After John and Charles Wesley experienced a renewal of Christian faith they travelled around Britain preaching. They were met by a great deal of resistance from the established Church and were refused permission to preach in parish churches. As a result, the brothers instead preached in people's homes, in barns and in the open air.
Methodism in Cornwall
In 1743 Charles visited Cornwall, where the local Anglican clergy encouraged people to fight against him and he was attacked at St Ives, Pool and Towednack. Later that year John made his first trip to Cornwall, the first of over 30 visits during his lifetime. In spite of continued resistance the brothers travelled to towns and villages, particularly mining and fishing communities with reputations for drunkenness, rough behaviour and poverty. Many people were deeply moved by their message and gave up their ways, undergoing conversion, joining classes and choosing a life of discipline and devotion.
Preaching at the Pit
John Wesley was taken to Gwennap Pit in 1762. He described it as “a round green hollow” and as “an amphitheatre”. The ‘hollow’ was probably created by mining activities. John preached there 18 times between 1762 and 1789. Gwennap Pit is said to have remarkable acoustic properties and it’s believed that thousands flocked to hear John Wesley speak there. After his death, local people excavated the pit in memory of Wesley and in 1806 turned it into a regular oval 37m across and 8m deep, adding 13 rows of turf seats.
Since 1807, Gwennap Pit has been used for the annual Whit Monday/Spring Bank Holiday Methodist rally. As well as worship, on Sunday afternoons in summer the spot is used for musical events, theatre, weddings and sponsored walks. Alongside it are a Visitor Centre and Busveal Chapel, built in 1836. Gwennap Pit is now owned by the Methodist Church and managed by a Committee chosen by the Cornwall Methodist District Synod.
John WesleyThe wind was so high that I could not stand at the usual place at [the village of] Gwennap; but a small distance was a hollow capable of containing many thousands of people. I stood on one side of this amphitheatre towards the top and with people beneath on all sides, I enlarged on those words in the gospel for the day Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see...hear the things that ye hear.
Did you know?
St Newlyn East Preaching Pit was built as a memorial to the 36 men who died in the East Wheal Rose Lead Mine disaster.
Indian Queens Preaching Pit was an opencast mine converted to be a replica of Gwennap Pit. It was opened in 1850 and called the Indian Queens United Wesleyan Sunday School Amphitheatre.