A Brief History of Swanbank
The first Methodist Society in Burslem was founded around 1740 by potters after their return from the Bristol Docks, having been converted through the ministry of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He was later to pay 16 visits to the town, where he claimed ‘the first Methodist society in the land’ had been formed – in Burslem itself. The Primitive Methodist denomination began in the Potteries at Mow Cop when both Hugh Bourne and William Clowes left Burslem Wesleyan Methodism at the turn of the nineteenth century. In 1835 further division at the church saw the formation of the Burslem Sunday School at Hill Top. Hill Top became the head of a federation of Free Methodist Churches and then joined the United Methodist Free Churches with its own circuit.
The old church, first built on its present spot around 1801, was given a complete new stone frontage in 1875. In 1970 this building was demolished and replaced in 1971 by a complete new worship centre, with accompanying vestries. The old school buildings, which once housed the first public school in the city, and were made famous for being Arnold Bennett’s own day school (forming the backcloth of his novels) were thoroughly modernised during the eighties. At the time of writing they are extensively used together with the newer premises for church and community activities. In 1987 the Minister’s own study and the secretary’s office was located at the church – as the influence and work of the Mission was growing at a pace the latter part of the eighties saw part-time paid helpers being appointed to work alongside the Minister. The early nineties saw a second ‘Half-Way House’ for the homeless open to complement the already existing building which had been erected some ten years previously. Sadly there is no shelter now, instead the Mission contacts the Salvation Army, YMCA or Potteries Young Homeless and pays the bill.
The 1980’s and 1990’s saw many modernisation schemes; toilets built on the first floor, a new entrance, prayer chapel and main toilet block were built and opened in 2001.
There can be little doubt that the Burslem Mission (locally known as ‘Swanbank’) with its geographical location and many varied ministries forms a vital part of Burslem town centre life and continues to care for many in the name of Jesus.