Juniper Hill, Oxfordshire

Also known as Lark Rise

Flora Thompson’s autobiographical account of life in the 1880s in the hamlet of Juniper Hill, Oxfordshire, entitled Lark Rise, gives a description of the cottage services of the Primitive Methodists who met for worship in a cottage in the hamlet. Throughout the book she simply calls the people Methodists, but it is the use of “the ranters” on one occasion that identifies them as Primitives. The book was first published by Oxford University Press in 1939; my copy is the 1993 Puffin Classics one where on pages 205-9 the long description of the cottage services is found. I love these words from it:

There was something fine about their discourses, as they raised their voices in rustic eloquence and testified to the cleansing power of ‘the Blood’, forgetting themselves and their own imperfections of speech in their ardour.

This to me is real Methodism, and the religion I have carried in my heart for over half a century. I quote that passage, as part of the contrast between some of today’s Methodism and the faith and fervour of an earlier generation, in the book I am writing on the survival of Primitive Methodism from 1920 to the present day – for my first two books The great River and Change and Decay look at the movement only up till 1868 and till the end of World War 1 respectively. 

“O Lord, I have heard the report of thee, and thy work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years renew it; in the midst of the years, make it known” – Habakkuk 3:2.

 

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