Wesley visited Mevagissey in 1753 and preached at a house a mile from the town, most probably Trewinney, the home of James and Mary Lelean. According to tradition they had protected him from the mob and as a mark of his appreciation Wesley gave his silver shoe-buckles to Mary Lelean. The buckles later came into the possession of Dr W.E. Orchard, a Congregational minister who became a Roman Catholic priest and who wore them when he said Mass. Today they are in the Museum of Methodism at City Road Chapel, London.
Nicholas Lelean of Trewinney, the master of the Seven Sisters schooner, was for nine years a prisoner of the French revolutionaries. He and his wife, Catherine, were members of the Methodist society in the town. Wesley was a friend of the Dunn family and probably also stayed at their house, now the Haven Restaurant in Fore Street. Captain James Dunn, known as ‘the old Reprobate’ and his son of the same name, also a sea captain, were influential men and smugglers, though James junior gave up the occupation when he became a Methodist in 1805. In the next generation the captain’s son, Samuel Dunn (1798-1882), became one of the leaders of the Methodist Reformers throughout the country in the 1850s.
The first Wesleyan Chapel in the town (1757) is now the Wheel House Restaurant although its top storey has been removed. The 1842 Wesleyan chapel in Fore Street closed in 1966, when the society joined the 1896 ex Bible Christian Chapel in River Street. This in turn closed in 1992 when a LEP was developed with the URC chapel in Chapel Street about 40 yards away. The Wesleyan chapel was demolished and the site is now flats, as is also the ex-Bible Christian chapel .
After theunion of 1907 the United Methodist Church had two chapels in the town in two different Circuits, for the Bible Christians had a Mevagissey Circuit, while the United Methodist Free Churches chapel on Tregony Hill was in the St. Austell UMFC Circuit. Tregony Hill closed in 1939.
John Wesley's Journal:
8 August 1753: 'We were invited to Mevagissey, a small town on the south sea. As soon as we entered the town many ran together, crying, "See, the Methodees are come." But they only gaped and stared; so that we returned unmolested to the house I was to preach at, a mile from the town. Many serious people were waiting for us, but most of them deeply ignorant. While I showed them the first principles of Christianity many of the rabble from the town came up. They looked as fierce as lions, but in a few minutes changed their counenance and stood still. Toward the close some began to laugh and talk, who grew more boisterous after I had concluded. But I walked straight through the midst of them, and took horse without any interruption.'
September 1757: 'When I was here last we had no place in the town; I could only preach about half a mile from it. But things are altered now: I preached just over the town to almost all the inhabitants, and all were still as night. The next evening a drunken man made some noise behind me, but after a few words were spoken to him he quietly listened to the rest of the discourse.'
[Two days later] 'At half hour after twelve I preached once more and took my leave of them. All the time I stayed the wind blew from the sea, so that no boat could stir out. By this means all the fishermen (who are the chief part of the town) had opportunity of hearing.'
September 1769: 'I preached … in the evening at Mevagissey. It was a season of solemn joy; I have not often found the like. Surely God's thoughts are not as our thoughts! Can any good be done at Mevagissey?'
September 1773: 'About noon I preached at Mevagissey, in a vacant space near the middle of the town, and strongly applied those words, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" '
August 1776: 'In the evening I preached in an open space at Mevagissey to most of the inhabitants of the town; where I saw a very rare thing - men swiftly increasing in substance, and yet not decreasing in holiness.'