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


Methodist New Connexion

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The Kilhamites

The two notable schisms in the Methodist movement which resulted in the formation of the Methodist New Connexion and the Primitive Methodist Connexion (later Church) greatly affected the future development of Methodism in the Potteries.

The first, which was led by Alexander Kilham, a Methodist minister, found its strongest support in this area; the second started in Tunstall and the moorlands to the north and east of Tunstall.

The secession was led by Alexander Kilham, and resulted from a dispute regarding the position and rights of the laity. In 1791, Kilham denounced the Methodist conference for giving too much power to the ministers of the church, at the expense of the laity. Kilham was expelled from the conference in 1797.

Kilham formed the New Connexion, based around his church in Sheffield. It thrived, and soon spread across Britain. At its conferences, ministers and laymen were of equal number, the laymen being chosen by the circuits and in some cases by guardian representatives elected for life by conference. Otherwise the doctrines and order of the Connexion were the same as those of the Wesleyans,

In July 1797, when at the annual conference of the Methodist Church Kilham was expelled, there were five Wesleyan Methodist chapels in the Potteries......

....Longton, Fenton, Hanley, Burslem, and Tunstall, and a regular meeting at Stoke.

Support for the Kilhamite demands, the rejection of which at this conference resulted in the formation of the Methodist New Itinerancy or Connexion, had already been shown by the members of Hanley chapel and this had resulted in the temporary closing of the chapel by the trustees.

By September 1797, less than two months after the formation of the Methodist New Connexion, there were five societies of this church in the Potteries.......

 .... Hanley, Burslem, Longton, Sneyd Green, and Etruria.

Hanley Wesleyan Methodist society was almost extinguished by the New Connexion group there, while Fenton chapel went over to the New Connexion. A chapel at Stoke was added in 1806.

Hanley circuit, formed by these societies and those at Newcastle, Silverdale, and Werrington, became increasingly important until by 1812 it was the strongest in the whole of the Connexion. The circuit then had over 2,000 members.

Hanley's Bethesda Methodist Chapel
Hanley's Bethesda Methodist Chapel
built in 1819 and opened in 1820

From the outset the New Connexion in Hanley commanded the support of influential pottery manufacturers, notably the Ridgways of Cauldon Place, Shelton.

Bethesda Chapel swiftly became the foremost place of worship in the town. In 1811 the chapel was enlarged to hold 1,000 and within a few months all the seats were let. By 1819 a new chapel had become necessary, which, erected in that year, seated 2,500. Bethesda was still the principal place of worship in Hanley in the mid-19th century.

In 1840 one-tenth of the total membership of the Methodist New Connexion was in the Hanley and Longton Circuits.

From: A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8 (1963);


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