Monday, November 23, 2009

Primitive Methodist annual membership statistics (1820-1888)

The men and women of the Primitive Methodist movement turned their world upsidedown. The movement grew rapidly in the face of persecution by gangs of rabble rousers (the mob), and persecution by those in power who brought them before the magistrate. A number of their preachers were sent to jail. In spite of this opposition, or more likely, because of it, the gospel spread as lives were changed, chapels and class meetings established, and towns and villages were impacted. The statistics below represent one way to measure how effective this movement was.

These statistics are taken from the Annual Conference statistics reported by H B Kendall in the "History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion", chapter 7, “Sidelights on facts and figures”. The first Conference was held at Hull, in May 1820. At this conference, the state of the Connexion was reported to be as follows: - eight circuits, 48 travelling preachers; 277 local preachers; 7,842 members. The annual increase or decrease is then added to this base figure of 7842 members, to give the annual total membership.

The chart shows that the growth was linear and sustained for well over 70 years. The movement grew from 7842 members in 1820 to 194,010 members in 1888. Significant years are 1821, when the movement doubled in size, the mid 1820s when the movement was on the brink of catastophe because of renegade preachers who had joined the rapidly expanding movement, and 1833 when the cholera epidemic caused many deaths in the community. Rapid growth occurred in 1849-1850. The founding fathers of the movement, William Clowes and Hugh Bourne died in 1851 and 1852 respectively. The movement nearly doubled in size in the 36 years after the death of the founders.

1820 Hull 7842
1824Halifax 335074035
1825Sunderland 3358275
1826Nottingham 33582(no return) 0
1827Manchester 33582(no return) 0
1830Hull 358082013
1831Leicester 374891681
1832Bradford 416744185
1833Sunderland 487947120
1834Birmingham 523913597
1836Lynn Regis628205657
1837Sheffield 657912971
1839Bradford 709102730
1840Manchester 745043594
1841Reading 764811977
1842Newcastle on Tyne800293548
1843Nottingham 860796050
1844Lynn Regis889192840
1845Hull 88099-820
1847Halifax 896911191
1848Leeds 922972606
1849Sunderland 984536156
1850Nottingham 1076589205
1851Yarmouth 1116774019
1852Sheffield 1128801203
1853York 111829-1051
1854Manchester 111709-120
1855Hull 109654-2055
1857Cambridge 1144792126
1858Doncaster 1200125533
1859Newcastle on Tyne1276567644
1861Derby 1391853278
1862Sheffield 1449765791
1863Leeds 1503725396
1864York 1524812109
1865Hull 153091610
1866Chester 1552042113
1867Luton 1587173513
1868Sunderland 1635654848
1869Grimsby 163831266
1870Nottingham 164765934
187lOldham 163891-874
1872Yarmouth 164108217
1873London 164067-41
1874Hull 164179112
1875Leicester 1692395060
1876Newcastle on Tyne1763247085
1877Scarborough 1805374213
1878Manchester 1825672030
1879Leeds 182396-171
1880Grimsby 182210-186
1881Hull 1848312621
1882Sheffield 1872002369
1883South Shields 1923515151
1885Reading 1935161187
1886Derby 192777-739
1887Scarborough 19279821
1888Liverpool 1940101212

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