[D]on't get snuffling after some aged broken pulpit; go into the highways and gather the people about you 1
James Wells was the foremost Strict Baptist of mid-nineteenth-century Britain. His congregation was built out of a small group who heard his first attempts at open-air preaching on the streets of London. By his death it regularly numbered up to 2,000. Wells espoused a dogmatic high Calvinism, and was even happy to be termed a hyper-Calvinist. During the period of James Wells's ministry Southwark contained some of the most acute conditions of poverty and social deprivation in Britain. His work in such a location provides a significant insight into the way a high-Calvinist minister reacted to pressing social needs in an area of London in many ways similar to central Manchester. Whilst some elements of continuity with the work of the Manchester high Calvinists who ministered slightly earlier in the century can be discerned, differences in approach to gospel outreach become evident. Indeed, there are more noticeable similarities between Wells's work and the ministry of Joseph Irons in the different context of the London suburb of Camberwell.
Wells was born at Alton, Hampshire, in 1803. The exact circumstances of his birth and upbringing are not known, but it was stated at his funeral that 'he never had the care and kindness of a father's watchfulness bestowed upon him', and that his 'mother was not kind'. It was a rough childhood during which he left home at the age of seven, and spent a period in