Methodism in West Penwith – A Heritage at Risk 

 Rev Julyan Drew, MA

Superintendent Minister, West Penwith Methodist Circuit

January, 2012 (last updated April 2018)


  1.  Intro 
  2. Summary 
  3. Methodism in Cornwall – Rise and Decline
    1. The Rise and Influence of Methodism
    2. The Years of Decline
    3. Factors in Decline and Chapel Closure.
    4. Terminal decline?
  4.  West Penwith Circuit – Situation and Responses
    1. Introduction to the Circuit
    2. West Penwith Methodist Circuit’s Congregations and Buildings
    3. The Circuit Response
    4. Individual Churches’ Responses within the Circuit
    5. Saving Something?



Appendix 1     Methodist and Nonconformist Chapels now unused, demolished or converted in West Penwith Circuit Area

Appendix 2     Listed Methodist Buildings in the West Penwith Methodist Circuit

 Appendix 3     Population Statistics for West Penwith Parishes

Appendix 4      Photographs

Appendix 5     Map of West Penwith


  1. Introduction


The purpose of this document is to describe and explain briefly the rise and decline of Methodism in Cornwall with particular attention to the area of the present day West Penwith Methodist Circuit.

It will set out the current situation in the West Penwith Circuit and the threats to the area’s Methodist building stock.

It will set out briefly the situation of each Methodist Church within the Circuit and the general direction that the Circuit is taking.

It will invite interested bodies and agencies to engage with us in planning for the retention of some buildings, where it is possible, and the appropriate conversion or disposal of others where it is not.


 2. Summary

a. Methodism from its beginning was rapidly embraced by the Cornish, particularly in the west.

b. A boom in chapel building occurred particularly following the splits from the original Wesleyan model.

c. Along with Anglicanism, Methodism has experienced serious decline throughout the last century and continuing into this.

d. Historic overprovision of chapels remains an issue despite wholesale closures over the last eighty years.e.

e. Eight chapels have closed in the West Penwith Circuit since 2000 including the Grade II listed Richmond (Penzance) and Treen chapels and the Grade II* St Levan (Little Trethewey) Chapel (part of a group listed Grade II). The congregation being unable to maintain the latter they voted before closure in favour of partial demolition and the site’s preservation as a monument to what had gone before, and a place of remembrance for the community. Trinity Chapel, Newlyn (Grade II*), like St Levan on the English Heritage At Risk List, remains there despite years of effort by its congregation to develop it. The remaining 10 chapels (of which 4 are listed), must be considered vulnerable due to shrinking and ageing congregations, increased costs and in some cases serious maintenance demands.

f. The West Penwith Circuit is responding to its changing fortunes in various ways not all of which will seek to retain expensive and outdated buildings. Our prime aim (and, importantly, our charitable objective) is engagement in God’s mission and not the preservation of buildings or a style of worship inherent in them that is largely alien to contemporary culture.

  1. Methodism in Cornwall – Rise and Decline


 a. The Rise and Influence of Methodism

It is not my intention here to write at length about the origins or place of Methodism in Cornish society. Others have done that including Shaw, Haile, Pearce, Probert and Orme.

Nevertheless, it may be said that from the early visits of John and Charles Wesley and their associates Methodism “took root and flourished in Cornwall” a land of individualism and independence of spirit where there were “few figures of squire like authority to encourage … religious conformity”[1] to an established church remote in attitude and often in geography from many of the people. Methodism was adopted by the Cornish in such a way as to be “far enough from the norms of southern England to place it in the ‘Celtic fringe’ of religious practice.”[2] Indeed, for Pearce, it is the Celtic influence in the Cornish people, particularly in the West,[3] that made them so ready to accept the man, Wesley, and his message that brought “heart religion[4] to Cornwall. Luker suggests that “an increasingly articulated regional sensitivity on the part of the Cornish … fuelled an exaggerated identification of Methodism as ‘theirs’.”[5] If Methodism was Cornwall’s so was John Wesley, described by Pearce as “a founding father of modern Cornwall.”[6]

Having an impact for the good on such activities as wrecking and smuggling, Methodism also helped establish “mutual improvement and educational institutions … a commitment to self help permeating so many aspects of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Cornish life.”[7] One of these was to be the new Cornwall County Council which, despite its election by limited suffrage, had as a third of its members Methodists experienced in leadership through the denomination’s various meetings.[8]  By the middle of the nineteenth century, “Methodism had become the unofficial religion of Cornwall. It influenced every aspect of Cornish life, including the formation of male voice choirs and brass and silver bands, together with the composition of Cornish Carols by musicians such as Thomas Merritt. Women had an important part to play in the Methodist chapels, especially in the Bible Christians where many were preachers.”[9] That Wesley’s personal influence ran deep is suggested by the tradition that Cornish people do not take sugar in their tea (except, some suggest, when taken with a pasty), while not all may now remember the tradition having arisen from Wesley’s request that people do this as a protest against the slave trade.[10]

Wesley made many visits Cornwall and by the time of his second in 1744, “’Society Houses’ were beginning to appear for his blessing, and for the use of his congregations.”[11] Methodism had begun to make its mark on the built landscape as well as on social mores.

In 1873, there were 97,720 sittings in Wesleyan Chapels in Cornwall for a population of 362,343. This compares with 55,326 sittings for a population of 601,374 in the neighbouring English county of Devon, and is a higher number per capita than all the English and Welsh counties and the Isle of Man and is exceeded in total number only by Yorkshire and Lancaster, areas of much greater population.[12] The level of local provision within those larger figures particularly in the west is seen in the numbers for Newlyn in the same survey showing 767 sittings for a population of 1,688. Little wonder, then, that Hamilton Jenkin could write, “You can scarcely enter a farmhouse or labourer’s cottage amongst the hills of Zennor, or the moors of Wendron, without finding among the few books displayed a copy of Wesley’s hymns. You could scarcely find a village from the Tamar to Land’s End which is not blessed with a little house of worship, plain and unpretentious indeed, but a cherished centre of true devotion. These are the real monuments which commemorate the unequalled labours of the great evangelist (John Wesley).” [13] Melissa Hardie goes further to say that, “In every town, village, hamlet or rural crossing, the traveller will find a chapel or meeting house, or four (my italics), built by (Wesley’s) followers. The variety and quantity of these is extraordinary, and, though many have now been abandoned as places of Methodist fellowship and mission, their architectural profiles are as common as mine chimneys.”[14]

Not all of these “monuments” were “plain and unpretentious” to be sure and many fine Methodist chapels were constructed, including a number in the West Penwith Circuit which is a recent amalgamation of the historic Penzance and St Just circuits.

The boom in chapel building during those early years of Methodism can be seen from the following tables, as can the relative lack of Anglican churches.[15] While not all the “other” category will be Methodist, it may safely be assumed that the vast majority of them constituted the meeting places of Methodism’s various expressions. For example, “of 78 nonconformist places of worship (in Cornwall) identified as established by 1801, only 17 were of the old denominations but 56 were Methodist.”[16] Methodism took hold in Cornwall in a markedly different fashion than it did even in neighbouring Devon. “By 1851 Devon would have 748 nonconformist places of worship (to 549 Anglican), of which 379  … were Methodist. Cornwall had 839 nonconformist places (to 265 Anglican), of which 737 were Methodist. Though the older dissent, particularly the Independents and Baptists, had resumed growth in the intervening half-century, most of the recent nonconformist expansion – the larger part even in Devon and overwhelmingly so in Cornwall – had been in the Methodist connexion.”[17]

All places of worship recorded in 1851:


Church of England (%) Other (%)
England and Wales 40.8 59.2
Devon 42.3 57.7
Cornwall 24.0 76.0


Places of Worship identified as established before 1801:


Church of England (%) Other (%)
England and Wales 73.8 26.2
Devon 77.7 22.3
Cornwall 65.8 34.2


Places of Worship identified as established 1801-1851:


Church of England (%) Other (%)
England and Wales 13.6 86.4
Devon 8.6 91.4
Cornwall 7.7 92.3


By 1851, 60% of the population of Cornwall was Methodist,[18] almost 155,000 of a population of just over 240,000 attending one of the various Methodist churches, and this against less than 70,000 attending the Church of England.[19]

 b. The Years of Decline.

By the 1850s “the heroic age of nonconformist growth” was over and “Wesleyan Methodism in particular never grew so much or so fast again after its experience of schism and fall-back in the late 1840s.”[20] Something of the result of those years and the legacy inherited by present day congregations can be seen in this excerpt from a local Guide Leaflet:

“In the years between 1797 and 1849 the Methodist movement experienced a series of divisions and upsets which resulted in the creation of various separate societies and chapels. For example, in 1890 there were six Wesleyan Chapels, four Bible Christian Chapels and two Wesleyan Reform Chapels, in the parishes of St Just and Pendeen, in addition a separate Wesleyan Sunday School at Tregeseal. … At the present time of all these chapels only two remain open – St Just Wesleyan Chapel (Chapel Street) and the Wesleyan Reform Chapel (Bosorne Terrace). Of the others, five are now dwelling houses, two are ruins, one stands empty and one is a Meadery (restaurant).” (St Just in Penwith Area Guide 4th Edition)

In Penzance at the middle of the 19th century there was a chapel for each of the then five denominations having their origins with the Wesleys, a situation shared by only three other towns in Britain.[21]

Whatever Methodism’s relative strength against Anglicanism in the nineteenth century, by late Victorian times some signs of decline were already apparent, an 1886 Wesleyan Methodist survey noting “a marked decrease in Cornwall.”[22] Nevertheless, Cornwall still had one nonconformist minister to every 2,635 inhabitants; higher than any county in England and against an English mean of about 1: 4,500, with that nonconformity “still predominantly Methodist.”[23]

The ensuing decline, evident in Penzance in 1885,[24] was slow and long-term. The chapel closures detailed in Appendix 1 show those losses as they became visible in the landscape of West Penwith.

Winter wrote in 1991 that in the “twentieth century, Anglicanism has continued to grow and strengthen itself, while nonconformity on the other hand has experienced a loss of support.”[25] This seems over-ambitious for the established church, Winter himself saying that since 1950 the Truro Diocese has shared the general national decline.[26] The picture in the latter part of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first for Cornwall’s two major denominations appears to be one of shared decline, though Anglicanism may be declining rather more slowly. Of those shrinking numbers, Cornish Methodism retains a comparatively strong place if not at the levels of the past. In 1989, 44% of adults at worship were Methodists; that is 4 in 9, compared with 1 in 9 nationally. [27]

The bare facts of decline are seen in the table below, the figures in the first three lines of which are from Easton. [28]


Year 1907 1932 1940 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
Chapels 791 696 647 589 502 423 351 271
Members 38,110 29,596 27,135 24,385 19,261 14,769 11,720 9,535
Average Members per chapel  

















The 2010 figures, while not matching exactly the area covered by Easton are the returns for the present Cornwall District, and present a still bleaker picture. Membership is down to an estimated 6,422, representing an 8% fall for each of the years 2008, 2009. [29] This membership is spread over 227 congregations and while a small number of those, such as Gulval in the West Penwith Circuit, do not have chapels but worship in other buildings, the average membership per church is now likely to be below 30. Furthermore, the “average (mean) Sunday attendance per church across the district was just under 28, which is almost a third smaller than the national average of 40.13.”[30] A similar projection over the next ten years , without further chapel closures, would see congregations of a little over 25 members burdened with the maintenance of buildings often capable of seating 20, 30 or more times their number. Overall, the “Cornwall (Methodist) District has 141 churches with a membership of 30 or less, which is over 60% of the district, and 16 with a membership of 80 or more.”[31] While there are areas of increased membership in Cornwall, such as St Austell, the picture in West Penwith is of even greater decline with an over 20% reduction in 2011 from 2009. In the West Penwith Circuit, 368 members in 12 congregations (these figures do not include Tredavoe) are responsible for 11 chapels (4 of these with ancillary buildings) again around 30 per chapel. Over a quarter of the Circuit’s total membership is at Penzance Chapel Street, meaning that the other chapels have an average of about 25 members. Projecting an 8% year on year reduction (the Cornwall figure for 2008 and 2009, lower than West Penwith’s for 2009 -2011) the Circuit membership is likely to fall well below 300 within three years.

The table below shows estimates by the ministers of the age profiles of people attending the chapels of the West Penwith Circuit at the beginning of 2011. Since then, in perhaps all but one of the churches, the age ratios have become further weighted towards the top end.


Age children 17-25 26-45 46-65 66-75 76+
%age of circuit 7.10 0.20 6.60 24.30 32.10 29.70


What is evident is that there are not generations of younger people coming through the churches. There are, therefore, few who will have the same loyalty to the buildings as had older generations. As Haile has pointed out, Sunday School attendance in Methodist churches in the Cornwall District declined from 12,454 in 1965 to 808 in 2005. [32] The situation in West Penwith is no better for children while over 60% of those attending are aged 66 years or over, in some churches rising to almost 100%.

It is interesting to note that the largest membership recorded for a Cornish Methodist Church is Truro with “409 members, which is two thirds of the circuit’s total membership”[33] and is one of its 16 churches. In 1957, The Home Mission and Chapel Affairs Committee List of Places where there were Overlapping Societies recognises Truro as having five chapels, four of which closed in their respective years of 1963, 1974, 1976 and 1996. Two of those chapels, St Clement Street (1974) and St George’s (1996) had memberships of approximately 100 at the time they merged with what is now Truro Methodist Church but were faced with significant building problems.[34] However, as Easton points out, amalgamation of congregations does not necessarily lead to all members of closed churches joining other Methodist ones, or even any church at all.

c. Factors in Decline and Chapel Closure.

 What factors lie behind the decline in Methodism and the usually related closure of Methodist chapels? Callum Brown, Grace Davie, Philip Richter, Leslie Francis and others have written extensively on this and I do not propose to repeat their work in detail here. We may look, however, to a variety of factors including secularisation, emigration of workers from Cornwall and immigration into Cornwall from areas where Methodism has not been strong, Connexional, District and Circuit pressures, poorly maintained buildings, rising costs and legislation.

Declining populations in certain areas of Cornwall in the decades immediately following the chapel construction boom of the first half of the nineteenth century[35], is another factor, and one particularly noticeable in the more rural part of West Penwith Circuit. Appendix 3 shows major decline in the populations of all the parishes west and north of Penzance. The population of St Buryan is now growing after a period of decline growing but that village has already lost its historic chapel (and those that preceded it) and its Methodist people are now served by a building about thirty years old.

Winter also suggests as a reason for what he calls Methodism’s “spectacular decline” the “strong strand of anti-clericalism” in Cornish Methodism expressed as “an inherent disregard for ministerial authority and a reluctance to accept wholeheartedly a central role for the ministry in ecclesiological terms.” The result, suggests Winter, has been “very traditional chapels resisting changes suggested by ministers anxious to attract younger people” and, on the other hand, “Methodist lay folk (who) have resisted ministerial authority and left the Methodist Church to establish or join fringe Protestant / evangelical groups.”[36]

Initial over-provision may also be a factor. Easton cites the new UMFC church at Fore Street, Redruth which, on its construction in 1865, had seating for 1,560. “The total membership of the Circuit, which had eighteen other Chapels, was only 1,388.”[37] Whatever the perceived historic need for seating, overprovision could become a factor with population changes. “In 1966 the District Redundancy Committee pointed out that Carharrack … had two hundred more seats in its Chapels than the total population of the village.” [38] That, even in the face of overprovision, people were reluctant to give up their chapels in favour of others is the likely reason for Cornish opposition to the Methodist Union scheme of 1924 where the nine circuits from Camborne to Helston west to Penzance who rejected union “probably had 23,000 empty seats between them.”[39]

Despite wholesale closures over the last decades, does over-provision remain a factor? Haile notes that given the number of places of worship in Cornwall, if every resident went to worship then each congregation would consist of 522 people. This compares with the West Midlands where each church would have a congregation of 2,127.[40] With the current church attendance somewhere around 7% of the population, a three-fold increase would be well accommodated in the majority of churches and chapels which would be able to seat 100 or more. The truth is that in the West Penwith Circuit no chapel is operating at capacity. It would be rare for any chapel except for the smallest to be full even for a Circuit wide service and the only occasions when the larger chapels may approach capacity is for particular funerals or perhaps special concert performances.

Easton also notes that many congregations had taken on loans to construct their Chapels, saddling them with debt for decades, sometimes well into the twentieth century. Horner records that “a massive bazaar was held in 1886 to reduce ‘the heavy debt of £800’ on the Mount Street premises.”[41] This was forty-seven years after the chapel had been built and three years before it was enlarged. It closed in 1968. Situations such as this were surely a factor in the evident failure to properly maintain or update some Methodist buildings. Quinquennial inspections by qualified surveyors as are now required alongside new legislation regarding such things as fire, health and safety, disabled access and asbestos are adding to the pressures on small congregations of elderly people to fund the necessary works. Easton cites Perranwell in the Falmouth Circuit as closing following a quinquennial inspection and to that may be added Newlyn Trinity. Easton suggests there must be others who, faced with large repair bills, have decided that their only option is to close and in the West Penwith Circuit the most recent examples of such a decision are Gulval and Richmond, the former now worshipping in the village hall and the members of the latter largely dispersed among other nearby churches. Most recently, the small congregation of the Grade II* listed St Levan (Little Trethewey) Chapel came to the conclusion that they could no longer maintain a chapel already in poor condition, while the members of the St Just Methodist congregation have also voted to dispose of their Grade II* listed chapel, it too being beyond their capacity to maintain.

 d. Terminal decline?

 The degree of decline and the sense that Methodism is a work now done is found in the words of Rev Stephen Dawes, a former Chair of the Cornwall District, acknowledged as a “prophet of this generation (who) has discerned the signs of the times” by Rev John Horner a former Superintendent of the Penzance Circuit. Rev Dawes wrote, “If I look into the future it seems to me quite obvious that as God raised up the Methodist Church in the 18th century to do a specific task, so now in the 21st century he is putting it down. The signs of that are clear for all who have eyes to see. It seems to me therefore, that we should not struggle to keep alive what God is letting die.”[42] Horner acknowledges that some “among the Nonconformists of Penzance today … are reluctant to give up the struggle to keep things alive, even if God is letting them die.”[43]

The next section looks at the condition of those Methodist Nonconformist congregations in the West Penwith Circuit, and their chapels. It will be seen that in the wider locality some wish already to give up the struggle while others are putting their efforts into what they see as a new work of God that does not necessarily involve maintenance of historic chapels, at least not in the form they now are.

  1. The West Penwith Circuit – Situation and Responses


a. Introduction to the Circuit

The West Penwith Circuit was created in 2008 by the amalgamation of the former St Just and Penzance Circuits. Falling membership had meant that for some time the St Just circuit was under the care of a part time Presbyter. The last minister to serve that Circuit before merger was appointed with support from various funds to a full time post that included exploration of options for the future.

Following conversations between the two Circuits, the merger of St Just with the Penzance Circuit, its only neighbour, was agreed by both Circuit Meetings. At the time of this revision, The West Penwith Circuit and part of the former St Ives and Hayle Circuit are planning to merge to create a West Cornwall Circuit.

The Circuit at the beginning of 2012 had 3 full time Presbyters and one half time, and one part time Business and Finance Administrator. Within the last ten years, the Penzance Circuit alone had four full time Presbyters and a Circuit Administrator. From September 2013, Circuit staffing reduced to two full time presbyters and the part time Business and Finance Administrator with support from Presbyters of retirement age.

There are sixteen active Local Preachers, only four of whom are not of retirement age.

The Circuit consists currently of twelve congregations. One congregation, Gulval, sold their chapel (Grade II) and use the village hall for worship.

Both previous Circuits had experienced the closure of chapels in the face of decline over the years as can be seen from Appendix 1 below. Some 60 or so nonconformist places of worship in West Penwith have been closed and demolished or found new use, 35 of them in the last 80 years. Seven chapels have closed since the year 2000, four of them, Trewellard, Gulval, Richmond and Treen, listed Grade II. To these must be added two Grade 11* buildings. Newlyn Trinity, although officially still open, is unused since 1997 because of structural and other issues. St Levan had not been used, again for structural and other reasons, since 2007 before it closed in 2013. Anglicans have also closed churches with Newlyn’s St Andrews, Trythall and more recently St Paul’s in Penzance being local examples. A Penzance Baptist congregation has also ceased, their premises being taken over by the Apostolic Church that used to meet in their Newlyn chapel.

The membership of the Circuit at May 2015 was 348, representing a significant decline from 408 in October 2011 and 562 in 2008, while the Penzance Circuit alone had 467 members in 2005. There are no large congregations but the largest in the Circuit is Chapel Street, Penzance with 105 members, and the smallest being Drift with eight.

In Penzance, Methodism has two chapels, including Chapel Street listed at Grade II*, (having recently closed Richmond, Grade II) while having a chapel in the nearby villages of Heamoor and Madron and a congregation in Gulval, each of which villages also has an Anglican church.

There is a Catholic Church, Baptist Church and Apostolic Church in this area along with a number of other independent churches. There is a varied marketplace for Christianity in Penzance and its surrounding villages, the newer expressions often meeting outside of traditional church buildings and one in the past having marketed itself aggressively as unlike the more traditional forms of church.

In Newlyn there are two Methodist churches, one of them having responsibility for the unused Trinity Chapel (Grade II*), and an Anglican Church while the RNMDSF had, until recently, an evening congregation. Much of this building has now been sold and the congregation has ceased to meet.

In Mousehole there is one Methodist Church (Grade II*), another being closed some years ago. Mousehole is part of Paul Parish with its Anglican Church of St Pol de Leon being in the adjacent village of Paul.

In St Levan Parish there is also a Parish Church as well as the two now closed Methodist Chapels (Grade II* and Grade II). Escalls is in Sennen Parish where there is also an Anglican presence.

St Buryan Chapel sits just across the road from the ancient parish church.

St Just has three churches, one Methodist (Grade II*), one Anglican and the Wesleyan Reform Union (Free Church), which are also listed.

Other parts of the area of West Penwith, once part of the historic Methodist Circuit of St Just, are now not served by any Methodist chapels, all having closed.

b. West Penwith Methodist Circuit’s Congregations and Buildings

For details of listing where relevant, see Appendix 3

This section gives a brief overview of each congregation within the West Penwith Methodist Circuit with membership figures averaged over 2013-2015. (November 2016 figures in brackets)

Chapel Street, Penzance

Chapel and Schoolroom

Chapel Grade II* / Schoolroom Grade II

Membership: 105 (108). Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

Church situation:

The membership of this church, while representing one quarter of the Circuit’s numbers, is also predominantly elderly, with just 10% under 60 years of age. However, there are some new and younger people who have begun to attend a different style of worship earlier on a Sunday than the traditional congregation. They are by no means yet committed to this church and there are a number of other congregations offering what might be seen as a similar worship experience in the locality in, to them, less alien environments. In order to keep and grow this potential new congregation, the church has removed the majority of the pews on the ground floor to make an area more suitable for contemporary worship. This also makes the chapel more effective for other activities such as weddings, funerals and concerts. With a growing, and younger, congregation it might be possible to save the main structure of the building including the pews of the gallery. Without growing a new congregation, Chapel Street is likely to become unsustainable in the very near future with its traditional congregation sometimes numbering under fifty people.

A large part of the adjacent schoolroom is rented out to a dance school.

There are some opportunities for revenue from beyond the congregation but these have been realised largely in the Dance School rental. The chapel itself is unlikely to attract much income over and above its occasional rental for concerts, although the remodelling of the ground floor might increase this slightly.

The major proportion of the finance required to maintain these large properties must come from a worshipping congregation that has diminished significantly in recent years.

Drift Chapel

Chapel Unlisted.

Membership: 8 (10). Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

 Church situation:

A single-storey, wayside chapel. The congregation is small but the cause is well supported and there is no immediate threat to this building. Some members from the closed Tregerest Chapel joined the congregation at Drift.

High Street Chapel, Penzance

Chapel. Unlisted.

Membership: 29 (23). Minister: Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

 Church situation:

The church sold its schoolroom across the road some years ago and is now responsible only for the chapel which stands in a residential setting on the edge of the town’s commercial area.

The galleried chapel has capacity (c. 500) for many times more than the usual congregation, and there is little ancillary space beyond the worship area. The building is, therefore, almost entirely reliant on the giving of its congregation with little opportunity for revenue generating activity; however this possibility has improved slightly with the removal of the pews although the sloping nature of the floor must limit such possibilities.

Another, non-Methodist, church, used the premises for a time but that arrangement has now ceased.

Centenary Chapel, Gwavas Road, Newlyn

Chapel. Unlisted.

Membership: 19 (17). Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

 Church situation:

Built as a replacement for the former Ebenezer Primitive Methodist Chapel, which sits just below it on the hill and has been converted to flats, this chapel too has limited ancillary space and is almost entirely reliant on its small congregation for income. It is in generally fair condition and there are no immediate internal threats beyond its small and largely elderly congregation.

Mousehole Methodist Church, Chapel Street, Mousehole

Chapel (Listed Grade II*), Schoolroom and Car Park

(Formerly St Clements; renamed after merger with the Mount Zion Chapel, closed in 1987.)

Membership: 27. Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

Church situation:

The church is responsible for two of the largest structures in the village, the chapel, galleried with seating for approximately 600, and the schoolroom next door, a two storey structure with meeting rooms below and hall with stage and small kitchen above. The church also has a small car park across the road from its two buildings.

The properties are generally in good condition, the church’s Property Committee working hard to carry out the recommendations of the quinquennial inspections.

The church’s membership is largely elderly and while it attracts good and wider support for various activities throughout the year, the Sunday by Sunday congregation is accommodated in a building fifteen to twenty times larger than it needs. The Schoolroom generates some income, but overall the cause is reliant on the giving of its congregation. Recognising the difficulty of maintaining its properties, the church has several times over the last few years considered various options, including the sale of all or any of the individual elements of its property, and the adaptation of the chapel to provide meeting space within the one building that would allow the sale of the schoolroom. None of these options is being actively pursued at the present but they are never far from the church’s thinking, especially as key individuals become older and less able.

The unusual stained glass windows of this chapel are now in need of costly repair which is quite beyond the ability of the congregation to fund. Conversation has begun with Historic England regarding the addition of this chapel to its “At Risk” list.

Newlyn Trinity, Chywoone Hill, Newlyn

Chapel (Grade II*) (“At Risk”) and “The Centre”

Membership: 43. Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

Church situation:

The congregation ceased using the chapel, which is on the Heritage England “At Risk” Register, in the autumn of 1997 on the recommendations of the Surveyor at his Quinquennial Inspection. A scheme to redevelop the chapel through horizontal sub-division was abandoned on the upgrading of the chapel’s listing to Grade II*. Responding to the needs of church and community, the congregation redeveloped the adjacent schoolroom as a multi-purpose Church and Community facility known as The Centre.

Trinity employs, to operate The Centre, a part time Development Worker and two part time assistants, and has the support of a number of volunteers.

The cause overall is supported by the giving of the congregation and friends, income from The Centre and rental from a house owned by the church (and which can be used only to support The Centre), income from the nearby Charity Shop run by volunteers from church and community, and grant aid for various projects run by the church or its partners.

The present operation at The Centre is sustainable. However, the Chapel, costing tens of thousands in repairs and insurance over the last two decades despite not being used, has become a real threat to the viability of the church. Accordingly, and following extensive and expensive but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to find and fund a viable future for the chapel, the decision has now been taken by the church to put the chapel on the market.


Gulval Methodist Church, Penzance

Church without chapel

Membership: 11 (11). Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

 Church situation:

Gulval Methodist Church meets at the village hall having moved out of their Grade II listed chapel seven years ago, disposing of it by sale soon afterwards. The decision to close was made largely because of the maintenance burden.


Madron Chapel, Madron, Penzance

Chapel and Schoolroom. Unlisted.

Membership: 12 (12). Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

Church situation:

Single storey building. A small congregation struggles to maintain its property. There is little opportunity for other income in a small village which also has a village hall. The chapel can be maintained only through the giving of an ageing and shrinking congregation. The church has recently re-ordered the chapel’s interior, removing the remaining pews, some having been removed a few years ago.

Wesley Rock Chapel, Heamoor, Penzance

Chapel and Schoolroom. Unlisted.

Membership: 45 (38). Minister: Rev Alastair Bolt

Church situation:

The building is in generally good condition. The schoolroom had been generating some income, but this being overtaken by maintenance and running costs the schoolroom was sold in 2016 and the receipts of sale used to fund a reordering of the chapel.

There is an Anglican Church, St Thomas’s, with a small congregation, just along the road and a former Methodist chapel a similar distance in the other direction.

Escalls Chapel

Chapel and car park (Graveyard alongside – under Local Authority control.) Unlisted.

Membership: 12 (12). Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

 Church situation:

The chapel, which is in generally good condition although there is water ingress in a number of places, sits on main road some distance from the local population. Sennen chapel closed in favour of this building. The cause is reliant on the giving of congregants.

St Buryan Chapel

Chapel and Schoolroom in single building; carparking. Unlisted.

Membership: 25 (27). Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

 Church situation:

Apart from The Centre, St Buryan chapel is the Circuit’s newest building, constructed some thirty odd years ago on the site of the former chapel.  In a village with a number of community spaces, there is little opportunity for income other than from the pockets of a shrinking and elderly congregation. Nevertheless, the congregation is making renewed efforts to develop community uses for the building which will leave it less reliant on income from the congregation alone.


St Just Chapel

Chapel and Ancillary Building Grade II*

Membership: 24 (24). Minister: Rev Julyan Drew

 Church situation:

A small, largely elderly congregation has for the most part ceased to use a chapel capable of seating forty or fifty times their number and instead meet in the adjacent hall. The church members over recent years have attempted a number of moves to re-engage with the community including meeting in a local cafe, an early morning porridge and prayer session and a cinema club. The two latter meetings continue and also use the hall rather than the chapel. The former minister worked hard to engage with the community but the worshipping community remains small in a small town where there are two other churches, including the Parish Church and a Wesleyan Reform Union Church. The latter has recently received a considerable grant for improvement and repairs

There are few opportunities for increasing income to sustain this large property in a community that appears already to be overprovided with community space.

It is highly unlikely that a congregation of its present size or even considerably enlarged can continue to maintain such a large property without very generous grant aid towards both capital and revenue needs. The congregation has very small reserves. Even minor repairs now constitute a real concern for them while the repairs or refurbishments required in the most recent quinquennial survey are far beyond the ability of the congregation to finance.

A 2016 church meeting (after rowing back from an earlier decision to close in June 2014) decided that barring the discovery of a potential viable future for the church, probably in partnership with or led by another body, the chapel would close at the end of August 2017. The church wishes to continue, however, and is exploring options available to it, including engaging partners who may take on the chapel / hall with them, or from them.  Meetings have been held with Heritage England, the National Trust and the Cornwall Buildings Preservation Group while a surveyor’s opinion and valuation has been sought. In early 2017, the church decided that it would not proceed immediately with disposal of the building in September 2017, but cease using it for the time being and continue to support efforts to find a sustainable future for it.

West Penwith Circuit Responsibilities

Having in recent years disposed of Richmond Methodist Church (Grade II) and Schoolroom, Tolver Place, Penzance, Trewellard Sunday School, St Just (Closed with chapel 2003) (Conservation area), Tregerest Chapel, St Levan (Little Trethewey) Chapel (Grade II*) and Treen Chapel, St Levan (Closed 2013; Listed Grade II)

the West Penwith Circuit also has responsibility for:


Three Manses, one each in, Newlyn, Heamoor and Penzance. The St Just manse was sold in 2014.

A note on the disposal of St Levan Chapel (Little Trethewey), St Levan. (Closed 2013)

Chapel, Schoolroom and Graveyard. Listed Grade II* / Grade II (“At Risk”)

Membership (with Treen) on closure 7.

A small congregation of less than a dozen was responsible for group of buildings comprising chapel (Grade II*) within a Grade II group comprising Sunday School, Trap House and walled graveyard surrounding the chapel on three sides, along with an adjacent caretaker’s cottage. It was also responsible for Treen Chapel. The Chapel had not been used since mid-2007 and worship was held either in the adjacent schoolroom or, once a month, at Treen.

The chapel was deteriorating badly with structural cracks evident and a large section of plaster fallen from one side where a down pipe had become unfixed. The windows were boarded up, and there is a hole in the ceiling. A previous minister and the then congregation, with support from the then St Just Circuit[44] sought a way forward for this large building serving a scattered parish of less than 500 souls. Thousands of pounds were expended on architect’s fees and a number of reports prepared, while attempts were made to find greater community use for the chapel. These efforts were unsuccessful, despite input from some local people not connected with the church. In the schoolroom, a Farmers’ Market was run for a time but ceased through want of sufficient support, and a short mat bowls club, who had paid several thousand pounds to have the floor of the schoolroom upgraded for their use, also ceased to operate for similar reasons. A cinema club also ran until closure.

The decision to declare “Purpose Fulfilled” for St Levan and Treen Methodist Church and the consequent closure of their church buildings was taken in the Spring of 2013 and, faced with potential repair bills of over £300,000, St Levan members decided after much consideration that the best course would be to seek demolition of the chapel and the erection of a suitable memorial to what was before. The difficulty for the congregation of this decision will be appreciated when it is known that for most of them this is a place where many important rites of passage for their families occurred over generations of worship and on a site where many of their relatives are buried.

The West Penwith Circuit, which inherited responsibility for the buildings from the local church, made extensive efforts to find a use or a purchaser for the group as a whole. The Cornwall Buildings Preservation Group and the Historic Chapels Trust had initially expressed an interest in the chapel group but this came to nothing. In the end, and in line with charitable governance responsibilities the Circuit, on the receipt of and in line with surveyor’s advice, sold the properties separately. The Circuit retains its managing Trustees role as regards the graveyard as well as the plot of land across the road used as a car park and village green, and which is the site of a war memorial. Negotiations are in hand with the Parish Council regarding these sites.

Due to the poor condition of the roof and gable, the Circuit had been forced to restrict access to the graveyard. A fence was erected around the graveyard and chapel. Thanks to an English Heritage (now Historic England) Grant towards the cost the Circuit put a temporary roof on the chapel to preserve the structure as best it could. The graveyard was reopened prior to the sale of the chapel.

The story of the disposal of this chapel and its ancillary buildings provides a snapshot of the burdens carried by Managing Trustees with regard to listed chapels especially. Built for a specific purpose, they are difficult to adapt for other uses even were such adaptations easily countenanced by the heritage bodies which have a say in such things. In the end, despite all the efforts of church and circuit, the group was broken up and the buildings sold. Others will follow.

A note on Tredavoe Village Chapel

(Formerly Tredavoe Methodist Church)

Chapel and Sunday School (Single building) Grade II

 Although this chapel is on the West Penwith Circuit Plan it is not part of the Circuit and is administered by a Trust, a Registered Charity. Rev Julyan Drew, not a member of the Trust, leads worship at the Chapel once a month, officiates at rites of passage and provides some pastoral care to the small congregation. Another congregation met for a short while in the mornings but that has now ceased. The chapel is in generally good condition.

c. The Circuit Response

 Whilst decisions about the future of individual churches are largely the domain of those churches unless their membership falls below certain levels, the Circuit’s Leadership Team with the Circuit Meeting is able to set some general directions.

In early 2011 the Circuit appointed a Circuit Business and Finance Administrator to deal with the finances of the Circuit alongside the Circuit Stewards (voluntary roles), and, as importantly, to deal with the numerous issues arising with regard to property sales, land registry, legislation etc.

Faced with falling membership and rising costs for the maintenance of our buildings, the Circuit, like a number of its churches running at a deficit for a number of years, has been forced to look at staffing levels, the only area where sufficient budget savings may be made. Apart from the part time Business and Finance Administrator, Circuit Staff was reduced from 3 full-time and one half time Presbyters, to two Presbyters from September 2013. This has required a reorganisation of the Circuit, with remaining staff taking responsibility for more churches. This should be seen against a similar process of reduction in Anglican clergy locally.

The Circuit Leadership Team, comprising the Circuit Stewards and Staff, and serviced by the Business and Finance Administrator, produced a Business Plan adopted by the Circuit in the spring of 2012. The first major changes came into effect in the autumn of 2013, and the situation remains under review.

A first priority was the establishment of title for all our properties with a focus within that on those which are or have been for sale, or likely to be disposed of.

It should be noted that the Circuit has made considerable financial contributions to its two largest listed chapels, in Penzance and St Just, over recent years.

The circuit must hold a considerable proportion of its reserves in hand to mitigate its financial exposure on its buildings. This is preventing the circuit adhering to its policy that circuit resources should be made available to the support of human resources rather than buildings, as the Methodist Church seeks new ways to engage with a wider population that at present has little contact with it.

The very real threat to the remaining Methodist built heritage in this locality must now be clear to all.

d. Individual Churches’ Responses within the Circuit

Within the Circuit a number of different methods of working out our part in God’s mission are developing alongside the traditional provision of Sunday services, midweek meetings and varied levels of social action and engagement based on local chapels.

Among those different methods, Gulval Church, having decided to move out of their chapel, considered meeting with the local Anglicans, sharing their building, moving wholesale to another Methodist Church or using the village hall. They opted for the latter and are now in good heart, released from the burden of building management.

The Minister at Chapel Street, Penzance sees an opportunity to engage with a potential new congregation and has made considerable adaptations to the chapel in the removal of pews for this purpose.

Madron, Wesley Rock and High Street Churches have has also recently seen the removal of their pews to facilitate greater community use.

Cinema Clubs are held at St Just and previously at Little Trethewey bringing people into contact with the church.

At Newlyn Trinity, The Centre has allowed the development of a new way of being church with and alongside the community. The Chapel, however, has not featured in this development to date due to continuing difficulties in obtaining funding.

Reordering of traditionally pewed church buildings will not alone stem the ebbing tide of attendance.

e. Saving something.

This document has set out something of both the rise and the decline of a denomination that has populated the landscape of Cornwall with the marks of an important heritage. Much of that heritage has already been lost. What remains in West Penwith represents a small proportion of what once there was and must be regarded as vulnerable indeed. Methodism has declined across Britain but the peculiarity and importance of the situation in Cornwall is apparent in the fact that it contains 12% of Methodism’s listed buildings in England. Within that percentage, West Penwith contained five of Cornwall’s fourteen Grade II* listed chapels, that is one in seven of the number for all England.[45] From that number, St Levan has already been lost and it is looking increasingly likely that Newlyn Trinity will follow. Should the Mousehole congregation find itself in financial difficulties with repairs (it is in fairly good order at present but need tens of thousands for restoration of its stained glass windows) community use will certainly not be an option given population and other provision and sale to a private buyer would be the inevitable result, although one can imagine considerable difficulties regarding change of use.

Lake and Serjeant agree that “an accelerating programme of closure and sales is inevitable” and that “it is neither feasible nor desirable to preserve all existing chapels.”[46]

Of West Penwith’s listed chapels most recently in use, Richmond, Little Trethewey (St Levan) and Treen proved impossible to re-order for mission and have now been disposed of or are in the process of being disposed of. Chapel Street, Penzance, has had a major internal reordering with the removal of the majority of its pews, but its viability is by no means settled. At Newlyn Trinity there was proposed a scheme within which some internal reordering (alongside a major renovation and repair scheme demanding considerable capital grant funding) may allow it a future that preserves the largest part of its character but no longer as a place of weekly worship, although special services might still be held. After several attempts, funding for this has not been obtained and, as above, the chapel is now to be offered for sale.  At St Just, a valuable piece of Cornish Methodist history is vulnerable unless suitable partners can be found to supply it with a sustainable future.

The West Penwith Circuit is conscious of the many pressures on it and its individual churches as custodians of Methodist and Cornish heritage but also of a mission that in some cases at least is, increasingly, hampered by that heritage. “Chapels have to become more multi-functional as interior spaces” agree Lake and Serjeant, while “preservation as found can be the future only for a very small proportion of chapels.”[47] Further closures and adaptation of those that do not close are inevitable.

What is needed now, and urgently, is an approach that may save something of that unique heritage through identification of and support for those buildings for which a viable and sustainable future may be developed but one which allows the Methodist Church to adapt its mission “to serve the present age, (our) calling to fulfil” (Charles Wesley).

Appendix 1:

Methodist and Nonconformist Chapels now unused, demolished or converted in West Penwith Circuit Area (From Gulval Parish and Madron Parish in the East to St Just in the West.) Chapels known to have closed since 1932 are shown in red.


Chapel Date





ship at Closure







Present Use Seating 1940
Tregavarah 1822* 1941 11 Bombed 1941 W Demolished 150


Kerris 1832 ? S school W 120
Kerris 1904 1949 W Dwelling
Trezelah 1842 * 1938 ? Cause failed W Demolished; rebuilt at Hellesveor, St Ives 110


New Street Mission, Penzance 1894 ^ 1937 ? Joined Chapel Street, Pz W Commercial 120


Bethel Chapel, Battery Sq,


Mid 19th C; pre- 1851 Sold 1909 ^ ? ? Interdenominational/ Seamen’s Mission Demolished/


Mount Street,  Penzance 1839, Enl. 1889 1968 ? Circuit Policy. Joined other Pz chapels P Flats and commercial 380
Market Jew Street, Penzance # 1707 Pre 1807 ? Demolished to rebuild as below Congregationalist / Independent Demolished / shops ?
Market Jew Street, Penzance # 1807 1960s ? ? Congregationalist / Independent Demolished / shops ?
Queen Street, Penzance + 1788

Dis-used; re-opened  1833

? ? Taken over by seceding Baptists, then Salvation Army W / P Demolished, rebuilt. Salvation Army Citadel. 1000?^
Causeway Head, Penzance + 1777 ? ? Replaced by another Society of Friends (Quakers) ? ?
New Street,
Penzance #
1768. rebuilt 1806 ? ? ? Synagogue/ Plymouth Brethren Shop # ?
Octagon Chapel + 1789 ? ? Dissenters returned to original congregation. Congregational dissenters Reopened by Baptists (Jordan Chapel) Demolished; site is now Penlowarth, government building. ?
Abbey Street + (Lanyon *) ? ? ? ? NC ? ?
Chapel Place, St Clare Street, Penzance + ? ? ? ? BC

Previously W? ^

? ?
Parade Street 1851

Enl. 1872

1967 100 Circuit policy. Joined other churches UF, UM Arts Centre 500
Alexandra Road, Penzance 1903?# 1995 3 Cause failed NC, UM Dwellings 380
Richmond, Penzance 1907 2010 c. 24 Members joined other churches. W Sold / commercial c. 300
Alverton, Penzance * 1851 ? ? ? BC ? 146
Alverton Street + ? ? ? ? Plymouth Brethren ? ?

(Polmennor Rd)

1841?# 1960 ? Joined Wesley Rock BC, UM Dwelling 150
Carfury 1833* 1970 ? Cause failed BC, UM Dwelling 207


Lady Downs* NB** 1860 1901 ? ? BC Dwelling ?
Mount Zion, Mousehole 1848* 1987 30 Joined with St Clement’s, Mousehole TT, UF, UM Studio &


Paul * 1823 ? ? ? W ? 200
Newlyn ** 1832 ? ? ? W
Ebenezer Chapel, Boase St, Newlyn 1835* 1927? ? Congregation built new chapel, (Centenary) nearby P Dwellings
(Grade II)
Newlyn **


1791/6? ? ? ? W ? ?
Gulval 1884* 2004 17 Building abandoned. Church meets in village hall. W Dwelling &


Gulval Cross* 1822 / 1823 ? ? ? W Wesley Villa, dwelling 96


1814 ? ? ? ? ? 140
Trevarrack * ? ? ? ? W ? ?
Tolverth * ? 1980s?# ? ? W ? c.120#?
Newmill * ? ? ? ? Teetotal Wesleyan Free Methodist ? 142
Queen’s Street,

St Just

1842 (***) or 1844* 1960 24 Joined other town chapel BC, UM Demolished. 2 dwellings on site 500
Sancreed 1823* 1985 14 Cause failed. W Dwelling 200


Trevarthen ? 1965 11 District / Circuit policy. Joined Sancreed. BC, UM Dwelling 100
Dowran Pre 1851*

C. 1840***

c. 1942” ? Cause failed W Farm store 100


Cripple’s Hill


1846*** 1996 12 Cause failed BC, UM Dwelling 125
Borah 1817

Rebuilt 1878



10 Joined St Buryan W Dwelling 130
Brane 1845* 1969 14 Cause failed BC, UM Dwelling 90

(108 *)

Treve * Pre 1815* ? ? Replaced by Crows-an-Wra ? * W Foundations remain * ?
Crows-an-Wra 1831* 1981 14 Joined St Buryan W Dwelling 120

(220 *)

Sennen 1815* 2001 9 (Jointly with Escalls) Building sold. Escalls improved. W Vacant? 97


Boscaswell 1840* 1965 17 District / Circuit Policy. Cause failed. BC, UM Dwelling 144


Bojewyan (Pendeen) 1841* 1975 5 Cause failed W Dwelling 100


Morvah 1810* 1965 8 Cause failed. District / Circuit Policy W Dwelling and gallery 156


Morvah * ? ? ? ? BC Converted to Morvah Board School pre 1893
Bosullow 1845* 1991 5 Cause failed W Dwelling 152


Botallack 1844* 1965 ? 0 Cause failed. District / Circuit policy W Dwelling 150



St Buryan * 1783 1832? ? ? W Rebuilt across the road
St Buryan 1832 1980 ? Demolished to build new chapel on S School site W New chapel on site 340
St Buryan 1860* 1932 ? Joined other village chapel at Meth. Union BC, UM Demolished (Late 1980s)

Dwelling on site.

Bottoms * 1831 Pre 1869# ? Chapel dilapidated. Replaced by St Levan (Little Trethewey) 1869 W ? 110
Ardensawah * Pre 1800 1869?# ? Chapel in weak condition. Replaced by St Levan (Little Trethewey) 1869 W ? 180
Nanquidno 1829*


1930s ? ? W Dwelling 120 (1911)





1933 ? Joined other village Chapel at Meth Union. TT, NC, BC, UM Meadery 160*
Trewellard 1815 2003 17 Building / Cause failed. W Dwelling 366



Tregeseal 1864#


1995 ? Cause failed. Class of St Just Wesley? Used as Sunday School. W Dwelling ?
Carn Yorth Free Church# 1886# 1980s? ? Cause failed WRU Dwelling c. 150?#
Newbridge# 1840* 2005 ? Cause failed # W # Dwelling# 150*
Newbridge* 1835 ? ? ? P ? 120
Boswarthen* 1842 ? ? ? W ? 96
Crankan* 1847 ? ? ? P ? 60
Sennen * 1800 ? ? ? Baptist ? 150
Tregerest 1896 2012 5 Cause failed BC Sold/ dwelling ?


2013 7 (with Little Trethewey) Purpose Fulfilled Sold subject to contract / gallery c. 50
Little Trethewey (St Levan) 1868

(Ext 1895)

2013 7 (with Treen) Purpose Fulfilled Sold c. 200



BC        Bible Christian                                     NC       New Connexion

P          Primitive Methodist                            TT        Teetotal Wesleyan Methodist

UF        United Methodist Free Churches       UM      United Methodist

W         Wesleyan                                            WR      Wesleyan Reform Union

Majority of the information in the above table and unless otherwise marked taken from Easton, David P Methodist Chapel Closures in Cornwall 1932 – 2003: A Statistical Survey. Other information from*; Official Guide to Penzance (1876) and Noall, Cyril (1983) The Book of Penzance Buckingham: Barracuda Books) +; Horner, J (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance ^; Craig Weatherhill Report to Cornwall County Council”, John Probert **, Places, Preaching Houses and Chapels – The Wesley Trail Experience in St Just and Pendeen which gives membership and seating dates for 1876 (author / date?) *** and author’s knowledge or research #

  1. Possibly Newlyn Town, (within Paul Parish). John Probert has advised Wesleyan chapel opened in Newlyn Town in 1832.
  2. At Carn Yorth there is a former Wesleyan reform Union Chapel (sometimes known as the Free Church, and at one time in a circuit with the existing St Just WRU (Free Church). Built in 1886. This closed in the late 1980s

Note: The writer is confident of the veracity of the vast majority of the information above. Nevertheless caution should be exercised and checks made in relevant sources before quoting information on some of the older chapels regarding which there has been no time to cross check references.


Appendix 2: Listed Methodist Buildings in the West Penwith Methodist Circuit (including those most recently closed or disposed of)

Chapel Street, Penzance.


List entry Number: 1143151



Grade: II*



Mid C19. Granite ashlar. 2 storey front, 7 windows with semi-circular heads. Parapet raised at centre, cornice. Quoins. Ground floor, wide semi-circular entrances with fanlights and panelled double doors, Tuscan colonnade with entablature, with projecting rusticated porches at ends with flat pilaster quoins and semi-circular headed windows. Including iron railings to forecourt with lamp standards.

Nos 15 to 18 (consec) and the Methodist Church form a group.


List entry Number: 1386518



Grade: II



866/5/10010 Wesleyan School

Wesleyan (former) school for girls. 1884. Granite ashlar in thin courses; slate hipped roof behind parapet with gutter as moulded cornice; tall rendered stack with modillion cornice to right-hand return. Rectangular plan with entrance and stair hall on the left. 2 storeys; 4-bay front with left-hand entrance bay/porch projecting forward and surmounted by bellcote. large round-arched 2-light windows with round-arched lights and roundels as tracery; leaded glazing to taller 1st-floor windows. Entrance porch has round-arched doorway with panelled doors and there is an oculus above the 1st-floor window. 4-bay right-hand return has windows similar to those of the front elevation. INTERIOR retains many original features including its staircase and roof structure. This building and Truro School (for boys) are the only purpose-built Methodist schools for full-time education in Cornwall and this building is part of an important group of listed buildings, including the large 1814 (Grade II*) Wesleyan chapel.

Mousehole Methodist Church, Chapel Street, Mousehole


List entry Number: 1115115

Grade: II*



866/10/4 St Clements Methodist 14.10.1991 Church

(Formerly listed as: Mousehole Methodist Church)

Nonconformist (Wesleyan) chapel. Founded 1784, enlarged 1814, internally remodelled 1844, refenestrated late C19 and early C20, exterior rendered probably 1905. MATERIALS: rubble walls with unpainted render or stucco with moulded detail and rustication to ground floor; dry slate roof with widely spaced eaves modillions. PLAN: ritual E end to south, with pulpit and organ loft linked to horseshoe-plan gallery, entrance front to N and entrance hall flanked by staircases. 2-storey elevations with semi-circular arched windows with coloured leaded glazing. Moulded plinth, mid-floor entablature, fluted pilasters to 1st-floor windows, moulded impost string and moulded archivolts. Symmetrical 3-bay entrance front has wide central doorway with leaded spoked fanlight over pair of panelled doors. 4-bay side elevations. Small porch in angle with organ loft to south elevation. INTERIOR: complete and fine interior of c1834. Complete set of seating with grained box pews and horseshoe gallery carried on slender columns with stylised Ionic capitals, the panelled gallery front projecting on brackets to a dentilled cornice. Straight-flight stairs with fret-cut brackets and arched balustrade flank pulpit with bowed and panelled front flanked by rococo-style metal grills above fluted Doric columns to base. Paired and fluted Ionic columns support beams framing organ loft behind pulpit. Moulded cornice throughout and large ceiling roses with acanthus detail. GLASS: fine late C19 and early C20 patterned stained glass including the figures of Wesley, Bunyan and Wycliffe. MEMORIALS include World War 1 tablet by Snell and commemorative corner to the lost Penlee lifeboat and her crew. This chapel has an unusually fine and complete c1844 interior and fittings.
Listing NGR: SW4687126178

National Grid Reference: SW 46865 26179


Newlyn Trinity Methodist Chapel, Chywoone Hill, Newlyn


List entry Number: 1386515



Grade: II*

Date first listed: 14-Apr-1999


866/8/10008 Trinity Methodist Chapel
Nonconformist (Wesleyan) chapel. 1834, enlarged 1866. Coursed killas with granite dressings at the front, painted rubble at the sides; dry Delabole slate hipped roof with projecting eaves. Large rectangular aisle-less plan with horsehoe-plan gallery. 2-storey elevations; symmetrical 3-window front end. Late C19 horned sashes within original openings, round-arched to 1st floor, the front windows over a sill string. 3 round-arched doorways to ground floor, the central doorway wider and within open distyle Doric porch with unfluted wooden columns and plain moulded entablature; spoked fanlight over panelled doors. The other doorways, giving access to the gallery, have more simple spoked fanlights over panelled and glazed doors. INTERIOR: complete refitting of 1866, with some free pews still flanking grained box pews and box pulpit-a very rare survival -incorporated into rostrum of 1880s; marbled cast iron columns to oval gallery, with stencilled decoration to panelled front, which has grained box pews, cornicing picked out in brown colours and stencilled frieze. Communion area (brought forward 1939) with turned balusters. Memorial windows of 1923-4. One of the best and most complete early C19 chapels in Cornwall having escaped the usual alteration to the simple front elevation and containing important and rare fittings, including the box pulpit incorporated into the later rostrum, and much of the 1860s decorative scheme.
Chapel is on the English Heritage At Risk Register


St Just Methodist Chapel


List entry Number: 1143291



Grade: II*

Date first listed: 21-Sep-1973

1589 CHAPEL ROAD Methodist Church (Former Wesleyan Chapel) SW 33 SW 2/3

Very large early/mid C19 chapel, of granite ashlar. Gable to street. 2 storeys. 3 windows. Large central one storey porch, with 4 paired Doric columns, and entablature. 2 semi-circular arched entrance doorways. Above, 3 semi-circular arched windows combined in semi-circular arched recess. Flanking windows on each floor semi-circular arched. One stringcourse, springing course on 1st floor. Moulded gable parapet. Side elevation 2 storeys, 6 windows.

Listing NGR: SW3690731570

National Grid Reference: SW 36907 31570


St Levan Methodist Chapel


List entry Number: 1311918



Grade: II*

Date first listed: 15-Dec-1988


ST LEVAN LITTLE TRETHEWEY SW 32 SE 7/187 Little Trethewey Wesleyan Chapel – GV II Wesleyan chapel. 1868. Stuccoed elevations over grouted scantle slate roofs with pedimented gable at the front and gable end at the rear. Cast-iron ogee gutters. Plan: Rectangular 4-bay aisle-less plan chapel with adjoining porch and vestry or cloakroom between first and second bay and second bays and third bay of the right- hand entrance front. Exterior: Unaltered elevations. 2-bay south (ritual west) road front has 2 round- headed window openings with moulded architraves and stucco keystones set back within recessed panels. Simple entablature and moulded pediment with traceried oculus over. Original or late-C19 8-pane horned sashes. Other elevations are similarly detailed (except for the pediment). East front has gable porch between left-hand bay and second bay and blind gable end of vestry to third bay. Original pair of 3-panel flush-beaded doors to round arched doorway of porch and 6-panel doorway to left-hand wall of vestry. Interior has original gallery with box pews (south end) with front carried on 2 Tuscan columns. There is a galleried choir at the opposite (ritual east) end. Sources: An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels by Christopher Stell (RCHM).
Listing NGR: SW3797523807


List entry Number: 1311929



Grade: II


ST LEVAN LITTLE TRETHEWEY SW 32 SE 7/189 Graveyard walls of Trethewey – Methodist chapel, gate-piers, gates and adjoining trap-house GV II Churchyard walls, gate-piers, gates and adjoining trap-house. Circa 1868. Granite ashlar, roughly coursed dressed granite, granite rubble and rock-faced granite copings. Trap-house has rectangular grouted scantle slate roof with gable ends. Walls on 4 sides of churchyard and perimeter wall of adjacent schoolroom. Gateways in front of paths to chapel, schoolroom and trap-house doorways. Adjoining the right-hand (east wall) is a trap-house with stable with loft in roof space. Exterior: Trap-house has south front with wide central doorway, very narrow doorway on the left and stable doorway on the right. Chapel has convex quadrant-on-plan gateway with square gate-piers and terminal piers. The flanking walls are ramped up. Gateway to schoolroom is smaller and has square monolithic piers. The flanking walls are also ramped up. Piers have rock faced granite. Original cast-iron gates to chapel gateway. Interior of trap-house not inspected.

National Grid Reference: SW 38013 23809


List entry Number: 1327518



Grade: II


ST LEVAN LITTLE TRETHEWEY SW 32 SE 7/188 Schoolroom immediately east of – Trethewey Methodist Chapel GV II Schoolroom. 1868 or soon after. Rendered or stuccoed front, otherwise granite rubble with granite dressings. Grouted scantle slate roofs with gable ends. Brick chimney over rear gable end. Plan: Deep rectangular 4-bay plan with square porch in front of front gable end. Exterior: Unaltered elevations with probably original 4-pane horned sashes (4 to each side wall). South front gable has cruciform ventilator to gable oculus. Central porch has central round-headed window and ledged door to doorway into right- hand wall. Interior not inspected. Included for group value.

National Grid Reference: SW 37958 23800


Treen Methodist Chapel


List entry Number: 1143847



ST LEVAN TREEN SW 32 SE 7/239 Treen Methodist Chapel including – forecourt walls GV II Methodist chapel including forecourt walls. Date plaque 1834. Painted granite rubble with granite dressings. Grouted scantle slate roof with gable ends. Crested clay ridge tiles. Cast-iron ogee-section gutters. Plan: Rectangular aisle-less plan with entrance at the south west end and rostrum at the north east (ritual east) end. Shallow rectangular courtyard in front of the entrance. Exterior: South west entrance front has central doorway and shuttered oculus ventilator to the gable over. C20 door. Each side wall has 2 windows; original 12- pane hornless sashes to right-hand wall, later horned copies to left-hand wall. Rear wall has central blocked window opening. Shallow rectangular courtyard in front of doorway has walls on 3 sides and a gateway aligned with the doorway. The walls are granite rubble and have square-edged dressed granite copings. Interior: Plain plastered walls; central ceiling rose, 2 pine pews numbered 8 and 9; C19 benches and panelled pulpit with canted front with moulded cornice and bow- fronted ledge.


Tredavoe Village Chapel (Note: not part of the West Penwith Circuit)

List entry Number: 1210370


  1. 1498 TREDAVOE SW 4528 12/625 Tredavoe Methodist Church
  2. Small simple chapel. Limewashed granite rubble with protecting granite quoins. Entrance porch, enclosed, rubble, with crude pediment and pointed arch doorway, above granite pointed arch recessed panel and at gable head a short square turret with pointed head panels, and wind vane. Granite addition of 1899 at opposite south west end. Interior, wood balustraded pulpit and lectern, simple panelled box pews with doors.


Richmond Methodist Church, Tolver Place, Penzance.


List entry Number: 1386517


Grade: II

Date first listed: 14-Apr-1999


SW4730 PENZANCE PENZANCE 866/6/10009 Richmond Wesleyan Chapel

Nonconformist (Wesleyan) chapel. 1907 by Gunton and Gordon. Dressed granite brought to course and granite dressings; dry slate roof with coped gable ends and stone eaves cornice, the right-hand gable surmounted by finial; stone stack left of lower vestry roof. PLAN: rectangular aisle-less plan plus chancel flanked by organ and vestry projections at ritual east end. Late Free Gothic style with Arts and Crafts influence. EXTERIOR: Single-storey elevations; 5:1-bay south front with 3-tierweathered buttresses between the bays. 3-light mullioned windows with double transoms and arched lights surmounted by simple Perpendicular tracery rising into 2-centred arched heads. Gabled porch to right-hand bay with hoodmould over 2-centred arched doorway and 2-light traceried windows to the sides. There is another porch with flat-headed doorway left of the main front giving access to the vestry wing. Rear elevation as similar detail. Right-hand gable (road-frontage) end has 2 very tall mullioned and traceried windows in deeply recessed splays under moulded 2-centred arches. East end has 2:4:2-light window with quatrefoil and other tracery to its sidelights. INTERIOR is unaltered except for the insertion of a screened entrance hall area. The impressive roof has hammer-beam trusses with tie rods at wall-plate level and there is central arched bracing. The walls are plastered, the only enrichment being the moulding of the equilateral chancel arch and the wider shallower arch at the ritual west end. FITTINGS: plain panelled oak pews with shaped ends plus choir pews with blind arched panels to the front and turned finials over the ends. The choir stalls are elevated above a dressed granite and chamfered plinth. Octagonal oak pulpit has blind traceried panels and stands on a moulded granite base approached by a short flight of granite steps. The large piped organ has detail similar to the choir stalls. The oak altar table appears to be slightly later in date. An accomplished example of a Free Style chapel design of their period, marking a very clear departure from earlier chapel designs In Cornwall.
Appendix 3: Population Statistics for West Penwith Parishes

Latest estimated figures 2009 from Cornwall Council.

Historical Figures


Parish Population 2009 Population Peak

and Date

Madron 1,591 3,843 in 1861*
Morvah 49 116 in 1901
Paul 296 N/a

Includes Newlyn with population of 4,165 (2001)

21,382 N/a
Sancreed 625 1,398 in 1851
Sennen 806 850 in 1991
St Buryan 1,377 1,911 in 1841

971 in 1971

St Just

Includes Pendeen, Trewellard and Kelynack

4,637 9,290 in 1861
St Levan 459 731 in 1911


* Comparison figure only. Boundary changes make problematic the identification of peak population.



Appendix 4: Photographs


Photographs of Former Chapels and Sunday Schools


Former Borah Chapel, Former Borah Chapel

Former Cripples Hill Chapel, St Just


Former Newbridge Chapel


Former St Just Sunday School


Former Sennen Chapel


Former St Levan Chapel (Little Trethewey)


Former Treen Chapel


Former Tregerest Chapel


Former Brane Chapel


Site of former chapel, Queen Street, St Just


Former Chapel, Botallack


Former WRU Chapel, Carn Yorth


Former Wesleyan Chapel, Trewellard


Former Chapel, Trewellard


Former Chapel, Boscaswell, Pendeen


Sunday School plaque, Rear of Boscaswell chapel


Former Chapel, Bojewyan, Pendeen


Former Chapel, Zennor


Former Chapel and Board School, Morvah 1


Former Chapel and Board School. Morvah


Former Teetotal Chapel, Newmill


Former Chapel, Gear


Former Wesleyan Chapel. Gulval

Former Tolverth Chapel, Long Rock


Former Mount Street Chapel, Penzance



Photographs of Existing Methodist Premises in West Penwith


St Just Chapel (Grade II*)


St Just Chapel Interior


The Centre, Newlyn


Trinity Chapel, Newlyn (Grade II*)


Drift Chapel


High Street Chapel, Penzance


Madron Chapel


Centenary Chapel, Newlyn



Chapels not under the care of the Methodist Circuit


Tredavoe Chapel (Grade II)


St Just Free Church WRU Grade II



The area discussed in this paper is represented by that lying south and west of the heavy line, and identified as ecclesiastical parishes. Not all places of worship are shown on this map.




Civil Parishes covering the area of interest are as above:


 1         St. Just in Penwith
2         Sennen
3         St. Levan
4         St . Buryan
5         Sancreed
6         Morvah

8         Madron
9         Paul
10        Penzance



[1] Payton, P (2004) Cornwall – A History Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd p. 200

[2] Payton, P (2004) Cornwall – A History Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd p. 198

[3] Pearce, J (1964) The Wesleys in Cornwall Truro: D Bradford Barton p. 18

[4] Pearce, J (1964) The Wesleys in Cornwall Truro: D Bradford Barton p. 24

[5] Payton, P (2004) Cornwall – A History Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd p. 197

[6] Pearce, J (1964) The Wesleys in Cornwall Truro: D Bradford Barton p.10

[7] Payton, P (2004) Cornwall – A History Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd p. 198

[8] Pearce, J (1964) The Wesleys in Cornwall Truro: D Bradford Barton p.25

[9] Payton, P (ed) (2000) Cornwall for Ever – Kernow Bys Vyken Cornwall Heritage Trust p. 110

[10] Pearce, J (1964) The Wesleys in Cornwall Truro: D Bradford Barton pp. 19, 20

See also

[11] Hardie, M (2000) Penzance Penzance Town Council p. 64

[12] Lake, J, Cox, J and Berry E (2001) Diversity and Vitality – The Methodist and Nonconformist Chapels of Cornwall. Cornwall Archaeological Unit

[13] Hamilton Jenkin, (1970) AK Cornwall and its People New York: Augustus M Kelley p. 165

[14] Hardie, M (2000) Penzance Penzance Town Council p. 62

[15] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 130

[16] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 135

[17] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 135


[18] Payton, P (2004) Cornwall – A History Fowey: Cornwall Editions Ltd p. 198

[19] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 138

[20] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 151

[21] Horner, J  (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance p. 13

[22] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 152

[23] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 154

[24] Horner, J  (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance p. 78

[25] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 157

[26] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 166

[27] Haile I (2009) The Next Chapter – Cornish Methodism 1965 – 2005 p. 21

[28] Easton, D (2005) Ceased to Meet – The Closure of Cornish Methodist Chapels Since 1932




[32] Haile I (2009) The Next Chapter – Cornish Methodism 1965 – 2005 p. 78


[34] Easton, D (2005) Ceased to Meet – The Closure of Cornish Methodist Chapels Since 1932

[35] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 151

[36] Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 164

[37] Easton, D (2005) Ceased to Meet – The Closure of Cornish Methodist Chapels Since 1932 p.38

[38] Easton, D (2005) Ceased to Meet – The Closure of Cornish Methodist Chapels Since 1932 p. 38

[39] Currie in Orme, N (Ed) (1991) Unity and Variety – A History of the Church in Devon and Cornwall p. 160

[40] Haile I (2009) The Next Chapter – Cornish Methodism 1965 – 2005 p. 21

[41] Horner, J  (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance p. 78

[42] Horner, J  (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance p. 81

[43] Horner, J  (2010) Even in this Place – C19th Nonconformists and Life in the Borough of Penzance p. 81

[44] St Just and Penzance circuits were later to combine to form the West Penwith Circuit. That circuit is now exploring merger with at least part of another circuit to its east.

[45] Lake, J and Serjeant, I (Undated) Recording and conserving Cornish chapels (Source of statistics)

[46] Lake, J and Serjeant, I (Undated) Recording and conserving Cornish chapels.

[47] Lake, J and Serjeant, I (Undated) Recording and conserving Cornish chapels

[48] Listing Details here and below from English Heritage: Heritage List for England

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