Primitive Methodism

The Primitive Methodist Church was formed in 1811 when the Camp Meeting Methodists and the Clowesites joined to form a united Church (Kendall 1906). The leaders of the movement are generally given as Hugh Bourne (1772-1852) and William Clowes (1780-1851). Clowes himself also regarded James Steele (1765-1827), James Nixon (1785-1857) and Thomas Woodnorth (1787-1822) as founder figures. Bourne and Clowes were both initially associated with the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, however, both were expelled: Bourne in 1808 and Clowes in 1810. The reason for their expulsion was primarily their association with Camp Meetings. Camp Meetings were open-air gatherings lasting a day or more which were held in the open air and which consisted of public preaching and praying. The mainstream Methodist Church of the time considered such meetings to be “contrary to Methodist discipline” even though they were similar to the open air preaching undertaken by John Wesley in the previous century.

Initially, Primitive Methodist Churches were located close to the location where the earliest Camp Meetings took place: Mow Cop in Staffordshire (near Kidsgrove). The movement then expanded into the Potteries and each successive Chapel sought to establish missions in the districts surrounding it. Three Primitive Methodist Circuits sought to evangelise in Shropshire: the Burland Circuit via Prees Green, the Tunstall Circuit via Wrockwardine Wood and the Darlaston Circuit via Hopton Bank (Garratt 2002). As a result of this missionary activity, a Camp Meeting was held at Waterloo (between Wem and Whitchurch) on 26th May 1822. Following this meeting, the Burland Circuit received requests for the establishment of services at Ellesmere, Wem and Oswestry (Kendall 1906). Subsequent to the fulfilment of these requests, it is likely that Primitive Methodists began regular worship in Ellesmere, most probably meeting in houses until the point that a Chapel (Mount Zion) could be built in 1840.

Garratt, D., 2002. Primitive Methodism in Shropshire 1820-1900. University of Leicester. Available at:

Kendall, H.B., 1906. The origin and history of the Primitive Methodist Church, London: E. Dalton. Available at: