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Primitive Methodism

Primitive Methodism

was a major movement in English Methodism from about 1810 until the Methodist Union in 1932.[1] The denomination emerged from a revival at Mow Cop in Staffordshire. 'Primitive' meant "simple" or "relating to an original stage"; the Primitive Methodists saw themselves as practising a purer form of Christianity, closer to the earliest Methodists.

Primitive Methodists were characterised by the relatively plain design of their chapels and their low church worship, compared to the Wesleyan Methodist Church which they had split from. Gradually the differences between the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyans became smaller, and the two denominations eventually merged (together with the United Methodists) to become the Methodist Church of Great Britain, in 1932.


  • Origins 1
  • The Methodist response to the political situation 2
  • Wesleyan propaganda 3
  • Disillusion with the Wesleyan leaders 4
  • What was at stake 5
  • Similarities to, and differences from, the Wesleyans 6
    • Preaching and revivalism 6.1
    • Common factors 6.2
    • Convergence begins 6.3
  • Organisation and conferences 7
  • Gallery 8
  • See also 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


A drawing of Hugh Bourne, one of the early Primitive Methodist leaders

Primitive Methodism originated in "Camp Meetings" held in the area of The Potteries[2] at Mow Cop, Staffordshire, on 31 May 1807.[3] This led, in 1811, to the joining together of two groups, the 'Camp Meeting Methodists' and the 'Clowesites' led by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, respectively.

The movement was spawned from the followers of these men. Bourne and Clowes were charismatic evangelists. Both had reputations for zeal and were sympathetic to ideas the Wesleyan Connexion condemned. Their belief that was most unacceptable to the Wesleyan Connexion was their support for so-called camp meetings. These were day-long, open air meetings involving public praying, preaching and Love Feasts.

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 backgrounds 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 had behaved "contrary to the Methodist discipline" and therefore "that he could not be either a preacher or leader unless he promised to attend no more Camp Meetings"[4]

It seems likely that this was not the only concern regarding the pair. Bourne's association with the American evangelist Lorenzo Dow would have put him in a dim light with Wesleyan leaders. The Wesleyan leadership's hostility to Dow is demonstrated by a threat Dow received from prominent Wesleyan Thomas Coke (twice president of the Conference, in 1797 and 1805) on Dow's arrival in London around 1799. Coke threatened to "write to Lord Castlereagh to inform him who and what you are, [and] that we disown you,... then you'll be arrested and committed to prison".

The Wesleyan Connexion was also concerned about Bourne and Clowes' association with the "Magic Methodists" or "Forest Methodists" led by James Crawfoot, the "old man of Delamere Forest". Crawfoot was significant to both Bourne and Clowes and was for a time their spiritual mentor. He held prayer meetings where people had visions and fell into trances. Crawfoot, according to Owen Davies, had developed a reputation for possessing supernatural powers. Indeed, Henry Wedgwood, writing later in the century, recalled that many locals at the time were terrified of the magical powers of an innkeeper called Zechariah Baddeley, but that they considered Baddeley's powers nothing next to Crawfoot's prayers and preaching.

The enthusiasm associated with revivalism was seen as disreputable by the early 19th century establishment. In 1799, the

  • Burbeck, James. "The French Revolt and Empire,"
  • Pate, Deborah. "What were the distinctive characteristics of working-class Evangelicalism?"
  • "The Rise of Manx Methodism, 1775–1851"
  • "William Clowes 1780–1851"
  • "The Nixons of Lowtown"
  • Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum – features the story of working-class religion in the nineteenth century, particularly as it was experienced by the Primitive Methodists.
  • Links at British online archives to the Primitive Methodist Magazine and the Aldersgate Magazine which followed it starting in 1899.

External links

  • Werner, Julia Stewart (1984) The Primitive Methodist Connexion; its background and early history. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press

Further reading

  • Armstrong, Anthony, The Church of England, the Methodists and Society 1700–1850 (London, University of London Press, 1973)
  • Bebbington, D. W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (London, Unwin Hyman, 1989).
  • Colls, Robert, The Collier's Rant (London, Croom Helm, 1977)
  • Davies, Owen, Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736–1951 (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1999)
  • Davies, Owen, "Methodism, the Clergy and the Popular Belief in Witchcraft and Magic", History, 82 (1997).
  • Gash, Norman, Aristocracy and People: Britain 1818–1865 Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1979
  • Gunter, Stephen W., The Limits of Love Divine (Nashville, Kingswood books, 1989).
  • Hempton, David, Methodism and Politics in British Society 1750–1850 (London, Hutchinson and Co., 1984)
  • Kent, John, Holding the Fort (London, Epworth Press, 1978)
  • Lloyd, Gareth, "The Papers of Dr Thomas Coke: a catalogue" with an introduction by Dr John A. Vickers", Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 76, no. 2 (1994), pp. 205–320.
  • Lowther, John, Primitive Methodism (Sunderland, CIL Press, 2003)
  • Lowther, John, Methodism in Sunderland (Sunderland, CIL Press, 2003)
  • Matthew, Colin, The Nineteenth Century (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • McLeod, Hugh, Religion and the Working Class in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Hong Kong, Macmillan Publishers, 1984)
  • Milburn, Geoffrey, Exploring Methodism: Primitive Methodism (Peterborough, Epworth Press, 2002)
  • Minor, J. E. "The Mantle of Elijah: 19th century Primitive Methodism and 20th century Pentecostalism," p. 142, Proceedings of the Wesleyan Historical Society [GB] (1982, Vol 43(6) PT1) pp. 141–149.
  • Moore, Robert, Pit-Men Preachers and Politics: The effects of Methodism in a Durham Mining Community (Bristol, Cambridge University Press, 1974)
  • Obelkevich, James. Religion and Rural Society: South Lindsey, 1825–75 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1976)
  • Rack, Henry D., Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism (London, Epworth Press, 1989)
  • Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class (London, Penguin Books, 1991)
  • Valenze, D. M., Prophetic Sons and Daughters (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985)
  • Ward, W. R., Religion and Society in England 1790–1850 (London, B. T. Batsford, 1972)
  • The Primitive Methodist Hymnal, "Published by James B. Knapp, Sutton Street, Commercial Road, E. 1890."
  • Primitive Methodist Magazine, (Derby, Richardson and Handford, Marketplace, 1821)
  • Primitive Methodist Magazine, (Derby, Richardson and Handford, Marketplace, 1824)
  • Primitive Methodist Magazine, (Derby, Richardson and Handford, Marketplace, 1826)
  • Primitive Methodist Baptism Records, Sunderland Local Studies Centre.


  1. ^ Farndale, W.E. The Secret of Mow Cop. Epworth press, London. 1950.
  2. ^ Information on the Potteries at Mow Cop's relationship to primitive Methodism can be found at
  3. ^ Farndale, op. cit. page 70
  4. ^ Ritson, Joseph, The Romance of Primitive Methodism. Edwin Dalton, Primitive Methodist Publishing House, London. 1909., page 86.
  5. ^ Edwards, John, Gentry, Peter & Thorne, Roger, A Methodist Guide to Bristol and the South-West. Methodist Publishing House 1991. ISBN 0-946550-70-0. Page 9: "Here Hanham Mount and heard his friend preach to the miners. A week later he preached there himself ..."
  6. ^ John Wesley's Journal: Abridged Edition. London 1903. Pages 65-66: "I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in church."
  7. ^ Ritson, op. cit. Page 99: "The pioneers of Primitive Methodism were to an extraordinary degree inspired with the passion of Divine love, and made ceaseless war upon the kingdom of darkness."
  8. ^ Ritson, op. cit. page 89: "If it has been our glory, it was at the outset also our salvation, that we did not originate in a secession."
  9. ^ Bourne was a successful businessman (a carpenter whose contacts included supplying pit-props for local coal mines) and Clowes was a master potter, who had worked his way up from working in potteries as a young boy and married into the Wedgewood family. They both had considerable education, though not at university like John Wesley; but rather through their own hard work as well as earning a living. Did they have less to lose? What counted for them was a sense of the call of God to continue the evangelistic work of John Wesley. In taking the name "Primitive Methodist" the Prims looked back to the original and unspoiled Christianity of both John Wesley and (Wesley's reference) of the Book of Acts. In contrast to the academic treatises on Primitive Methodism which the bulk of this article reflects, original Primitive Methodist sources including the definitive histories by Holliday Bickerstaffe Kendall, early biographies of Hugh Bourne such as that by Jesse Ashworth from personal acquaintance, and Joseph Ritson's classic The Romance of Primitive Methodism present a picture of a vibrant movement which the establishment was unwilling to entertain. This was due in part to weariness of persecutions during the 18th century, as well as political upheavals following the French Revolution and various wars in which Britain was engaged. In fact, Bourne was very much concerned that things be done decently and in order, and worked hard to build up the official (Wesleyan) Methodist Circuit of which he had once been a member. He had founded and built at least one Chapel, largely at his own expense, given to the Circuit. It was the issue of Camp Meetings, which Bourne and his companions saw to be clearly blessed by God, that led to their expulsion from membership. They had not sought to found a new and separate denomination.
  10. ^ For a history of the hymns see introduction to The Primitive Methodist Hymnal 1890.
  11. ^ This authorised the purchase of property at Elmfield “for a sum not exceeding £1,350” for Elmfield College; gave trustees the go-ahead for plans to enlarge the school; Rose Cottage was rented and its use authorised as a dormitory house (Booth: 29)


See also


Year + Conference venue

Conference venues including the following places:

From 1820, the Primitive Methodists held an annual conference, which was nominally the church's ultimate legal authority. However, from 1843 to 1876 the District Meetings grew in power and popularity at the expense of Conference (Lysons:22 and ch.4).

Organisationally, the Prims followed many precedents from the Wesleyans, including grouping local societies into Circuits, and then (from 1824) grouping Circuits into Districts. By 1824 there were 72 Circuits and four Districts — Tunstall, Nottingham, Hull, and Sunderland.

Organisation and conferences

The Primitives were becoming more like the Wesleyan Methodists. The same forces that promoted schism in Wesleyan Methodism operated on Primitive Methodism. Their leaders became more conservative as they got older. They showed signs of a move away from revivalism and the leadership became intent on imposing greater discipline on the membership. They experienced some schisms in the 1820s. These Primitive Methodist troubles were blamed on the admission of "improper" preachers and "questionable characters". The sentiment of this explanation is similar to Bunting's comments that "schism from the body will be a less evil than schism in it". The problems in the 1820s were often related to money matters. A decision by the conference of 1826 to impose tighter financial discipline on the circuits led to an exodus of members and thirty itinerants. The movement became more geared towards consolidation through greater organisation. In 1821 preachers were called upon to record their activities and in 1822 a preachers' manual was published. Preachers now had guidelines, an element of accountability had been introduced, and the leadership had asserted the connexional accounts had priority over spreading the word.

In 1864 the Primitives established Elmfield College in York.

In 1820 the Conference permitted an altered form of camp meeting but gave it a different name. Wesleyan preachers adopted door-to-door techniques and in 1822 there were numerous open air meetings. The official Wesleyan attitude was not only softening in regard to Primitive Methodist revivalist techniques. It was also softening in regard to the Primitive Methodist promotion of non-worldliness. The Methodist Magazine printed a series of articles "On the Character of the Early Methodists". The magazine praised their "plain dress" and "simplicity of manners". This represented an attempt to re-engage with the poor. By 1850, both Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists were finding that their differences were less significant and passionate.

In the 1820s the Primitive Methodists were showing signs of increased conformity. At the same time the Wesleyan Methodists were relaxing their opposition to revivalism.

Convergence begins

The Primitives became less ardent in their support of the female right to ecclesiastical equality. In 1828 women were forbidden from becoming superintendents, and in mid-century there was a cessation of the biographies eulogising female preachers in the Methodist Magazine. Preaching changed considerably. Services became characterised by their decorum and the ministry was increasingly professional. The dress code was dropped in 1828 and preaching became more urban based. The community's values were more in line with middle-class respectability: Parkinson Milson reported that local preachers and class leaders were offended at his plain speech.

By 1850 the Primitives and Wesleyans were showing signs that they could surmount their differences. Primitive Methodism was mellowing. It was less distinctively non-middle-class by 1850 and more in keeping with social norms. Less emphasis was placed on the supernatural. In 1828 Bourne said of trances, "This thing still occasionally breaks out. It is a subject at present not well understood and which requires to be peculiarly guarded against impropriety and imposture". Hymns about hell were sung less frequently and the Providence section of the Primitive Methodist Magazine declined in importance and was dropped altogether in 1862. The revivalist enthusiasm of the Primitive leadership dimmed. Even Clowes once an ardent enthusiast became, "convinced that religion does not consist in bodily movements, whether shouting, jumping, falling, or standing".

In official policy and outlook the two movements had much in common. They both centred their teaching on the Bible and shared a similar outlook on society and morality. The Primitives were more radical than the Wesleyan Methodists. Armstrong claims, Thomas Cooper found the Primitive Methodists "demurred to [his] reading any book but the Bible, unless it was a truly religious book". Likewise, both the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists wanted to reform popular behaviour. Again the Primitives were more radical than the Wesleyans and less in keeping with bourgeois correctness. Bourne was not just in favour of temperance, he disagreed with alcohol altogether and thought of himself as the father of the teetotal movement. The Primitive Methodists were a religion of popular culture. While the Wesleyans attempted to impose elements of middle-class culture on the lower classes, Primitive Methodists offered an alternate popular culture. They timed their activities to coincide with sinful events. For instance, as an alternative to the race week at Preston they organised a Sunday School children's parade and a "frugal feast". Both tried to inculcate the doctrine of self-help into the working class. They promoted education through Sunday Schools, though the Primitives distinguished themselves by teaching writing. Through a combination of discipline, preaching and education both Primitive and Wesleyan Methodism sought to reform their members morality.

The Primitive and the Wesleyan Methodists had much in common. They were both initially very anti-Catholic. Their social background was not completely different. There were many poor Wesleyans. It was in influence that middle-class Wesleyans dominated the movement, not in numbers. Many Wesleyans did not agree or abide by official policy. Many were sympathetic to revivalism and popular culture. The existence of an alternative sect, Primitive Methodism, did not end dissent.

Common factors

The leadership clearly believed in what many at the time would have derided as popular superstition. For example, Clowes claimed to have fought with the Kidsgrove Boggart as a young man and Bourne believed in witches. About a woman he met at Ramsor, Bourne wrote, "I believe she will prove to be a witch. These are the head labourers under Satan, like as the fathers are the head labourers under Jesus Christ.... For the witches throughout the world all meet and have connection with the power devil". The magazine finds the exaltations of the laity to be one of the most important happenings at the Camp Meetings. For instance, it reports that at Sheshnall 1826, one woman fell to the ground under the purifying power of the Lord, while another cried aloud.

Examples of this can be found in the Primitive Methodist Magazine. For instance the December edition from 1824 contains an anecdote of a cripple being healed through her conversion to Primitive Methodism. Likewise the November edition from the same year contains a chapter on "raising the dead" (V) under the title A Treatise on the Cultivation of the Spiritual Gifts. Primitive Methodists saw the Lord's work in everything. The Primitive Methodist Magazine of 1821 asserting that the movement had begun "undesigned of man" and was an example of "Divine Providence". The magazine continues to reveal further examples of God's power and favour towards them. A man who set out against the Primitive Methodists was struck down by illness, and a preacher who became lost and stranded was saved when the Lord sent people to find him.

The Wesleyan Conference condemned female ministry in 1803, so effectively closed its doors to female preaching. Women were limited to working in Sunday Schools and speaking at "Dorcas Meetings". By contrast, Primitive Methodism allowed the poor, the young, and women to gain public influence. The Primitive Methodists were more receptive to the views of such people, and as a consequence took a different line on the supernatural. Wesleyans were trying hard to distance themselves from superstition, and superstitious popular culture. The Primitive Methodists engaged with popular beliefs in their presentation of God as one whose powers could be called upon by preachers.

Their services were conducted with a fanatical zeal that the Wesleyan leadership would have found embarrassing. The hymns they sang[10] were heavily influenced by popular culture and not considered respectable. They were often sung to popular tunes and they were full of references to Heaven as a place of opulence. As Werner comments, their hymns were a contrast to the "more staid hymns sung in Wesleyan chapels". All their members were considered equal and were addressed as brother or sister; even children were able to participate fully. Many children actually became preachers, for instance boy preachers such as Thomas Brownsword and John Skevington. There were also many girl preachers, such as Elizabeth White and Martha Green who preached as 15 year olds.

The Primitives were more likely to go against society's norms. The Primitive Methodist maintenance of revivalism is indicative of this. They were visible and noisy; they made use of revivalist techniques such as open air preaching.

Preaching and revivalism

The Primitive Methodist movement exalted its poor congregations by glorifying plain dress and speech. They promoted it for two reasons. Firstly they thought plain dress was enjoined by the Gospel and secondly because it made them distinctive. In a time when Wesleyans sought assimilation and respectability, they wanted to stand out as a "peculiar people". The Primitive Methodist movement made a virtue out of their difference.

Primitive Methodist preachers and communities differed from their Wesleyan counterparts. Although the Wesleyans tended towards respectability, Primitives were poor and revivalist. According to J. E. Minor Primitive Methodist preachers were less educated and more likely "to be at one with their congregations" or even "dominated by them". Primitive Methodist preachers were plain speaking in contrast to Wesleyan services "embellished with literary allusions and delivered in high-flown language". Primitive Methodist preachers were plainly dressed and poorly paid. Though Wesleyan ministers in 1815 could command about £100, a house and a horse, the Primitive Methodist superintendent of the Gainsborough circuit received £62 12s in 1852. The second minister at the Gainsborough circuit received £36, about as much a farm labourer. If Primitive Methodist preachers did not have enough money they were expected to turn to the Lord for support. There was also a disparity between the wealth of their congregations. The Wesleyan congregations were more likely to be from a lower middle class, or artisan, background than the Primitive Methodists. Primitive Methodists were most likely to be small farmers, servants, mill workers, colliers, agricultural labourers, weavers and framework knitters.

The expansion of the movement, through the commissioning of new missions, was directed by individuals or circuits, and not by a central authority. Decisions affecting the whole movement were taken at the annual meetings. Even these meetings were highly democratic, with the laity outnumbering the itinerants in voting power. The "church" could not dictate policy to its members. Compare the expulsions of Kilham from the Wesleyans (1795) and an outspoken "malcontent" from the Primitive Methodists (1824). While Bourne had to engage in a long and difficult argument before winning a vote, Dr Coke rejected a democratic decision-making process. In the early years of Primitive Methodism the membership had considerable power and freedom.

According to James Obelkevich, Primitive Methodism was more decentralised and democratic. Julia Werner concurs that the movement was decentralised. Most decisions and day-to-day policy were decided at a local level. The circuits were virtually autonomous and their administration was not dominated by church officials, but by the laity.

The structure of the Primitive Methodists, though superficially broadly similar to the Wesleyan Connexion, also showed some pronounced differences. Both Primitives and Wesleyans employed a connexional system, employing a combination of itinerant and local preachers. Both their organisations included an array of local, circuit, district, and connexional officials and committees.

Perceived irreconcilable differences led to the schism of the Methodists movement and the formation of Primitive Methodism. In the early twentieth century, however, the Wesleyans and Primitives were reconciled and reunited.

Similarities to, and differences from, the Wesleyans

The Wesleyan 'clergy' derived their income from the Church and had a vested interest in ensuring a conservative policy. It was easier for men from the lower sorts, artisans like Bourne and Clowes,[9] to put revivalism ahead of expediency. They had less to lose. The Primitive Methodist movement can therefore be said to have started in reaction to the Wesleyan drive towards respectability and denominationalism. It was a movement led by the poor and for the poor.

The crucial factor was that these events occurred at a time when the movement had more to lose than ever before. Following their exit from the Church of England, chapel building and a larger ministry became a necessity. In addition to this the Connexion invested in schools, pension funds, and foreign missions. Also, through hard work and clean living, many Methodists had increased their wealth and owned property. All of this could be lost to a fearful wartime government or a baying mob.

What was at stake

The reaction of the Yorkshire membership to the leadership's support of the government after Peterloo is illustrated by the rumour that the Wesleyan leadership had "lent the government half a million of money to buy cannon to shoot them with". When a local preacher in North Shields criticised the actions of the magistrates at Peterloo, he faced criticism from itinerants and 'respectable friends.' The leadership judged however, that they could not afford to expel this preacher because of the support he commanded locally. This incident demonstrated that the leadership was not representing the interests and views of some Methodists. The leadership's policies frequently did not favour poorer Methodists. The leadership introduced numerous measures to raise money. They introduced weekly and quarterly dues, yearly collections, the payment of class and ticket money, and seat rents. These fees bore severely on the poor during the war years, and in the depression that followed. They also opened a gulf between richer and poorer members. Seat rents marginalised a chapel's poor, while exalting the rich. The poor were often relegated to the least popular part of the chapel, and implicitly their involvement was devalued. One of the earliest chapels was at Walpole Old Chapel, Suffolk. Attendance at the chapel, which had once been a means of pride in the face of social superiors, now reinforced their inferiority. Likewise such developments led to the disillusionment of rural Methodists. The poor contributions of many rural societies to the Connexional funds resulted in pastoral neglect. This stress on financial contributions upset and alienated many. Illustrative of the disillusionment of many, a pamphleteer in 1814 said "You complain the preachers never call to see you unless you are great folks... Well you may see the reason; you can do nothing for them; money they want and money they must and will have". The disillusionment of many Methodists with the leadership of the Wesleyan Conference increased the possibility of schism.

There was a level of disillusionment with the Wesleyan leadership. There was a level of dissatisfaction with the leadership's conservatism and with their financial policies.

Disillusion with the Wesleyan leaders

The Wesleyan leadership did not undertake to improve their reputation with discipline alone. Through propaganda they capitalised on the greater level of discipline in an attempt to reform their image. Hempton claims the Methodists used propaganda to project an industrious and well disposed image. The Methodist Magazine was utilised to print supportive tracts about the monarchy, praising the King's wariness of reformers. The movement was portrayed as a conservative force; the leadership claiming Methodism promoted "subordination and industry in the lower orders." While promoting this image of Methodists, the Wesleyan leadership also moved to escape old slurs. One obstacle to Methodist respectability was their association with ignorance and superstition. The leadership tried to shake off this reputation. In Wales, 1801, they warned their members against involvement in sorcery, magic, and witchcraft, and in 1816 fifty members of the Portland Methodist Society were struck off for maintaining belief in the supernatural. Not only does this demonstrate that the Wesleyan transition to denominational conservatism resulted in less toleration for alternate beliefs; it also demonstrates that there was less toleration for non-bourgeois beliefs. This illustrates why the association of Bourne and Clowes with Crawfoot was unacceptable to the leadership. It also suggests a gulf between the outlook of the Wesleyan leadership and the Methodist rank and file.

Wesleyan propaganda

The leadership reacted badly to Lorenzo Dow, and Bourne's association with him. Dow was a republican and a millenarian. He made wild anti-establishment speeches and did not distinguish between religion and politics. In a tract of 1812, he preached that "May not the 'Seventh Trumpet' now be sounding, and the 'seven last plagues' be pouring out?" Dow accused the British government of being tyrannical and repugnant to God's laws of nature. As a separate church, conscious of their own public image and fearing repression, they felt they had to disassociate themselves from him. The Wesleyan leadership's measures to evade repression led to the imposition of greater internal discipline. Members who were seen as a liability were expelled. Views that were anti-establishment were condemned.

From 1805 the use of hymnals not issued by the Book Room was banned, and in 1807 Camp Meetings were condemned. Through discipline they hoped they could evade the tarnish of disloyalty.

The leadership reacted to criticism and their own fears by introducing further discipline. They expelled the prominent Alexander Kilham in 1795, and one year later they forbade any itinerant from any publishing without the sanction of the newly created book committee.

The combination of rapid growth, popular appeal, and enthusiasm alarmed many. Fear of the Methodist membership seems to have been shared to an extent by the Wesleyan leadership. Dr Coke even suggested he would not be surprised if, "in a few years some of our people, warmest in politics and coolest in religion, would toast… a bloody summer and a headless king."

In this atmosphere the Methodist leadership feared repression and strove to avoid antagonising the government. The Methodist movement challenged the Church of England—an institution widely regarded as a bulwark of national stability. As Hugh Mcleod highlights, Methodist members and preachers could be outspoken in their criticism of the Church of England. The movement grew rapidly, especially amongst the expanding working classes.

The establishment faced an alarming threat in the shape of the revolutionary anti-monarchical beliefs of the French government. The war and the French Revolution encouraged a fear of a rebellion in Britain. The repressive laws enacted by the Second Pitt the Younger Ministry came from fear of internal dissent.

The leadership of the newly formed Methodist Church was made particularly sensitive to criticism by international events. Britain had been involved in almost perpetual war with France since 1793. A succession of defeats to allies and the threat of the 'Continental System' increased tension at home.

The Methodist response to the political situation

[8] The same book also regards the Primitive Methodist denomination as an independent growth rather than as an offshoot of mainstream Methodism.[7] saw as a work of primary evangelisation.The Romance of Primitive Methodism Despite their exclusion from the Connexion, Clowes and Bourne and the assistants who appeared to help them became involved in a task which [6][5]

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