"Wesleyan Twentieth Century Fund".
This appeal, which forms the basis of
Ackworth's six tales, set out to raise 1 million guineas from one
million Methodists, the proceeds to be used for a variety of
purposes including the construction of the Westminster Central Hall
(opened 1912 ― see above) as Wesleyanism's connexional headquarters. The
extract below explains the Fund's origins, aims and objectives in
more detail, although it has little to say about the significant role played by the dedicatee of Ackworth's book,
R. W. Perks M.P. (later Sir Robert William Perks, first
baronet, 1849–1934) who inaugurated the Fund, acted as Treasurer,
and contributed £10,000.
Twentieth Century Fund.
Extracts from the Minute Book 1898 - 1909.
THE first meeting
of the Twentieth Century Fund officers was held at Hull on 1st
August, 1898. It was agreed that registers should be sent to
all Circuits for Circuit use, together with sheets for local, Sunday
School, class and family use. Collection books for weekly and
monthly contributions and boxes for family use would also be sent.
At a General Committee of the Twentieth Century Fund held at
Wesley's Chapel on 25th and 26th October, 1898 attended by 160
ministers and laymen, it was agreed that a Historic Roll should be
opened on lst January, 1899 and closed on 1st
January, 1901 and that a list of donors in every Church or circuit
should be read out at services held that day. The Historic
Roll would be preserved with the historical documents of the
Wesleyan Methodist Church. It was also agreed that the
Twentieth Century Fund would be used for the following purposes:
£300,000 to assist in the purchase of sites and the
erection of Wesleyan Methodist Chapels, Sunday Schools or Mission
Halls in the UK and for Soldiers' and Sailors' Homes.
£200,000 for educational work in educational institutions associated
with the Wesleyan Methodist Church and for furthering the mental
improvement and training of local preachers.
£100,000 for Foreign Missionary work.
£100,000 for Home Missionary work including Temperance work.
£250,000 for the purchase of a suitable site in London and for
building a monumental Connexional Building.
£50,000 for developing the work of the Children's Home to save all
children of Methodist and Nonconformist parentage from Workhouse
Schools and also provide for orphan children of Methodist Soldiers
Grants would also be made to the Irish Wesleyan Methodist
Conference and to Foreign Districts and these would be not less than
the amounts raised locally in those districts.
The Historic Roll would include the names of all donors and
collectors whether members of the Methodist Church, teachers, or
scholars in Sunday and Day Schools, communicants, seat holders or
other worshippers, adherents and friends of Methodism at home and
To qualify for a place on the Historic Roll:
 All persons who gave or collected one
guinea or more.
 All persons on whose behalf or in memory of whom one
guinea or more had been contributed.
 All persons who after bona fide efforts during the
period up to 1st January, 1901 cannot in the
judgement of the Circuit Committee be reasonably expected to comply
with the above conditions.
 In no case would the amounts given or collected be
recorded in the Historic Roll.
When the Executive Committee met on 10th March, 1899, it was
reported that 1,500,000 leaflets had been sent out as had 450,000
other leaflets and letters to young people about collecting cards
for small amounts of money. Receipts to the Twentieth Century Fund
had already reached £17,945-0-10. By the meeting of the Executive
Committee on 5th January, 1900, receipts had risen to
£164,620-10-11. By the 10th June they had reached
£283,104-17-0, and the average donation per contributor was £2-7-5.
At an Officers' Meeting on 9th July, 1900 about a site in
London, Mr. R. W. Perks, M.P., described the site of the Royal
Aquarium in Westminster. It was unanimously agreed that Perks
do all that was necessary to secure the site [area 40,000 sq. feet]
at a sum of £4 per sq. foot or thereabouts.
By the Meeting of the Executive Committee on 5th December,
1900, the Twentieth Century Fund stood at £423,696-6-7. It was
agreed to open immediately a list of 1,000 donations of 100 guineas
to supplement this amount. The qualifying regulations for
inclusion in the Historic Roll were extended to the end of 1901.
At a joint meeting of the Trustees for the New Premises and
the Executive Committee held on 23rd April, 1901, it was agreed to
acquire the site of the Royal Aquarium for £333,000 or thereabouts
and arrange for a deposit of 10% to be paid pending possession of
the site being obtained.
By 18th June, 1901 the Twentieth Century Fund stood at
£626,363-19-4 and this had risen to £834,567-19-3 by 7th January,
1902. With outstanding promises and interest on the deposited
funds, the Treasurers estimated that the final total would reach
By the Executive Committee meeting on 7th October, 1902, the
Fund stood at £910,629-9-8. 513 Circuits had fulfilled their
recorded promises and aims but 317 Circuits had yet to reach their
At the meeting of the Executive Committee on 10th June, 1903,
it was agreed to wind up the Twentieth Century Fund at the 1904
Conference in Sheffield. The Executive Committee met on 24th
June, 1904 prior to the Conference to finalise its report with the
Fund standing at £1,007,229-7-7 including interest.
On 23rd June, 1908, the Executive Committee agreed to bind
the Historic Roll, although 13 Circuits still had not returned their
portions of the Roll. A special bookcase was to be made and
placed in the New hall where the Historic Roll would be stored and
At its final meeting held on 9th September, 1909, the
Executive Committee agreed that the balance of £1,143-2-8 should go
the Board of Management for Secondary Schools.