William Booth - Hayle (1861)

They had been invited to Hayle by a New Connexion minister and they held services in his chapel that was supposed to hold 600 people but many more crammed in each night. Catherine recalls how the people filled the chapel. ‘The first comers occupied the seats and then another row of people would stand in front of them. The aisles would be next filled, beginning at the pulpit stairs, till the whole place was literally gorged. Then the window sills would be besieged, and through the open windows another crowd outside would listen to the echoes of the songs and to such stray sentences as may reach their ears.’

It is strange that in their reports the Booths do not mention William Haslam who had left the town just seven months before the Booths arrived. I am certain that Haslam ploughed the ground that the Booths planted. William spoke on Sunday morning and evening and at the evening meetings, Monday to Thursday and Catherine spoke on Sunday afternoon and Friday evening, with Saturday a rest day. From the first day the meetings were jammed. On the Sunday meetings, everyone was very attentive but no one would come forward to the communion rail and it was the same on Monday night. It was obvious that many were convicted of their sin but despite repeated invitations, everyone remained in their seats. Then suddenly a woman cried out and pushed her way through the crowds to the rail and she became the first of ‘a glorious harvest of souls.’

The meetings were so successful that the Booths extended their stay in Cornwall from an intended six or seven weeks to 18 months. Catherine writes from Hayle ‘The work gets better and better, the whole place is roused…. William preached last night in the Wesleyan Chapel, crammed to suffocation, and I in the New Connexion, well filled, even though I was not announced. We had a glorious Prayer Meeting in both chapels, about thirty cases in the Wesleyan and twenty with us, some of them the most precious ones I have ever witnessed. I could fill sheets with the account of one gentleman which would thrill you with interest and make you shout the praises of God.’ And later, ‘On Wednesday night William preached in the largest Wesleyan chapel, about half a mile from the other. It was crammed out into the street. I should think there were 1,800 people inside, and I never witnessed such a scene in my life as the Prayer Meeting presented. The rail was filled in a few minutes with great strong men, who cried aloud for mercy, some of them as though the pains of Hell had actually got hold of them! Oh, it was a scene!’

Catherine wrote, looking back on this time, ‘This unusual noise and confusion was somewhat foreign to our notions and practices. William believed strongly in everything being done ‘decently and in order.’ Indeed, I think he somewhat mistook the application of this direction.’ Catherine’s biographer writes about this time in Hayle, ‘Thirty years have elapsed and yet it is common to meet with the fruits of that revival in all quarters of the globe, and to receive letters from those who date their spiritual birth from these meetings.’

'Catherine Booth, The Mother of the Salvation Army'.


Although he was warned that the Cornish people would not tolerate a penitent-form, William Booth persisted in this method of confessing Christ, and soon had crowds of people, weeping, groaning, and beating upon their breasts, kneeling at this simple symbol of the mercy-seat.

We had the greatest difficulty (he writes) to clear sufficient space for a penitent-form, and when we had, the people crowded up and around, and the prayers of those in distress, the shouts of those who had obtained deliverance, and the sympathetic exhortations and exultations and congratulations of those who stood round, all united made the most confounding medley I ever listened to. Again and again, I endeavoured to secure order, but it was of no avail, and at length I concluded to let it go for the evening, doing as well as we could.

'The Life of General William Booth', by Harold Begbie, Volume I, page 320.



Additional Information

The New Connexion Methodist Church was on the corner of Bay View Terrace and Chapel Hills but it was demolished.

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