Gwennap Pit

Gwennap Pit

Gwennap Pit originated as either a mine collapse (reputed to have been formed from subsidence of part of Cathedral Mine) or possibly from an open-cast working. It became famous as it was used in its unimproved form by John Wesley for preaching on 17 occasions from 1776-89. In memory to Wesley, in 1806, local miners further excavated the pit into a neater oval shape and added terraces to create 13 rows of seats, creating the elegant structure that is visible today.

Somewhat at odds with preaching a religion based around modesty and restraint, Wesley greatly exaggerated the size of the pit. His estimate of an audience of 32,000 also seems unlikely as the current pit can accommodate around 1,800 people. Moreover, in the mid-late 1700s, the entire population of Cornwall was only around 150,000 and due to quite high infant mortality at the time, a large percentage of the population were babies and young children. Audience size would also have been limited by transport: most poor people didn't possess a horse and would need to walk from their homes. In fact, the long walk from fishing villages to Anglican parish churches (often on high ground, nearer God) was one of the reasons that Methodism (which could be practised within the village) became so popular.

More about Gwennap Pit.

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