Both John and Charles Wesley preached in the city and ministered to prisoners in the County Gaol in St Mary Street. John Wesley first preached, in the Castle precincts (as on later occasions) on 18 Oct 1739. On his visit in 1743 a 'room' had just been built. This was replaced later in the century by a chapel in Church Street (rebuilt on the same site, 1829). Cardiff became a separate circuit (from Swansea) in 1796. Wesley Chapel, Charles Street, opened in 1850, was rebuilt after a fire in 1895, became the Central Hall, but was damaged in World War II. As the city expanded, Methodism followed the population into the suburbs. Roath Road was opened in 1871; Roath Park replaced an iron chapel in 1898. The first Cathays church (1862) was replaced by larger premises and a new church in the 1880s, following the ministry of Dr J.S. Lidgett. WM Conferences met in Cardiff in 1893 and 1911 and the Methodist Conference met there in 1990.
A PM mission was launched in 1857 from the Pontypool Circuit and came under the care of the General Missionary Committee before becoming a circuit in 1879. Later there were two circuits, based on the Mount Tabor (Moira Terrace) and Canton churches built in the 1860s; both suffered damage from bombing in World War II. Llandaff North in Coplestone Road was built in 1897. PM's most eminent local layman, Alderman Joseph Ramsdale JP, came to Cardiff in 1870. UM had a number of chapels, most of which were damaged in World War II. All but Penarth Road (1893) had disappeared by 1970.
The United Methodist Free Churches opened their first church in Cardiff at Guilford Crescent in 1862; it is now the Cardiff Masonic Hall. The present Trinity Church at the junction of Four Elms Road and Newport Road, opened in 1897 and became the circuit church. The Bird family played a leading role in local UM history. Of the United Methodist chapels, most were damaged in World War II and by 1970 only Trinity and Penarth Road (1893) were still in use.
John Wesley's Journal:
October 1739: 'About five (the minister not being willing I should preach in the church on a weekday) I preached in the Shire Hall (a large, convenient place) on "Believe, and thou shalt be saved." Several were there who laboured much to make a disturbance. But our Lord suffered them not. At seven I explained to a much more numerous audience the blessedness of mourning and poverty of spirit. Deep attention sat on the faces of the hearers, many of whom, I trust, have "believed our report." '
'… At four I preached at the Shire Hall of Cardiff again, where many gentry, I found, were present. Such freedom of spirit I have seldom had as was given me in explaining those words, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." At six almost the whole town (I was informed) came together, to whom I explained the six last Beatitudes; but my heart was so enlarged I knew not how to give over, so that we continued three hours. Oh may the seed they have received have its fruit unto holiness, and in the end everlasting life!'
April 1740: 'In the evening I expounded at Cardiff, the story of the Pharisee and publican.'
March 1742: 'I preached at Cardiff at seven, on "Be not righteous overmuch," to a larger congregation than before; and then exhorted the society to fear only the being over-wicked, or the falling short of the full image of God.'
July 1742: 'I rode to Cardiff, and found much peace and love in the little society there.'
May 1743: 'I preached in the Castle Yard at Cardiff, at five in the morning and seven in the evening.'
September 1743: 'It being a fair, still evening, I preached in the Castle Yard at Cardiff; and the whole congregation, rich and poor, behaved as in the presence of God.'
April 1744: 'In the evening I preached in the Castle-yard. All were serious and attentive.'
July 1745: 'In the evening I preached again at Cardiff, in the Castle-yard, on "Great is the mystery of godliness." I never saw such a congregation in Wales before; and all behaved as men fearing God.'
August 1746: 'I preached … at five in the evening, in the Castle yard at Cardiff, to the far largest congregation which I have ever seen in Wales. All stood uncovered and attentive; and, I trust, few went emptry away.'
September 1747: 'I preached Cardiff between seven and eight , and immediately went to the room. My strength just lasted till I had done preaching. I was then quite ready to lie down and rest.
'Next day] 'I spent some time with T. Prosser, who had filled the society with vain janglings. I found the fault lay in his head, rather than in his heart. He is an honest, well-meaning man; but no more qualified either by nature or grace, to expound Scripture than to read lectures in logic or algebra.'
[Two days later] 'There was a very large congregation at Cardiff Castle-yard in the evening. I afterwards met the society, spoke plain to them, and left them once more in peace.'
April 1749: 'Oh what a fair prospect was here some years ago! Surely this whole town would have known God, from the least even to the greatest, had it not been for men leaning to their own understanding, instead of "the Law and the Testimony". '
August 1753: 'Finding I had all here to begin anew, I set out as at first, by preaching in the Castle Yard on "Lord, are trhere few that be saved?" I afterwards met what was once a society, and in the morning spoke severally to a few who were still desirous to join together, and build up, not devour, one another.
[Next day] 'I … spake to many at Cardiff who were resolved to set out once more in the Bible-way and strengthen each other's hands in God.'
August 1758: 'I reached Cardiff time enough to preach in the room, though not in the Castle.
[Next day] 'I gathered up, as well as I could, the fragments of the society. At six in the evening I preached in the Castle.'
[Returning later that month] 'I talked with several of the people and found the old spirit swiftly reviving. In the evening I preached in the town hall. Several eminent sinners were present; and God was present in an uncommon manner, as also at the meeting of the society.
[Next day] 'After a busy and comfortable day, I preached once more in the Castle. The word seemed to sink deep into the hearers, though many of them were of the genteeler sort. In the society we were much refreshed. Many followed me to Thomas Gl[ascot]'s house, where two or three were cut to the heart, particularly both his daughters, and cried to God with strong cries ands tears.'
August 1763: 'I rode to Cardiff, and found the society in as ruinous a condition as the Castle. The same poison of Mysticism has well-nigh extinguished the last spark of life here also. I preached in the town hall, on "Now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." There was a little shaking among the dry bones; possibly some of them may yet "come together and live." '
[Two days later] 'I preached in the Castle at Cardiff, and endeavoured to lift up the hands that hung down. A few seemed to awake and shake themselves from the dust; let these go on, and more will follow.'
September 1767: 'I preached … in the court-house at Cardiff; where, both this and the following evening, we had most of the gentry in the town; and, both the mornings, the hearers were more than for many years. Who knows but, even in this desolate town, God may build up the waste places?'
August 1769: 'In the evening I took my old stands on the steps of the Castle at Cardiff. Abundance of people were gathered together, it being a fair and mild evening, on whom I enforced "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." '
August 1771: 'I preached … the two next evenings in the court-house at Cardiff to a still largwer congregation. Afterwards we had a comfortable lovefeast, which brought to our mind former days, when we praised God with Ann Jenkins, Arthur Price, and Thomas Glascot, before Thomas Prosser sowed the deadly tares among them.'
August 1774: 'I … did not reach Cardiff till near eight o'clock. As the congregation was waiting in the town-hall, I went thither without delay; and many, I believe, did not regret the time they had waited there.'
May 1781: 'In the evening I preached in the town-hall at Cardiff, but the congregation was almost wholly new. The far greater part of the old society, Ann Jenkins, Thomas Glascot, Arthur Price, Jane Haswell, Nancy Newell, and a long train, are gone hence, and are no more seen. And how few are followers of them, as they were of Christ!'
August 1784: 'In the evening I preached in the town-hall at Cardiff, and showed the scriptural meaniung of that much-mistaken word, "A Christian." '
August 1788: 'In the evening I preached (probably for the last time) to a very genteel congregation in the town-hall.'