Bicentenary of the Birth of Hugh Bourne (1772-1852)
Hugh Bourne, the co-founder of the Primitive Methodist Church, was born on 3rd April 1772, at Fordhays Farm, near Stoke-on-Trent and was a carpenter by trade.
He came to a living faith through reading the writings of John Fletcher one Spring Sunday morning in 1799, and as a result joined the Methodists at Ridgeway, near Bemersley.
Despite his shyness he was pressed to become a preacher and his first sermon, preached out of doors, was in 1801.
He spoke to many about his spiritual experience and this resulted in the building of a chapel at Harriseahead in 1801, mostly at his own expense.
His “conversation-preaching” led to the Mow Cop camp meeting on 31st May 1807 – and also to his expulsion from membership of the Tunstall Circuit.
On 13th February 1812 Hugh Bourne and his converts formed the Society of Primitive Methodists and with his considerable administrative gifts guided the new church as its General Superintendent. His fellow-leader was William Clowes, the outstanding preacher of the Movement which was quickly named “The Ranters”.
Together they succeeded in reaching and holding for Christ working-class men and women, and generally Bourne would walk forty to fifty miles each day.
Following the first Conference in 1820 there were four years of rapid growth and activity, chiefly through open-air preaching.
He became the editor of the Primitive Methodist Magazine and later started a children’s magazine.
In 1823 he wrote a short history of the PM Movement, drawing from his own personal experience.
He wrote hymns and set up a study and library at Bermersley, which was also used by other PM Preachers.
The four stations of 1819 became 72 and the membership rose from 7,842 to 33,507.
In 1842 Bourne supernumerated but went on a tour of the USA and Canada in 1844 to preach and plead the cause of Temperance.
When “the man of the golden heart” died on 11th October 1852, Primitive Methodism was the strongest of the new sections of Methodism, with 110,000 members and 360 travelling preachers.
Hugh Bourne is buried in the graveyard across the road from Englesea Brook Chapel.