & Elizabeth Blackledge
|—–|—–William Grimshaw (1674 – 21 Apr 1754) & Ann Firth
|—–|—–|—–William Grimshaw* (14 Sep 1708 – 6 Apr 1763) & Sarah Lockwood (1710 – 1 Nov 1739)
|—–|—–|—–|—–John Grimshaw (Apr 1736 – 1766) & Grace Gibson
|—–|—–|—–|—–Jane Grimshaw (Mar 1737 – 14 Jan 1750)
|—–|—–|—–William Grimshaw* (14 Sep 1708 – 6 Apr 1763) & Elizabeth Cockcroft ( – 1746)
|—–|—–|—–John Grimshaw (1711 – 16 Sep 1779) & Mary Cockcroft
|—–|—–|—–|—–William Grimshaw (1741 – 1746)
|—–|—–|—–|—–Ann? Grimshaw (Circa 1742 – )
|—–|—–|—–|—–Thomas Grimshaw (1744 – 1746)
|—–|—–|—–|—–John Grimshaw (1747 – 1749)
|—–|—–|—–|—–Mary Grimshaw ( – 1760)
|—–|—–|—–|—–William Grimshaw* (1749 – 25 Apr 1778) & Jane Kershaw
|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–Mary Grimshaw (Circa 1773 – 30 Aug 1825)
|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–Jane Grimshaw (Circa 1775 – 1775)
|—–|—–|—–|—–William Grimshaw* (1749 – 25 Apr 1778) & Mary Lumb
|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–Lumb Grimshaw (1787 – 19 Apr 1787)
|—–|—–|—–|—–|—–Frances Grimshaw (Circa 1788 – 9 Aug 1794)
|—–Henry Grimshaw* & Jane Adcroft
Brindle is in Lancashire, southeast of Preston and southwest of Blackburn, as shown on the maps below at larger scales above and smaller scales below.
Baker4 (p. 82) provides the image of William’s Diary shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Image of a page from William Grimshaw’s Diary
Several photos were taken in the vicinity of Haworth Church in 1999 and are shown below. All photos taken in April 1999; the dates on the photos are incorrect due to camera malfunction.
The first photo is side view of church, showing clock tower.
The second photo is the stone fount in the adjacent cemetery with William Grimshaws name.
The third photo is a list of Haworth Church rectors on plaque inside the church. Note that Patrick Bronte was the fourth rector after William Grimshaw.
Finally, the Black Bull Inn, where Grimshaw rounded up patrons to attend Sunday services, is shown.
Michael Baumber has written an excellent analysis6 of William Grimshaw and his close ties to Methodism as well as to the Bronte family. Selected images from the article are shown below. The full article can be seen by clicking here.
Title page of Baumber’s article on William Grimshaw.
William Grimshaw’s portrait, with indication of the probable source of the portrait.
Portrait of the Bronte sisters by their brother, Bramwell Bronte. (Note: The original image is somewhat truncated at the bottom.)
The following highly informative summary was found on the “English Christian Heritage” website.
Located awkwardly between the Leeds-Bradford conurbation and barren Pennine moorland, the village will for ever be associated with the talented but tragic Bronte sisters. The Rev. Patrick Bronte was vicar here for forty-one years from 1820 and outlived all of his six children, including the literary trio of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Apart from Anne, who died at Scarborough, all the family lie within a vault in the church. Following signs to the “Bronte Village”, tourists come in their thousands to amble up and down the steep cobbled Main Street, sipping tea in the cafes and browsing in the souvenir shops.
We come here in search of one of Patrick Bronte’s predecessors, William Grimshaw (1708-1763), who served the parishioners of Haworth two generations earlier. Grimshaw belonged to that group of eighteenth century clergy whose zeal and fervour earned them the nickname of Methodists, but who never envisaged separation from the Church of England. Ordained in 1731, Grimshaw spent some years as curate at Todmorden, where he was careless of his duties and spent much of his time hunting, shooting and card-playing with the local gentry. Shortly before he moved to Haworth, a series of events – his wife’s death, parishioners’ questions and reading John Owen’s “Justification by Faith” – brought about a profound spiritual change. When he was appointed “perpetual curate” of Haworth in 1742, the church had barely a dozen regular communicants, but within a year, the number was close to a thousand and thirty-five bottles of wine were needed for a single communion service.
Apart from the tower, the church of St Michael and All Angels was completely rebuilt in the late nineteenth century, but there are still reminders of Grimshaw’s time here. In the Bronte chapel is his wooden communion table and the brass candelabra is inscribed with his name and favourite – text “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain”. For some reason, Grimshaw’s font (also inscribed with his name) is in the churchyard outside. A look at some of the gravestones reveals that the misfortunes of the Bronte family were by no means exceptional. Haworth was an unhealthy place, with a poor water supply and subject to frequent bouts of “plague” – probably typhus. With four of the six Bronte children reaching adulthood, they probably fared better than most. Grimshaw lost his first wife (and great love) Sarah after less than five years’ marriage, and his second wife Elizabeth after a similar time. He himself died of typhus at the age of fifty-five.
The Bronte Parsonage Museum, much visited by tourists on their literary pilgrimage, was not Grimshaw’s home. He lived at Sowdens farm, about ten minutes walk from the church. Follow the flagged path to the kissing gate at the far end of the churchyard and continue along the narrow track between the stone walls. The comfortably-sized stone farmhouse can be seen over the wall or from the front entrance, but is privately owned. It carries a plaque recording that among Grimshaw’s visitors were John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, John Newton and Henry Venn.
The Black Bull pub on the main square has a plaque recording that it was one of the drinking dens of the dissolute Bronte brother, Branwell. In Grimshaw’s time, a visitor one Sunday noticed men jumping out of its windows and over a wall. Thinking there was a fire, he went to investigate but was told that the men had seen the parson coming with a whip to chase them into church for the sermon! Grimshaw did not oppose the pub on principle – it was run by his parish clerk and his guests often stayed there – but he did not shrink from using firm discipline to remind his flock of their spiritual duties. He himself had a dramatic vision while recovering in the Black Bull’s parlour after fainting in church, which spurred him on to further evangelistic efforts.
Surprisingly perhaps, the Methodist Chapel in West Lane was built by Grimshaw in 1758. As mentioned, there was no thought of separation at this time, but he wanted to ensure that “the purer part of the congregation” was provided for in case his successors were not of the same persuasion as himself.
Bramwell Bronte, brother of Emily, Ann and Charlotte, made a pencil drawing of one “H. Grimshaw”, which is shown and described below from a book by Christine Alexander and Jane Sellars – “The Art of the Brontes”7. It is not known who this H Grimshaw was or which family he was descended from. (Note that Bramwell’s name is incorrectly spelled “Branwell” in the book.)
A website by Dorothy Hargreaves and Linda Briggs on Todmorden and Walsden includes an interesting piece on William Grimshaw while he was at Todmorden and before he caught the evangelical fervor (click here to see the relevant webpage). Perhaps the incident described was instrumental in William’s conversion to evangelical Christianity.
SUSAN (FIELDEN) SCHOLFIELD
Susan Fielden married James Scholfield at St. Chads in 1731. They lived a middle-class life as hill farmers on the top of the eastern slopes of the Walsden valley. Financially they were comfortable, but life was none the less hard.
After their marriage, James and Susan settled first at Lodge Hall Farm, later moving to the larger homestead at Calf Lee. The photos show the farm as it was and as it is now
They were both of yeoman farming stock, the Scholfield family owning outright the land and farms at Calf Lee and Scout Top in Walsden aswell as probably Lodge Hall, and were leaseholders of the land and farm at Knowltop.
Susan in particular was a very devout Christian, and both she and James attended Church on every possible occasion. After producing only daughters during the first 10 years of their marriage, they were desperate for a son and heir, and to their delight one autumn, Susan gave birth to a boy. However, he was a sickly baby and as Susan watched the life drain out of him, they arranged for his baptism when he was just 5 weeks old. he died the same day he was baptised and was buried the next. Susan was devastated.
She was still suffering from the after effects of the birth and became severely depressed and suicidal. She blamed herself for her son’s death and was inconsolable. James was deeply worried for her health and what she might do. There were no mental health doctors, councillors or psychiatric nurses in those days. James did the only thing he could. He sent for the curate of the church.
The Revd. William Grimshaw at that time was a most un-Christian man. He was of a similar age to the Scholfields, but worlds apart. His father had been a churchwarden and his family had followed a nominal form of religious observance. He was educated at a public school in Blackburn and later at Christ’s College, Cambridge where he was expected to train as a cleric. It was whilst at Cambridge that Grimshaw began to associate with unworthy companions and took to drinking and frivolous living. This style of living in those days was no barrier to ordination into the church and he readily admitted that his main motive for entering the church was to obtain a comfortable and secure parish where he could mix an empty routine of parish duties with fox hunting, gambling and drinking. After a short stint at Rochdale, he was sent to Todmorden. This was the man who visited Susan in her hour of need.
Lodge Hall Farm, where the Revd. Grimshaw met James and Susan.
Grimshaw was at a loss as to how to console Susan, who by this time was out of her mind with grief and guilt. The only advice he could muster was for the couple to lighten up, go out to visit friends, eat, drink and make merry. This was shallow advice indeed for a couple with such deep religious conviction and served only to make Susan worse.
James and Susan ignored Grimshaw’s advice and prayed long and hard for forgiveness and mercy. Susan did eventually rid herself of her turmoil, and went on to have two more daughters and two healthy sons. Revd. Grimshaw had become close to the family by now, believing them to be his own salvation. He was well aware that he should have been able to provide the solace that was needed, and the whole experience filled him with remorse and shame for his own inadequacies. He was amazed at the peace and assurance that Susan clearly received from her God in contrast to the pathetic advice he had given. It changed his life completely. He renounced his playboy life style, moved to the Parish of Howarth, and commenced a hell fire and damnation style of preaching. He always acknowledged that his new life was brought about by the inspiration he received from the devout and Godly minded Scholfields. Grimshaw later wrote to James and Susan:
“What a blind leader of the blind I was when I came to take off thy burden, by exhorting thee to live in pleasure and to follow the vein amusements of the world! But God has in His mercy pardoned and blessed us all three. Blessed be His great name.”
Grimshaw became friends with John and Charles Wesley in due course, and it may be he who introduced the idea of Wesleyism to the Scholfields. Certainly someone did. Just after her distress and subsequent forgiveness, about 1745, she went to listen to a sermon by John Wesley who was visiting the Parish, and from her came the first spark of Methodism in the area. She became the first member to join the Wesleyan Society and she attended the first meeting at Longfield.
Both Susan and James lived to be well over 80, leaving behind 4 spinster daughters, 2 married sons and 14 grandchildren. These surviving children and grandchildren were long connected to Wesleyanism and the Lanebottom Wesleyan Chapel and school in particular. You can read more about Lanebottom Chapel and School HERE
1Cook, Faith, 1997, William Grimshaw of Haworth: Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust, 342 p.
2Hardy, R. Spence, 1860, William Grimshaw, Incumbent of Haworth, 1742-63: London, John Mason, 286 p.
3Cragg, George C., 1947, Grimshaw of Haworth: London, The Canterbury Press, 128 p.
4Baker, Frank, 1963, William Grimshaw, 1708-1763: London, The Epworth Press, 288 p.
5Baker, Frank, 1945, The Grimshaw Family: Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society – 1945, p. 49-72.
6Baumber, Michael, 1992, William Grimshaw, Patrick Bronte and the Evangelical Revival: History Today, v 42, issue 11 (November 1992), p. 25-31.
7Alexander, Christine, and Jane Sellars, 1995, The Art of the Brontes: Cambridge University Press, 510 p.
Webpage posted August 2000, revised April 2001. Updated October 2007 with reorganization and with addition of article by Michael Baumber and webpage by Dorothy Hargreaves and Linda Briggs. Also with addition of drawing of “H Grimshaw” by Bramworth Bronte and information from the “English Christian Heritage” website.