|Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission|
Chapel and courtyard
|Location||49 City Road, St. Luke's, London|
|Denomination||Methodist Church of Great Britain|
|Architect(s)||George Dance the Younger|
|Minister(s)||The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith|
Wesley's Chapel (originally the City Road Chapel) is a Methodist church in St. Luke's, in the London Borough of Islington, that was built under the direction of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. The site is now a place of worship and visitor attraction, incorporating the Museum of Methodism in its crypt and John Wesley's House next to the chapel.
History and architecture
The chapel opened in 1778 to replace John Wesley's earlier London chapel, the Foundery, where he first preached on 11 November 1739. 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. After raising funds the foundation stone for the chapel was laid on 21 April 1777. The architect was George Dance the Younger, surveyor to the City of London.
The building has Grade I listed status and is a fine example of Georgian architecture although it has been altered and improved since it was built. In 1864 the gallery was modernised, its front lowered and raked seating installed. The original pillars supporting it were ships' masts donated by King George III but in 1891 they were replaced by French jasper pillars donated from Methodist churches overseas. Stained glass is a later addition. An organ was installed in 1882 and the present organ in 1891. It was electrified in 1905 and in 1938 its pipes were moved to their present position at the rear of the gallery. The communion rail was a gift from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was married in the chapel in 1951.
The chapel is set within a cobbled courtyard off City Road, with the chapel at the furthest end and Wesley's house on the right.
John Wesley's House
John Wesley's House, a mid-Georgian townhouse, was built in 1779 at the same time as the chapel. It was Wesley's residence for the last eleven years of his life. He is commemorated by a blue plaque on the City Road frontage. This Grade I listed building is open to visitors as a historic house museum. It was built by Wesley and designed by George Dance the younger, at that time the surveyor of the City of London.
Wesley lived in the house for the last twelve years of his life and died in his bedroom. The house was also used to accommodate travelling preachers and their families. The household servants also lived on the premises. The house continued to be used for travelling preachers after Wesley's death until it was turned into a museum in the 1900s.
John Wesley blue plaque
Courtyard, gardens and cemetery
At the front of Wesley's House is a small physic garden which contains herbs mentioned in Wesley's book, The Primitive Physic. It details ways in which common people could cure themselves using natural medicines as they couldn't afford a doctor. Wesley set up the first free dispensary in London giving out medical advice and remedies at his Foundery chapel.
The house is dressed with period furniture which shows what it would have been like when Wesley lived and died there, although the house would have mostly been painted in French grey rather than fancy wallpaper.
Wesley died on 2 March 1791. His tomb is in the garden at 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.
Museum of Methodism
The Museum of Methodism, housed in the chapel's crypt, contains artefacts and relics relating to Methodism, including several of Wesley's speeches and essays on theology. The museum was created in 1978 and was refurbished in 2014, with the last case being installed in early 2016 thanks to a generous donation.
The Leysian Mission
The Leys School was opened in Cambridge in 1875, two years after non-Anglicans were admitted to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It was intended to be "the Methodist Eton". Dr William Fiddian Moulton, a biblical scholar and church leader, was its first headmaster.
The mission was 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. It 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 arrival of the welfare state the mission disposed of the buildings. Strong links with the school remain and a scholarship allows a number of children from the city of London to attend the school as boarders. Wesley’s Chapel and the mission merged on Easter Day 1989.
The chapel today
The chapel is home to a multicultural congregation with a membership of 439. It is a working church with daily prayer, Sunday Holy Communion services and several weekday services. It is known for its relatively "high church" sacramental liturgy. The superintendent minister is Jennifer Smith. There is a memorial stained glass window dedicated to the memory of Methodist church architect William Willmer Pocock.
Wesley's Chapel is in a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP) with St Giles' Cripplegate, its Anglican neighbour and shares close relationships with St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, St Anne's Lutheran Church and the Friends meeting house at Bunhill Fields. It has meeting rooms for other activities.
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