Tent Methodism

The movement began among local preachers in the Bristol area, led by George Pocock and John Pyer, who were dissatisfied at the lack of evangelical outreach in WM. In April 1814 they pitched a tent and preached on waste ground at Whitchurch, south of Bristol, and that summer extended their activity to parts of North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, without formal authority from the superintendents of the circuits concerned. Despite initial support from a few local WM itinerants, like Hugh Bourne and William O'Bryan they ran into increasing official opposition and censure, which came to a head in 1820 with the expulsion of both Pocock and Pyer by the Bristol Superintendent. Their immediate independence from WM was marked by issuing class tickets, acquiring a former Baptist chapel in the middle of Bristol and publishing a set of Rules. Within four years the sect had held two Annual Meetings and published a substantial hymn-book, a revised set of Rules, a monthly magazine and a history (of which no copy appears to have survived). The movement spread to Wiltshire, Southampton and the Isle of Wight and small areas of London, Manchester and Liverpool, but remained small in scale.

No membership statistics have survived. The sect's decline began early in 1826 and was complete by 1832. Pyer became a Congregational minister, serving a number of pastorates until his death in 1859, and Pocock eventually rejoined the Bristol WMs.

  • Tent Methodist Magazine, vol. 1,1823
  • Kate Pyer Russell, Memoirs of John Pyer (1865)
  • John C.Bowmer, Pastor and People (1975) pp.80-82
  • John K. Lander, 'Tent Methodism 1814-1832' in WHS Proceedings 53 pp.141-56
  • John K. Lander, Itinerant Temples: Tent Methodism 1814-1832 (Carlisle, 2003)
  • John Lander, 'Bicentenary of the establishment of forgotten Tent Methodist sect' in Methodist Recorder, 24 April 2020, pp. 12-13
  • John Lander, 'The Experience of George Smith (1803-1870) and John Pyer (1790-1859)' in The Journal of United Reformed History Society, 10(6), May 2020, pp.328-340