|Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission|
|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; Revd Steven Cooper|
Wesley's Chapel (originally the City Road Chapel) is a Methodist church situated in the St Luke's area in the south of the London Borough of Islington. Opened in 1778, it was built under the direction of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. The site is a place of worship and visitor attraction, incorporating the Museum of Methodism in its crypt and John Wesley's House next to the chapel. The chapel has been called "The Mother Church of World Methodism".
History and architecture
In 1776 Methodist leader John 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 from across the Connexion 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, and the builder was Samuel Tooth, a member of Wesley's Foundery society. The chapel was formally opened with a service on 1 November 1778. The City Road Chapel was established to replace Wesley's earlier London chapel, the Foundery, where he first preached on 11 November 1739.
Wesley's Chapel is constructed in brown brick laid in Flemish bond with dressings of yellow brick and stone. 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. For example, the original plain windows were replaced with stained glass. In 1864, the gallery was modernised, its front lowered and raked seating installed. Around the gallery is motif in relief supposedly designed by Wesley: a dove with an olive branch in its beak encircled by a serpent following its own tail. The Adam style ceiling was replaced by a replica following a fire in 1879.
Another major refurbishment of 1891 was carried out by Holloway Brothers, collaborating with the Methodist architects Elijah Hoole and William Willmer Pocock. (There is a memorial stained glass window dedicated to Pocock.) The foundations were reinforced, the apse windows were enlarged to accommodate the stained glass, and new pews were installed. The pillars supporting the gallery were originally ships' masts donated by King George III, but these were replaced by French jasper pillars donated from Methodist churches overseas. Only the top section of the original three-decker pulpit survives. 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 location of the sanctuary (including the original communion table against the wall) in an apse behind the pulpit was common in the 'auditory' churches of the 18th century, but few other examples survive today. The present sanctuary in front of the pulpit dates from restoration work in the 1970s. Among other alterations, the foundations were again strengthened due to subsistence and the roof was replaced. The chapel was officially reopened on 1 November 1978, by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The present communion rail was gifted in 1993 by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was married in the chapel in 1951.
A memorial to Susanna Wesley stands just inside the gate, and her grave is situated in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, opposite the Chapel.
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.
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.
A bronze statue of Wesley with the inscription "the world is my parish" stands at the entrance to the courtyard; created in 1891 by John Adams-Acton, the sculpture is Grade II listed. Elijah Hoole was responsible for the 10 foot high granite pedestal on which the statue stands.
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 1904 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 Canon Jennifer Smith. Wesley's Chapel is in an ecumenical partnership with the Anglican St Giles' Cripplegate parish church, Jewin Welsh Presbyterian Church, and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. It shares a close relationship with the Friends meeting house at Bunhill Fields.
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 "warmed heart" "contemplative space", Thomas Coke's writing slope or desk and Donald Soper's portable preaching stand. 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.
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The most stylish, elegant public bathrooms in London
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wesley's Chapel.|
- Wesley's Chapel, London – official website
- The Museum of Methodism & John Wesley's House – official website
- Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism – Sacred Destinations
- Virtual Tour of Wesley's Chapel – RE:Quest
- Wesley's Chapel The Museum of Methodism & The John Wesley House – AboutBritain
- Profile at Visit London – London's official website
- Wesley's Chapel at Find a Grave