Mattersey Hall can trace its roots through Kenley and Hampstead Bible Schools to the beginning of the 20th century and is one of the world’s oldest Pentecostal training institutions. The first Principal of Hampstead was Howard Carter who, was born in Aston, Birmingham in 1891. Howard had inherited two things from his father - a speech impediment (though he went on to preach around the world) and a creative, inventive ability (his father had inventions displayed in the Science Museum in London for a number of years). Carter trained at art school where he excelled and after realising that even the finest works of art fade in the process of time, he became disillusioned and started a spiritual quest. He started to attend a Church of Christ church near his home in Sparkbrook and was soon saved and water-baptised at this assembly. He received his Spirit-baptism at a conference in 1915 and on returning to his home church with his new found experience, was asked to leave! He joined a Pentecostal church in Saltley named Crown Mission and when the pastor decided to emigrate, the young Howard was asked to take over the leadership. The church soon grew and larger premises were found in a former billiard hall in Duddeston. At the same time, Howard resigned from his draughtsman job to enter the ministry full-time.
During WW1, Howard applied as a ‘Conscientious Objector’ but when it was found that his Pentecostal assembly was not part of a denomination, he was imprisoned at Wormwood Scrubs in London where he remained for nine months. He was then transferred to Dartmoor Prison and soon became the leader of a Bible study group. It was also during this time that he thought much about the Gifts of the Spirit and he produced notes which later developed into a set of lectures and provided the basis of Howard Horton’s popular book. When the War ended, Carter returned to pastoral ministry in Birmingham and then in South-East London.
Whilst in London, he was approached by the Secretary of the Pentecostal Missionary Union and offered to take charge of the Hampstead Bible School which was owned by the PMU. Although Carter initially turned the offer down, on the 14th February 1921, he agreed to take charge of Hampstead for six months or until a permanent replacement could be found. This temporary position eventually became a twenty-seven year appointment and to this day, Carter is the joint-longest serving Principal, tying with Dr David Petts who served the Assemblies of God Bible College from 1977 to 2004. In 1922, Some sixteen months after becoming Principal, Carter was told by the PMU that unless income increased significantly over the coming months, the Men’s School - like the Women’s School earlier in the same year - would close by the summer. Carter had previously read Psalm 91, a Scripture of security and protection, for his devotion that same morning and at lunch consulted the student body to invite their prayers. In the days that followed, Carter believed that the fledging Pentecostal churches in the UK and Pentecostal mission stations around the globe should not be deprived of their only Bible School and at a time of growing unemployment, economic stagnancy and industrial unrest in the UK following WW1, he offered to be personally and financially responsible for management of the School. Under Carter’s leadership, Hampstead became what Donald Gee later describes: ‘An important centre of Pentecostal influence throughout the British Pentecostal Movement’.
In the years that followed, despite financial struggles, Hampstead experienced huge success - student numbers began to rise steadily throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s and attracted several from nations across the continent - including Arthur Bergholc, who was later to become the Chairman of Assemblies of God in Poland. A world-class faculty was developed including C.L. Parker, John Carter, Elisha Thompson and Harold Horton, the Women’s Training Home was relaunched in 1927 at Louth and a second house was purchased in Hampstead Heath to accommodate the growth of the Men’s Training Home. As students were reaching the end of their studies, it was vital to Carter to secure openings for the graduates. Howard’s brother, John, was asked to conduct evangelistic campaigns around the UK in order to plant new congregations for the Hampstead graduates to pastor and pioneer. Howard, himself, bought buildings where the campaigns had taken place and such efforts lead to the establishment of the Bible School Evangelistic Society (BSES) in 1926. Less than three years later, in 1929, the BSES had 67 ministers working in 17 English counties - many of these assemblies soon became part of British Assemblies of God which was founded in 1924 - Howard Carter being one of its founding members. During WW2, Hampstead Bible School remained open and by 1943, according to Redemption Tidings, ‘past students had found spheres of service in 21 nations around the world, two students had become Principals of Bible Schools abroad and over 200 ministers and missionaries were formerly students at Hampstead’. After WW2, Carter was increasingly travelling overseas, including a 12 month around the world tour with only £5 in his pocket! He handed over Hampstead Bible School to George Newsholme in 1947 and moved to the USA. He returned to the UK in the 1960’s when John Carter became Principal at Kenley.
Howard Carter will be remembered as a man with the definite ability to inspire young men and women who were training for the ministry. He was also a man of faith. A notebook of his remains to this day which details incredible answers to prayer especially for finance. On one occasion, in 1926, the bank manager had threatened to call in an overdraft unless several hundred pounds were immediately placed into the School account. As was his habit, the Principal made the need known to the student body and together they prayed for help. Within three hours some £600 (a present day value of £35,000) had been provided. Carter’s notebook gives many other examples of financial provision. He passed away on the 22nd January 1971 at the age of 80. The inscription on Carter’s gravestone in Springfield, Missouri reads: ‘Howard Carter - Man of Faith’.
[Dr. S. Jenkins author, July 2019]
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