A one-off sponsored reading of Bishop Francis Asbury’s journals is being staged to mark the 200 anniversary of his death – and Sandwell people are invited to join in the fun event. The affectionate tribute – which will last several hours – will give a wonderful insight into Asbury’s character. The non-stop reading, inspired by Asbury’s extensive writing, will help raise awareness of his amazing rise from humble origins in Hamstead to becoming one of America’s founding fathers.

Asbury is a hugely important figure in American history, but his fame and his origins are little known in the UK.

Money raised through the sponsored reading will go to the Mayor of Sandwell’s chosen charity, Acorns Children’s Hospice.

Bishop Asbury Cottage – Asbury’s boyhood home and now a small museum – is being opened especially for the occasion between 11am and 4pm on Thursday 31 March, the actual anniversary of his death.

Mayor Councillor Barbara Price will lead the reading, and Sandwell Museums Service staff are inviting local people to take part too.

The cottage, in Newton Lane, will also be opened up to the public on Sunday 3 April, 2pm to 5pm, and on Sunday 5 June, 2pm to 5pm, and again for heritage open days in September.

Jane Hanney, museums services manager, said: “This is an affectionate tribute to one of the area’s most famous sons – it’s incredible how well known Bishop Asbury is in America, while in the country of his birth, few people have heard of him.

“He wrote extensively – so we thought it only fitting to hold this fun, non-stop reading from his journals to give everyone a chance to find out more about the character of the man who helped spread the Christian gospel in the fledgling American nation.

“We hope people will drop in during the day to find out more about Bishop Asbury’s life, and invite anyone who’s interested in doing a reading to get in touch.”

Asbury, who also supported independence and spoke against slavery, has his own statue on the Capitol Hill in Washington DC, as well as in other places around the US.