8. Going to the Camp Meeting

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”

WE catch a glimpse of two camp meetings that were held in the high summer of 1813, and this page will show some of the speakers en route to the camp-ground. On Saturday, July 17th, Hugh Bourne and John Wedgwood set their faces towards Cannock Wood. They had thirty-one miles to cover in a swelteringly hot day, yet, dusty and weary as they were after their long tramp, they threw themselves heartily into the preparatory prayer meeting of the evening and “came into faith.” Besides our two travellers, William Clowes was at the camp meeting, as also Samuel Simcock, of whom we have recently written, and Richard Weston, who was to be “a main hand” in introducing Primitive Methodism into Nottingham.

On the Monday Hugh Bourne and John Wedgwood made their return journey on foot—a second thirty-one miles. Bourne stayed the night at Wedgwood’s home and “laboured much with the family.”

Next, it is William Clowes and John Wedgwood we see going to a distant camp meeting together. The account of this journey makes one of the most vivid travel-pictures we have in Clowes’ Journals. What time of the day it was when the two set out from Wedgwood’s home we are not told; but, considering the sort of man Wedgwood was, they should have made a much earlier start. It was difficult getting Wedgwood along. He could not pass a group of men without stopping to utter a word in season, and he was ever and anon turning aside for a bout of prayer; so that the late summer day was declining, and the dusk shrouding the landscape long before they had got to their destination. This was somewhere on the north-eastern borders of Staffordshire where Benton had been carrying on his mission. When they reached the sullen waters of the Blackmere of Morridge (“ridge of the moor”) they knew themselves for lost. Going became hard and perilous. There were quags and moss-hag’s, holes and shelvings; now and again dry stone walls to clamber over. Once Clowes raised the cry “Lost! lost!” but Wedgwood hushed the cry; for he heard the baying of a dog and saw a moving lantern, and soon the fear they were being pursued with ill-intent made them hurry at the risk of breaking their necks or sinking in a quag. At last, when it seemed they would have to spend the night in the open, they suddenly came upon a lone farmhouse, and Clowes found to his comfort that a relative of his wife lived there.

This story reminds us that Primitive Methodism in its beginnings was essentially a rural, and not an urban movement. It struck its earliest roots in the high moorlands overlooking the Vale of Trent which are the extremities of the Pennine range, of which range Mow Cop and The Cloud are the south-western out-crop. The two yoke-fellows, Clowes and Wedgwood (and the same holds good of Bourne) were emphatically sons of this rugged soil, as their fathers for generations had been. Their very names indicate this. As early as 1290 Ranulf de Wegge Wood (“Ranulf of the Way-through-the-Wood”) had dwelt between Tunstall and Mow Cop. William Clowes’ patronymic too is significant. It is “Willam of the Clough” or ‘Cleugh” —the ravine between two precipitous banks with a runnel at the bottom. As yet our fathers had not travelled far beyond their ancestral soil. Between their habitat and the names they bore there was a close and fitting correspondence.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/592

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