Primitive methodism in the leek moorlands with special reference to the Societies at

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with special reference to the Societies at



JULY 1970
Copyright Mr. W. H. Simcock

All rights reserved
Available in this version only for private study


My principal sources have been the Primitive Methodist Magazines at Hartley Victoria College, Manchester, and the Quarterly Meeting Minute Books of the old Fountain Street Primitive Methodist Circuit, Leek. My grateful thanks are due to the Rev. H.P. Reck, M.A., College Librarian, for access to the magazines, etc., and to the Rev. V.H. Brackenbury, Superintendent Minister of the Leek Methodist Circuit, for permission to use the Minute Books and for putting his vestry at my disposal. My thanks are also due to the City Librarian, Horace Barks Reference Library, Hanley; the Librarian, Leek Public Library; the Staffordshire County Archivist at the William Salt Library, Stafford, and the Archivist of the Methodist Archives and Research Centre at Epworth House, London.
I am also grateful to the following for information and for the use of materials: Mrs. H. Bailey, Miss H. Critchlow, Mrs. C. Cundy, Mr. S. Fern, Mr. E. Howson, Mrs. A. Lawrence, Mrs. L. B. Lowe, Mr. H.S. Trafford, F.R.C.S., Mr. H. A. Peacock and Miss S. Wood.
Lastly I am indebted to my father for many kinds of help but particularly for drawing upon his memory of those years, about the time of the Centenary of 1907, when Primitive Methodism was still a living force.


1. Hugh Bourne's Separation from the Wesleyans

2. The Origin of Primitive Methodism

3. Wesleyan Methodism in the Moorlands

4. Difference between the Two Connexions

5. Bourne Comes to Ramsor

6. Richard Jukes

7. The Primitive Methodist Class

8. The Origin of the Leek P.M. Circuit

9. Organisational Changes in the Leek Circuit

10. History of Hulme End Chapel

11. Warslow

12. Reapsmoor

13. Elkstone

14. Conclusion


JULY 1970


I have recently been involved in the sale of a chapel building (at Butterton, near Leek) and with the break-up of the Wetton and Longnor Methodist Circuit, of which Butterton was part. It seemed appropriate therefore that I should write something about the history of Methodism in the Leek Moorlands. Of the many Methodist bodies which have arisen since the late 18th century, only the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists properly established themselves in the Moorlands. Wesleyan Methodism locally has had its historians - Wardle, Dyson, and others - and its history will be merely outlined in Chapter 5. The history of Primitive Methodism in the area has never been written and it is the aim of this essay to begin to fill that gap.
The P. M. Connexion had its origin in the revivalist movement among Wesleyan Methodists in the late 18th century, though the official Wesleyan attitude rejected Bourne's methods. Like the other break-away movements of the period, these "Primitive" Methodists were, as Kendal says, "the survival or revival of methods that characterised Methodism in its primitive period." +
Hugh Bourne was born in 1778 and when he was a boy of sixteen his family moved to Bemersley - where may still be seen the buildings which were his P. M. head-quarters and printing works, (the P. M. Magazines referred to in this paper were first printed here) and are now used as cottages. Bourne was converted, chiefly through the reading of Wesley's works, in 1799. While working at Harriseahead (as carpenter and timber-merchant) he converted his first sinners, Daniel Shubotham and Matthias Bayley, two colliers who joined him in preaching, to anyone who would listen, on the pit-banks and in the fields of the Harriseahead district.


Ford Hays (above), the remote The old P.M. Chapel, Harriseahead,

moorland farm, where Bourne still used as a Sunday School, the

spent his early years. probable site of Bourne's First

It was Shubotham who made the oft-quoted remark: "You shall have a meeting on Mow some Sunday and then you'll be satisfied." * He was answering complaints that prayer-meeting were too short, and he was referring to the hill now associated with the birth of Primitive Methodism: Mow Cop, a height on the Staffordshire/ Cheshire border.
* Bourne Chap. 11 + Kendal. Chapter 1.
Though the Burslem Wesleyan Circuit neither supported nor recognised him, Bourne never had the desire to set up a separate organisation and always joined his converts to other connexions. He built a chapel at his own expense in 1802 and united it to the Burslem Circuit.
Bourne learned of the open-air religious meetings, called Camp-meetings, attended by great crowds in America. In cooperation with William Clowes, the other founder of Primitive Methodism, he planned the first Camp Meeting - at Mow Cop - in May, 1807, which went on from 6 a. m. to 8.30 p. m. and was a huge success.
As early as 1803 Bourne had held regular meetings at several places within a few miles of Bemersley. Two years later his friendship with William Clowes began. The latter had spent much of his life in riotous living until his conversion at a Wesleyan service in Burslem. Following the huge success of the first camp-meeting, a second was planned by the two men in July, 1807. Travelling preachers in the Burslem and Macclesfield Methodist Circuits disclaimed connection with Bourne and Clowes and indictment was threatened under the Conventicle Act (by this Act an unlicenced preacher risked a £20 fine, and each of his hearers, 5/-). Wesley, at his most typical, is thought of as travelling on horseback to his preaching appointments throughout the country (he is said to have covered a quarter of a million miles). We may visualise Bourne, just as typically, making his way on foot for incredible distances throughout Staffordshire and the surrounding counties, To counter the threat of indictment he walked to Lichfield and back, a distance of 74 miles: He was refused a licence because he had no building to preach in and, having erected a wooden structure, he went to the Court of Quarter Sessions at Stafford and obtained a licence as a Dissenting Minister.
Following the second Mow Cop Camp Meeting the Wesleyan Annual Conference, resolving that such meetings were "highly improper and likely to be productive of considerable mischief," * clearly wished to dissociate the Church from what they thought of as a manifestation of the revolutionary character of contemporary working-class political thought. The Wesleyans wanted to be respectable and they feared further secessions like that of the New Connexion in 1797. The New Connexion had broken away because they believed that the Wesleyan Church leadership had become autocratic. They and the "Primitives" wanted laymen to take a greater share in preaching and in running the societies. Throughout the separate life of the P.M. Church the professional minister remained very much the servant of the Quarterly Meeting. In fact a remnant of this attitude is still enshrined in the practice of the Methodist Church: "Ministers --- hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to all the Lord's people." + (This is still a live issue: in the objections of a large body of Methodists to unity with the Anglican Church.)
* Resolution of the Methodist Conference, July 1807, Liverpool.

+ Spencer, page 4..
Hugh Bourne was finally "put out" of Methodist Society on 27th June, 1808, at a Burslem Quarterly Meeting, and the following day his brother James was expelled. Yet there was no thought of a separate denomination for two years (Hugh Bourne said that his "Connexion was begun undesigned of man"); converts made by the Bournes and their company became members of various denominations: Wesleyan, New Connexion, Quaker and Independent (established in 1805.)


Hugh Bourne became a full-time minister and yet carried on his work in carpentry, building and harvesting. He missioned as far away as Warrington and Runcorn. He regularly met the societies he had formed. In 1809 he held camp-meetings at Mow Cop and Biddulph Moor, and at Ramsor, which, as we shall see, became a most important centre for the further spread of his work. (It was for attending the camp meetings at Ramsor that Clowes was put out of Wesleyan Society.) Bourne also became a prolific writer and publisher of tracts and other materials. He paid James Crawfoot a weekly wage from his own pocket to be an evangelist: he showed again that he had no intention of establishing a separate denomination by instructing Crawfoot to make converts and join them to other connexions. The refusal of the Burslem Wesleyan Circuit, however, to accept a Society formed by Bourne at Standley (four miles from Bemersley) was perhaps the first pressure on him to establish a new connexion.
By 1810, the Bourneites, as we must still call them, had eleven preachers and eleven preaching-places beside Harriseahead, Standley, Ramsor, Wootton, Tean, Caldon Lowe, Lask Edge, Macclesfield, Warrington, Stockton Heath and Runcorn.
The Clowesites had also established regular preaching-places, Clowes having been excluded from the Methodist Society at Tunstall, in June, 1810, for attending Camp Meetings. The Steeleites followed their leader, James Steele, when he was expelled from the Tunstall Society
These three groups united to receive a uniform ticket of membership in May, 1811, (Francis Horobin of Ramsor defraying the cost) and henceforth combined all their missionary work. No new name was chosen but the first written plan appeared in 1812. It was a "camp-meeting brotherhood" without a name. The name Primitive Methodist was finally taken at a meeting in February, 1813, on the suggestion of James Crawfoot, whose name may be seen at the head of the list of preachers on the accompanying copy of the first plan. $ Crawfoot had heard Wesley use the term in 1790 in reference to open-air preaching: Wesley had said that primitive (that is, the earliest) Methodist preachers had adopted that type of preaching. Here follows the relevant passage from the 87 year old John Wesley's speech to preachers, delivered at Chester;

"Fellow labourers, wherever there is an open door, enter in and preach the Gospel. If it be to two or three under a hedge or a tree, preach the Gospel. Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind. And after you have done this, you will have to say like the servant in the Gospel: `Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room'. Then lifting up his slender hands, while the tears flowed freely down his venerable face, he exclaimed, "And this was the way the primitive Methodists did." *
* Petty, page 52.
[page 4 is a copy of a Plan of 1812]


Wesleyan Methodism was well established by the time Hugh Bourne apparently almost by chance - turned his attention to missionary work in Ramsor, * the starting place for all Primitive Methodist work in the area. Wesleyan preachers were in Longnor (one of the ten societies later to form the Wetton and Longnor Circuit) before Hugh Bourne's birth, and it had a chapel as early as 1780.
* Petty, page 165
The Macclesfield Circuit was responsible for the Leek Moorlands area at first. In Leek, opposition in the middle of the 18th century was so powerful "that it seemed doubtful whether Methodism would ever establish itself there". $ But Macclesfield preachers were persuaded to continue in spite of angry Leek mobs.
$ Wardle, page 3
Burslem Circuit was formed in 1783 + and took over responsibility for societies in the Leek Moorlands, two of which, Longnor (42 members) and Flash (60), were, at that date, stronger than the Society in the town. Leek was made a separate circuit in 1793 and consisted of the following Societies (membership shown in parenthesis):
+ Wardle and Dyson are the Authorities for the dates of foundation quoted in this chapter.

Leek (57) Flash (93)

Steel House ( 8) Holinsclough ( 8)

Sytch (12) Sterndale ( 6)

Longnor (32) Wetton (11)

Biggin (17) Brown Hill (42)
The Societies at Longnor, Holinsclough, Wetton and Brown Hill (i.e. Warslow) were themselves to be the nucleus of the Wetton and Longnor Circuit formed in 1870 and disbanded in 1969; this was the Circuit to which the remnants of Moorland Primitive Methodism were joined in 1932.
Longnor (1780) was the first place in the Circuit to have a chapel. Preaching had begun there in 1769 and John Wesley visited in 1772. Flash Methodists built in the following year. Leek's first chapel was erected in 1785. In most moorland villages, societies were strong and in some, chapels already existed (or were shortly to be built) before the Primitives began their work.
The extent of Wesleyan Methodist influence is illustrated in a framed plan hanging in the Mount vestry. The Plan is for the period May 6th to October 28th, 1832, and lists the following places:
Mount Pleasant Chapel Brunswick Chapel

Hazzleborough Newstone

Flash Wetton

Alstonefield Heathy-Lee

Rewlatch Hartington

Holinsclough Longnor

Waterfall Chapel Roachgrange

Little Brownhill New-House

Caulton Ipstones and Whiston

Upper-Hulme Gradbatch

Dunbridge Oldfield

Kingsley Onecote and Butterton

Lo. Ladderedge and Cheddleton Gratton and Ladderedge

Gratton and Endon Bankhouse

Rushton Bradnop

Hulme End

The Primitives worked therefore against a background of well-established Wesley en Chapels. The two Connexions preached identical doctrines. Indeed, in the P.M. Connexional Deed Poll enrolled in Chancery, there appeared this reference to the doctrines of John Wesley:
"The doctrines believed and taught by the Primitive Methodist connexion were and are that system of religious doctrines which was laid down and established by John Wesley." *
* Quoted by Petty, page 566-7


It is tempting, when considering the differences between the two Connexions, to see something symbolic in the styles of architecture each adopted. Wesleyan buildings in the 19th century were always the more ornate, as suiting the respectable, quiet church which had become acceptable to society at large; Primitive Methodists built the cheapest possible church, as befitted a camp-meeting society to which the building was of little importance. The architecture of Leek's ex-Wesleyan Chapels may be contrasted with that of the Primitive Methodists' simple functional buildings at Bradnop, Ramsor, Reapsmoor, Hulme End and Warslow (all pictured in these pages).


Mount Pleasant Methodist Church Brunswick Methodist Church in

(with the greatest seating Market Street, facing the Town

capacity of any building in Leek) Hall (original building dated

at Clerk Bank, boasts a classical 1820), adopted the fashionable

portico of plain Doric columns, neo-Gothic style when it was

the central pairs in couples. rebuilt in 1856.

The oldest part of the building

dates from 1811.

Photographs of the rudimentary pulpit at Ramsor and the unadorned interior at Warslow (and the plan of Warslow Chapel) may also be compared with a photograph of the Mount interior taken from the rear of the gallery

The pulpit in Ramsor Chapel (right). Ramsor was built about the year 1820, rebuilt in 1897, and closed in 1969.
[this page also included the Ramsor Plan, 1821-22]

[plan of Warslow PM Chapel]
As the years went by, the differences between the two widened, but, in fact, P.M. organisation followed closely that of the Wesleyans: Classes were formed which met for prayer and the sharing of religious experience, and. one or two or more classes formed a society; "travelling preachers" were paid ministers, and "local preachers" were unpaid, yet travelled great distances on foot; preaching-plans, love-feasts, the appointment of society stewards and class leaders were the same in both connexions; the main innovation of the "Primitives" was the camp-meeting.
In theology too they were the same: in both churches there was a great emphasis on scriptural knowledge; the scriptures were revered as holy and final.
In fact, throughout the one hundred and twenty-one years of their separation, there was never much difference between the P.M. and Wesleyan Churches as regards organisation and theology. The new denomination had, however, a distinctive character of its own, a character which still shows itself in the older generation of ex-Primitive Methodists who were against the union of the separated bodies in 1932. It was in the expression of theology that the Primitive Methodists differed. They were like the early Christians or very early Wesleyans in their dread and hatred of sin; release from sin was a shattering and emotional conversion. Primitive Methodism seemed to answer the need of hard-working Staffordshire working-men. It was essentially a village and working-class movement; the members were poor but self-denying and freely gave to further the movement. These characteristics persisted as the movement spread in the succeeding decades.
As a sample of early Primitive Methodist prayer, take this extract, quoted by Farndale in The Secret of Mow Cop: *

* Farndale, page 45
"It is the business and duty of every member in every station to have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, without respect of persons, putting away all bigotry and narrow-mindedness, not lightly esteeming others on account of difference in opinion, for it is certain that opinion is not religion, not even right opinion. --- Therefore walk in wisdom toward them that are without and honour all men, highly esteeming pious people of all denominations, and endeavour to make this society a blessing to all people."


Hugh Bourne in his history describes the expansion of the work in the Ramsor district and how the establishment of powerful societies there, at Froghall, Alton and Rocester, prompted the first issue of P.M. tickets. The passage he chose for them is found in the 28th chapter of Acts: "But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against." $
$ Farndale, page 42
Anyone wishing to visit Ramsor will have difficulty in finding it, and, when he has found it, will discover merely an insignificant hamlet. Yet this was the place Hugh Bourne knew well and from which he spread his faith throughout the Moorlands and into Derbyshire. Ramsor still has a chapel, built in 1897, which replaced the original building and faces the original site. An old plan, framed and hanging there, dated 1821-2, is headed "Ramsor Branch of Tunstall Circuit" and on it are detailed, not only places in the immediate vicinity, but also Warslow and Hulme End, which are discussed in Chapters 9 and 10, and other societies in the northern part of Leek Moorlands. Here, in the left-hand column, is a complete list of places on the plan. The right-hand column shows the regular programme for week-day meetings.

1821 and 1822
Wooton 2 Ramsor 6 Ramsor M

N. Houses 10 W. Houses 2 Wooton T

Alton 6 Ipstones W

C. Common 2 Mobally 6 Froghall Th

Riddens 2 Rocester 6 N. Houses F

G. Gate 2 Th. W. Head 6 W. Houses S

Ford. 10 Onecote 2 _______________

Froghall 10 Foxt 1

Ipstones 3 Alton M

Leek 2 Th.W.Head T

C. Head 10 Fleet Green 2 Rocester W

H. End 10 Warslow 2 Riddens Th

Mill Dale 2 Alstonefield 6 Stanton F

Biggin 2 _______________

L. Tean 4 U. Tean 6

Longnor 3

Onecote M

Fleet Green T

Warslow W

Alstonefield Th

Biggin M

Mixon Mine T

Mill Dale W

Mooridge Th

Later societies were successfully established and chapels built at some of these places, but at this time they were cottage meetings, and at some of the places the cause failed. Ramsor gave its name to a separate circuit in 1822 and it nurtured the Leek cause and made a separate circuit there in 1838, and it provided the men who regularly visited the places listed above. In recent years Ramsor has become a very small society of the Dove Valley Circuit (principal church, Uttoxeter). In September 1969 it was closed and the building is now (June 1970) advertised for sale.
Although Leek was missioned from Ramsor Hugh Bourne had done some ground work in the town long before this as shown by the following Meeting House Registrations:
* 126 A house at GENFORD LEEK, registered for Protestant Dissenters by

Hugh Bourne and James Bourne, occupiers (sic), on 7 Jan 1806. Witnesses

James Bourne, Hugh Bourne, William Handley, John Turner, James Dennisson
590 A house at DUNWOOD, parish of Leek, registered by Hugh Bourne of

Bemersley, minister 5 June 1817. Occupied by Joseph Armett.

* S.H.C.

Ramsor. The original site of The Printing Works at

the first P.M. Chapel to be Bemersley, now Cottages,

built by the Connexion apart where James Bourne produced

from those in the Harriseahead tracts, hymn-books and the

area. It was rebuilt in 1897. early Primitive Methodist

It was at humble places like Ramsor and Wooton then that the Primitive Methodist Connexion first took root and from which it began to spread so extensively that by the beginning of this century it had nearly 5,000 chapels and preaching-places. The following is taken from the Primitive Methodist Magazine of 1856. It is an article showing how Bourne began his distant religious excursions, and what happened on Saturday, May 7th, 1808.
% "By a peculiar opening of Divine Providence, H. Bourne was called to visit Ramsor, a village in Staffordshire, for the first time; he preached in the evening, and again on the Sunday following.
Several villages were pointed out to him, at which there were no means of grace. He fixed upon one of them, namely Wooton-under- Weaver, and appointed a meeting to be held there on the Sunday but one after.
Ramsor is about 17 miles from Bemersley, and Wooton is near two miles further.
On his way to Ramsor and Wooton Saturday, May 21st, 1808, he came to the conclusion of a thing long bothering him - to give up business (timber-merchant) and take up extensive religious excursions. The meetings were the beginning of a great spread of the gospel."
% Mag. 1836.
Bourne had visited the area before 1808 however. Two Meeting House Registrations were made by him at Kingsley and the earlier of them must have been Bourne's first registration after the memorable Mow Cop Meeting of 1807.
160 A house in KINGSLEY, registered for Protestant Dissenters by *

Hugh Bourne on 4 July 1807. Witnessed by Hugh Bourne,

James Bourne, John Sargent and William Moseley, the occupier.
400 A house at Lees, KINGSLEY, registered for Protestant

Dissenters by Hugh Bourne, 7 June 1813.
Thomas Cooper, a local preacher, made the return for the P.M. chapel which was built at Kingsley in 1834. Sittings were provided for 140 people, and on the day of the census three services were held, attended by the following numbers of people: 50, 40 and 105.
A neighbouring village, Ipstones, was early on worked by both Primitives and Wesleyans end the census returns for these societies reads as follows:-

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