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The origin and history of the primitive Methodist Church (Volume 2) online

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Vol. II.

IContion :



Vol. II. Book II. Continued.



XPERIENCE, temperament and policy all combined to make Hugh Bourne
publisher and pressman. His character had been shaped and a new
direction given to his life by the printed word. Though naturally taciturn
and, like INIoses, "not elo({uent . . . but slow of speech and of a slow
tongue," he was communicative through another medium than that of speech. All
along he obeyed a pretty steady ini})ulse to express himself in manuscript and type —
to externalise his own convictions and his impressions of the facts before him, as his
life-long journalising, and his innumerable memoranda respecting past and current
events clearly show. In all this he was the direct opposite of William Clowes, who
was averse from the use of the pen. For him the inside of a printing-office had few
attractions, yet, like Aaron, he Avas naturally eloquent, and could "speak well."
Moreover, as a practical man, Hugh Bourne knew what power there was in the press
as an instrument of propagandism ; and, as one of the founders and directors of a new
denomination, he may have had the ambition to copy, in his own modest way, the
example of John Wesley — whom he so much admired — who was one of the most
voluminous authors and extensive publishers of his own, or indeed of. any, time. So
Hugh Bourne's publications ranged from a somewhat bulky Ecclesiastical History to
a four-page collection of " Family Receipts," which tells how to relieve a cow choked
with a turnip, and how to provide a cheap and wholesome travelling dinner for fourpence.
Whence, it will be seen, that the doings of Popes and Councils as well as the small
details of domestic and personal economy, alike came within the purview of his printed

These characteristics and habits may be seen at work in Hugh Bourne even before
1811. In proof of this, note the printed account of the first camp meeting, hot from
the press, that was scattered by thousands; the "Rules for Holy Living" distributed
on camp-grounds, an<l even slipped through the broken panes of Church windows ; his




" Scripture Catechism," 1807 — not half as well knov.n as it deserves to be ; and his tract
on "The Ministry of Women," 1808. Note, above all, in this introductory period, his
adaptation of Lorenzo Dow's Hymn Book, 1809, of which, until 1823, edition after
edition was published, being bought so eagerly, esiiecially on new ground, that the
revenue derived from its sale helped largely to sustain some of the new missions.
Some of the provincial printers — wide-awake men — soon discovered the value of this
little Hymn Book as a marketable commodity, and issued pirated editions, sometimes
making trivial alterations, and then having the effrontery to put " Copyright secured "
on the title-page. We ourselves have met with no less than eight such pirated editions
issued before 1823, bearing the imprints of local presses at York (two), Leeds, Gains-
borough, Selby, Burslem, Bingham, and Nottingham.

After the establishment of the Connexion in 1811, Hugh Bourne pursued the same
policy. Printed tickets superseded written ones. In 1814, the rules of the new
denomination were carefully edited and published; Sunday Schools were with much
labour furnished Avith Bibles and reading-books, and other requisites ; Tract Societies
were oro-anised and equipped ; a large Hymn Book was compiled and published in 1812,
but it met with little favour among the societies. It was too heavy to float, and it must
1)6 regarded as having been one of Hugh Bourne's publishing ventures that failed. The
same fate befell the quarterly Mar/azwe, projected and launched for a very ehort
voyage in 1818.

To all intents and purposes, there was an Editor and Book Steward before the offices
were officially created and the officers appointed. If, at first, Hugh Bourne practically

combined both offices in himself, it must not
be overlooked that his brother James was
always at his back ready to share his monetary
responsibility ; and, to the honour of both, let
it also be remembered that, though at their
initiative the societies might authorise these
early publishing ventures, the brothers did
not appropriate any profits that might accrue,
l)ut surrendered them to the Connexion, while
lliey took all the risks of loss. Thus, one
lliinks, it was a foregone conclusion that
\\iien the first Conference found it necessary
to appoint an editor Hugh Bourne should be
designated to the office, and receive instruc-
tions to complete the suspended issue of
the Maijaziue of 1819 — which he did in the
manner already described. But when at the
next Conference the question of appointing
a ]>ook Steward was mooted, the case was
different ; there were evidently two opinions
both as to the person to be appointed and as
t.d tbc Inriilr of tlic Hook l.'doiii aJi'ciidy looming on the Connexional horizon.



"60. Q. Who sliall be Book Steward .'

A. If the 3/agazines are printed in Hull Circuit, JO. Tavlcu-. If in Tunstall
Circuit, J. Bourne."

If there were any rivalry between the two circuits for the honour of having the
book-room within its borders — as we strongly susjiect thei-e was — it was soon ended in
favour of Tunstall; for, at the Conference of 1821, in answer to the riuestion : "How
shall the Book Concern be managed 1 " it was resolved : —

"James Steele, James Bourne, Hugh Bourne, Charles John Abraham, and John
Hancock, are elected as a Book Committee to manage the concerns for the ensuing
year. These are to receive and examine all matters to be inserted in the Magazine,,
and all other matters which it may V)e necessary to print. H. Bourne is appointed
Editor, and J. Bourne Book Steward ; and the Committee are at liberty to receive
matter from W. O'Bi-yan, and to insert in the Magazine from time to time, such of
it as they may think proper. The Committee are empowered to establish a General
Book-Room, and a i)rinting press for the use of the Connexion."

This incidental reference to the founder of the Bible Christian Church is historically
interesting ; and, Avith his usual acuteness, Hugh Bourne points out in the Magazine
for 1821, the remarkable similarity between the two denominations as regards their
practical recognition of the ministry of females. • Referring to Joel's prophecy (ii. 28-29),
he says : —

" In the latter part of the ])romise which respects daughters and handmaidens
prophesying, or preaching, a remarkable coincidence has taken place in ou
Connexion, and in the Connexion which arose in Cornwall. It is really surprising
that the two Connexions, without any knowledge of each other, should each, nearly
at the same time, be led in the same way, as it respects the ministry of women.
Both Connexions employed women as exhorters, and as local and travelling
preachers. When the two Connexions became accjuainted with each other, and
found so striking a similarity in their proceedings with regard to female preachers,
it became a matter of desire to know by what steps each Connexion had been led
into the measure. This produced a request on the subject, to which the following
letter was sent as an answer, etc."

But to return to the Book Committee. Hull had lost the Book-Room, and was to
•develop itself in its own splendid way, wdiile Tunstall was, for some years to come, to
become more and more the directive centre. Yet, though Hull acquiesced in the
arrangement, its delegates, we are told, asked that, until the necessary printing plant
had been acquired for the Connexion, the Magardnes might be printed by " their
OAvn printer" at Hull — probably J. Hutchinson. The Conference granted the
request and hence, H. Bourne says: " he had to attend at Hull and bore his own expenses."
But this arrangement certainly did not last long, for the last number of the 1821
Magazine, at least, was printed at the Connexional printing-office at Bemersley : so that
the work of printing the first two volumes of the Magazine was executed by five
diifferent printers, residing in as many different towns — to wit : Leicester, Burslem,
Derby, Hull, and Bemersley ! What is now the Aldersgate Primitive Method id
Magazine has had a long and, on the whole, a prosperous voyage, but at the outset the
sea was choppy and unkindlv, and the bark had its mishaps.

A 2


While the brothers Bourne are looking after tlie purchase of printing-presses and
founts of type and a suitable place to put them in, we will just glance at the members
of the Book Committee and its functions. As to the latter : Here, as everywhere,
there has been evolution, so that it were indeed an error — though one easily fallen
into — to suppose that our ecclesiastical courts must have been from the beginning just
what they are now. At first the Book Committee was a General Committee as well ;
and for a year or two, in conjunction with the General Committee at Hull, it had to
give advice and counsel to the circuits, and send a deputation to settle matters when
desired. The Conference Minutes of 1822 even go on to say : " If the two committees
think that there is a providential opening, they shall institute, or take steps to institute.

.1. II.WfOCK AM) i:ni.ha\ h;n

u iiii.ssionary eatablishment for sending out missionaries in a general way." The mode
of editing the Magazine jirescribed was certainly a peculiar one. Communications were
not to be addressed to the Editor personally, but to the Book Committee, which had to
decide u])on tlu; siiitidjility or otherwise of the contributions sent. Contributions from
the circuits hail ;dso to r(!ceive the endorsement of their Circuit Committees ; so that
tlie Mfif/(i::i/>'' wa.s to Ije lioth supjilicd with matter and edited l)y committees. As
the cfintribiitioiiH chielly dt-sired and expected were memoirs, })reachers' Jo-iir?iaIs, and
revival intelligence, this curious arrangement was evidently designed to prevent puil'ery
and self-advertisianent, and to secure authentic reports. These regulations were soon
relaxe<l ho far a.s cfintribntors were concerned, Imt theie is evidence to show that.


throughout the Beniersley period, the Editor edited through his committee, and John
riesher found this out when he entered upon his new duties at Uemersley, which is
a later story. In 18*24, we read: — "The Book Committee have now nothing to do
with the gcMieral concerns of the Connexion." Further, it is to be noted of the Book
Committee, that for many years it was also the Committee of Privileges ; small in the
number of its members, and appointed separately from the other committees. In 1850
the Committee of Privileges is the same as the General Committee, and in 1863 we
have the significant statement : " The Book Committee shall be composed of the
General Committee." This arrangement obtained until 1894, when again a special
Book Committee was appointed. Though this chapter deals with the Bemersley Book-
Room period, we have thought it better, for the sake of gaining a connected view, to
follow the Book Committee in its latest evolution.

As to the iiersonnel of the first Book Committee : John Hancock and C. J. Abraham
are the only members of the Committee we are not already familiar with. Both were
leading men in the Tunstall Circuit through the whole of this period, and the former
especially, as the corresponding member of the General Committee, for many years
wielded considerable intiuence. He was a member — ind an active one — of the Book
Committee until his deatli, which took place on January 2nd, 1843. Born in 1796, he
was an engraver by trade, though later on in life he became largely interested in the
manufacture of pottery. He is said to have been savingly enlightened by reading Thomas
Aquinas, "The Angelic Doctor" — probably a unique experience for a Primitive
Methodist. He was converted in 1814, and joined the class of James Steele. The
society at Pitt's Hill was his special sphere of labour, and after his death it was
frequently remarked : " He was the first leader of Pitt's Hill, the first in raising the
old chapel, he laid the first stone of the new chapel, preached tlie first sermon within
its walls, and was the first whose mortal remains were interred in its burial-ground." *

C. J. Abraham is already known to us as the druggist of Burslem who, probably
about this time, became the husband of Ann Brownsword. The names of both stand
on the Tunstall Plan, and Ann Abraham, especially, was much esteemed as a deeply
pious and acceptable preacheress. C. J. Abraham, like J. Hancock, was, both locally
and connexionally, a leading ofiicial throughout the whole of the Bemersley reijUne
being an active member of the General as well as of the Book Committee. He was
a trustee of the first lUirslem Chapel in Navigation Road, as well as of Zoar Chapel,
acquired in 1842, though it was not used by the Burslem Society until two years later.
It was the trust responsibilities connected Avith these two properties which were the
cause of so much anxiety to Hugh Bourne in his later years, Avhen the affairs of his
brother and of C. J. Abraham had become hojielessly involved.

Bemersley Farm, the home of the Bournes, was the place selected for the first Book-
Room. We would like to picture Bemersley as a whole, and Bemersley Farm in
particular. We naturally feel an interest in a place which, for twenty years, was
one of the foci — we may even say tlie focal point — of our connexional life ; the spot
where the central wheel of management was set up. As though, then, we were one of
those many pilgrims, who during those twenty years visited for the first time a spot they

*"A Memoir of .Mr. J. Hannn-k. of Tunslall," l.y Fiva.'rick IJnnvn (Tunstall, 18-43).



liacT long heard of Imt liad never seen, we approach it from a distance, and take in the
general features of the landscape before we seek to gain a nearer and, if we can, an
interior view of the Connexional Book Establishment. The descrijition given by the
local historian may help lis to this general view of the hamlet of Bemersley and its
surroundings ; for, although it is Bemersley as it was at the end of the eighteenth
century he describes, its main features must, in 1822, have undergone little alteration,

" Bemersley is about a mile north-west of
Xorton Church, and near three miles from
Tunstall — almost entirely moorland. Old

Bemersley Farm stood on a hill that overlooked
the landscape on either side, and many a dale
and valley and wood did this ancient house
command from its eminence. Looking at the
scenery to-day, it recjuires little discernment to
perceive how wild and rugged the ]jlace must

liave been in
1772. On one
side lay the
Valley of the
Potteries, but
the smoke
and the bustle
were hidden
in the dis-
tance ; and on
the other the
view stretch-
ed away over

the great moorlands. Tlicre were three or four farm-
houses dating from the sixteenth century, about
the same number of cottage houses, and at the
remote part of the hamlet stood Greenway Hall.
Iionnfl this old house there was a large i)aik iuid
extensive game preserves."

Bemersley Farm stood by the roadside some little distance

from BemerHley. The visitor saw nothing in the outward

aspect of the building to give it any distinction above

other buildings of its kind. "It had nothing of the

world's glory." It was Itut an ordinary farm-house with the usual appurtenances —

fold-yard, barn, anil stables. Here lived the Eilitor and the Hook Steward, who had

to adajtt tlie buildings to their n<'\v purposes, .lames iJourne, therefore, laid out before

May, 1823, the sum of .£373 ."^s. lOd. in the i) of a priuting-prcss, type,

and other printer's plant, an<l bookbinder's tools and materials as well, as we may



infer from the entry in the Conference Minutes : "That it be recommended to the
circuits to get their binding done at tlie ]^>ook-Roo%, if the Book-Room can get it
done as well and as cheap as elsewhere." In one of the farm-buildings adjoining the
house, the printing-press and a few cases of type were set up, and the Conference
"^Minutes" of 1822 have the imprint: " Bemersley near Tunstall : — Printed at the
Office of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by J. Bourne ; " whereas tlie ]\riniites
of 1821 say : "J. Hutchinson, Printer, Silver Street, Hull "

The Book-Room proper consisted of a detached rectangular building of the Barnic
order of architecture, and plain even for a barn. As shown in our picture, it was
pierced with few windows and sparsely provided with doors. Some of the walls of
this building were lined with shelves divided into pens, in which the magazines and
hymn books, small pamphlets and books— of which the most popular was the "Journals
of John Nelson" — were stowed until the bi-monthly packing-day came round, when
a gentle ripple of excitement went through the establishment. The bulk of the paicels
were conveyed in carts to the canal-quays and shipped in boats to the various circuits.

Besides the two chief officers, there were resident a bailiff of the small farm,
a journeyman, and an apprentice, and the son of James Bourne, who it is said worked
in the printing-office, saying nothing of Mrs. Bourne and two maids. About the year
1836, John Hallam was added to the estaUishment. His position was a somewhat
lieculiar one ; for, after 1836, his name is not found on the stations for a term of
years, though he is one of the members of the Book and General Committees. The
explanation is, that by his hearty acceptance of Hugh Bourne's views and methods of
wotk, and by his laborious and successful ministry, he had ingratiated himself with the
Editor, and he being now in 1836 in very indifferent health, Hugh Bourne had installed
him at Bemersley as his assistant, and had induced his brother to make him his
assistant also, Mr. Hallam's salary being paid out of the private purse of the brothers.
In this way John Hallam acquired great influence at the Book-Room and in the
administration of Connexional affairs, even before the year 1843, when he was officially
appointed Book Steward. It should also be said that Mr. George Baron, of Silsden,

who often acted as Connexional Auditor, frequently
paid visits to the Book-Room during this period, and
that his business aptitude proved of great assistance to
James Bourne. In 1840, the late Rev. Thomas Baron
went to Bemersley to take the place of his brother for
a short time, and, in his interesting reminiscences of
that visit, he tells how it was his duty, early each week-
day morning, to carry the post-bag with the Book-
Room's letters for dispatch, two miles distance, to Norton,
and to call at a public-house for letters which were
left there for the Book-Room. Mr. Baron gives us
a pleasant glimpse of the interior economy of the
establishment : of the regular and reverent daily
devotions, of the meals in common, of the hospitality
afforded to the ministers who fre(]uently visited the

MK. i;. BAI50N.



Book-Room, and eA^en to the goodly number who came from other societies to attend
the Quarterly Lovefeast. "What is still more interesting, we get a glimpse into the
Editor's own room, where, when back from his not infrequent journeys, he attended
to the duties of his office.

" When at home he was generallj' busilj^ engaged in editing or writing matter
for the Mariaxines and in Connexional correspondence. His study was a good-sized
room, fitted with shelves for his library. Among the books in it there was
a complete well-bound set, from the beginning, of the
Arminian and Wesley an Magazines. The first volume
contained a somewhat lengthy preface, neatly written
and signed by John Wesley in his own handwriting.
It is to be feared that the volumes have been scattered
or lost. Had they been kept together they would now
have been an interesting and valuable relic. Among
other books in the library were a number of Wesley's
and Fletcher's Works, Adam Clarke's Commentary,
Gillie's " Historical Collections," Finney's " Lectures,"
Hebrew and Greek Lexicons, etc. [and these were for
use, not ornament]. In the cold weather, a screen was
placed in this room, behind which the venerable man
was often quietly seated before a writing-table, busily
seeking to stir up others in the work so near his own
nKv T HVHON heart — that of the conversion of sinners." *

Such, then, was ovir first Book-Room. Thomas
Bateman was a j)assiiig pilgrim here in May, 1824. He was on his Avay with
George Taylor to attend the District Meeting at Ramsor to be held in Francis
Horobin's house. The District INIeeting was expected to be an unusually important
one, as the rules had to be revised, and far-reaching changes introduced specially
relating to district formation and representation. Hence, Thomas Bateman had
been pressed to attend. He had stopped the nigliL with James Nixon, whom
he had accompanied to his class with much profit to himself. Then, John
Hancock — whom he now met for the first time- — had looked in, and read him
a lecture for having declined to preach special services at Pitt's Hill — John Hancock's
own fav(jurite society — alleging that ordinary services must always give way for special
ones. And now, the wayfarers — for they walked the whole distance to Ramsor — had
'•alh'd at Beniersley, having noted all the places of historic interest to Primiiive
.M(!tliodi.Hts as they went along. At Beniersley a short time was spent in looking round,
and Thomas l{ateman indulged in " numerous reflections on the place and its surround-
IngH on which an angel might pause and wonder."

Sentiiiifnlal retlcclions are hero pardonable enough ; l)ut the most obvious reflection
called up by the; view of the Bemcrsley Book-Room is that wliicli Tlionias Bateman
him.Hclf KUggf'sts. That the. important District Meeting of 1S24 — which we may

• Sec ;i|i|ii'ii(li\ t(
Mmi'iziiiP If.r I'.MKI.

-••(■(iiiil I'lliiioii of " IjilV (,| lliiyli Hounic," by Dr. \< . AiillitV and the Aldersjialc

■I..:.-. I I.


venture to say was a reliearsal of the proceedings of the Conference — -was held in the
room of a farmhouse in a secluded hamlet in one of the most secluded parts of
StaflFordshire, was a fact just ns remarkable as that the Couiicxiniial IJook-Room should
be located in the farm-buildiugs of another Staffordshire hamlet. JJoth facts were
remarkable, and yet natural ; for they show in a very striking way, what other
consentient facts also show ; that we \a ere as yet largely a village community and,
further, that considering the area up to this time occupied by Primitive Methodism —
embracing the country we have already surveyed — the location of the Book-Room was
fairly central, and not inappropriate. By 1843 this will be no longer true, as John
Flesher will soon learn when he comes to take up his editorial duties at Bcmersley.

But why was Thomas Bateman never a member of the Book Committee, and not
even a member of the General Committee until 1839? This question is worth
considering in its relation to the Bemersley period of our history. It is fortunate that
we can here let Thomas Bateman answer for himself. "Writing of this same Ramsor
District Meeting of 1824, he says : —

"There was much business — all peaceable; but I did not feel in my projjer
element. I believe at present God has not sent me either to baptise or legislate, but
to preach the Gospel. And though much deference was show^n to me by the
brethren, I feel no wish e^er to attend another such meeting : and after much
thought, believing as I did that my friend Taylor had a special call and was well
qualified for such work, I resolved never to attend another District fleeting or
Conference so long as he lived and could attend, unless I had some special call to
do so. [And he kept his resolve and was not present at District Meeting or

Online LibraryH. B KendallThe origin and history of the primitive Methodist Church (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 62)