The tiny hamlet of Ramsor (Methodist spelling) in North Staffordshire played a significant part in the origins of Primitive Methodism. Listed in the Domesday Book as Ramshorn, this ancient hamlet is a typical example of the depopulation of the countryside. Very little now remains of this village apart from a few farms and cottages. The Primitive Methodist Chapel is the only surviving public building.
Ramsor, spelling the name as it was pronounced, is the usual spelling in Primitive Methodist documents while Ramshorn is still the official spelling. The variant spellings will be used here to distinguish these.
Because of the importance of Ramsor in Primitive Methodism, this article
a) Sets out some background information on Ramshorn, and
b) Illustrates the place of Ramsor in Primitive Methodist history.
Ramshorn is mentioned in the Domesday Book, and this gives the official standard spelling used in maps, road signs, censuses, etc. Only a few farms and houses are left, but the fact of being in the Domesday Book means that Ramshorn is shown on maps when larger places are not.
Ramshorn is in the Parish of Ellastone, about 3 miles west of Ellastone village, about 2 miles north of the more famous landmark, Alton Towers, and south of the Weaver Hills. It lies in the border between the gentler lower valley of the River Dove, Derbyshire-Stafffordshire border, and the more rugged Staffordshire Moorlands. A substantial area of the village is now within the J C Bamford estate. This includes the site of the school, which is now completely demolished.
The falling population of Ramshorn illustrates well the general move from the countryside to towns and cities. A factor in the urbanisation of Britain was increasing demand for manpower in mills and factories, coupled with changes in agriculture requiring reduced manpower. Some once thriving villages like Ramshorn are reduced to almost nothing. This decline in rural population may be traced from census records.
(Some members of the Ramsor Primitive Methodist Society lived in surrounding hamlets, such as Wooton, but are for convenience included in this article as Ramsor people.)
In later years, however, the Ramsor Circuit required financial support from the District Home Missions Fund. To a large extent, this was a result of the depopulation of the countryside. Even so, the influence of Ramsor people in Primitive Methodism is remarkable for so small a place. Following the Methodist Union of 1932, the name of Ramsor was included in the Methodist Circuit name, The Ramsor And Uttoxeter Circuit until the 1970s when the Circuit name was changed to The Dove Valley Circuit.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel is the main if not the only building other than farms and dwellings to survive from the 19th century. It is now in private ownership, and has been lovingly restored as a place of worship where services are occasionally held. This writer was present for services on 3rd December 2006 and 31 May 2007. The second occasion was the conclusion of a walk from Mow Cop to Ramsor on the bicentenary of the first Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting. The present pulpit is not the original, but one rescued from a similar chapel at Gun End, near The Roaches to the north of Leek, Staffordshire. This looks as if it had been purpose built for Ramsor Chapel. The lighter panels are wood carvings.
Ramsor was the place of Hugh Bourne’s first funeral sermon. This is described in his article “Anecdote of a Present Salvation in which he writes of the teaching of John Wesley on this subject. As an example, he relates the experience of Elizabeth Warrington, whose conversion in March 1810 was due to her meeting with Bourne. She died in November 1810, having shown very clear evidence of her faith in spite of a long illness. In the summer of 1810, Bourne had been persuaded to doubt the reality of “present salvation”, but was persuaded by Elizabeth’s life that what Wesley had taught was true.
In 1808 Francis Horrobin guided Hugh Bourne to villages which were “spiritually destitute”. Later, Horrobin paid for the printing of the first primitive Methodist Class Tickets, issued 30 May 1811.
Places named on the Preaching Plans of the Ramsor Circuit include Mixon and Ecton. These are example of the “industrial mission” activities of the Primitive Methodists. Both were mines, Mixon being south east of Leek, and Ecton being in the Manifold Valley. As well as a famous copper mine, Ecton also had a creamery and cheese factory, and a lead mine, and was an important station on the Leek and Manifold Light Railway. Postcards from around 1900 – 1910 show the Chapel. At this time this was a Primitive Methodist chapel, but during the 19th century both the Primitive and the Wesleyan Methodists (from nearby Wetton) had regular preaching there. Hugh Bourne’s first evangelism had been amongst coal miners around Harriseahead, and this interest in working people was characteristic of the Primitive Methodists.