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


Primitive Methodism

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Primitive Methodist Connexion

The Primitive Methodist movement was different in character and origin from the New Connexion. It originated between 1800 and 1810 in the efforts of certain Methodists, notably John and James Bourne, William Clowes, and James Steele, to convert people in the moorland areas north and east of Tunstall.

Their methods were extremely revivalistic and the Bournes particularly made great use of field-preaching and the Camp Meeting as a means of spreading Methodism - these were held at Mow Cop on the Staffordshire, Cheshire boarder.

Their activities aroused the disapproval of the Wesleyan authorities, and one by one these men were expelled from their societies until in 1811 they formed their own itinerancy and gave their church the designation of Primitive Methodist.

Clowes was a first generation Methodist convert - at the age of 25 he renounced his desire to be the finest dancer in England. The movement was also influenced by the background of the two men, Clowes had worked as a potter, while Bourne had been a wheelwright. Both of them had been expelled from the Wesleyan Connexion - Bourne in 1808 and Clowes in 1810. The reason given for Clowes' expulsion was that he behaved "contrary to the Methodist discipline," therefore he could not be a "preacher or leader amongst them unless [he] promised not to attend [camp] meetings anymore."

In 1811 Tunstall was  the centre of the new movement, which spread quickly in the North and the Midlands in the years of depression between 1815 and 1820.

In the Potteries it retained its original character of a working-class movement. The chapels, consequently, were short of money, and although the leaders, particularly Hugh Bourne, contributed as much as possible, they themselves had few resources. The new church acquired a large membership and its organization was rapidly developed, one side of which was the establishment of its own printing press or book room at Bemersley in 1822 with James Bourne as book steward and Hugh Bourne as editor.

plate by Wood & Sons
celebrating the  100 year anniversary of
the first Primitive Methodist camp meeting in 1807


In Tunstall Circuit the Primitive Methodists showed quick appreciation of the need to consolidate their position after the establishment of the first chapels. Tunstall chapel was replaced in 1822 by a larger chapel.

Pitts Hill society, established in 1811, had an early failure, closing within a year, but the society there had been revived by 1823 when a chapel was built. Burslem society acquired a chapel in 1819.

Hanley society, established by 1825, proved rather weak, having to compete with Bethesda Chapel, and the first and second chapels both failed and were sold. Penkhull chapel, however, was successfully established in 1815.

Then there was a lull. Stoke and Fenton chapels were not established until the 1830's, while Longton had no Primitive Methodist chapel until 1843. In the north of the area, however, the position of the Primitive Methodists was further consolidated when yet another chapel was built at Goldenhill in 1833, and in the early 1840's two more in Burslem were added, at Sneyd Green and Middleport.

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

on Primitive Methodism


next: Primitive Methodist Chapels in the Potteries
previous: Methodist New Connexion Chapels in the Potteries