the history of the Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent 


Methodist divisions in Stoke-on-Trent 


Methodist divisions in Stoke-on-Trent
Source: "The Borough of Stoke-upon-Trent" John Ward, 1843



Soon after John Wesley's death in 1791, his followers began to divide into separate Church bodies. During the 19th century many such separate Methodist denominations were formed in Great Britain and the United States, each maintaining its own version of the Wesleyan tradition. In 1881 an Ecumenical Methodist Conference was held to coordinate Methodist groups throughout the world. Conferences have been held at regular intervals since then. They are currently known as the World Methodist Conference, which meets every five years. The centennial gathering was convened in Honolulu in July 1981.


Dissention in the Potteries

 "An author (Aikin's Manchester, p.519), who wrote in or prior to the year 1795, said of the Pottery District, 'there are a great variety of sects in the Pottery , - few places have so great a diversity of opinion on the score of religion as this;'  and since that period, there has been a very considerable extension of the dissenting bodies."

The Kilhamites (Methodist New Connexion): 

"In or about the year 1797, a great secession took place from the Wesleyan connexion on the ground of church government, and the too stringent discipline which the hierarchy, or Conference, established by Mr. Wesley, extracted from the members of his societies, lay as well as clerical. Mr. Alexander Kilham, a preacher, took a very active part in producing that separation; and the seceding party are often designated, from him, 'Kilhamites;' tough the appellation they assume to themselves is, 'the Methodist New Connexion.' They have one very large Chapel and some smaller ones and Schools, at Hanley and Shelton, the latter being their metropolitan station; and also a Chapel and School at each of the other Pottery towns."  


Primitive Methodists (Ranters): 

 "Another large secession from the Wesleyans, viz. That of the 'Primitives,' or 'Ranters,' took place in the year 1808, in the Burslem circuit, in consequence of the expulsion, for breach of duty or discipline, of some members, who immediately set up for themselves, and have laboured vigorously and successfully, among the more rude and uneducated portion of the surrounding neighbourhood; and very extensively spread themselves throughout England and Wales. The metropolitan station is at Tunstall, where they have a large Chapel and Schools. They have bound themselves by the terms of a Conference Deed, enrolled upon a similar plan to that of Mr. Wesley."


Division at Burslem: 

"A very large swarm also, left the parent hive at Burslem, in 1836, consisting of the Teachers and Scholars belonging to what was before called the Burslem Sunday School, par eminence. The separatists from the Wesleyans have not attached themselves, at present, to any particular leader."


Early in the 20th century in Great Britain, the separate Methodist bodies began to coalesce. The Bible Christians, the Methodist New Connexion, and the United Methodist Free Churches united in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church, which in 1932 joined with the Primitive Methodist and Wesleyan Methodist Churches to bring the long chapter of Methodist disunity in Great Britain to an end. Today the Methodist Church in the United Kingdom has the distinction of being the "mother Church" of world Methodism.


previous: John Wesley's preaching in the Potteries
next: development of other churches

Statement to Scriven by Joseph Wood (superintendant of Sunday School) 

New Connexion and the Primitives in Stoke-on-Trent

questions / comments / contributions? email: Steve Birks