PRIMITIVE METHODISM IN PEMBROKESHIRE: THE CHAPEL IN A RURAL SOCIETY David Howell, M.A., Ph.D. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a small group of Methodists broke away from the parent Wesleyan body and set themselves up as Primitive Methodists. They were drawn towards revivalism, regarding evangelist work as all-important and styling themselves 'Primitive' out of their belief that they were restoring, and once again adhering to, Wesley's original practice of 'field preaching'. This sturdy evangelism was carried out through camp meetings, and from 1810 camp-meeting Methodists in the Burslem Wesleyan Methodist circuit in Staffordshire became a distinct com- munity. In the following year the term Primitive Methodist was adopted as the name of the new denomination. The sect spread quickly throughout the Midlands in the great Revival of 1817-18. The time was one of intense social misery accompanying the Industrial Revolution and Primitive Methodism made a strong appeal to the destitute and the unwanted'. As in the new in- dustrial towns, in rural areas the membership similarly comprised the poor labourers, who found comfort and solace in the emotional, simple and home- ly Primitive Methodist services. With its lay activity in organisation and spontaneity in worship Primitive Methodism offered the propertyless poor an opportunity for self expression and the using of their talents denied them in their work-situation2. The Pembroke mission came into existence in 1823 and two years later came under the direction of the General Missionary Committee. This latter body had been set up at the Conference of 1825 in order to supervise various missions throughout England and Wales. In fact the Pembroke mission was the only one undertaken by the General Missionary Committee at this early period. In 1823 Oakengates circuit (Salop) had sent Mr. James Roles as a missionary into Pembrokeshire (the same circuit opened a mission in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, in 1824) and as Oakengates circuit was then heavily in debt it was considered advisable to place this new mission in Pembrokeshire under the care of the General Missionary Committee. The English nature of the Primitive Methodist movement meant that the zeal of the leaders obviously looked upon 'English' south Pembrokeshire as a fertile field for their missionary enthusiasm.3 In November 1825 the Primitive Methodist Magazine carried the follow- ing information: 'Labours of the General Missionary Committee. Extract of a letter. Pembs. August 2 1825. Dear Brother Bourne, I have the happiness to inform you, that the work of God is beginning to break out in the Pembrokeshire Mission. We have opened twelve places, at most of which there appears to be a good prospect. We have formed one class, and I think we shall be able to form seven or eight more the next time we go round. At Haverfordwest, I have preached two Sundays, to very large congregations. The prospect there is very good, but we shall be in want of a preaching room. I wish you to send word whether we must take one. There are 4 or 5 houses opened for us to hold meetings in, but they will not hold one sixth part of the people that come to hear the preaching; so that we shall not have room to accommodate our congregations when the weather proves unfavourable. We are invited to 10 or 12 more places. Our congregations are large, and the way opens wherever we go. Yours in the Lord, James Roles'.