St Ives (1799)

Charles and John Wesley preached more in St Ives than anywhere else. Charles was invited into Cornwall by a leader at St Ives. To begin with they had a lot of opposition, mainly because they arrived at a dangerous time for England with rumours of invasion by Bonnie Prince Charlie. On July 19th 1744 Charles wrote in his journal, 'We then set our faces against the world, and rode to St Ives. Here the mob and Ministers together have pulled down the preaching house; and but a fortnight ago went round in the dead of night, and broke the windows of all that were only suspected of Christianity.'

John wrote in his journal on September 16th 1743, 'In the evening as I was preaching at St Ives, Satan began to fight for his kingdom. The mob of the town burst into the room and created much disturbance, roaring and striking those that stood in their way as though Legion himself possessed them. I would fain have persuaded our people to stand still; but the zeal of some and the fear of others, had no ears: so that, finding the uproar increase, I went into the midst, and brought the head of the mob up with me to the desk. I received but one blow on the side of the head; after which we reasoned the case, till he grew milder and milder, and at length undertook to quiet his companions.'

From 1747 onwards everything calmed down as the threat from abroad had ended. John writes on September 10th 1760, 'When I came to St Ives, well-nigh the whole town, high and low, rich and poor, assembled together. Nor was there a word to be heard or a smile seen from one end of the congregation to the other. It was just the same the three following evenings.'

And on August 25th 1789, 'I went to St Ives, and preached, as usual, on one side of the market-place (see photo above). Wellnigh all the town attended, and with all possible seriousness. Surely forty years' labour has not been in vain here.'

Revival came to St Ives in 1799 and the circuit minister reported, 'In St Ives the work is deep and so rapid that the greatest opposers of truth are constrained to acknowledge that this is the hand of God. We had a blessed Quarterly meeting there on last Easter Tuesday. The evening service began at six o'clock and continued till about three the next morning. We assembled again at eleven in the forenoon, and the meeting continued till two the next morning. It is supposed that one hundred and fifty persons found peace with God in those two days and nights. This society, which consisted of about 160 members, for many years, with but little variation, has increased, in a few weeks, to 550.'

I am sure the town would have been influenced by the 1814 and 1823 revivals but I have not found any details yet. Revival did come again in 1832; the circuit minister wrote, 'In St Ives, the oldest society in the county, - of whom Wesley said, 'They took me into their society, and not I them,' - we have increased, during the last quarter, from 428 to 462, and received 50 on trial.'

The Primitive Methodists were quite a force in England but they only made a small impact in Cornwall; probably because the Bible Christians got there first and supplied the need that had arisen. However, they did make an impact in St Ives. Joseph Grieves came to preach here from a boat in 1829 and he immediately made an impact. He was soon planning a chapel in Fore Street (see picture above.) The land was given and the church was built with the help of volunteers and it was ready for opening in 1831. Hugh Bourne, one of the two founders of the movement spoke here in 1832. Revival came here in 1839 for nine days and nights and around 240 joined the church.

There was another revival in 1861 when William and Catherine Booth (see this website) arrived in St Ives. By this time the town had grown to 7,000 and pilchards were an important industry. During the summer season the fisherman line the cliffs to keep lookout for when the shoals of fish arrived. All the fishermen would be waiting for action. The Booths witnessed a sighting and the boats rushed out to where they had been seen and in half an hour some thirty or forty million fish had been enclosed in nets and were waiting to be landed. Two-thirds of the town were employed in landing the fish, putting them in pickle, draining the oil from them and packing them in barrels for transport to the Mediterranean.


The meetings in St Ives took place in all the principal places of worship in the town, especially the Primitive Methodist Chapel, but not the parish church. However, the Anglicans still came to the meetings. They went on for three and a half months to January 1862 and nearly all the adults of the town went to at least one of the meetings. Over one thousand adults claimed to have been converted, including 28 ships captains and three mine agents

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