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.
|1826||Nottingham||33582||(no return) 0|
|1827||Manchester||33582||(no return) 0|
|1842||Newcastle on Tyne||80029||3548|
|1859||Newcastle on Tyne||127656||7644|
|1876||Newcastle on Tyne||176324||7085|