Glossary of Keywords


Every year the Primitive Methodist Conference elected a President to chair the meetings. As time progressed through the 19th century the role extended over to become a figurehead during the year until the next conference. Usually the President was a minister, although in the early years a number of lay people were elected president. Follow the link to see the full list of Presidents of the Primitive Methodist Conference.


Each conference also elected a Vice-president. Since 1885 this has usually been a lay person. Follow the link to see a list of Vice-presidents from 1885.


The Primitive Methodist Church sent missionaries overseas from the middle of the 19th century. Initially this was to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Later missionaries were sent to Africa; Fernando Po and South Africa.

Deed Poll

The Primitive Methodist Deed Poll was signed by Hugh Bourne, James Bourne, and William Clowes in 1830. It was presented and approved at the 1831 Conference.

The Deed Poll set out a requirement for there to be 12 permanent members of Conference, 8 Laymen and 4 Travelling Preachers, also known as Deed Poll members.  The original twelve Deed Poll members are listed by Kendall. It was not until 1855 the Minutes of Conference started to list the Deed Poll members each year. Follow this link to see a list of Deed Poll members of Conference.

WW1 Chaplain

These are ministers who served as WW1 Forces Chaplains overseas. Several PM ministers served as chaplains to WW1 Army camps or hospitals in the UK. They are not included within this keyword.

Passive Resister

Balfour’s 1902 Education Act raised significant objections amongst Non-Conformist churches. Several Primitive Methodists refused to pay an element of the rate and as a result had possessions removed by bailiffs or spent time in prison.

Local preacher

A lay person planned to lead worship in Primitive Methodist services. Lists of those appointed as Local Preachers were shown on Circuit Preaching Plans  by order of seniority.

Hired Local preacher

Hired Local preachers were appointed by circuits or districts, rather than by the national Conference. They were regarded by the circuits as Travelling Preachers (Ministers), and there was no other difference between them. Many of the Travelling Preachers began their itinerancy as Hired Local preachers.

Woman preacher

Unlike the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists encouraged women to preach. Several, in the first half of the 19th century became travelling (itinerant) preachers. This keyword is used for all women preachers, itinerant and lay.

Child preacher

The Primitive Methodists were an evangelical movement and used many techniques to draw a crowd, including the use of children to exhort and preach, both boys and girls. In respect of this keyword a child preacher is one aged 15 or under.

Circuit steward

The office of Circuit Steward was an important lay position within a Primitive Methodist Circuit. The Circuit Steward had particular responsibility for the financial affairs of the circuit, ensuring each society paid its dues, and paying the itinerant ministers. They also ensured any Circuit owned property was properly looked after. Many served for long periods of time and therefore provided continuity of leadership in the Circuit as ministers came and went.

Class leader

Members of the Primitive Methodist Church were organised into classes, where they met for mid-week fellowship, bible study, prayer and testimony. The class leaders were key to the continuing spiritual development of members of the Primitive Methodist Church.

Society steward

The Society Steward was a key individual in each PM Society, responsible for much of the day to day organisation of services in the chapel/church, and often representing the society within the quarterly meeting.


Each Primitive Methodist chapel had a committee of trustees who were responsible for the financial management of the chapel and upkeep of the building. In the event of a chapel being unable to meet its financial obligations the trustees were personally liable.


Music played an important part in Primitive Methodist worship. The organist and choir leader were key players. This keyword is used to identify organists and choir leaders.

Sunday School worker

Sunday school was an integral part of a Primitive Methodist Society including classes for young children up to adults. Many church officials and preachers began their Christian service as a Sunday School teacher or officer. Key roles in the Sunday Schools included Secretary, Treasurer and Superintendent.

Prayer Leader

It was the custom of the Primitive Methodists to hold regular prayer meetings, especially after the Sunday evening service. Thos intimating these prayer meetings on a regular basis are described as prayer leaders.

Temperance worker

A major emphasis in the Primitive Methodist movement was abstinence from strong drink and tobacco. This was seen as a major social issue. Many Primitive Methodists signed ‘The Pledge’, and groups such as Band of Hopes promulgated the temperance message. The keyword ‘Temperance worker’ is attached to people who took official roles in the temperance movement, within and outside the primitive Methodist church.

Minister’s wife

Wife of a Primitive Methodist Minister


A Member of Parliament

Trade Unionist

A person involved in Trade Union activities, especially those who had official roles in the union, or were involved in the development of the Trade Union movement.


When local councils began to evolve in the late 19th century, many Primitive Methodists were seen as local leaders, confident in public speaking, and were thus elected to district, town and county councils. Many were supporters of the Liberal Party until the early 20th century.


A Guardian of the Poor was a member of a board appointed or elected to care for the relief of the poor or administer the poor laws within a township, parish, or district in England.

School Board

Board Schools were the first state run schools and local Boards could:

  • raise funds from a rate
  • build and run non-denominational schools where existing voluntary provision was inadequate
  • subsidise church schools where appropriate
  • pay the fees of the poorest children
  • if they deemed it necessary, create a by-law making attendance compulsory between ages 5–13
  • not impose any religious education, other than simple Bible reading



In Victorian times ( and later) novels were often used to get across a moral message. The Primitive Methodist Book Room published many ‘novels’ with a message. Significant authors have been allocated to this keyword.

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