Because of the ministry of the Rev. Samuel Walker at St Mary's, John Wesley delayed establishing a society until 1760. Its first preaching house was off Boscawen Street. The Kenwyn Street chapel with its imposing Grecian-style façade opened in 1795 (now a Salvation Army Citadel), was succeeded in 1830 by the present Methodist Church, St. Marys. The church has been enlarged and improved on many occasions, the most recent, in 2000, being an excellent example of what can be done with a Grade II* Listed building.
BC work had its roots in a society begun in 1813 by John Boyle, an ex-WM itinerant who had established an independent circuit extending through much of central and west Cornwall. The Boylites joined with William O'Bryan in 1815. A preaching room on Rosewin Hill was opened in 1817 and the chapel on St. Clement Street in 1835 (now in commercial use). The BC Conference met there in 1842 and 1879. In 1974 the society merged with the nearby St. Mary's to form the strangely named St. Mary Clement Methodist Church. The former BC chapel at Hick's Mill, where four BC Conferences were held (1831, 1851, 1861, 1871), is still active within the Truro Circuit, about three miles south-west of the city.
The MNC was invited to Truro in 1834 after a dispute had split the WM society. A chapel was opened in Castle Street, but never flourished. After the formation of the UMC in 1907, no minister was appointed to the MNC circuit and the following year it amalgamated with the BC circuit.
The UMFC came to the town in 1850 in the form of the Wesleyan Reformers, when the WM society experienced a major loss of members. It was the only Cornish WR circuit represented at the first UMFC annual assembly in 1857. But after building a chapel in Ferris Town, they had to sell it to pay the debt. In the 1860s the society was joined by the local Teetotal Methodist society, again a break-away from St. Mary's. After meeting in the Baptist church, in 1876 the society moved into the Kenwyn Street chapel earlier vacated by the WM and out of religious use for some years. St. George's UMC chapel opened in 1881 and the Kenwyn Street premises passed to the Salvation Army in 1882. In 1999 the St. George's society decided to unite with what by then St. Mary Clement Methodist Church. The title 'Truro Methodist Church' was adopted for the single society in the city.The UMFC Circuit was a single-minister circuit with three chapels in 1899: St. George's, Malpas and Allett. Joe Cockin, a Yorkshireman, came to the circuit in 1876 after two years at Victoria Park College, and stayed 34 years. The UMC stationed him at Great Yarmouth in 1910, but he returned to Truro as a Supernumerary a year later and died there in 1914.
PM was always weak in Truro, establishing a presence only on the fourth attempt, in 1862 - from a remnant of a Mormon group occupying a room in Mill Place. Its circuit - often conjoined with Falmouth circuit - was in the PM Missions District, rather than the Bristol District to which the other Cornish circuits belonged. After periods in a warehouse at the back of East Bridge Street, the Public Rooms in Quay Street and the Walsingham Place mission hall vacated by the WM, the society built a chapel in Kenwyn Street. After years of struggle, it closed in 1941 and the building was taken over by the (formerly WM) City Mission society.
Among Methodist associations in the Cathedral (completed in 1903) is a window in which John Wesley is depicted preaching, with Charles Wesley and Samuel Walker at his feet; it is also a memorial to the Methodist reformer Samuel Dunn and to his father (and Wesley's friend) Capt. James Dunn a Methodist smuggler of Mevagissey. Other memorials are to John Couch Adams and Bishop Joseph Hunkin. Truro School was a WM establishment and opened in 1880. There are important Methodist collections in the Courtney Library at the Royal Cornwall Museum (the Shaw Collection) and in the Phillpotts Library at Diocesan House, Kenwyn.
John Wesley's Journal:
August 1755: 'As I was riding through Truro one stopped my horse and insisted on my alighting. Presently two or three more of Mr. Walker's society came in, and we seemed to have been acquainted with each other many years; but I was constrained to break from them.'
September 1762: 'I almost expected there would be some disturbance, as it was market-day, and I stood in the street at a small distance from the market. But all was quiet. Indeed, both persecution and popular tumult seem to be forgotten in Cornwall.'
September 1766: 'At noon I preached in Truro. I was in hopes, when Mr. Walker died, the enmity in those who were called his people would have died also. But it is not so; they still look upon us as rank heretics, and will have no fellowship with us.'
August 1773: 'I preached … in the Coinage Hall at Truro.'
August 1776: 'About noon I preached in the piazza adjoining to the Coinage Hall in Truro. I was enabled to speak exceeding plain on "Ye are saved through faith." I doubt the Antinomians gnashed on me with their teeth; but I must declare "the whole counsel of God". '
August 1781: 'I have not for many years seen a congregation so universally affected. One would have imagined every one that was present had a desire to save his soul.'
September 1787: '[From Gwernnap] I went to Mr. Milles, the rector of Kenwyn, half a mile from Truro, a house fit for a nobleman, and the most beautifully situated of any I have seen in the county. At noon I preached in the preaching-house at Truro. It was well filled with deeply attentive hearers.'
August 1789: '… I had appointed to preach at twelve o'clock; but here an unforeseen hindrance occurred. I could not get through the main street to our preaching-house. It was quite blocked up with soldiers to the east, and numberless tinners to the west, a huge multitude of whom, being nearly starved, were come to beg or demand an increase in their wages, without which they could not live. So we were obliged to retire to the other end of the town, where I preached under the Coinage Hall to twice as many people, rich and poor, as the preaching-house would have contained; and many of them would not have come thither at all. How wise are all the ways of God!'
August 1789: 'We set out early, and reached Truro soon after five. I preached at six, to a house full of serious people, on "Awake, thou that sleepest." The congregation seemed to be awake.'
Entry written by: CCS and TS
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