Methodism in Poldark

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Methodism in Poldark

So you've watched the brooding drama set in 18th-century Cornwall.
The books by Winston Graham and the TV adaptation demonstrate that you cannot tell the story of mining in Cornwall in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, without the story of Methodism in Cornwall. But how much of the current popular TV adaptation or the books reflect the truth of Methodism in the 1790s?

In Methodist chronology, Poldark Season 3 begins after John Wesley's death in 1791. By then Methodism was fairly well established and ordered, with 56,000 followers (which went on to peak at c1.5m in the nineteenth century). By the religious census of 1851, Cornwall was the most Methodist county in the country with 48% of worshippers in a Methodist church, and so out-numbering all the other denominations put together, including the Church of England (NB the next most Methodist county was Yorkshire, where 26% of worshippers were Methodist).

In Cornwall in 1798 there were five circuits (groups of Methodist meetings around which the ministers circulated) covering the county — Penzance, Redruth, St Austell, Plymouth and Launceston — with 19 ministers. There were 95 chapels, with two societies in their second chapel!

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