Early Methodism in St.Stephen in Brannel, Cornwall 1843

Richard Yelland's Account

“The Report that I am about to read is principally an account of the rise of Methodism in this Parish viz. St. Stephens as far as can be recollected by Richard Yelland who is now near 78 years of age.” John Yelland (son) — April 14th 1843 (Good Friday).

The Wesleyan Methodist Society was first established in London in the year 1739. (The year in which my father was born).

In 1757 on Sunday 25th of September at 2 o’clock in the afternoon Mr. Wesley Preached (to use his own words) “near a lone house, on the side of a barren mountain, but neither the House nor the court could contain the people; so we went into a meadow where all might kneel and stand to hear. And they did hear and pray and sing as for life!

On Monday August 21st 1780 He preached to a large and quiet congregation in the main street at St. Austell standing on the steps of Mr. Weelers shop door where my Father heard him.

1763 my Father married with Catherine Nankivel then in his 24th year. At this time the County was divided into two Circuits viz East and West. I was born in 1765. When about 5 years of age I remember the Preachers used to come at our House at Haye, the Traveling Preachers and their Horses were always entertained at my Father’s House over night which I think was once a month.

At this time there was no Chapel in this Parish, and the little Society Rented an old Dwelling house under Bodinnick Wood, where Joshua May now resides, the House has since been new built. I think the Class leader was then Uncle William Rickard. I remember my Parents used to take me with them from Hay to Coombe Preaching. At this time there was no Chapel in this Parish nor in the 8 parishes around – viz. Probus – Laddock – St.Enoder – St. Dennis – Roche – St.Mewan – St.Ewe and Creed.

The Quarterly meetings used to be held sometimes at St. Austell and sometimes at Medras in Luxulyan, about this place Mr.Wesley says in his Journal “I have not seen so stately a room in Cornwall” – that was in 1757 – the day after he Preached here. I remember being there once with my Parents.

In the year 1781 the Preachers stationed in Cornwall East was William Saunders, who gave my note of admittance, and Simon Day.

In 1782 Mr. William Green – Mr.T.Shaw, Mr.George Wadsworth, and Mr. A. Sutter.

In the year 1783 the Preachers were Mr. F. Wrigley, Mr. J. Thom, Mr. J. Alger and Mr. J. Cowmeadow. In this year a Revival took place and several members were added to the Society and consequently the congregation very considerably increased so much so that the old House under the wood was too small to contain the congregation, when it was agreed upon to build a new one. After some consultation it was resolved to build a new Chapel on my Fathers Promises, the same house we now keep for the Sunday School. This House was first opened for divine worship in the year 1783 by Mr.Thom. His Text was 2nd Chapter of Haggai 9 verse “The Glory of latter House shall be greater than of the former”.

About this time Father, Mr. Francis Truscott, Benjamin Parkyn and Elisha Burt joined the Society. I joined the year before at Camborne where I then lived. In 1784 the Preachers stationed here were Mr. Francis Wrigley, Mr. William Church and Adam Clark. The number of members in Society in the Circuit were 650.

In 1785 the Cornwall East Circuit was divided and St. Austell became the head of the new Circuit and the number of members was 757 and the Preachers appointed for the new Circuit were Mr. William Mayles, Richard Cornish and Benjamin Pearse, and in 1786 the Preachers were Mr.John Moon, Mr.John Cricket and John Townsend. The number of members in this year were 816.

In 1787 the Preachers were Mr.John Moon, Mr. James Evans and John Sandoe, the number of members were 820.

In 1788 the Preachers were Mr. John Moon, Mr. Theophiless Lessey and Mr. William Fish, the number of members 818. In this year several members of Coombe Society living the other side of the Parish and having to travel above 4 miles to the Chapel to hear the word Preached and to their Class Meetings it was thought advisable to build a Chapel more in the centre of the Parish, after some time it was agreed on to sell, and take off all that was thought convenient to assist in building the new Chapel at Church Town, the same Chapel the Wesleyan Methodists now occupy. This Chapel was opened in 1788 by Mr.Mason the Superintendent of the Circuit, which was 5 years after the Chapel was built at Coombe and about 19 years after Methodism was first established in Coombe.

In 1807 the Society considerably increased and it was thought advisable to have regular Preaching established again in Coombe. Accordingly the old Chapel was purchased again and fitted up for Preaching in again where it remained as a Preaching House for the Wesleyans until the year 1833 when Messrs. Dunn and Hales were stationed in this Circuit when the Lord very graciously revived his work here, many to the present day are standing in ye liberty of God’s Children, useful members of a Christian Society and happy in a Saviours love, and some left the Church Militant and found the rest we toil to find landed in the arms of God.

At this time the Society and Congregation so increased that it became necessary to have a larger House to worship in. Accordingly by the exertions of the Society and the friends and neighbours in general this noble Building was raised to its present state. It was begun May 2nd 1833. The total expense was £255 towards which the Trustees obtained in labour, donations and subscriptions the sum of £75 leaving a debt on the Trustees of £180 towards which the sum of £10 has since been paid which the stewards have been able to save from the seat rents and collections after paying the interest, candle light and other incidental expenses leaving now a debt of £170.

It was opened for divine service on Wednesday the 11th of September 1833 by the Revds Messrs. Baker and Ethridge of Truro and Hales from St.Austell. I can on looking back on former years recollect the time when there was only one member in Society here but now we are 71 members. In addition to this thriving Society we have a Sunday School established for more than 16 years numbering 146 children and upwards, Well may we exclaim, Behold what hath God wrought and still say the best of all is God is with us – to who be all the praise and glory.


Comments about this page

  • Really interesting to read this. I have not got far trying to research my great-grandfather from Zelah (St Allen parish) who was a preacher on the Methodist Circuit (Zelah Methodist Chapel), my family name is Channon. I presume, as his sons died in WW1, that I am looking at this period. I was born in Zelah in 1953 and attended Chapel every week and also Sunday School. Where is the best source to try to find him? -he could have been a travelling preacher but he ended his days in Zelah and I would like to know more about him and the Zelah mine flood where another of his sons died.

    By janys tardy (04/08/2014)
  • I have a copy of ‘Herbert Strang’s Annual – 18th year’ which was presented to John Yelland in 1926 by Chilsworthy Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School. I’d like to trace John’s family in case someone would like to have the book.

    By Norma Sedler (18/12/2013)

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