I can help with all resources marked [YES], copyright permitting.

Due to the quantity of information here, I have had to divide this page up. The Methodists in various flavours formed the largest group and I have arbitrarily separated them into their circuits but note that these boundaries were very fluid and changed many times in their history. Finally there is a separate page for the assorted other denominations.


A lot of the information here was obtained from [Wilcox 1999] and [Brewer & Thompson 1998] but additional details and corrections have been obtained from direct sources and repository handlists. Note that the dates of foundation refer to the chapel rather than the congregation unless otherwise stated.

[YES]The IGI (1992) includes the chapels indicated and can be checked if required.

The layout of each entry below is:—

Type (source) Dates (media) Locations.

Call, Batch and Film numbers are shown when available.

Introduction to the Methodists

The Methodist Church was founded in the eighteenth century by John Wesley. As is human nature, there were various schisms and subsequent reconciliations which complicate the history of the chapels. The original group remained the strongest in West Cornwall and are shown here as “Wesleyan”.

In 1815, a Wesleyan Methodist Cornishman by the name of William Bryant (sometimes, strangely, O’Bryan) founded the (Arminian) [Off Site]“Bible Christian” denomination, often known as [Off Site]Bryanites. See also a project to transcribe issues of the [Off Site]Bible Christian Magazine. (This group is not related to the offshoot of the Swedenborgian New Church founded by [Off Site]William Cowherd in 1808 and also called “Bible Christian.”) At about the same time, the “Primitive Methodists” were formed, moving into Cornwall around 1825 and in 1834, the “Methodist New Connexion” was founded with chapels in Penzance and St. Ives.

A division in the Wesleyan churches c1835 caused the “Wesleyan Methodist Association” to break away and in 1849 another group of reformers broke away under various names. Most of these two groups merged in 1857 to form the “United Methodist Free Church” but others merged separately to form the “Wesleyan Reform Union”. I haven’t yet discovered where the “Wesleyan Teatotal” group fit, but they seem to have been founded around 1844.

By 1851, the various branches of Methodism easily outstripped all other denominations combined in Cornwall, when attendance was counted in the census, including the established Church of England.

In another round of mergers, the United Methodist Free Church, the Bible Christians and the Methodist New Connexion joined together in 1907 to form the "United Methodists" though some circuits ran in parallel for many years afterwards. Finally {?} in 1932 the original Wesleyans, the United Methodists and the Primitive Methodists got together to form the “Methodist Church” as we know it today. The only group to remain outside was the Wesleyan Reform Union.

It should be noted that baptism in the Methodist churches was uncommon before 1815 and even in the 1830s many Wesleyans were baptised in the parish church. Prior to 1837, marriage was not permitted in any but the Anglican Church so you will need to look there. The exceptions were Quaker and Jewish marriages which were authorised. Even after 1837, not all chapels were licenced nor were the registrars prepared to travel to inaccessible places so the local parish church is still worth checking. The register would have used the civil registration books. After 1898 chapels could be licenced, not requiring a registrar, but not many took this up. Those that did held their own registers.

In 1873 the Wesleyan Methodists considered it important to have a record of what chapels they owned and rented and how many people they could seat. To this end they published returns of surveys. After union in 1932 an additional survey was published in 1940.

St. Just Methodist Circuits