Mapping Methodism – Camborne Wesleyan Chapel

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 Camborne is a town in Cornwall. This profile of Camborne Wesleyan Chapel has been compiled by David Thomas.


Camborne Wesley was always a chapel which was well attended and possessed a large number of willing workers who were ready to assist with events there.

This photograph is part of a set of postcard images specially taken by the Camborne photographer William John Bennetts of Cross Street showing the beautifully decorated building for the Harvest Festival two years before the 1939 war commenced in the autumn of 1937. A large number of persons must have worked on the decorations for there is a profusion of corn, flowers, fruit and vegetables, with some very tempting items balanced on the rostrum ledge and within easy reach of the preacher! Postcards tell us so much as the hymn board numbers inform us which hymns were being sung.

This picture shows the chapel’s decorated war memorial on its internal north wall on the same occasion. It is indicative of the carnage of the Great War that the tablet records the names of no less than 21 men from this Methodist Society who made the supreme sacrifice in the period 1914-1918. A sobering record.

Camborne Wesley has a great musical tradition with introits and anthems still regularly being sung at Sunday worship. One of the most well-known Wesley traditions is the always well attended Good Friday Concert with a large choir and prominent guest artiste soloists of national repute in a packed chapel, which was inaugurated in 1900 under the chapel’s then organist Dr H V Pearce. I think I am right in saying that this tradition continued unbroken throughout the Second World War and it has taken Covid19 in 2020 to cause a hiatus to this venerable tradition.

When I was younger I recall my late mother telling me that when she was quite young (probably in the late 1930s or early 1940s) she remembered being taken to Wesley by my grandmother, herself a keen musician, for a Good Friday performance of Mendelssohn ‘s Elijah. Her memory was of the powerful rendering by the bass soloist and chorus relating the scriptural record of the prophets of Baal invoking their deity and being taunted by the prophet Elijah.

There was always a special atmosphere at these Good Friday Concerts at Wesley and if one were in the streets early on a Good Friday evening streams of people could be seen heading towards the chapel to get a good seat in the building. If only we had more recordings and photographs of some of these performances!. One had to have been there to know what I mean. A particular favourite was always Handel’s Messiah, with standing by the audience during the Hallelujah Chorus and the prolonged applause from the ground floor and gallery after the final chorus ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’ with the choir and organ at fortissimo. The atmosphere was electric.

While it could justifiably be argued that Gwennap Pit is Cornish Methodism’s outdoor cathedral a strong case could be made to describe Camborne Wesley (though not the largest Cornish chapel in seating capacity) as its indoor cathedral. The impact that it had on the local community for spiritual, musical and cultural reasons was profound.



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