Transcription of article in the series “one Hundred Years Ago” by H. Bickerstaffe Kendall
AFTER the September Quarterly Meeting, Hugh Bourne visited almost every society between the extreme points of his wide diocese—from Belper to Rizley, a distance of more than sixty miles. His pen, too, was busy in metrical composition, and one of the hymns he wrote at this time, “Camp Meetings with Thy Presence Crown,” is No. 80 in the “Small Hymn Book.” While he was thus engaged, W. Clowes was going his round, and John Benton had begun his labours in Nottinghamshire. At Nottingham he found a flourishing society. Then he turned to the south-east part of the county: Ratcliffe-on-Trent and Bingham were successfully opened, and we may anticipate by noting that, on September 13th, 1818, the first Primitive Methodist chapel in the county of Notts was opened at Bingham by no less distinguished persons than Lorenzo Dow and Dorothy Ripley.
October, 1816, is an important date in the history of political and social reform; for in his famous “Weekly Register” William Cobbett demanded that the House of Commons should be annually elected by all the taxpayers of the land. “Let us,” he wrote, “have this reform first, and other good things will be given unto us.” The policy suggested was taken up with a good deal of heartiness in the provinces, especially in the North. Hampden Clubs sprang up in South Lancashire. Bamford tells us that one such was begun at this time at Middleton. It met in a disused New Connexion chapel. The members paid one penny a week, and one of the measures they adopted was to send “preachers” or “missionaries” across the Pennines to stir up the apathetic Yorkshiremen. The impressionable Londoners were less disposed to fall into line and make parliamentary reform the one goal of their endeavour. Thus October, 1816, saw the manifesto of a new and better policy than that hitherto pursued by the Luddites and Levellers. For a time these pursued their violent and disastrous course. The prospect was dark and confusing. But we must discriminate. The advocates of legal and moral methods were at work, and the future was ultimately to be with them. Now Primitive Methodists, or “Ranters” as they were oftener called, were not necessarily “Radical Reformers.” They were out on more urgent business. But they were frequently mistaken for such, and the very misunderstanding attracted attention and got the missionaries a hearing. And indeed the time soon came when it was felt that a man could be a Radical as well as a “Ranter,” as we see in the case of John Skevington, whom Hugh Bourne called a “speeching Radical.”
About this same time a society was established at Pitts Hill, hard by Tunstall. Here was born and lived Mr. J. Hancock, whose conversion in 1814, largely attributable to the reading of Thomas Aquinas, has been already referred to. All his life Mr. Hancock was associated with Pitts Hill. He was one of the most prominent of our early laymen. Probably he might have put more official letters after his name than any other man—M.B.C., M.G.C., etc. He was the “Corresponding Member” of the Connexional Committees, and as such his name is found attached to old documents. He died January 2nd, 1843; aged forty-eight years. In preaching his funeral sermon Richard Jukes, the poet, referred to the chain of coincidences which connected Mr. Hancock with the Pitts Hill Society: “He was the first leader at Pitts Hill, the first in raising the old chapel, he laid the first stone of the new chapel, preached the first sermon within its walls, and was the first whose mortal remains were interred in its burial-ground.”
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1916/720