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John Downes (1722-74)

No information survives concerning Downes's life before the age of 21, when he was a member of the Methodist Society at Horsley in Northumberland on the occasion of a visit by John Wesley. He began to preach with the encouragement of Grace Murray and joined the itinerancy soon after. In 1744 he accompanied Wesley and John Nelson on a tour of Cornwall and later that year was press-ganged into the army but was eventually released. Also in 1744, he was one of the four lay preachers who attended the first Conference.

Regarded by John Wesley as one of the most outstanding men of his generation, Downes was highly gifted in mathematics, mechanics and the arts. After his health failed in 1751, Downes left the itinerancy to take charge of Wesley's printing operations. He continued to preach in London chapels and it was while he was in the pulpit of the West Street Chapel that he collapsed and died.

Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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