|I WILLIAM CLOWES: POTTER; PRIMITIVE METHODIST 1780-1851
|On March 12, 1780 at Burslem, England I William Clowes was born. I was descended on my mother's side from the
Wedgwood family of English potters.
(William Clowes, son of Samuel Clowes, potter, and Ann, daughter of Aaron Wedgwood, was apprenticed at age 10
to the trade of potter, with uncle Joseph Wedgwood.
A man of strong common sense and great mental powers he is remembered as the co-founder of the Primitive
Methodist Church in 1811. But the historical heritage extends even further back. Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) was
the most brilliant member of a family of potters that stretched back through four generations to 1588 (Gilbert
Wedgwood 1588-1678). Josiah was born in 1730 at Burslem, England, where the family works had been located by
the Wedgwood family since 1656; setting up his own pottery works at Burslem near Tunstall in 1759.
Josiah Wedgwood died in 1795 and is remembered as the "father of English potters". He bore by royal grant of
Queen Charlotte, the title of "Queen's Potter" (as a result of developing a clay body with a "Rich and Brilliant Glaze" in
1763 which was permitted to be named Queen's Ware).
Josiah Wedgwood and William Clowes have a common ancestor, Gilbert Wedgwood of Biddulph, with Josiah being
a direct descendant from the Burslem and later Etruria family tree while William was descended via the Aaron
Wedgwood branch also known as the Wedgwood of the Red Lion and Big house. This branch of the family was
associated with the Elers Brothers who were potters around 1600 being immigrants from Holland and it was from this
branch, that Richard Wedgwood, ultimately Josiah Wedgwood's father-in-law, and his daughter Sarah (of Spen
Green, Cheshire) were also descended. (Josiah Wedgwood married Sarah Wedgwood in 1764). Susannah, Josiah's
eldest daughter was Charles Darwin's mother.
William Clowes, (1780-1851), the father of Primitive Methodism was a contemporary of Charles Darwin (1809-1822),
the father of evolution, both being descended via their respective mothers from Gilbert Wedgwood of Dale Hall,
Master Potter of Burslem).
|At the age of 4, I had a severe attack of smallpox, carrying the scars to my grave. Aged 10 at a prayer meeting I wept
bitterly, under a clear conviction of sin, but lacking parental influence, home discipline and intellectual interests I
gradually drifted into evil courses. My father, Samuel Clones, was a working potter, and at age 10 I was apprenticed
to the trade of potter, with uncle Joseph Wedgwood.
|Mould running and wedging were the chief work of a potter's apprentice in those days. Hard and often cruel toil, the
apprentice placed a lump of clay upon a plaster block, cut it in two with a piece of wire, then lifting one half above his
head, would bring it down upon the lower half to mix them, repeating the process till the clay was brought to a
consistency of something like putty. This alternated with mould running. Imagine a mere boy running in and out of
the stove room, winter, and summer, with its blazing stove, his speed determined by his master's speed at the work.
Failure to be at the bench at the required moment would often be followed by oaths, threats and brutal blows. The
hours were from five in the morning till eight at night, and the wages a shilling a week.
|HOBBIES & INTERESTS
|Ancestry soon showed itself. Sharp, active and apt, I gave early promise of becoming an expert craftsmen. From
generations of potters I inherited not only great physical strength, but the deftness, the skill of eye and hand which
enabled me to quickly attain high proficiency. I improved my education by attending night school and soon became a
master in my craft and able to earn a high wage.
|Physically I was rarely endowed and developed, of high social qualities and immense vitality. As an athlete, few could
excel me in foot racing, jumping, boxing and dancing. To this I added gambling and pugilism, drunkenness and
profanity. Whatever I did it was done with all my might. I was an impressive personality, with a massive brow, bold
piercing eyes, a voice of great compass and sweetness, and a marvellous gift of personal magnetism.
I was a leader of men.
|In the midst of a dance at Burslem, seized with the most extraordinary mental distress owing to my guilt before God.
I vowed that if God would spare my life it should be devoted to His service. My erratic movements were largely
inspired by a desire to escape from myself and from the voice of an ever increasing conscience. My evil associations
led me astray, in spite of my good intentions.
|FRIENDS & FAMILY
|Thinking matrimony might secure my freedom from the fascination of evil friends, I married Hannah Rogers.
Hannah's friends had sought to dissuade her from allying herself with so wild a character. She was disposed to
abandon me; but in a dream she saw me a changed man, in a position of great influence and usefulness. Marriage
did not bring me reformation. The great soul conflict went on.
|One day, taking great offence to something done by my wife and her mother, I left town in a rage with only my
mother's prayer book and without a penny in my pocket; reading, meditating and weeping by the way. Thinking my
damnation sealed, I plunged once more into dissipation.Enduring deep anguish of spirit, I was the subject of the
most awful terror of damnation. Again and again I vowed reformation, but my vows were invariably broken.
Sometimes I used to walk in solitary and unfrequented places, wishing that I was a bird or a beast, or anything else
that was not accountable to the tribunal of heaven. In sleep I was agitated by terrible dreams, and on awaking would
be afraid to look out of bed, thinking the room full of devils and damned spirits. Breaking out into profuse perspiration
in my terror I would long for the light of day, so that I might drown my convictions in drink. My long and weary tramping
gave me ample opportunity to consider my ways, and I made the usual vows of amendment, which were soon
broken when I met my old companions. My own explanation of these repeated failures is that my attempts at
reformation were made in my own strength, and there had been no real generation of my nature.
Attending a prayer meeting I cried to God for help, and towards the end of the meeting I was conscious of a
wonderful influence working upon me. What is this I asked myself. This is what the Methodists mean by being
converted; yes this is it. God is converting my soul. In agony of soul I believed God would save me; then I believed He
had saved me; and it was so. At the close of the service, someone asked how I was getting on.
God has pardoned all my sins I replied instantly.
|This wonderful spiritual experience was the beginning of a severe discipline, without which I could never have
become a flaming evangelist. The calmness and apparent lack of excitement in my manner that morning led to
those present to doubt the reality of my conversion, and my old associates were quite confident they would soon see
me in their midst once more. But from that hour I was a changed man. Old things had passed away, and all things
became new. I first set about paying my debts; and the gave notice to the captain of my voluntary corps of my
withdrawal from the force.
|I limited my hours of work, so that I might have time left for the service of God and the means of grace. Active in the
work of evangelism, each Sabbath day was a season of unremitting toil. The opening of my house for religious
services was the beginning of a movement. I took every opportunity to reprove sin. The sin of Sabbath desecration
specially moved me and on Sabbath morning I would expostulate with such trades persons as I found carrying on
their business. Some questioned my sanity, others concluded my religion to be a passing craze. My fame spread
abroad and many people resorted to me for religious counsel. Eventually a Mr. Hugh Bourne, a well renowned
preacher visited me. The two of us were to play a prominent part in founding a new church. Hugh Bourne recorded;
"This man is such an example of living faith as I scarcely ever met with, and which at present I am not able to follow. I
stayed, advising, instructing and talking with him. Clowes was the subject of extraordinary manifestations of the Holy
Spirit, which he called" the spirit of burning".
|Both of us arrived at essentially the same views in regard to the great doctrines of the faith, especially justification
and sanctification. These great themes , however, were discussed in the light of Scripture and experience and thus
the basis of our future work was solidly laid. "Local 'Preachers' Meetings were held in my house. This was really a
Methodist Theological Institution, at which papers were read and subjects discussed. Rapidly the passionate,
ignorant debased prodigal was transformed under these varied forces into an intelligent and devout Christian. The
intellectual and religious progress made by myself indicated that I who was once a leader in folly and sin, was now to
become a leader in Christian service. To shepherd and instruct people "up into faith" was a leader's first care.
|Conversions became frequent at these Tunstall meetings, and the class grew steadily in numbers and power. I
revealed the possession of exceptional gifts of public speech. That the Methodist authorities were so slow in
recognising this and giving me the status of a local preacher is a little remarkable.
Hugh Bourne and myself found in each other a kindred spirit. Widely different in temperament and gifts; we were one
in our passion and zeal for the salvation of our fellows.
Gradually two centres of Primitive Methodism were developed. The first at Mow Cop and the other at Tunstall.
|An inner voice was ever speaking to me, which at the very height of my sinful pleasures would often turn them to
gall and bitterness. The voice was heard within me saying; "For all these things God will bring thee into judgment".
After indulging in the vilest and most extreme profanity my mind would be seized with great horror. I became
annoyed that I could not swear like others without remorse.