The Wesley Riots, Wednesbury, October 20th 1743

The Wesley Riots

 

In September 1742 Charles Wesley had preached at Wednesbury, ‘in the Coal-Pit field,’ and made many converts. These Methodists invited John Wesley to the town and he preached a number of sermons there in 1742 and 1743 ‘to our dear colliers.’

Opposition to the Methodists, however, began to develop strongly and attacks were made on their property during the summer of 1743. The congregation repeatedly appealed to John Wesley for help and comfort and he visited the town several times to encourage his supporters.

On October 20th, 1743, after preaching from the horse block in the high Bulle, Wesley retired to the house of Francis Ward in Bridge Street. Later in the afternoon a mob gathered crying: ‘Bring out the minister.’

Bare headed, unharmed, and alone John Wesley left the building and entrusted himself to the rioters. They took him before the Justices at Bentley and Walsall, who refused to see either the leaders of the mob or Wesley.

For a moment it seemed that Wesley would be badly beaten or killed by the crowd, but his calmness and courage began to impress onlookers. Eventually, escorted by two of the rioters themselves, he was returned to Wednesbury in safety.

The Wednesbury Methodists were to suffer further attacks and John Wesley was to visit the town again infrequently before his death, but nothing so serious as the events of 1743 occurred again.

‘The mother society of Staffordshire,’ as Wesley called the Methodist Church in Wednesbury, helped to spread his teaching throughout the Black Country.

It was here that Francis Asbury the ‘Apostle of American Methodism’ was converted. Today the Methodists of Wednesbury still retain influence in the town and their witness is carried forward thorough the Spring Head Mission outside which the horse block from which Wesley preached in 1743 is still preserved.

 John and Charles Wesley

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