Clowes, William (1780-1851)

One of the founders of Primitive Methodism

Englesea Brook Museum 16b.03
Englesea Brook Museum

He was born at Burslem, Staffordshire, on 12 March 1780, son of William Clowes, potter, and of Ann, daughter of Aaron Wedgwood, grandson of Gilbert Wedgwood. He was employed during his early years as a working potter.

For many years Clowes led a dissipated life. He was a fine dancer and aspired to be the premier dancer in the kingdom. On 20 January 1805 he was converted. He soon established a prayer-meeting in his own house and led a Wesleyan Methodist class.

Excluded for attending a camp meeting

Clowes attended the first Primitive Methodist camp-meeting ever held in England – at Mow Cop near Harriseahead on 31 May 1807. He was joined in this meeting by Hugh and James Bourne and others. In October 1808 he preached his trial sermon with the Wesleyan Methodists and was duly appointed a local preacher; but, continuing to associate with the Bournes and to attend camp-meetings, his name was omitted from the preachers’ plan in June 1810, and in September his quarterly ticket as a member of the society was withheld from him.

A charismatic preacher

After this he made common cause with the Bournes and James Crawfoot. With them he founded the Primitive Methodist Connexion, and became one of the best-known preachers of the new society. He worked mainly in northern England, as well as in London and Cornwall, were most successful in adding members to the church. In 1819 he introduced primitive Methodism to Hull.

On 10 June 1842 he was placed on the superannuation fund, but still continued his labours as before, and was at his work until a day or two before his decease, which took place, from paralysis, at Hull on 2 March 1851. He was a man of strong common sense and of great mental powers.

More details in “The Journals of William Clowes


Comments about this page

  • William Clowes is buried in The General Cemetery in Hull, in an area known as ‘Primitive Methodist Corner’. Many of his fellow Primitive Methodists are buried close by – it seems there was some status in being as close to William as possible. His grave describes him as ‘a burning and shining light’. Also, his wife Eleanor, died 23 July 1856, ‘asleep in Jesus’.

    By MARTIN CROSS (22/03/2020)
  • This page has been modified in May 2018 to add transcriptions of a series of articles published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1906, written by Rev. John T. Horne, entitled “Sidelights on the History and Personality of William Clowes”

    The articles focus on the personality of Clowes, starting with his ancestry, the development of his personality as a young man, and how he was fundamentally changed by his conversion experience. 

    The author spent sometime in Tunstall himself and interviewed many people who were closely connected with Clowes family and friends.

    By Geoff Dickinson (09/05/2018)
  • This page was modified on 9 May 2017 to add transcriptions of two articles that appeared in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1902, about Clowes’ ancestry. The articles relate primarily to his Wedgwood relatives.

    By Geoff Dickinson (09/05/2017)
  • In his book of Ministers and Circuits in the PM Church, Rev William Leary records that William Clowes was stationed in Hull in 1822 and 1844 (Sup). Clowes was President of Conference in 1844, 1845 and 1846.

    By Geoff Dickinson (03/08/2012)

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