A Methodist Mission to Dorset

The Primitive Methodists (founded in 1810) were Methodists who wanted to reclaim the revivalist spirit of Wesley’s early church and they were keen missionaries.  In 1832, George Cosens, the son of a white Jamaican plantation owner and a female slave, and probably the first black Methodist minister in England, set off on a mission from the north-east that eventually took him to Dorset.  He and a companion preached in Weymouth without incident, but when they went to Dorchester things were very different.  Here the preaching was disrupted by gunfire and by ‘artificial thunder’ sound effects from a nearby theatre.  A bucket of water was poured over Cosens, and both men were pelted with cabbage stalks.  While the precise dating of this event is elusive, it looks very likely that it took place in March or April of 1834 – the very time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ arrest and trial.  The hostility Cosens encountered may not have been spontaneous, but a further example of co-ordinated action against the Methodist movement.

PM. February, 2024