On his first visit in 1747 and again in 1748 and 1750 John Wesley preached on St. Stephens Down, now the golf course. In 1751 the house (18 Church Street?) in which he was staying was besieged by a mob. On later visits he preached in the town hall in the Square. The Methodist Church of 1870, in Castle Street, is the third on the site, but shorn of its spire in 1984. Dunheved College at the top of Windmill Hill was founded in 1873 by a group of local Wesleyans, was sold to the County Council in 1931 and is now a comprehensive school, Launceston College.
Tower Street Bible Christian chapel was opened in 1851 and used as a Sunday School from 1897, having been replaced on the adjoining site.. The first two Bible Christian Conferences (in 1819 and 1820) were held at nearby Badash House. This was the home of William O’Bryan in 1819-20 and is now a Grade II listed building largely because of its Methodist associations.
St. Thomas Road chapel, opened by the WMA in 1840, became United Methodist Free Church and then United Methodist. It closed in 1946, became a factory and then was demolished in 1998.
John Wesley's Journal:
Augist 1751: 'We rode to Launceston. The mob gathered immediately, and attended us to the room. They made much noise while I was preaching, and threw all kinds of things at the people as they came out, but no one was hurt. [Next day, Sunday, September 1st] : 'At the desire of many I went at eight into the main street. A large congregation of serious people quickly gathered together. Soon after a mob of boys and gentlemen gathered on the other side of the street; they grew more and more noisy, till, finding I could not be heard there I went to the room and quietly finished my discourse. 'I preached again as soon as we came out of church…'
July 1753: 'I rode to Launceston, and had the first general meeting of the stewards for the eastern part of Cornwall. In the evening I preached in perfect peace - a great blessing, if it be not bought too dear: if the world does not begin to love us because we love the world.'
Sepremb er 1754: 'Soon after six I preached at Launceston and met the society. [Next day] 'At noon I preached at the town hall to a very wild yet civil congregation. At two the stewards, not only from the upper part of Cornwall, but several from the western societies, met. At six I preached in the town hall again, and for the sake of this hour only (had no other end been answered) I should have thought all the labour of my journey well bestowed.'
September 1755: 'Just as we came in at Launceston the heavy rain began. Between five and six I preached in a gentleman's dining-room, capable of containing some hundreds of people. At five in the morning I preached in the town hall, and soon after took my leave of Cornwall.'
September 1760: 'I reached Launceston, and found the small remnant of a dead, scattered society; and no wonder, as they have had scarce any discipline, and only one sermon in a fortnight.'
September 1762: 'I rode to Launceston, to a people as dead as those at Camelford were once. Yet how soon may these also be quickened, by the voice that raiseth the dead!'
August 1768: 'I rode to Launceston, where both the seriousness and largeness of the congregation, evening and morning, gave us reason to hope that all our labour here will not be in vain.'
August 1769: 'I rode … to Launceston, where I strongly applied "Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" And I believe He answered for Himself in the hearts of several backsliders.'
August 1774: 'I preached to a far more elegant congregation at Launceston; but what is that, unless they are alive to God?'
August 1776: 'Here I found the plain reason why the work of God had gained no ground in this circuit all the year. The preachers had given up the Methodists' testimony. Either they did not speak of perfection at all (the peculiar doctrine committed to our trust), or they spoke of it only in general terms, without urging the believers to "go on unto perfection", and to expect it every moment. And wherever this is not earnestly done, the work of God does not prosper.'
August 1778: 'I preached … about six in the evening at Launceston, a town as little troubled with religion as most in Cornwall.'