Strangers' Friend Societies

These were an important aspect of the voluntary social welfare work of Methodism in urban areas. John Wesley encouraged a number of such projects to help the poor, particularly in times of distress. In 1785 John Gardner, a member at Wesley's Chapel, London started a scheme to collect weekly contributions from members and distribute them among the deserving poor. Wesley gave this his support with an initial donation of a guinea and the promise of 3d a week. A similar society was started in Bristol the following year. It was stipulated that the recipients of the charity were not to be Methodists, but 'poor, sick, friendless strangers', irrespective of religious and ethnic background. After Wesley's death, Adam Clarke supported societies in Bristol, Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester. Joseph Benson refers to societies also in Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull.

  • John Gardner, The Grain of Mustard Seed; or, An Account of the Rise, Progress and Exrtensive Usefulness of the Benevolent or Strangers' Friend Society founded in 1785 (1829)
  • Luke Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley MA, Founder of the Methodists(4th edn., 1878) 3 pp.252-4
  • WHS Proceedings, 29 pp.32-4; 36 pp.41-48
  • Tim Macquiban, 'Friends of all? The Wesleyan Response to Urban Poverty in Britain and Ireland, 1785-1840', in Richard P. Heitzenrater (ed.), The Poor and the People Called Methodists, 1729-1999 (Nashville, 2002) pp. 131-160
  • Ciaran McCabe, 'The Early Years of the Strangers' Friend Society, Dublin:1790-1845', in Bulletin of the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland, vol.19 (2014) pp65-93