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Methodism in the Potteries
Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme


John Wesley in the Potteries

next: the Potteries during the time of Wesley

"find your own way to heaven"

..... in the 1760's 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….

"The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" John Ward, 1843

Stoke-on-Trent churches in the 1760's

St. Peter's - the parish-church of Stoke
St. Peter's - the parish-church of Stoke
the church was not rebuilt until 1826-30


the church of St John the Baptist -  'the parochial chapel of Burslem'
the church of St John the Baptist -  'the parochial chapel of Burslem'
After a serious fire the nave was rebuilt in brick and tile in 1717.
The west tower of 1536 was retained.


Swan Bank Methodist Church - one of the oldest Methodist Societies in the world.

Wesley first preached in Newcastle-under-Lyme as early as 1738 (the year of his conversion), not visiting Burslem until March 8, 1760.

By this time, the Society of Methodists in Burslem was already some 20 years old, having been established by a group of miners around the year 1740 following their return from some of Wesley's early meetings in Bristol. Thus, the "Swan Bank Methodist Church" can claim to be one of the oldest Methodist Societies in the world.

In 1766 the Society of Methodists built a chapel in Burslem  - the building of this chapel marks the establishment of the first lasting nonconformist meeting in this area.

John Wesley visited the area now known as the City of Stoke-on-Trent a further 15 times between 1760 and 1790, preaching in Hanley Green (now Hanley), Lane End (now Longton) and Tunstall as well as Burslem. At first Progress was slow, but eventually strong churches were founded and built up amongst those Wesley called the "poor Potters." Indeed, towards the end of his life and ministry, genuine revival had come to the area.

John Wesley ….first visited Burslem in 1760

Records from his journal .....

'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.'

from 1800 map when J Robinson & Sons
were using the Hill Top Works


'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 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.'

"An Outpouring of the Spirit"

On March 29, 1787, John Wesley, by then an old man of almost 84, visited Lane End, where he recorded in his Journal, ".....we entered into the country which seems to he all on fire - that which herders on Burslem on every side; preachers and people provoking one another to love and good works in such a manner as was never seen before."

In Burslem itself later that same day he enjoyed a powerful meeting with a large congregation and many instances of sinners being converted. He wrote, "indeed, there has been, for some time, such an outpouring of the Spirit here as has not been in any other part of the kingdom; particularly in the meeting for prayer. 15 or 20 have been justified in a day. Some of them had been the most notorious, abandoned sinners in all the country;....."

John Wesley died in 1791 at the age of 88. By God's grace, he was responsible, more than any other single person, for turning our nation back to God. His impact on this area was equally profound. Bill Morland, in his "Portrait of the Potteries," makes the astounding assertion that, "No other person has had so great an influence on the character of the Potteries as John Wesley. "

'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 year afterwards.

next: the Potteries during the time of Wesley