Joseph Rayner Stephens (1805-1879)

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Joseph Rayner Stephens (1805–1879) was a Methodist minister who offended the Wesleyan Conference by his support for separating the Church of England from the State.Born in Edinburgh in 1805, he moved to Manchester when his minister father was posted there in 1819. During his religious career, he worked in a variety of places (including Stockholm and Newcastle-under-Lyme) before arriving in Ashton-under-Lyne in 1832. His brother was the philologist George StephensFollowing his expulsion from Wesleyanism, he set up his own "Stephenite" churches in Ashton-under-Lyne and Stalybridge, and became active in the movement for factory reform. A radical supporter of Chartism, though denying he was ever a Chartist, he was a key figure in the movement, and was imprisoned for several months for attending an illegal meeting. A champion of the working classes of Ashton-under-Lyne and the surrounding areas, Rayner Stephens is buried in St. John's Church in Dukinfield with a blue plaque marking his impact upon the local area placed on the remains of Stalybridge Town Hall, and an obelisk monument to his memory in Stamford Park.

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