Hirst, Ann (née Howson)

PM preacher, from a well-to-do Quaker family in Darlington, born on 11 January 1809. She became interested in PM in her teens and fell in love with the itinerant John Hurst (1803-1898; e.m. 1826) of Barwich-in-Elmet near Leeds, whose father James had 'opened his house' to William Clowes in 1819. Her family expressed its disapproval by imprisoning her for six weeks. The story goes that she escaped through a cellar grating, took a stage coach to York and thence to Leeds, where she found Hirst at the Quarterly Meeting. They were married in Leeds parish church two days later, on 13 June 1831, by special licence, after a 'whip round' among members of the Quarterly Meeting. One day in the Alston Circuit, when her husband was 'storm-stayed' in the Pennines, she read a sermon, then began to expound, went on the plan and became an accredited local preacher in 1835 in Pickering.

They retired to Sheffield in 1861, where for 20 years she was a Bible woman at Norfolk Street. She never gave up the Quaker way of dress and apparently could never sing, not having been brought up to do so. She died on 10 June 1890. Her romance was the basis of a novel by Isabel Suart Robson, Denzil Stowe: a story of Methodism eighty years ago (1905).

Two grandsons and one great-grandson entered the PM ministry. Thomas Graham (1868-1959; e.m. 1890) was born in Sheffield and died on 11 May 1959; his daughter Winifred (1900-1981) married Norman H. Snaith. John Henry Hirst (1871-1929; e.m. 1891), son of a local preacher from Clay Cross, was imprisoned in 1904 as a passive resister to the education rate; from 1923 to 1928 he was the PM General Mission Secretary. His son was John E. Hirst (1913-1995; e.m. 1933).

  • Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism (1909) pp.155-57
  • PM Magazine, 1929 pp.598-99
  • Margaret Ruxton, in WHS, Yorkshire Branch Bulletin, 71, September 1997, pp.2-8