Methodism appealed to the down-trodden. It was not the established church, and it attempted to educate children and preach a social gospel.
A turning point in Malton’s history
Methodism was strong in the town, even before the Parliamentary elections of 1807, and this proved to be a turning point in Malton’s history. The borough of ‘New’ Malton elected two members to the House of Commons, but most of its voters were working class, were labourers and entirely male, and of the 500 borough voters at the time, only 70 were qualified to vote. But the Earl’s uncle, the Marquis of Rockingham, had introduced Edmund Burke to the electorate of Malton in the 1770s, and he is credited with treating the town with greater deference. Burke, who became the MP for Malton between 1784 and 1792, is considered by many historians as a founding figure of modern conservatism.
Political struggles, and the impact on Methodism and its historic building
Sir George Saville, had been a popular Member of Parliament. It was during the elections of May 1807, that Malton finally achieved its political and social ‘independence’. George Parker, the surgeon and apothecary, had mustered the Methodist vote against the Fitzwilliam interest and this proved decisive. In the result, Lord Headley had replaced Colonel Bryan Cooke (the Earl Fitzwilliam’s interest and MP in the previous Parliament) as a Member of Parliament for Malton.
As a consequence of the vote, Earl Fitzwilliam angrily raised rents by 25%, nineteen leading supporters of Headley appeared on a list for eviction, and the tolls on navigation of the River Derwent were increased as a collective punishment to the town. The fact that Methodists played such a leading part in opposition to the Earl’s candidates for election to Parliament led to the realisation that if future confrontation was to be avoided, it might be worthwhile for the Earl to grant a freehold site for a new Methodist Chapel in Malton. Malton’s Methodists had long wanted such a new Chapel and this was eventually secured through their opposition to those whom they thought were morally wrong.
Malton’s Methodists had proved to be determined opponents in the political struggles at the beginning of the 19th century and their interests seemed worth appeasing.