Prison chaplaincy

Visiting the debtors and other prisoners was one of the earliest activities of members of the 'Holy Club', initially suggested in 1730 by William Morgan. In due course prison visiting became a feature of early Methodism. Silas Told exercised a memorable ministry as a prison visitor, praying in their cells with condemned malefactors and accompanying them to their execution at Tyburn. Sarah Peters, an early member of the London society, died of gaol fever in 1748 as a result of her ministry to the prisoners in Newgate. This continued to be a feature of Methodism, though on a diminishing scale, during the lifetime of the Wesleys. During periods of war with France, e.g. in 1757 , there was active concern for prisoners-of-war. In 1810 the initiative for this was taken by William Toase, with the encouragement and support of Thomas Coke. Later in the 19th century there is little evidence of such work among prisoners until 1863, when the Prison Ministers' Act opened the way for ministers to be appointed as chaplains to local prisons by the Home Mission Committee.

See also Hoyles, J. Arthur; Kelly, Charles Henry

  • Freaser Smith, 'Prison Chaplaincy', in Epworth Review, 37:4 (December 2010), pp.50-54