The Hawnby Dreamers' Day
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Within a few years those original little houses had been replaced by the houses that are there now.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
You, whom our calculating
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.
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