- Alexander Kilham (1762-98) was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire. He entered the Methodist itinerancy in 1785 and served circuits in England and Scotland. After Wesley's death, he wrote a series of pamphlets advocating that the laity should have a greater say in Methodist Church government. As a result he was expelled by the Wesleyan Conference in 1796. With fellow preacher William Thom, he founded the Methodist New Connexion in 1797, the first major non-Wesleyan Methodist Church. Approximately five thousand left the Wesleyans for the new body. Kilham died at an early age in Nottingham. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974).
- Henry Taylor (d.1796) entered the Methodist itinerancy in 1788. He served in the Newcastle circuit from 1793 to 1794 and in Sheffield from 1795 to 1796. He was accused of immorality in 1796 as a result of events dating from his earlier service in Shields [Newcastle]. Taylor was suspended and died shortly after Source: DDPr 2/32, Joseph Hall, Circuits and Ministers 1765- 1885 (1897) and John Pawson, A Chronological Catalogue of all the Travelling Preachers... (1795).
- John Reynolds (1759-1851) was born in Coventry, Warwickshire. His family were Methodists from the early days of the Connexion and provided hospitality to Wesley and his preachers. He was converted in 1781 and three years later moved to London where he came under the particular influence of the minister Henry Moore. Reynolds entered the itinerancy in 1785 and exercised an active circuit ministry until superannuation in 1829. He died at South Lopham in the Diss circuit. Source: Hill's Arrangement (1847) and Methodist Magazine 1852, pp.908-909.
- Thomas Johnson (d.1797) entered the itinerancy in 1752. He served circuits mainly in the north of England until superannuation in 1784. He died at Birstall in Yorkshire. Source: Kenneth Garlick, An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Preachers and Missionaries, and the stations to which they were appointed 1739-1818.
- Richard Condy (d.1800) entered the itinerancy in 1776 at Epworth in Lincolnshire. He ceased to travel in 1780 but re- entered in 1785 in Ireland where he served for seven years. He was superannuated in 1799 and died in London a year later Source:Kenneth Garlick, An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Preachers and Missionaries, and the stations to which they were appointed 1739-1818.
- George Button (1754-1822) was born at Rotherham in Yorkshire. He was converted as a young man and acted as a Methodist local preacher until 1779 when he entered the full itinerancy. He exercised an active circuit ministry until his death which occurred at Shaftsbury in Dorset. Source: Methodist Magazine 1822, p.614.
- Henry Longden (1754-1812) was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire. As a young man he was apprenticed to a razor maker and earned local fame as the champion prize fighter of the district. He was a wild youth and ran away from home at the age of twenty to enlist in the army. His father brought him back and he completed his apprenticeship after which he entered his father's business, which he soon placed on a prosperous footing. He married and was converted in 1776, after which he became a regular worshipper at Mulberry Street Chapel. He was made a class leader and within a few years began to preach. Longden was a generous giver to good causes and after retiring from business devoted his life to evangelism and philanthropy. Source: Revd. T. Alexander Seed, Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel, Sheffield (1907), pp.107-111.
- William Edward Miller (1766-1839) was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, the son of Dr Miller, for fifty-six years the organist at the parish church and a prominent local historian. Miller possessed considerable musical gifts and was trained as a professional musician. At the age of sixteen he went to London where he enjoyed an extravagent lifestyle. At the age of eighteen he ran away to India where he spent six years as a professor of music. He made a large fortune but by the time he returned to England, he was virtually penniless. After his return from overseas, he settled first in London and then Sheffield. In 1794 he joined the Methodist Society at Carver Street Chapel and wrote several hymns for the great revival of 1795-97. He began to preach and in 1799 entered the Wesleyan ministry, abandoning musiCharles Wesleyhich he regarded as a worldly snare. Miller exercised an active circuit ministry until 1825 when he settled as a supernumary in Sheffield Source: Revd. T. Alexander Seed, Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel, Sheffield (1907), pp.68-72 and Methodist Magazine 1840, p.252.
- James Wood (1751-1840) entered the itinerancy in 1773. He exercised an active circuit ministry for fifty years and was twice President of the Wesleyan Conference (1800 and 1808). He settled as a supernumary in Bristol and at the time of his death at Kingswood was the oldest Methodist preacher in the world. Source: Methodist Magazine 1840, pp.622-623.
- William Bramwell (1759-1818) was born at Elswick in Lancashire. He entered the itinerancy in 1786 and exercised an active circuit ministry until his sudden death which occurred in Manchester. Bramwell was an evangelist of remarkable powers, who was particularly noted for his success in inspiring revivals. During his first appointment to Sheffield between 1795 and 1797, the circuit reported a net increase of 1,500 despite the loss of nearly 1,000 members to the New Connexion. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Revd. T. Alexander Seed, Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel, Sheffield (1907), pp.62-68.
From Alexander Kilham in Nottingham to the 'Preachers assembled in Conference' c/o the President of Conference at the Methodist Chapel, Broadmead, Bristol. He is very sorry that necessity again compels him to write to the preachers and he requests that this letter be read and considered by all present.
[Joseph] Benson lately passed through Nottingham and told the people here that Henry Taylor died of a broken heart and that Kilham had in effect been his murderer. [John] Reynolds has also been making the same comment and has striven to inflame several of the brethren against Kilham. There is no doubt in his mind that other preachers are pursuing the same plan in their circuits. If the people who attended the district meeting in Manchester last September when Mr Taylor's case was considered, had found reasons to suppose that his character had been 'traduced' by Kilham, why was not that information made public then? Was not their suspending Taylor from the ministry a tacit acknowledgement that the charges brought against him were valid? Kilham is sorry that since public charges in writing against his character are out of the question, their place has been taken by insinuations which are aimed at making Kilham detestable in the sight of the people. Had Kilham and his friends followed the same tactics, they would have been termed 'assassins'. He shall make the following remarks concerning the affair of [Henry] Taylor and leave it to the brethren to judge Kilham's involvement in the matter.
Taylor did not meet privately with Kilham and confide in him the temptations which he had been subject to from the woman at Shields. When Kilham heard of the charges which were brought against Taylor 'I followed our Lord's direction - I told him the particular & he confessed in part his guilt - professed to have been deeply distressed on account of his conduct and said he had obtained mercy at the hand of the Lord...' Taylor begged Kilham to 'interpose' and help to save Taylor and his family from ruin. Kilham thought him sincere in his regrets and put himself in danger through his efforts to help him. Disinterested charity was Kilham's only motive and he had hoped that Taylor was truly sincere until he could hope no longer.
Before the Leeds Conference last year, several of the preachers knew of the charges brought against Taylor by Mrs S-. Did not Messers [Thomas?] Johnson, [Richard] Condy, [George] Button and others know that this woman had brought charges of a particular nature against him? When [Thomas?] Johnson raised the matter before the assembled preachers, why did they refuse to [discuss?] the case? He [Taylor] for several months had argued in favour of reform [of the Conference - a movement led by Kilham] and claimed to be influenced by the best of motives. He stated that he would not give up until their case had been won. When Taylor was in Leeds for the Conference, he seemed to be wavering between two opinions. Kilham accused him in writing and in conversation of hypocrisy and deception in this matter of crucial importance. Kilham suspected that Taylor had deceived him with regard to his protestations of regret concerning the business at Shields. Taylor denied that he had been deceitful with regard to either matter and stated that he intended to act in accordance with what he had professed to the 'friends' in Sheffield and elsewhere. In George Smith's dining room he [Taylor] 'put the matter to this issue - He took me by the hand and declared, If he deceived us in the affairs he had supported previous to the conference, I might believe him to be a hypocrite in his profession of penitence, respecting the other business.' He swore before God that he was sincere in both matters. The next day or the day after he showed his true character when he renounced his previous views. Kilham took the first opportunity to speak to Taylor concerning his conduct and to state that since Taylor had broken his oath, Kilham would feel no hesitation in announcing to the world that Taylor was a villain. He also told Taylor that he was 'one of the vilest characters under heaven'. After leaving Taylor, Kilham consulted with three friends and they advised him to say as little about this matter as possible unless it was absolutely necessary.
Messrs [Henry] Longden and [William Edward] Miller sent Kilham an abusive letter claiming that he 'had emptied my budget'. In response he sent them an account of the Taylor episode and at the same time begged them not to force him to go publiCharles Wesleyith this matter, but rather to meet Kilham in order to sort things out. [Alexander] Mather was in Sheffield when they received his letter and instead of meeting with Kilham, it was talked about among their friends and two or three times brought up before the society. It was even referred to from the pulpit. Kilham was finally compelled in defence of his own character to defend himself publicly and to read the letters which Taylor had sent him. This so destroyed the slanders that the people in Sheffield were only too pleased to drop the matter. Kilham told Messrs [James] Wood and [William] Bramwell at the Manchester district meeting that he and his friends had no desire to disturb the people unnecessarily and that unless the preachers at the meeting attacked them, they would not make the matter public. If however, they came forward in defence of Taylor or themselves, a defence would be made by an appeal to the public. When Wood returned from the meeting, it was put about that Taylor had not appeared at the meeting and that he had been suspended. There was no public attack made upon Kilham, but he heard from various sources that many preachers were spreading false accounts of this affair in the circuits. This forced him to circulate copies of the Taylor correspondence to his friends, while still refusing to publish the details to the world.
The charge brought against Kilham is that of he had not maliciously exposed Taylor to the world, he would have continued remained with the Methodists.
In reply, he would like to make the following observations;
1. He was induced to involve himself on Taylor's behalf through the purest motives. There was ample reason to believe that he was guilty of misconduct, especially as he had at various times sent sums of money to this woman. Kilham hoped that his repentence was sincere and that he could save Taylor from the consequences of his actions.
2. When Taylor, who had pledged to remain true to remain firm 'by the people in seeking to have grievances redressed in the connexion, played the hypocrite, I soon learned the cause. When he found that the conference gently passed over the Shields affair, he was encouraged to unmask himself, and make his peace with them, to retain his place...'
3. Kilham was further convinced by the accounts which he received soon after the conference, of Taylor's conduct towards some other women. Mr Longden was acquainted with one particular instance and helped to conceal it in the hope that Taylor was truly repentant.
4. It was after Taylor returned to his station that Kilham learned of other preachers knowing the truth and that the matter was well-known to the Conference. He also heard that it was publicly known in Shields and talked of there generally.
5. Taylor's hypocrisy was further reinforced by his telling Kilham privately that he [Taylor] was one of the most miserable of sinners while at the same time claiming 'to enjoy sanctification; & high degrees of consolation in Christ...' He also declared in conversation and writing that all things relating to Methodism should be dealt with openly '& afterwards receiving from the conference a considerable sum of money, though the Sheffield friends had discharged all his bills, given him ten pounds extra, besides allowing him for the expenses of ?? etc in the time of his affliction, & were ready to satisfy him in every thing that would bear examination'
6. This matter was made public by Messrs Bramwell, Longden and Miller - not by Kilham!
He shall merely add that the steps he has taken in this matter bear strict examination. If his accusers 'will come forward as men & as Christians and produce your evidence that I have occasioned the death of this man, it will give me an opportunity of laying the particulars of his case before the public, and then they must judge...' If they have evidence they should declare it openly instead of relying on rumour and gossip to blacken Kilham's character. If Messrs [Joseph] Benson, [John] Pawson and [Alexander] Mather have failed in their attempts to thwart Kilham and his friends, it should not deter others from attacking him. If their cause is good they should fight in the light of day. They should prove that the man who they expelled two years ago [Kilham] for no other crime than stating that their system was corrupt, is also guilty of murder. If instead of producing evidence, they would rather go from place to place, spreading false information, then they can be sure their sins will find them out. The people will not always accept as automatic truth the information which they give them, but will rather decide for themselves.
He would seriously advise them to refrain from persecuting Kilham and his followers. They should rather allow the [New Connexion] to stand or fall without interfering for evil. If they are not careful the Lord may abandon the Wesleyans, and indeed have not several preachers been expelled for immorality since the last conference. The conduct of those individuals had been known to be bad for several years. Instead of attacking the [New Connexion], they should look after their own affairs. Henry Taylor's death should be a warning to all.
Kilham would also like to point out that the [New Connexion] have tried out [democratic] principles in the organisation of their Church and found them worthy of acceptance. 'Delegates are a blessing beyond what we could have imagined'. The Wesleyans would find that happiness and prosperity would increase by allowing delegates into their own district meetings and Conferences