HISTORIAN Steve Chapples looks at the violence encountered by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, when he brought his beliefs to East Lancashire.

It was in August 1748 that Wesley first preached in the area, at Roughlee, and he was asked to promise that he would never preach there again.

His reply was unequivocal. “I would rather cut off my right hand,” he had replied.

He then rode two miles to address a congregation, which had gathered outside the 17th century White Bear Inn, in Barrowford.

Two of his followers were beaten with clubs by an unruly mob from Colne, said to be organised by the vicar of Colne, the Rev George White.

His friends were dragged by the hair through the mud and one was thrown head first off a 12-foot high rock into Pendle Water. One of the men later died.

Wesley ran into the hostelry and hid in the stables.

Many years later a four-poster bed was acquired by a Mr Thomas B. Ecroyd, of Edge End, and in it was found a secret compartment containing a piece of paper, which read ‘John Wesley slept in this bed’.

In Burnley, then known as the most drunken town in England, Wesley attempted to preach from a mounting stone outside the now demolished Thorn Hotel, in the town centre.

Again an angry, drunken mob attacked him and he was forced to flee for his life hiding in a privy in nearby Wapping.

In 1764 Wesley laid the foundation stone of the octagonal Methodist chapel in Heptonstall, which is the oldest in the world still in continuous use.

In 1770 such were the crowds that gathered to hear him in the ancient hilltop village, he preached a field service to several thousand at Bell Hoo.

This was only two months after villager David Hartley, dubbed king of the Cragg Vale coiners, who supplemented their meagre wages by making counterfeit gold coins, had been publicly hanged at York.

His body had been brought back for burial in the graveyard of the 13th century St Thomas a Beckett Church.

In the Calder Valley he was regarded by many as a folk hero.

Flowers were thrown on his coffin, as it was pulled up the Buttress packhorse track from Hebden Bridge.

In 1776 Wesley was back in Colne and his message was heard in silence.

Thirty years earlier, another Methodist preacher John Jane had been riding through the town, when a mob pulled him off his horse and put him in the stocks outside Colne Parish Church.