Teetotal Wesleyan Methodists

The movement existed chiefly in West Cornwall. In September 1837 a young woman from Shropshire brought the teetotal message to St. Ives and 'administered' a teetotal pledge to seven people. Five months later James Teare, a teetotal advocate based in Preston, visited the town and helped to form what became a large and active teetotal society. The WM authorities did not support the fast growing movement in Cornwall and in 1841 the WM Conference passed three resolutions designed to limit the impact and effectiveness of WM total abstainers. After several confrontations between William Docton, secretary of the St. Ives teetotal society, and the newly appointed WM Superintendent, Jonathan Turner, a secession occurred on 26 September 1841. Its leaders claimed that 400 Wesleyans seceded immediately, with more quickly following; but the St. Ives WM leadership insisted that initially only 200 left.

Chapels were built in St Ives and elsewhere, and by 1845 the movement had spread beyond Cornwall, particularly into South Wales.The last known class ticket is dated 1852. The desire for a regular ministry led to the break-up of the denomination in 1860, some chapels (Mousehole and New Mill, near Penzance) joining the UMFC and others the MNC, which set up a separate St. Ives Circuit.

  • John Sherer, A Vindication of the Case of the Tee-Total Wesleyan Methodists of St. Ives, Cornwall (1842)
  • Michael S. Edwards in WHS Proceedings, 33 pp.63-70
  • Oliver A. Beckerlegge, The United Methodist Free Churches (1957) pp. 56-57
  • John K. Lander, 'The Early Days of Teetotalism in Cornwall', in Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 2002
  • John K. Lander, 'Plans of Unusual Interest, no.57: Teetotal Wesleyan Methodists, St. Ives Circuit, 1857', in Cirplan, 13:5 (Michaelmas, 2005) pp.122-31
  • Norman Longmate, The Water Drinkers: a history of Temperance (1968)