When I first started to think about this part of my lecture I had a problem – what is meant by the East Midlands? Eventually I decided it (for the purpose of this lecture at least) was Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. As I have found biographies or memoirs of five who were born in this geographical area that is what I’ve decided is MY EAST MIDLANDS – no doubt you will tell me if I’m wrong!!

First, I’ll try to give you ‘potted biographies’ of these five. Following that if there is time and you are not too bored I’ll mention seven others who ‘passed through’ the East Midlands and lastly four who belong on my ADDITIONAL LIST. So having in the modern phrase ‘set the agenda’ you are free to leave if it all sounds a bit much!


Immediately with Suzannah detective work is required. We are not told her maiden name (very unhelpful), but on the other hand we learn from the histories of Herod (1), Petty (2), Kendall (3) that a Sister S. Perry was imprisoned with William Taylor in Huddersfield on 16th July 1820. Then the obituary of Suzannah Barber in the P.M.Magazine (4) states that she faced much opposition and persecution and was imprisoned in Huddersfield along with William Taylor, so it does not seem to be stretching incredulity too much to suggest that Suzannah Barber equals S. Perry.

Suzannah was born in Nottingham in 1776 and was converted at the age of 18 (1794) by William Bramwell and other Methodist preachers. So obviously she was a Wesleyan Methodist before she joined the P.Ms, but believing that she would be most useful among the Prims she joined them soon after they first arrived in Nottingham. She quickly became a local preacher and then a travelling preacher, working in the Newark, Barnsley, Huddersfield, Sheffield and Bradwell circuits. As we have just noted she was one of the first to mission Huddersfield. Little is found about her in the P.M. Minutes because it seems evident that she did much of her work before the Stations commenced.

While she was in the Bradwell Circuit she met Mr. J. Barber and later married him, settling at Waterside, in the New Mills Circuit. Here she continued her work as a local preacher. Her husband died in 1834. Suzannah lived till 1851 and died on 20th June after a short, but severe illness.

  1. Herod, George, Biographical Sketches p. 366
  2. Petty, John, History of the P.M. Connexion, p. 120
  3. Kendall, H .B. The Origin and History of the P.M. Church, Vol. I, pp.492-3
  4. M. Magazine (1851) pp. 641-2


Our second female travelling preacher is a similar case, but it is slightly more conjectural. An Ann Armstrong was very active in the early days of Primitive Methodism (1) and in fact we have extracts from her Journal in the P.M. Magazine of 1821 (2), as well as entries in the Hull P.M. Circuit Account book (3), but we have few personal details UNLESS she is ANN BLACKBURN. In which case she was born at Flintham, near Newark in 1797. She was converted in May 1820 and soon became a travelling preacher, working for 10 – 11 weeks in Lincoln before moving to Barnsley on 20th August that same year – you can see here the speed with which likely people were pressed into the itinerancy. Her obituary (4) states that she was especially well received in the Huddersfield part of the circuit. Remembering the work of S. Perry we cannot help but wonder if that was one of the areas which particularly liked having women travelling preachers.

On 22nd February 1822 Ann married Joseph Blackburn of Denby Dikeside in the parish of Penistone, Yorkshire. She continued as a local preacher for 5 years and died on 12th August 1827.

  1. Kendall, op.cit. Vol. I, p. 173
  2. M.Magazine (1821) pp. 143-4
  3. Hull P. M. Circuit Account Book, 13th December 1820; 13th March 1821
  4. M. Magazine (1829), pp. 42-6

ANN NOBLE (? – 1848)

In order to work out Ann’s dates we have to indulge in yet more detective work. From her obituary (1) it appears likely that she was about 34 at her death in 1848 and therefore she was probably born around 1814 and married some time between 1836 and 1845.

However, what do we actually know? Ann Noble was born at Darley Abbey, near Derby and converted at 18, when, out of idle curiousity, he listened outside the door of the P.M. chapel to a local preacher, John Wait. She was ridiculed by her erstwhile friends, but persisted with her new-found faith, joined the P.M. society in Derby and was called upon ‘ to exhort sinners to flee from the wrath to come.’ In 1834 she went to the Bradwell Circuit then to Bolton (2) and back to Bradwell, but her health was unable to stand up to the strain of the itinerancy and so she was forced to retire and revert to local preacher status. She continued to take services right up to her last illness.

We are told nothing about when she married or her husband, but as her obituary names her as Mrs Ann Williamson, I think, we may say with some certainty that she married a certain Mr. Williamson! However life was evidently very hard for some 8-10 years and she apparently suffered from poverty, painful afflictions of body and severe conflicts of mind.

During the last few years of her life she lived at Measham, in the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Circuit and opened her house for public worship. Becoming ill in the spring of 1848 she died on 13th October of that year, leaving ‘an infant and other little ones.’

  1. M. Magazine (1849) pp. 137-8
  2. Bolton P.M. Ciruit Plan, 19th July-11th October 1835

REBECCA TIMS (1803-66)

Rebecca Tims was born into a Church of England family at Leicester on 8th December 1803. Her elder brother was the Rev. Jonathan Tims who was a P.M. supernumerary minister at Leicester at the time of her death. She went to the Church Sunday School and was much influenced by the vicar, the Rev. T. Robinson.

In early 1821 Jonathan was converted and became a P.M. Soon afterwards he was praying in a class meeting and Rebecca, listening outside by the window, was converted and became a member of the society. The circuit authorities recognised her talent for public speaking and simply put her name on the preachers’ plan in 1826 and she worked as a local preacher for 3 years. In 1829 Rebecca received a call to travel, having been pledged by the Loughborough Circuit (1) and continued in the itinerancy for 5 years. She worked in the Preston, Hull and Pocklington Circuits. In 1833 she was stationed with the Rev. William Garner in the Barnard Castle branch of the Hull Circuit. This branch was very extensive and the travelling preachers often had to travel up to 30 miles on foot. William Garner, writing in Rebecca’s obituary, says: ‘In the exhausting toils which were then necessary, Rebecca Tims was one of the most willing and efficient servants of the connexion. In attending to her appointments she was, perhaps, seldom equalled, and never surpassed by a female preacher. If she was not run after and admired for her great talents, what was far better, she was beloved and honoured for her sterling piety, and sense, and exemplary deportment. She deservedly stood high in the estimation of the people, and they profited under her plain, sensible, and affectionate ministry. In church affairs she knew her place and kept it. She sowed no seeds of discord. In her demeanour she was peaceful, benevolent, modest and unassuming.’ (2)

On 23rd June 1834 Rebecca Tims became Mrs. John Pratt. Her husband was a carpet manufacturer from Barnard Castle and a fellow P.M.. They lived happily together for 15 years till John died from Asiatic cholera on 2nd September 1849. Rebecca also lost her eldest and youngest daughters in the same epidemic. Her sole surviving son, John Pratt of Louth, says that after his father’s death his mother fell upon hard times: ‘Unfortunately she could not write nor did she know much of business matters. Her ignorance was taken advantage of, and my father’s confidence abused, to the great loss of the family.’ (3) Then in 1857 one of her sons fell from a building and died, never regaining consciousness. He was 18. (From this information we can see that Rececca had, at least, 2 sons and 2 daughters. The 2 daughters died in 1849, the son who died in 1857 must have been born around 1839 and the surviving son was still alive in 1866.)

After being a widow for about 14 years Rebecca married again and this time her husband was the Rev. William Brining of St. Helen’s, Auckland, County Durham. It was a second marriage for both of them (4) and must have taken place around 1863, either just before or just after William became a supernumerary and located at St. Helen’s. They enjoyed just 2 years of wedded bliss and Rebecca frequently preached occasional sermons in the area. Her last appointment was at Cockfield on 31st December 1865, when she preached twice and also gave an exhortation at the Watch Night service – not bad going for an elderly lady of 63. Maybe she caught a chill on the way home because she became ill the next day and died on 15th January 1866, the medical certificate giving the cause of death as inflammation of the lungs. Her husband died the following year on 26th March aged 74.(5)

  1. M. Minutes (1829) p.7
  2. M. Magazine (1866) pp.426-8
  3. 3 Ibid.
  4. M. Minutes (1867) p.14-15


Our last female travelling preacher of this group was a redoubtable lady who was blessed with the name of Mary Clarissa Buck. She was born at Newbold, in the parish of Worthington, Leicestershire on 5th January 1810. Her parents are described as poor, but strictly honest, industrious and moral. When the P.Ms. first visited Coleorton in the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Circuit Mary’s parents opened their home for preaching and other services as well as providing hospitality for the itinerant and local preachers. This continued for up to 15 years until a P.M. chapel was built in the area. So Mary came into contact with Primitive Methodism very early in her life and indeed knew many of the early pioneers.

Because of her family circumstances she was able to have little formal education, but being determined to learn she studied as hard as she could to improve herself with little assistance from anyone else. Her biographer says: ‘by thinking she learned to think, until she could grapple in a masterly manner with the most difficult subjects in philosophy and theology. By working she learned to work, until that which was difficult by an ordinary mind was the merest child’s play to her…….She was a patient, painstaking, and plodding young woman and hence, a kind Providence opened out her path, and assisted her endeavours, and crowned her exertions with success.’ (1)

After much heart-searching Mary was finally converted on Easter Monday, 1830, at the Annual lovefeast and Watch-meeting held at Griffydam Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. After her conversion Mary joined the little P.M. society at Coleorton and before long it was realised that her talents must be used, so first she was pressed to take part in prayer meetings. Her first attempt at preaching came about almost by accident. She had gone with her sister, Jane, to her appointment at a small cottage at Lount, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Jane persuaded her to take the service, which she did most successfully. Naturally the news spread and so the next Quarterly meeting of the Ashby Circuit in March 1831 put her name on the plan as an exhorter. For several years she travelled and preached assiduously to large congregations. Then in 1835, Mary was engaged as a hired local preacher on the Northampton mission of the Burland Circuit. She was worked extremely hard in the mission, walking many miles and putting up with very difficult conditions – we need to remember that missions broke new ground, so there would not be a ready-made nucleus of P.M. people to offer hospitality and support. Therefore it would often be a case of ‘catch as catch can’ -, but the mission prospered through her efforts.

Perhaps it was therefore inevitable that the Burland Circuit should pledge her as a travelling preacher in 1836 (2) and she worked in that circuit for two years, before moving to the Kidderminster, Wrockwardine Wood and Darlaston Circuits for the next three years, before returning to Burland for another five years. We learn that she was a very popular preacher and in so much demand from other circuits that Burland agreed to leave her freer to take those services she felt best or to rest as her health was suffering from overwork. In 1846 Mary was stationed at Leicester, with Robert Parks as her Superintendent and the circuit and especially Old George Street Chapel enjoyed a glorious period of prosperity. However, after a year she resigned as a travelling preacher and settled down in Leicester.

Mary decided on this course of action for two reasons – first, because of her style of preaching, when she took six or seven services, in addition to the travelling to and from her appointments her health was suffering, and second, she was receiving invitations from all parts of the Connexion to take special services and anniversaries to which she wished to respond as she felt that she was called to this type of ministry. It was agreed that this should be her sphere of work and so she really became an itinerant preacher. Working out the miles she must have travelled and services she took one can’t help but think that if she had intended to have a quieter life it certainly didn’t turn out that way! For example, extracts from just two years of the P.M. Magazine will serve to illustrate her work and travels – in the 1853 Magazine there are eleven mentions of her having preached on special occasions like chapel openings and anniversaries (Stafford, Nov. 1852; London (2), Dec. 1852; Hull, Jan. 1853; Luton, Feb. 1853; Dunstable; Feb. 1853; London (2), March 1853; Bradwell, April 1853). (3) In the following year Mary continued her work by visiting nine more places and preaching at least eleven times, again in different parts of the country. (4) We must remember that these are only of accounts which were sent to the Magazine and she may well have taken many more services up and down the country and no doubt did her share of preaching when she was at home in Leicester.

These are some of the comments about her services: ‘ Her sermons were powerful and eloquent, the Divine influence attended the services and the collections were liberal.'(5) ‘At night the pews, free seats, aisles, pulpit stairs were crowded and it was thought that hundreds were unable to get in.'(6) ‘We were favoured with some of the best sermons, accompanied by delightful influences and followed by important effects, souls being brought to God.'(7)

At Bradwell Chapel Anniversary: ‘she preached from Gen .XXII.26 and John V.6 and though this was her third visit to this place, the interest created was equal to that of the former years. The congregations were crowded, that in the evening to overflowing and many returned, not being able to gain admittance.'(8)

Early in 1872, Mary suffered a stroke and lost the use of one side of her body. After such an active life it is not surprising that being confined to one room and her bed led to her often feeling very depressed, though at other times she was very cheerful and happy with her visitors. Mary died on Wednesday, 19th July 1876 at the age of 66. She was buried in Leicester cemetery on Saturday, 22nd July by the Revs W. Barrett and S. Roberts. (9) The Leicester City Burial register in Leicestershire Record Office tells us that she lived at and was buried on the unconsecrated side of the public cemetery.

To finish this section I want to tell you two stories about Mary Clarissa Buck which I particularly like. In Cheshire Record Office we find the following in the Burland Circuit records: ‘resolved that Miss Buck go to preach their sermons at Leek providing the (sic) will make her a present of a New Silk Dress.

This Minute to copyed (sic) and sent to them – to be black as she is in mourning.'(10)

An article in The P.M. Leader tells the story of how Miss Buck, having been appointed to preach at New Mills, went in the morning to the service at the parish church only to hear a pointed sermon on ‘It is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.’ Perhaps unable to resist a challenge she took the same text for her own sermon on the Monday evening and was listened to by a large and eager congregation. (11)

One last comment – we are told that at times her sermons, though good, were too long!

  1. M. Magazine (1877) p.111
  2. M. Minutes (1836) p.1
  3. M. Magazine (1853) pp. 124, 499, 181, 305, 306, 405, 433
  4. (1854) pp. 53, 180, 370, 506, 507, 748
  5. (1853) p. 124
  6. (1853) p. 305
  7. (1853) p. 306
  8. (1854) p. 370
  9. (1877) p. 114
  10. Burland p.M. Circuit Quarter Day minutes June 1838 – April 1845 (April 27, 1844, resolution 63)
  11. The P.M. Leader (Thursday, January 24th 1907)


Now I will mention very briefly 8 ladies who ‘passed through’ this area in the course of their ministry.


Elizabeth Bultitude is remarkable for three things. First, that she travelled by far the longest of the female travelling preachers, namely 29 years, and then, second, she retired as a supernumerary in 1862 and lived till 1890, thus she is the only one to have an official obituary in the P.M. Minutes (1). Third, she spent most of her ministry in East Anglia, just venturing to Peterborough in 1842 and 1843; Hinckley in 1853 and 1854, then she went down south for 7 years, presumably to help with missions, before retiring to Norwich. She was the last of the P.M. female itinerants. Although Elizabeth worked for so long there is actually very little to be found about her, even her obituaries are comparatively brief – maybe this means she was merely a very conscientious circuit minister rather than a charismatic figure and also by this time the climate of feeling about female itinerants was changing.

  1. M. Minutes (1891) pp.10-12


Of whom we know nothing except that she was stationed at Retford in 1824.


Of whom we know nothing except that she was stationed at Retford in 1825 and at Fakenham in 1926.


Ruth Morton was one of Mortons of Bradwell, Derbyshire. A family which was well known in that area. She probably acted as a hired local preacher locally (1) before her name appears on the Stations. She was pledged by the Sheffield Circuit in 1830 (2) and stationed at Mansfield that same year.

  1. M. Minutes (1830) p. 6.
  2. Evans, Seth, Bradwell Ancient and Modern p.108


All we know of her is that she was stationed at Loughborough in 1822 and at Darlaston for 2 years from 1823. There is a Journal extract in P.M. Magazine of 1825 under her name.


Of whom we know nothing except that she was stationed at Nottingham in 1823.


Of whom we know nothing except that she was stationed at Loughborough in 1821.


Of whom we know nothing except that she was stationed at

Nottingham for 4 years from 1821.

All we can really say about these, except Elizabeth Bultitude and Ruth Morton, is that they all worked in the very early period of the history of Primitive Methodism and particularly at the time when P.M. was establishing itself in the East Midlands.

Finally we turn to the four female preachers who were very active, but do not appear on the Stations. There may well be many more, but as I said at the very beginning I have concentrated on those who were actually stationed by the P.M. Annual Meeting. The first three of the ones referred to here should more properly be called hired local preachers – that is they move from circuit to circuit or from district to district by mutual agreement. They were paid the going rate for the job and I suspect that they were used when a circuit found that it had cash to spare and the opportunity to engage in some particular mission or enterprise for which an extra full-time preacher would be useful. So it is not easy to keep track of them as often they ‘come and go’ e.g. Hannah Summerlands in Burton-on-Trent. Quite of it was the travelling preacher’s wife who was so used. This raises several interesting thoughts – one, it would help the meagre stipend; two, it might help any circuit problems about accommodation or lack of knowledge of the circuit, and, three, I suspect that a number of travelling preachers wives had been travelling preachers in their own right before marriage, but without chasing up ALL the marriage registers it is difficult to prove this, and so they would be familiar with the P.M. ethos and system.


Mary Ann Cooper was born in Nottingham in August 1826 of respectable parents. After the family moved to Kimberley in the Ilkeston Circuit she ‘became decidedly pious’ (whatever that means1). She became a Sunday School teacher, eventually was converted and joined the society as a member. Soon she was asked to raise a class, which she did so successfully that the numbers grew and she was a good pastoral leader. Mary Ann was put on the preachers’ plan. Then during the time of the Rev. Thomas Roberts at Sleaford (1846-1848) he needed extra help, so Mary Ann was approached and agreed to go to that circuit. Her ministry there was much appreciated, but unfortunately after about 15 months her health gave way and she was forced to return home, where she was greeted with great enthusiasm and took up her previous work as her strength improved.

She married Charles Clark, a local preacher in the Milford Branch of the Belper Circuit, and they had three children. During her last pregnancy she suffered from depression. The child was born on the evening of Saturday, 18th February 1854, but soon Mary Ann was taken very ill and died suddenly at around 3 o’clock on the Sunday morning. She was buried the following Wednesday.

There are four interesting comments in her obituary (1) – one, that as the missionary meetings were being held in the Milford Branch that week all the speakers attended the funeral, two, the new born baby was evidently baptised at the funeral service, three, the congregation sang the hymn, ‘Farewell, dear friends; For we shall meet no more,’ etc. and they apparently wished to sing it at the graveside, but the curate would not let them, so they sang it outside the churchyard, and, four, it would seem that if the interment was to be in the local parish churchyard then the incumbent had to conduct the graveside committal.

  1. M. Magazine (1854) pp.328-9


Mary Hadfield was born at Rowarth, Derbyshire on 1st July 1812. Her family were very strict Anglicans and were horrified that their daughter should not only become a P.M. but also wish to marry a P.M. travelling preacher, so they refused to get their consent. Mary left home and married the Rev. Christopher Hallam on 10th December 1837. She started public speaking at Lin-Swithin and soon became greatly in demand and a very popular preacher. During her early married life she was constantly called upon to speak at revivalist meetings and she made a considerable impact in Scotland where it was unheard of for a woman to speak in church! In her later years Mary was more connected with anniversary services. Her son John became a P.M. itinerant. She died on Thursday, 24th December 1868. (1)

  1. M. Magazine (1869), pp.552-3; Kendall, op.cit. II, p.159; Ritson, J. The Romance of P.M. pp.153-4


Selina Jackson was born at Denby, near Ripley, Derbyshire on 5th September 1827. She was converted and joined the P.M. society at Golden Valley, Ripley. She was put on the preachers’ plan of the Somercotes Mission (now (1888) part of the Alfreton Circuit) in Selina worked as a hired local preacher in the following circuits – Melton Mowbray (1847); Winster (1848); Earl Shilton (now (1888) Hinckley circuit) 1849.

Selina married Mr. Shimwell, but nothing is known of him or when they married. After his death she married Richard Llewellyn, a local preacher of Buxton, in Birmingham in 1875 and they settled in Buxton in 1879. From around 1884 she suffered with her heart and then, taking a severe cold at the Manchester District Camp-meeting, held at Buxton in May 1886 she grew worse and died on 19th October. Her funeral service was held at London Road Chapel, Buxton and she was interred in the old churchyard at Youlgrave.

  1. M. Magazine (1888) p.242

SARAH KIRKLAND (1794-1880)

As I have already said quite a lot about Sarah Kirkland and have explained the reasons for my not dealing with her at length –

  1. that she retired before the Stations started and I only dealt with those who were actually stationed;
  2. That her story is well known and can be easily found (1); I am not going to spend much time on her here.

Briefly then, Sarah was born at Mercaston of farming stock in 1794 and so was from a rural background. She was converted in 1811 and became a local preacher in 1813. She was ‘taken out by Hugh Borne the same year, being paid 2 gns a quarter by Hugh Borne himself. This was payment was later taken over by the Derbyshire Mission. She was very effective in preaching and was missionary minded.  She travelled greatly in the Staffordshire/Cheshire area when she started, then received invitations to travel further afield, which is how she came into Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the Vale of Belvoir (see Kendall I pp.195ff. for further details if required). Sarah took part in many camp meetings (details of camp meetings see thesis pp. 121ff.) She also, along with her first husband, John Harrison, a fellow travelling preacher, missioned in the Hull area. When he became ill she took over his work for a while, but then retired altogether. After his death she continued as a local preacher, refused an invitation to go to the Hull Circuit as a travelling preacher and eventually she married William Bembridge, a local preacher, in 1825. She worked hard as local preacher and class leader for the rest of her life. She died at Alfreton on 4th March 1880 and was buried at Mugginton.

  1. M.Magazine (1881) Obituary passim Herod, G. op.cit. passim Walford, J. Memoirs of the Life and Labours of the Late Venerable Hugh Bourne Vol. I pp.413ff. Kendall, H.B., op. cit I, passim