Gwennap PitGoogle map
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gwennap Pit, adjoining Busveal Chapel near Redruth in Cornwall, occupies a depression in the ground that was possibly formed when underground mine workings subsided. John Wesley preached there 18 times between 1762 and 1789; he described the pit as “a natural amphitheatre”. In 1806 the depression was transformed by a local mining engineer and four mine captains into the circular, terraced amphitheatre it is today, in Wesley’s memory.

The Grade II* listed site,[1] which is open to the public, is owned by the Methodists and is used for worship in the summer months.[2] It is adjacent to Busveal Chapel, which was built in 1836. The chapel has pictures, exhibition panels and a visitor centre. The area is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site.

History


Busveal Chapel
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gwennap Pit, sometimes called the cathedral of Methodism, is adjacent to Busveal Chapel near Redruth. It occupies a depression in the ground that was probably formed when underground mine workings subsided. It became an open-air preaching place for John Wesley who preached there to thousands of people.[1]

On Sunday 5 September 1762 Wesley was prevented from preaching at his usual place in Carharrack village by strong winds and moved with the crowd to a hollow a short distance away. The hollow, a depression most likely caused by mining subsidence that could hold several thousand people, came to be known as Gwennap Pit.[3] Wesley stood on one side of the amphitheatre and preached to the gathered crowd below. He returned to address a large crowd on 8 September 1765[3] and between 1862 and 1789 made 18 visits.

In 1806, as a memorial to Wesley, the depression was transformed by a local mining engineer and four mine captains into the circular, terraced amphitheatre it is today.[2] The original preaching pit was reduced in size to a conical pit of 360 feet (110 m) in circumference and 16 feet (5 m) deep. It has 13 circles of terraced grass seating faced with random rubble. On the west side a flight of segmental steps is built into the terraces, and to the north the fourth step down has a pair of stone posts with a rectangular boulder between them, the pulpit.[1]

Citations



Bibliography


BBC. “Summer Services Return to Historic Gwennap Pit.” Local News, 2011, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-14060834.
NHLE. “Gwennap Pit.” National Heritage List for England, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1309719.
Rogal, Samuel J. The Wesleys in Cornwall, 1743-1789. McFarland & Co USA, 2015.