Mid nineteenth century Methodist Emigration
In two of my books on Primitive Methodism (The great River and Primitive Methodism in North Wales) mention is made more than once on the loss of members by emigration to America and elsewhere. Primitive Methodism sustained a long-term focus on Britain’s villages, and the flight from the land which so reduced the rural population, especially from mid-century, was a lasting problem for the denomination, as people moved from the villages to the towns and cities, or left Britain altogether for America or other parts of the New World.
Ivor Wynne Jones in his book Shipwrecks of North Wales (David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973) makes a number of references (pages 19, 21, 116, 150) to the conditions on-board of the emigrants, and to the severe loss of life to which many succumbed. He comments that, “Liverpool was the port of embarkation for vast numbers of emigrants, thousands of whom were drowned in their quest for an American paradise.” An example of which he gives details is the loss of the Cataraqui with 414 victims near the Hudson Straits.
By this and other means Primitive Methodism lost its hold on the villages. If only they had had the vision and blessing to hold on until the move away from urban living began to a quieter and more pleasant life in the villages, which continues to this day – the “escape to the country” –, there might be many more villages now in England and the anglicised parts of Wales with a viable and perhaps vibrant evangelical witness, instead of the wide-spread tragedy of such sights as the photograph below illustrates, which I took at Leckworth in Hampshire, the county of my birth in southern England.