About the Fernley Hartley Lectures
The Fernley Hartley Trust exists principally to organise an annual Fernley Hartley Lecture. The Trust was the amalgamation in 1938 of two Methodist trusts, each of which supported an annual sermon or lecture, one for the Wesleyan Methodist Church and one for the Primitive Methodists.
The former Wesleyan Fernley Trust was the creation in 1869 of the Wesleyan layman John Fernley (1769-1873). Fernley was a cotton manufacturer in the north west of England and much of the wealth he created in that industry was devoted to philanthropic causes. The Fernley Lecture was intended to be given at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference and was especially aimed at those to be ordained.
John Fernley retired to Southport where he financed the building of Trinity Hall School and Trinity Chapel, Duke Street.
Sir William Hartley (1846-1922) is the more famous of the two laymen who endowed the lectureships that were the origin of the Fernley Hartley Trust. The Primitive Methodist jam-maker used a large proportion of his considerable wealth supporting Primitive Methodist causes, not least the cause of ministerial training at the college he founded in Manchester. He also instigated the Hartley Trust for the giving of an annual lecture.
The purpose of the combined Fernley Hartley Trust is to provide an annual lecture which is designed “to explain and defend the theological doctrines or the ecclesiastical polity of the Methodist Church, with special reference and adaptation to the necessities of the times.” For many years it was given at the Methodist Conference, in recent years at a fringe meeting of the Conference. The 1938 scheme continued the pattern of the past in expecting the lecture to be of particular benefit to ordinands. It also had to be delivered by a Methodist minister.
Changes to the Trust over the last 10 years or so now mean that the lecture is to be given normally by a presbyter, deacon or lay member of the Methodist Church, though the trustees may now choose to invite a lecturer who is not a Methodist. In order to reach a wider audience with the lecture itself, the event has been moved away from the Conference, so that it may be held at a time and place (including Conference occasionally) suitable to the lecturer and to the purpose of bringing people together to engage with the lecture. It is also now possible to provide additional lectures as well as the annual lecture and to provide for dissemination of the lecture by a variety of means.
It might be noted that, although both of these lectureships were endowed by lay people, it was not until 2010 that the Fernley Hartley Trust had its first lecture given by a lay person, after the changes to the Trust. Clive Marsh was the first lay person to give the Fernley Hartley Lecture.
Further details of the Trust, some of its principal lecturers and the published works to which the lectures contributed, can be found in the online Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland, hosted online by the Wesley Historical Society’s website: http://wesleyhistoricalsociety.org.uk/dmbi/index.php?do=app.entry&id=1019