Methodism in Cornwall.

When John Wesley first visited Cornwall between 1743 and 1787 his preaching was met with extreme hostility by members of the community in Cornwall. In particular by members of the communities which eventually became iconic symbols of the Cornish Methodist, the farmer and the miner.

Overtime more and more people heard the call from the Wesleyan or Methodist movement and by the early 19th century many of the religious communities in Cornwall were Methodist of one variety or another. Until the 1920’s this was a diverse movement with many different church structures. Bible Christians, Primitive Methodists, Wesleyans all had their own distinctive brand of preaching and theology often combining strong Evangelical tendencies and popular music.

Small communities such as Newlyn could claim host to at least 5 churches of chapels of varying kinds. There were however distinct disadvantages in being a Methodist in Cornwall. You could not for example be a member of a local authority, be an MP or attend a university without being a member of the Church of England meaning that communities such as Penzance were dominated by a small Anglican social elite, the sense of separation and alienation must have been extreme.

Methodism can also be seen as one factor in the reduction of available folk songs in Cornwall, folk music often being termed by the clergy as “devil song”.

By the 1920’s these differences had disappeared and for many the Chapel provided the centre of community life with the Cornish popularity for singing often taking place in these buildings.

The Methodist church in Cornwall while in decline still in places provides strong community support with projects like Newlyns “The Centre” providing much needed social and economic support for local people.

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