1907: Merrington’s “Strange and grotesque” religious cult.

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 25 November 1907

These days Merrington is a pleasant little place with a lovely nature reserve. But go back to 1907 and walkers strolling through the nearby the woods would have been met with a very strange and disturbing sight – a religious cult whose somersaulting followers babbled incoherently in a tent.

Here’s the full newspaper report..


Amazing Revival Scenes Near Shrewsbury.

Strange and grotesque scenes are seen at a gospel mission at Merrington Green, an open common, near Shrewsbury.


Here during the last two years has been pitched a tent in which Mr J. Wesley Baker has conducted his services comparatively unnoticed. But during the past fortnight the meetings have attracted much attention locally by reason of the extraordinary enthusiasm and antics of the faithful who attend.

Mr Wesley Baker’s tabernacle a wigwam like structure, long and low, and the leader himself, when press man entered the other evening, was sitting on the floor after the fashion of an Indian medicine man. Throwing his arms about over his head of wavy black hair, he loudly declaimed that Christ’s kingdom shall endure, the meeting the while being in a white heat of fervour.


One man above the din struggled in prayer with intense passion. During this men and women prostrated themselves the floor, and ever and anon, aroused the ejaculations of the missioner and his assistants, stood on their feet, and amidst the pleadings of the man in prayer shook their fists in defiance the supposed powers of darkness or shouted exclamations of joy.


Following this, a woman burst forth, feebly at first, but with increasing power until her prayer became a passionate appeal, punctuated by a perfect bedlam of pious expressions from the faithful around the penitent form. This woman the end of her effort became so exhausted that she fell forward on the bench and lapsed into a rapid patter. This gibberish Mr Wesley Baker claimed be the spirit speaking through the woman in the Hebrew tongue. Nightly men and women under the excitement and weird influences babble in this strange way.

1900 OS MAP
1900 OS Map

One man was seized with laughter, and the leader assured the faithful that was all right; that was the way in which, he said, the spirit manifested itself in that man.

Mr Wesley Baker Sunday last, claimed that there were manifestations of  the spirit in the form of prayers uttered with cloven tongues at four different sittings.


Mrs Rogers, of Belle Vue, Shrewsbury, who is on the Primitive Methodist “plan,” had a wonderful experience Thursday last. She states that for twelve months past she has been praying for greater faith in the promise made in the Bible, but she never anticipated receiving what she did when she went out to Merrington, and, in fact, rather doubted the truth of what was claimed. But she had not been in the tent more than ten minutes before she was seized with violent tremblings and fell to the ground. She rose again, but again found herself incapable of standing, and again fell down.  This was repeated a third time, and on the last occasion she turned a somersault.


Each time while lying prostrate she prayed for greater faith. After the somersault she saw, plainly as anyone could see, the Crucifixion, and below it the words,  “They must put everything underneath the blood.” She asked the Lord if the message was meant for her, and heard distinctly a voice say, “Follow on to know the Lord.”

After this she began to laugh, and continued in a laughing fit for four hours. The hilarious impulse was irresistible, and caused, she says, by joyfulness that her faith had been justified.

She has not yet got the “cloven tongues,” but she says she is going to have them, and that her brother-in-law has already got them.

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 25 November 1907


cloven tongues
Headline from the Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 25 November 1907

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