Social change and religious experience : aspects of rural society in south Lincolnshire with specific reference to Primitive Methodism, 1815-1875
During the nineteenth century there were considerable changes in the social life and economy of south Lincolnshire. Rapid population growth to the middle of the century and agricultural change led to the development of new ways of life among the people of the area. Their attitudes were shaped by the particular local community in which they lived and by how and where they earned their livings.The Primitive Methodists entered south Lincolnshire in 1817. Their preaching was appropriate to the needs of the people in this period. It gave a sense of coherence and significance to the lives of its converts, although in the early stages of their activities the Primitives also incurred the hostility of crowds who sought to maintain traditional patterns of behaviour. By the 1830s this type of communal action seems to have disappeared in south Lincolnshire, leaving only clandestine acts as a vehicle for rural protest. The Primitives, who were establishing their place in the new social order, appear to have had no links with these protesters but concentrated their energies on building up the structures of the connexion.By the time of the 1851 Census of Religious Worship Primitive Methodist chapels tended to be concentrated in open villages where the connexion was free to develop into an established part of the lives of these communities. As they became increasingly concerned with maintaining and servicing the connexion's institutions the Primitive Methodists avoided any action which would threaten their position, while their local communities were brought into contact with the wider world of nonconformity through the connexion's organisation and links with the towns of the area. This development paralleled that of other bodies and by 1875 Primitive Methodism was one of a number of village organisations from which the rural worker could draw social and spiritual sustenance.