Celtic Cross

The Hawnby Dreamers' Day

The Story


Back in the middle of the 18th century, one summer's day, two men - their surnames were Cornforth and Chapman - were cutting bracken, not far from their homes in Ladhill Gill, up above Hawnby. It was hard work, and warm, so after a while they decided to take a snooze. And, as they snoozed, they dreamed dreams.

These were strange, and momentous dreams! Comparing notes, after they'd woken, the two men found that they'd both in a way dreamed the same dream: that God, somehow, was calling to them. Calling for a change in their lives.

And then, a little later, they were talking with a sympathetic neighbour, Mr. Hugill. This was a man who read newspapers. In a newspaper Mr. Hugill had seen that the famous preacher Mr. John Wesley was shortly due to preach at Newcastle upon Tyne. Why not go? he asked. Perhaps that might help provide some answer to their dreams.

So off they went, the three of them together: on foot, up the drove road, where the flocks and herds were driven down from Scotland to the markets of Malton and York. They walked all the way to Newcastle. (On the journey, it's recorded, they stopped at an inn and drank some tea; a new drink in those days, a great luxury.) And then they heard Mr. Wesley: there, in the midst of one of the often wildly excited crowds that he attracted, they were converted.

Back home, they gathered family and friends together into a new community of Methodists; the first in Ryedale. But this caused great scandal among the local upholders of the established church. They were hauled before the magistrates and charged with disorderly conduct, as "lewd fellows of the baser sort", presuming to preach their own version of religion even though they lacked any proper education.

And their landlord then expelled them from their homes.

And that is why, to this day, the village of Hawnby is in two quite separate parts. The original main village is half way up the hill; but down at the bottom, by the bridge, is the settlement the early Methodists built, on land they managed to obtain when they were driven out.

On July 7th, 1757, John Wesley himself came to visit. In his Journal he wrote:

'I rode through one of the pleasantest parts of England to Hawnby. Here the zealous landlord turned all the Methodists out of their houses. This proved a singular kindness, for they built some little houses at the end of the town, in which forty or fifty of them live.'

Within a few years those original little houses had been replaced by the houses that are there now. And chapels had been built, both there and up the dale at Snilesworth. A community founded by dreamers ...

Dreamers' Day Prayers

'The Ladder'
(Genesis 28:10-19)

God, give us good dreams.

At the edge of the world,
where the bracken grows
and the walls are broken:
there was the ladder.

There was the ladder
with the angels on,
some going up
and some coming down.

Show us also that ladder.

Help our thoughts climb,
show us what could be,
show us what should be.

Fling open the gate,
come down to meet us,
open our eyes.

At the edge of the world,
where everything's wild,

God, give us good dreams.

A Collect

You, whom our calculating minds
Can scarcely comprehend,
With mercy, come,
And speak to us in dreams.
Stop us, and lift us, wondering,
Above the drift of everyday.
And what, in his dream,
King Solomon asked for,
Grant us the same: that wisdom.
Grant us the know-how,
To make our best dreaming
Come finally true.
For His sake we ask this:
Who is the Way
And the Truth and the Life,
Beyond dreaming, for ever and ever.

A Ballad-Litany

Chapman and Cornforth and Hugill!
There, in the dull church, they sat,
hearing dull words, heads drooped,
dull, day-dreaming, discontented.

Fiery Creator:
inspire us.

Hugill and Chapman and Cornforth!
All at once, in their dreams,
heaven opened; they were called;
whereupon (and why not?) they set off.

call to us.

Cornforth and Hugill and Chapman!
They walked and they walked,
and their Saviour walked with them;
they found their way, they came home.

Alpha and Omega:
guide us.

Chapman and Hugill and Cornforth!
Back in the village,
their friends gathered round them;
new lives began, free and equal.

unite us.

Hugill and Cornforth and Chapman!
Bailiffs expelled them,
sent by a bully; in vain -
for nothing could daunt them.

embolden us.

Cornforth and Chapman and Hugill!
Down where the river runs, next to the bridge -
look! - they constructed
their own New Jerusalem.

God of love:
give us grace
to learn from example.

Hawnby Dreamers' Day

The population has shrunk, and those chapels are closed now. The one at Snilesworth is a ruin on the edge of the moor; the Hawnby chapel has been converted into business premises. But in 2002 we organized a first Hawnby Dreamers' Day, to honour the memory of those brave people, some two and a half centuries ago.

This was an initiative of the Church of England parish. Our predecessors are the villains in the story! But we believe in honestly remembering both the good and the bad in our past. Nowadays our two churches are drawing ever closer together: we wanted to celebrate that. And we wanted, also, to celebrate the sort of sheer free-spiritedness the Dreamers represent.

Dreamers Day

Home Page   The Five Churches   The Poetry Church   Service Times   About the Parish  
Who's Who   Tracing Your Ancestors  Local History   Hawnby Dreamers   Useful Links