history of the Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent
|John Wesley and the Potteries|
John Wesley & Methodism in Stoke-on-Trent Source: "The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" John Ward, 1843
John Wesley's visits to the Potteries:
Rev. John Wesley …."first visited Burslem in 1760, and established there one of his earliest societies in the county.
The parish-church of Stoke, the parochial chapel of Burslem, a small chapel of private foundation at Hanley, and another at Lane End, were then the only places of worship belonging to the Establishment (that is the Church of England); and the clergy of that day were not like the vigilant and pious men we have the happiness to number among us in modern times; whose superior zeal and attainments may, in some measure, be owing to the holy and jealous 'provokings' of Mr. Wesley, and his successors.
The clergy of the old school, indeed, too generally left their parishioners to find their own way to heaven, unless they would voluntarily put themselves in the way of hearing their weekly ministrations…."
"Mr. Wesley thus describes some of his visits to these parts; and his remarks possess an interest beyond their immediate elation tot he state of religion:-
'1760, March 8th - Went from Wolverhampton to BURSLEM, (near Newcastle under Lyme), a scattered town on the top of a hill, inhabited almost entirely by Potters; a multitude of whom assembled at five in the evening. Deep attention sat on every face, though as yet accompanied with deep ignorance; but, if the heart be toward God, he will, in due time, enlighten the understanding.' '1761, March 9th - Preached at Burslem at half-past five, in an open place on the top of the hill to a large and attentive congregation, though it rained almost all the time, and the air was extremely cold. The next morning (being Good Friday), preached at eight, and again in the evening; the cold considerably lessened the congregation, - so small are the things which divert mankind from what ought to be the means of their eternal salvation.' '1764, July 20th - It rained all the day till seven in the evening, when I began preaching at Burslem. Even the poor Potters here are a more civilized people than the better sort, (so called) at Congleton.'
'1768, March 25th - Preached at Burslem, in the new house*
*This building still exists (1838), but is applied to the purpose of a warehouse at the manufactory, (formerly of Mr. John Robinson, one of Mr. Wesley's familiar friends) now the property of Messrs. Samuel and Joseph Alcock.'
'1781, March 8th - I returned to Burslem. How is the whole face of this country changes in about twenty years! Since which, inhabitants have continually flowed in from every side. Hence the wilderness is literally become a fruitful field. Houses, villages, towns, have sprung up: and the country is not more improved than the people. The word of God has had free course among them; sinners are daily awakened and converted to God, and believers grown in the knowledge of Christ. In the evening the house was filled with people, and with the presence of God. This constrained me to extend the service a good deal longer than I am accustomed to do.'
'1782, April 26th - I found many at Burslem under sad apprehensions* of the public danger; so I applied to them those comfortable words, "I will not destroy it for ten's sake." '
*this relates to the war with the American colonies, and the breaking up of Lord North's Administration.
'1784, March 29th - from Stafford went to Lane End, a village two or three miles from Newcastle. I was piercing cold, but the preaching-house would not hold a fourth part of the people, so I preached in the open air, the moon giving us clear light, though not much heat. The house was filled at five in the morning, and God again applied his word.' '1784, March 30th - I preached in the new preaching-house at Hanley Green, but this was far too small to hold the congregation. Indeed the country is all on fire, and the flame is still spreading from village to village.' '1784, March 31st - I reached Burslem, where we had the first society in the county, and it is still the largest, and the most earnest. Came to our old steady friends here; but he with whom I used to lodge, is no more seen, (Mr. William Bourne). He trusted the Americans with all his substance, and they cheated him out of all; so he came home and died, leaving an amiable widow and six of seven children. I preached from the text "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." We have scarce had such a time since we came from London.' '1786, April 28th - At Lane End, I was constrained to preach abroad. It was past seven, and piercing cold, but God warmed our hearts.' '1787, March 29th - Preached at lane End, and in the evening at Burslem. Preachers and people provoking one another to love and to good works, in such a manner as was never seen before.' '1788, March 31st - Preached at lane End at six in the evening; the chapel not being able to contain one third of the congregation.' '1788, April 1st - Went onto Burslem, where the work of God still prospers exceedingly. The chapel would not contain one half of the people, so I ordered a table to be placed in the yard, and though the wind was very high and very cold, they stood very patiently. Afterwards I spent a comfortable hour with the society, who completely filled the house.' '1790, Sunday, March 28th - I preached soon after one, in Mr. Myatt's yard at lane End; the house would not contain a quarter of the people. At Burslem, also, I was obliged to preach abroad; such were the multitudes of the people.' '1790, Monday, March 29th - At nine I preached in the new chapel at Tunstall, the most elegant I have seen since I left Bath. The people seemed to devour the word."
This is the last entry in reference to the labours of this venerable divine, in the potteries. He was then in his 88th year, and died within a few months afterwards. Persons are still living, (1838), who describe this, his farewell sermon, as the most powerful and pathetic that ever came from his lips."
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Wesley in the Potteries
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