Flash has the distinction of being the highest altitude Methodist Chapel building in the British Isles. The village sign claims that, at 1518 ft. above sea level, it is the highest village in Britain.
One effect of this is the severity of winter weather. While he was a Circuit Minister at Leek, in the 1950's, the Rev, R.O. Higginson used to ride a BSA Bantam motorbike. (At that time, few Ministers could afford to run a car.) He was planned at Flash one winter Sunday afternoon. On arrival, the people commented that they scacely expected him given the threat of snow. They suggested that he watch for snow through the window opposite to the pulpit, and if he saw any he should conclude the service and depart as quickly as possible. He did not see any snow during the service. However, soon after his departure the snow started to fall, and the village was cut off in about 20 minutes.
Such an incident only underlines the devotioin of Preachers in earlier centuries, such as James Oliver of Longnor. ("my Plan says nothing about the weather, it says I must be there at such a time, I shall be expected, and therefore must go." )
There is an excellent little history booklet available in the Parish Church (St. Paul's, Quarnford) (50p in 2001) This is not only a history of the Church building, but also of the village.
From this we learn of the silk mill at Gradbach (less than 2 miles west in the same Parish) form 1640 to 1840, with silk weaving and button making as cottage industries throught the Parish. In the 18th century, a gang used button presses to make cointerfeit coins (hence the name "Flash Money") but some were hanged at Chester after a servant girl gave them away.
"During the first half of the C19th the population of he parish was around 700; it had been reduced to half this by the end of the 1800's. In 1851 there were 40 agricultural labourers, about the same number of silk worker (spinners, spreaders, reelers and button makers), and almost as many colliers. There were also stonemasons, dress makers, blacksmiths and cordwainers, and a shoemaker, errand boy, wheelwright, game-keeper, grocer, peddlar and tailor, as well as a number of house servants, 275 young people and 50 scholars. At one time 29 families (78 individuals) were receiving weekly relief and 23 families (87 individuals) occasional relief, nearly a quarter of the population."
"The first record of coal mining in the parish comes from 1401 when Thomas Smith took a year's lease on the 'vein coal' of Black Brook, near Upper Hulme (probably at Blue Hills). There were a large number of coal pits in the area (including Orcahrd Common, Blackclough, Hope, Goldsitch and Knotbury) which were worked throughout the C18th and C19th, and some into the early C20th, for both commercial and domestic use."
For more information, including a Lollard meeting place, see the history obtainable from the Church.
Extracts from J B Dyson, "Methodism in the Leek Circuit" 1853 (Leek Wesleyan Centenary Book)
In 1803, Mr. Beaumont was again appointed to Leek. He narrates:
"At the Manchester Conference, Aug. 1801, I requested to be sent to Leek Circuit, for the benefit of my health, knowing that the strong pure air on the Staffordshire hills was very conducive to brace my relaxed habit, whwh was kindly granted. On my arrival at Leek, Mr. T. Gee, with whom I was appointed to travel this year, desired I would immediately take the hills, in order to settle some dim cult matters. I set off and got to my place; but after preaching I was taken with such a dreadful sickness, cramp, and vomiting, that really if I had gone through another night like it, I should most certainly have finished my course in this world. This sickness confined me for about a fortnight, after which I returned to my family, again took my place in the Circuit, and got a little strength by slow degrees.
"At the London Conference, August, 1804, I was appointed a second year for the same Circuit, with Mr. Treffit. In this Circuit I was not favoured with seeing the work of God prosper, as it had done in many other Circuits where I had laboured, which often led me to wonder what could be the reason of it. Upon close examination, several reasons avpeared clear to me ; one was, that a great part of the men on the hills, especially near the Flash, travel with Manchester goods to all parts of the nation, aid are from home near one half their time, as such, they are at a great loss for men to carry on their meetings during their absence. Another reason was, the weather is frequently very severe, so that in the winter on those hills, it is very difficult to get out at nights; and as most part of the inhabitants lie scattered, with here and there a house, it requires great resolution constantly to attend their class and other meetings. This is one chief reason why the people do not meet so regularly as in some other places; and all who have minutely examined how the work of' God is carried on, well know, that if our class meetings are not well attended, there is but small hopes of much prosperity."
The origin of Methodism in Flash is shrouded in obscurity,. Mr. Joshua Knowles of New Lodge, (a well known home of the Preachers,) who is now in the eighty seventh year of his age, distinctly recollects hearing George Redfern preach at the door of his own house, which is situated at Edge side, between Flash and Longnor, in the year 1773. George was a Leader of one of the classes at the latter place. On coming out of his door, his grey locks hanging low down on his shoulders, he took a small hymn book from his pocket, and commenced giving out a hymn with a voice so solemn and tender in its tones, as at once to melt the heart of young Knowles into tears, and leave an impression such as eighty years of busy life has not effaced.
George had a brother James, who was a small shop-keeper, and resided at Flash. James was a humble, pious, active christian; and is ever spoken of by those that remember him with great respect. Like his brother, he was in the habit of collecting his neighbours within, or around his door, and preached to them those truths which had been enlightening and saving to his own soul.
Flash is situated at the southern end of the highest ridge of Axe Edge, the northern end running towards Buxton. To the summit of this hill, which overlooks the village and the surrounding country for many miles, James was in the habit of climbing in the early morn. His object no doubt was the same as that of his Lord and Master, who "went up into a mountain apart to pray." While there, he noticed that the chimnies of some houses sent up their curling smoke much later on a Sabbath morning than on other mornings, which led the old man to exclaim, "The world calls louder than Christ in that house !" He was a man of tender feelings, and often wept while exhorting sinners to flee from the wrath to come. That he was successful and his labours acceptable, appears evident from the fact that he was the Leader of three classes, containing forty-seven members. He met one of his classes in his parlour on the Sabbath at the early hour of eight o'clock in the morning. Mr. Wardle, of Leek, who is a native of these parts, remembers being taken when a boy to this class, where he witnessed the faithfulness and tender earnestness of this simple-hearted but earnest christian, who has long since fallen asleep
In 1784 the mumbor in society was sixty one. Their names were :- 1st CLASS. Sarah Morton, Alice Brunt, James Redfern, Mary Critchlow, Jane Brunt, Martha Belfield, Mary Brown, Betty Brunt, Elizabeth Redfern, Matthew Billinge, Zephaniah Brunt, Abraham Brocklehurst, Ann Brunt, Isaac Brunt, James Brunt, Mary Barber, Mary Taylor, Grace Wood, Martha Moss, Ann Wood, Isaac Moss, Mary Barber, 4th CLASS. Betty Rigby, Mary Brunt, Isaac Billinge, Sarah Billinge, Ann Warrington, Barnabas Billinge, Thomas Oliver, William Needham, Elizabeth Bullock, Mary Wain, Sarah Slack, William Taylor, James Bestwick, Alice Bestwick, Sarah Salt, Ann Billinge, John Redfern, Rebecca Mellor, James Belfield, John Lomas, Richard Mellor, Ann Alsop, Sarah Lomas, James Billinge, James Brunt, Ann Brown, Jane Bagshaw, George Lomas, Jane Mottershead, Mary Heapy, Betty Lomas, 3rd CLASS. Mary Taylor, Mary Lomas. James Birch, Aaron Wilson, 2nd CLASS. Ann Birch, Elizabeth Mellor, Peter Morton, Mary Tunnacliff.
Mr. Fenwick appends a note in which he terms this Society "a free, loving, generous people."
About this time the Preachers were in the habit of visiting Flash on a Tuesday evening. How early they commenced their visits it seems impossible to tell, but no doubt it was some considerable time prior to the erection of the Chapel. The large number in Society shews that their labours had been crowned with encouraging success. The moral soil, unlike the natural, which is bleak and barren, was exceedingly productive. They found the Society rapidly increasing, the congregation more than could be accommodatad, and stimulated by the example and success of the friends at Longnor, they resolved to have a Chapel. It was opened and in regular use, in the year 1784. This fact is gathered from a memoir of Mr. John Lomas of Hollingsclough, whose conversion took place under the following circumstances : "In the year 1783,  Mrs. Lomas having expressed her intention to go to the Methodist Chapel in Flash, where they then resided, Mr. L. (who regarded himself as a zealous churchman, and was strongly prejudiced against the Methodists,) was highly displeased, and insisted upon it that she should not; alleging among other reasons, that it was dark and she would fall. Mrs. L. knew that his objection rose from his enmity to the people and place, which caused her to sit down and weep. Presently he started up, ordered his servant to bring his great coat, and exclaimed: `I find we shall have no quietness unless your Mrs. goes to the Chapel, so I shall be obliged to go with her.' On the road he murmured very much, and found great fault with our community. The venerable MR. COSTERDINE was in the pulpit. When the service was over, on being asked how he liked the preaching, he replied, with a low and chastened tone, 'Either the old man or I must be very wrong.'" This was the turning point in his history.
The society continued to prosper, and the congregations to enlarge, until the Chapel became too small; and in the year 1821 it was rebuilt. It is the largest Chapel out of the Circuit Town. A majority of the Society are aged. They have "borne the burden and heat of the day." Growing infirmities have withdrawn them from spheres of active labour. A revival is greatly needed. It is a ground of encouragement that the congregations are generally good, and composed chiefly of youth.
Isaac Billinge, the Leader of the fourth Class, resided at Middle-hills, where he opened his house for preaching. He was a strict Methodist, a great lover of the means of grace, and a strong advocate for the administration of the Lord's Supper in our own Chapels. Whether it was administered at Flash or not at that time, is not known. But after meeting his Class at an early hour the Sabbath morning, Isaac might be seen like a Shepherd leading his little flock down the hills to Longnor, to partake of the memorials of the Saviour's love. Thus would these devoted people travel seven or eight miles to enjoy this blessed Christian ordinance. How ought their self-denying conduct to put to the blush those modern Wesleyans, who through mistaken views, or criminal indifference regularly neglect this means of grace.
There was also preaching at HAZZLEBARROW, and finally the present place of worship at NEWSTONE was opened. There is an old and considerable society, belonging to three classes, which are met in different localities, to suit the scattered population of this hilly and romantic district. The society like that of Flash, needs recruiting with a larger sprinkling of youthful members. It can furnish numerons examples of the proverb which states, that "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." Another preaching place in this locality was HOLE CARR. This was the residence of Mr. Brunt, at whose death preaching and the class were removed to Heathy-Lee, where his widow and family went to reside.
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