Pro-alcohol revelers soaked John Wesley figurines in ale

John Wesley in boneCopyright of the University of Manchester

It's hard to imagine anything more undignified for the famous evangelist and preacher of abstinence, but apparently it's true: effigies of John Wesley were displayed in pubs dunked in ale as a protest against his anti-alcohol campaign.

Figurines of the Methodist Church founder kept in the Rylands Collection in Manchester have aroused interest after being moved out of storage. They date from the 1780s to the early 20th century and were made in Staffordshire.

As well as ceramic figures, there are two made from the cervical vertebrae of a horse, and painted to depict Wesley preaching. According to the John Rylands Library, it might have been that Wesley was so popular that demand outstripped supply and his devotees had to use whatever they could – or they were satirical productions by anti-Wesleyans, designed for public-house ignominy.