Wesley's Chapel

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Wesley's Chapel
Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission
Wesley's Chapel
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Methodist Church of Great Britain
Website www.wesleyschapel.org.uk
Founder(s) John Wesley
Architect(s) George Dance the Younger
Style Georgian architecture
Division Wesley's Chapel Circuit
Minister(s) Rev. Leslie Griffiths

Coordinates: 51°31′25″N 0°5′13″W / 51.52361°N 0.08694°W / 51.52361; -0.08694

Wesley's Chapel is a Methodist church in London which was built by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. The site also is now both a place of worship and a visitor attraction; incorporating the Museum of Methodism in its crypt and John Wesley's House next to the main chapel.

The chapel was opened in 1778 to replace John Wesley's earlier London chapel, The Foundery.[1] In 1776 Wesley applied to the City of London for a site to build his new chapel and was granted an area of land on City Road, London. After raising considerable funds the foundation stone for the new chapel was laid on 21 April 1777. The architect was George Dance the Younger, surveyor to the City of London. It was built by Samuel Tooth who was a member of the Foundery Chapel. The opening service was on All Saints' Day, 1778.

Along with the associated Leysian Mission, Wesley's Chapel forms a circuit of the London District of the Methodist Church. The chapel has an average Sunday service attendance of 439.[2]

Architecture and internal features[edit]

Wesley's chapel, with courtyard and statue

The building has Grade I listed status and is a fine example of Georgian architecture[3] although subject to various changes and improvements subsequent to the original construction. In 1864 the gallery was modernised, with the front being lowered and raked seating installed. The original pillars supporting the gallery were ships' masts donated by King George III but in 1891 these pillars were replaced by French jasper pillars donated from Methodist churches overseas.[1] Several different kinds of stained glass are later additions. The first organ was installed in 1882 and the present organ in 1891. It was electrified in 1905 and in 1938 the organ pipes were to their present position at the rear of the gallery.[4] The communion rail was a gift of Margaret Thatcher.[5]

The site[edit]

Wesley's House

The chapel is set within a cobbled courtyard off City Road, with the chapel at the furthest end, and Wesley's own house on the right. The house is a well preserved example of a middle class eighteenth century home. It is Grade I listed, and Wesley's residence there for the last eleven years of his life is commemorated by a blue plaque on the City Road frontage.

Wesley died on 2 March 1791. His tomb is in the garden to the rear of the chapel, alongside the graves of six of his preachers, and those of his sister Martha Hall and his doctor and biographer, Dr John Whitehead.[6] A statue of Wesley with the inscription "the world is my parish" stands at the entrance to the courtyard.

The site also houses one of the few surviving examples of a Gentleman's Convenience, built by the renowned sanitary engineer Thomas Crapper in 1891, and restored in 1972.

The Leysian Mission[edit]

The Leys School was opened in Cambridge in 1875, two years after non-Anglicans were first admitted to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It was intended to be "the Methodist Eton". Dr William Fiddian Moulton, a renowned biblical scholar and church leader, was its first headmaster.

The Mission was originally started, in nearby Whitecross Street, in 1886, by former pupils of the school who were concerned about the social and housing conditions in the East End of London. In 1902 the Mission moved into purpose-built premises in Old Street, very near Wesley’s Chapel. The Mission provided a Medical Mission, a "poor man’s lawyer", a relief committee, feeding programmes, meetings for men and women, and a range of services and musical activities.

After World War II and the coming of the Welfare State the Mission disposed of the buildings. Strong links with the school remain, however, and a scholarship allows a number of children from the city of London to attend as boarders at the school. Wesley’s Chapel and the Mission merged on Easter Day 1989.[7]

The chapel today[edit]

Altar and stained glass windows

The chapel has a Methodist congregation with worship services every Sunday. It is in a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) with St. Giles’ Cripplegate, its Anglican neighbour. It also shares a close relationship with St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church and with St. Anne’s Lutheran Church as well as the Friends meeting house at Bunhill Fields, and also has meeting rooms for other activities.[8]

The Museum of Methodism is housed in the crypt of Wesley's Chapel. It contains artifacts and relics relating to Methodism including several of Wesley's speeches and essays on theology.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History: Wesley's Chapel". Wesley's Chapel & Leysian Mission. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Circuit Membership Statistics Summary October 2012". Statistics for Mission. Methodist Church in Britain. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  3. ^ English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (368750)". Images of England.  accessed 22 January 2009
  4. ^ "Organ". Wesley's Chapel & Leysian Mission. 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "Communion table and rail". RE:Quest. Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  6. ^ John Wesley at Find a Grave
  7. ^ "What is the Leysian Mission?" at wesleyschapel.org.uk
  8. ^ "What is Wesley's Chapel?" at wesleyschapel.org.uk/
  9. ^ "Museum of Methodism". Wesley's Chapel & Leysian Mission. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  • George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial (1872)

External links[edit]