Bourne, Hugh

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PM preacher, born at Fordhays Farm, Stoke-on-Trent, on 3 April 1772. In his youth he was a keen reader, including John Wesley's sermons. At the age of 16 the family moved to Bemersley farm and Hugh was employed by his uncle, who was a millwright and engineer. In 1799 he was converted at a WM love-feast and became a member of the Ridgeway society. Despite his shyness he was pressed to become a preacher and his first sermon, preached out of doors, was in 1801. The following year he built a chapel at Harriseahead, largely at his own expense. His neglect of meeting in his appointed class due to pioneering evangelistic work elsewhere and his involvement with camp meetings led to his expulsion from the society on 27 June 1808.

His name is linked with that of William Clowes as one of the founders of Primitive Methodism. He was responsible for the printing of the first PM class ticket in 1811. He became the editor of the PM Magazine and later started a Children's Magazine. In 1823 he wrote a short history of the PM movement, drawing from his personal journal. When an annual Conference was set up, he was its secretary in 1825, 1826 and 1829. He wrote hymns and set up a study and library at Bemersley, which was also used by other PM preachers. From this base he travelled widely, directing and encouraging the various societies. He was largely responsible for the Deed Poll approved by the Scotter Conference of 1829. In 1844 he went on a tour of the USAand Canada. He remained unmarried and died at Bemersley on 11 October 1852.

The anxiety that filled his early years, spent on an isolated farm with a drunken and violent father, led to a shyness and awkwardness in making relationships in adult life, and to a lack of confidence about his evangelistic work. This led to considerable tension between him and the more popular Clowes, fuelled by differences of temperament, geographical distance, Bourne's strong teetotalism and concern over the work in the Hull Circuit (over which he did not exercise such direct control), and his later mental deterioration. That the PM movement did not fracture is to the credit of both men. The development and survival of a vigorous PM Connexion owed much to his imagination, his originality and practicality, and his organizational ability and insistence on strict discipline.

  • John Walford, Memoirs of the Life amd Labours of the Late Venerable Hugh Bourne (Burslem, 1855-57)
  • G. Herod, Biographical Sketches (1855), pp.445-88
  • J. Simpson, Recollections and Characteristic Anecdotes of the late Rev. Hugh Bourne (1859)
  • W. Antliff, The Life of the Venerable Hugh Bourne (1872; revised edn., 1892)
  • F.H. Hurd, Earnest Men: Sketches of eminent Primitive Methodists, ministers and laymen (1872) pp.5-36
  • Jesse Ashworth, The Life of the Venerable Hugh Bourne [1888]
  • John T. Wilkinson, Hugh Bourne 1772-1852 (1952)
  • London Quarterly & Holborn Review, July 1952
  • John T. Wilkinson, 'Hugh Bourne, 1772-1852: A Centenary Tribute', in WHS Proceedings, 28 pp.126-30
  • W.E. Farndale, 'Hugh Bourne and the "Spiritual Manifestation"', in WHS Proceedings, 28 pp.131-37
  • Henry T. Wigley, 'Hugh Bourne and John Wesley: a comparison', in WHS Proceedings, 31 pp.182-85
  • Leonard Brown, 'Hugh Bourne: a Bicentennial Reflection', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.121-26
  • Methodist Recorder,Bicentenary Supplement, 30 March 1972
  • Gareth Lloyd, Catalogue of the Hugh Bourne and William Clowes Papers (Manchester, 1993)
  • Methodist Recorder, 10 October 2002