Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bourne, Hugh

BOURNE, HUGH (1772–1852), founder of the primitive methodists, son of Joseph Bourne, farmer and wheelwright, by his wife Ellen, daughter of Mr. Steele, was born at Fordhays Farm, in the parish of Stoke-upon-Trent, 3 April 1772, and, after some education at Werrington and Bucknall, worked with his father in his business. The family removed to Bemersley, in the parish of Norton-in-the-Moors, in 1788, and Bourne then took employment under his uncle, William Sharratt, a millwright and engineer at Milton. He had so far been carefully brought up by a pious mother, and in June 1799 joined the Wesleyan methodists, soon after became a local preacher, and in 1802 built, chiefly at his own expense, a chapel at Harrisehead. In imitation of the camp meetings for preaching and fellowship, which had been the means of reviving religion in America, Bourne, in company with his brother James, William Clowes [q. v.], and others, held a camp meeting on the mountain at Mowcop, near Harrisehead, on Sunday, 31 May 1807. The meeting commenced at six in the morning, and prayer, praise, and preaching were continued until eight at night. This successful revival was the first of many held in that part of the country. The Wesleyan methodist conference at the meeting at Liverpool on 27 July 1807 passed a resolution protesting against such gatherings. The camp meetings were, however, continued, and on 27 June 1808 Bourne was, in what seems to have been an illegal manner, expelled from the Wesleyan Methodist Society by the Burslem circuit's quarterly meeting ; but he still continued to raise societies here and there, recommending them to join the Wesleyan circuits, and as yet entertained no idea of organising a separate community. But the Wesleyan authorities remained hostile, and a disruption was the consequence. On 14 March 1810 the first class of the new community was formed at Standley, near Bemersley. Quarterly tickets were introduced in the following year, and the first general meeting of the society was held at Tunstall on 26 July 1811. The name Primitive Methodist, implying a desire to restore methodism to its primitive simplicity, was finally adopted on 13 Feb. 1812, but the opponents of the movement often called the people by the name of ranters. The first annual conference was held at Hull in May 1820, and a deed poll of the primitive methodists was enrolled in the court of chancery on 10 Feb. 1830. Bourne and his brother purchased land and built the first chapel of the new connexion at Tunstall in 1811. After the foundation and settlement of the society Bourne made many journeys to Scotland and Ireland, for the purpose of enrolling recruits in the new sect. During 1844-6 he travelled in the United States of America, where he obtained large congregations. He lived to see primitive methodism with 1,400 Sunday schools, 5,300 chapels, and 110,000 enrolled members, and died from a mortification of his foot at Bemersley, Staffordshire, on ll Oct. 1852, aged 80 years and six months, and was buried at Englesea Brook, Cheshire. He was, in common with many preachers and members of the primitive methodist church, a rigid abstainer. For the greater part of his life he worked as a carpenter and builder, so as not to become chargeable to the denomination, and it was not until he had reached his seventieth year that he was placed on the superannuation fund. He was the author of:

  1. 'Observations on Camp Meetings, with an Account of a Camp Meeting held at Mow, near Harrisehead,' 1807.
  2. 'The Great Scripture Catechism, compiled for Norton and Harrisehead Sunday Schools,' 1807.
  3. 'Remarks on the Ministry of Women,' 1808.
  4. 'A General Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs for Camp Meetings and Revivals,' 1809.
  5. 'History of the Primitive Methodist,' 1823.
  6. 'A Treatise on Baptism,' 1823.
  7. 'Large Hymn Book for the use of the Primitive Methodists,' 1825.
  8. 'The Primitive Methodist Magazine,' 1824, which he edited for about twenty years.

[Walford's Memoirs of H. Bourne, 1855, with portrait; Petty's Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1864, with portrait; Antliff's Funeral Sermon on H. Bourne, 1852; Simpson's Recollections of H. Bourne, 1859.]

G. C. B.