Kingswood School (1770)

It was the day before, that I first observed a very uncommon concern in the children at Kingswood School, while I was explaining, and enforcing upon them, the first principles of religion. Tues. 18. — Most of them went to see the body of Francis Evans, one of our neighbours, who died two or three days before. About seven Mr Hindmarsh met them all in the school and gave an exhortation suited to the occasion. He then gave out that hymn, — And am I born to die, To lay this body down? And must my trembling spirit fly Into a world unknown?

This increased their concern; so that it was with great difficulty they contained themselves until he began to pray. Then Al——r M——r, and R——d N——e, cried aloud for mercy; and quickly another and another, till all but two or three were constrained to do the same; and as long as he continued to pray, they continued the same loud and bitter cry. One of the maids, Elizabeth Nutt, was as deeply convinced as any of them. After prayer, Mr H. said, “Those of you who are resolved to serve God may go and pray together.” Fifteen of them did so, and continued wrestling with God, with strong cries and tears, until about nine o’clock. Wed. 19. — At the morning prayer many of them cried out again, though not so violently. From this time their whole spirit and behaviour were changed: They were all serious and loving to each other. The same seriousness and mildness continued on Thursday and they walked together, talking only of the things of God. On Friday evening their concern greatly increased and caused them to break out again into strong cries. Saturday, 22nd. They seemed to lose none of their concern and spent all their spare time in prayer. Sun. 23. — Fifteen of them gave me their names; being resolved, they said, to serve God. In the afternoon I gave them a strong exhortation, and afterwards Mr Rankin. Their very countenances were entirely changed.

They drank in every word. Tues. 25. — During the time of prayer in the evening, they were affected just as the Tuesday before. The two other maids were then present and were both cut to the heart. Wed. 26. — “I rode,” says Mr Rankin, “in the afternoon to Kingswood, and went upstairs, in order to retire a little. But when I came up, I heard one of the boys at prayer, in an adjoining room. I listened a while and was exceedingly struck with many of his expressions. When he ceased I went in and found two others with him. Just then three more came in. I went to prayer. The Lord seemed to rest upon them all and pierced their hearts with deep conviction. The next morning I spent some time with all the children and then desired those who were resolved to save their souls, to come upstairs with me. I went up, and nine of the children followed me, who said they were determined to ‘flee from the wrath to come.’ I exhorted them never to rest until they found peace with God, and then sung and prayed. The power of God came down in so wonderful a manner, that my voice was drowned by their cries. When I concluded, one of them broke out into prayer, in a manner that quite astonished me; and, during the whole day, a peculiar spirit of seriousness rested on all the children. “After spending some time in the school on Friday, I desired those I had spoke to the day before, to follow me; which they did, and one more. I pressed each of them severally, not to rest till he had a clear sense of the pardoning love of God. I then prayed, and the Lord poured out his Spirit as the day before; so that, in a few minutes, my voice could not be heard amidst their cries and groans.” “On Friday, 28,” says Mr Hindmarsh, “when I came out into the ground, ten of the children quickly gathered round about me, earnestly asking, what they must do to be saved: Nor could I disengage myself from them, till the bell rang for dinner. All this time we observed, the children who were most affected learned faster and better than any of the rest. “In the evening, I explained to all the children the nature of the Lord’s Supper. I then met twelve of them apart and spoke to each particularly. When I asked one of them, Simon Lloyd, ‘What do you want to make you happy?’ after a little pause, he answered, ‘God.’ We went to prayer. Presently a cry arose from one and another, till it ran through all, vehemently calling upon God, and refusing to be comforted without the knowledge and the love of God. “About half-hour after eight, I bade them good night and sent them up to bed. But Lloyd, Brown, and Robert Hindmarsh slipped aside, when the rest went up, being resolved they would not sleep, nor rest, till God revealed himself to them. When they began to pray, some of the others heard them, and one and another stole down, some half dressed, some almost naked. They continued praying by turns near three-quarters of an hour, in which time, first one, then a second, and before they concluded, two more found peace with God. I then went to them, and asked Bobby Hindmarsh, ‘Why did you slip aside?’ He said, ‘Simon Lloyd, and Jacky Brown, and I had agreed together, that we would not sleep till the Lord set us at liberty.’ After I had prayed with them and praised God until about half-hour past nine, I desired them to go to bed. They did so; all but those three, who slipped away, and stayed with Richard Piercy, who was in deep agony of soul, and would by no means be persuaded to rise from his knees. The children above, hearing them pray, in a few minutes ran down again. They continued wrestling, with still increasing cries and tears, till three more found peace with God. About a quarter past ten, I went to them again, and observing some of them quite hoarse, insisted upon their going to bed, which all of them then did. But quickly one, and then another, stole out of bed, till, in a quarter of an hour, they were all at prayer again. And the concern among them was deeper than ever, as well as more general; there being but four of our five-and-twenty children, that did not appear to be cut to the heart. However, fearing they might hurt themselves, I sent one of our maids to persuade them to go up. But Jacky Brown catching hold of her, said, ‘O Betty, seek the salvation of your soul! Seek it in earnest! It is not too late: And it is not too soon.’

Immediately she fell upon her knees, and burst out into tears and strong cries. The two other maids hearing this ran in and were presently seized as violently as her. Jacky Brown then began praying for Betty and continued in prayer near three-quarters of an hour. By that time there was a general cry from all the maids, as well as the boys. This continued till past eleven. My wife, and I, and Mr Keard, then went in, and fearing some of them might be hurt, with difficulty prevailed upon them to go to bed, and went up with them. “The maids continued below in much distress. We talked with them a little and left them praying. But it was not above a quarter of an hour before Betty broke out into thanksgiving. Going in, I asked her, ‘Now is the love of God free?’ She answered, ‘Free as air: Blessed be God, that ever I came under this roof!’ The other two remained on their knees, praying as in an agony. I desired them to go into their own room, and they did: Yet would not go to bed, but continued in prayer. “Saturday, 29, I was waked between four and five by the children vehemently crying to God. The maids went to them at five: And first, one of the boys, then another, then one and another of the maids, earnestly poured out their souls before God, both for themselves and for the rest. They continued weeping and praying till nine o’clock, not thinking about meat or drink: Nay, Richard Piercy took no food all the day, but remained, in words or groans, calling upon God. “About nine, Diana went into her own room, and prayed, partly alone, partly with Betty. About ten, (as Betty was praying,) her strength was quite spent, and she sunk down as dead. She lay so for some minutes, while the other prayed on; but then suddenly started up, praising God with all her might, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable. “Mary hearing her voice broke off her work and ran into her in haste. They all remained praying by turns till twelve when she lay like one at the point to die. But there was not yet any answer to prayer, nor any deliverance. “About one, all the maids, and three of the boys went upstairs and began praying again. And now they found the Lord’s hand was not shortened. Between two and three, Mary likewise rejoiced with joy unspeakable. They all continued together till after four, praising the God of their salvation. Indeed they seemed to have forgotten all things here below, and to think of nothing but God and heaven. “In the evening, all the maids, and many of the boys, not having been used to so long and violent speaking, were worn out, as to bodily strength, and so hoarse that they were scarce able to speak:

But they were strong in the spirit, full of love, and of joy and peace in believing. Sunday, 30. Eight of the children, and the three maids received the Lord’s Supper for the first time. And hitherto, they are all rejoicing in God, and walking worthy of the Gospel.”

John Wesley's Journal 15th September 1770.

Additional Information

The School was founded in 1748 and moved to Bath in 1851. I believe it was near the spot marked, but I have not been able to find clear evidence.

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