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Hugh Bourne (1772-1852)

Hugh Bourne was born into a religious family at Fordhays in Staffordshire. Trained as a carpenter, Bourne moved in 1788 to the nearby town of Bemersley and worked as a wheelwright with his uncle. He was converted in 1799 and joined the local Wesleyan society. In 1801 Bourne led a revival in the mining village of Harrishead which by 1804 had spread to the townships of Tunstall and Burslem and resulted in the conversion of William Clowes, the man who was to be the joint founder with Bourne of the Primitive Methodist Connexion.

Bourne and Clowes held the first English camp meeting at Mow Cop on the borders of Cheshire and Staffordshire on 31 May 1807. Bourne's lack of discipline led to his expulsion by the Wesleyans in June 1808. His followers who were known as Camp Meeting Methodists merged with the Clowesites in 1811 to form the Primitive Methodist Connexion.

The new denomination spread rapidly and the first Conference was held at Nottingham in 1819. Blessed with a degree of financial independence, Bourne established himself as the principal leader of the Church. Even after his superannuation in 1842 he continued to travel ceaselessly and in 1844 visited Canada and the United States to inspect the Primitive Methodist missions in those countries.

Bourne was a man of formidable energy and many talents. He wrote on a variety of subjects from baptism to salvation, edited the Primitive Methodist Hymnbook and was editor of the Connexional magazine for twenty years. He was never a great evangelist but this was offset by his organisational ability. Regarded as a father figure by the members of the Primitive Methodist Church, his funeral procession was attended by more than sixteen thousand people.

Source: Lewis, Dictionary of Evangelical Biography (1995)

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