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 that was built by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. It 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.

The chapel opened in 1778 to replace John Wesley's earlier London chapel, the Foundry,[1] where he first preached on 11 November 1739.[2] 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.

Along with the associated Leysian Mission, Wesley's Chapel is a circuit of the London District of the Methodist Church. The chapel has an average Sunday service attendance of 439.[3]

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[4] 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.[1] 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.[5] The communion rail was a gift from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,[6] who was married in the chapel in 1951.[7]

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 house on the right. The house is a well-preserved example of a middle-class eighteenth-century home. It is Grade I listed, and was Wesley's residence for the last eleven years of his life. He is commemorated by a blue plaque on the City Road frontage.

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.[8] 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 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 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.[9]

The chapel today[edit]

Altar and stained glass windows at Wesley's Chapel

The chapel has an active congregation and services are held every Sunday. It 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.[10]

The Museum of Methodism, housed in the chapel's crypt, contains artifacts and relics relating to Methodism including several of Wesley's speeches and essays on theology.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "History: Wesley's Chapel". Wesley's Chapel & Leysian Mission. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Wesley's Chapel - timeline". Museum of Methodism. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Circuit Membership Statistics Summary October 2012" (PDF). Statistics for Mission. Methodist Church in Britain. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Historic England. "Details from image database (368750)". Images of England.  accessed 22 January 2009
  5. ^ "Organ". Wesley's Chapel & Leysian Mission. 2008. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "Communion table and rail". RE:Quest. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Margaret Thatcher's red prime ministerial box sells for £242,500". BBC News (BBC). 15 December 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  8. ^ John Wesley at Find a Grave
  9. ^ "What is the Leysian Mission?" at wesleyschapel.org.uk
  10. ^ "What is Wesley's Chapel?" at wesleyschapel.org.uk/
  11. ^ "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]