Wesley's New Room, Bristol

Wesley's New Room in Bristol is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world, established by John Wesley himself in 1739. It still looks much like John Wesley left it, and includes a variety of furnishings and items associated with both Wesley brothers and other Methodist preachers.

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History of Wesley's New Room

John Wesley arrived in Bristol in 1739, after George Whitefield asked him to take over his work of preaching to the crowds he had gathered. Wesley preached his first open-air sermon in this country on April 2, 1739 in a Brickfield in St. Philip's Marsh, and later preached at Hanham Mount and several other places.

On May 9, 1739, John Wesley bought land for what he called "our New Room in the Horsefair." On May 12, he laid the foundation stone for what would become the first Methodist building in the world. In 1748 the chapel was enlarged and to some extent reconstructed.

John Wesley came to Bristol every year from 1739 to 1790 and spent nearly 1,500 nights in lodgings at the New Room, probably more than he spent in any other place during his travels in that period.

Wesley's London base, known as Wesley's Chapel, was built several decades later in 1778.

What to See at Wesley's New Room

Wesley's New Room overlooks courtyards that contain an equestrian statue of John Wesley (by A. G. Walker, 1932) and a statue of his brother Charles Wesley, the famous hymn-writer (by B. Hitch, 1939). The Broadmead courtyard also contains the grave of Captain Thomas Webb and his wife, reburied here when Portland Chapel was closed in 1972. The Horsefair Courtyard has a copper plate, probably placed by John Wesley, containing texts about giving to the poor.

Inside, the New Room is a simple chapel with an upper gallery, both levels filled with rows of simple pews and benches. On an elevated platform at the front is John Wesley's double pulpit. The upper part was used for the sermon and the lower part for the rest of the service. The present upper part is a replica, but the lower part and the communion table were used by Wesley. Above the pulpit is a hidden upstairs window, from which Wesley observed the progress of his student preachers.

The upper floor has lodgings used by John and Charles Wesley and other traveling preachers. In the Common Room, the Methodist preachers talked and ate together, using the plain table and benches you can see today. Here also is the window through which Wesley could watch his preachers in the pulpit.

The grandfather clock in the Common Room probably dates from 1670 and was bought by John's father in 1710 to replace a clock destroyed by the fire at Epworth Rectory. The five-year-old John Wesley had to be rescued from the fire, "a brand plucked out of the burning."

The cupboards house part of the Library, a collection begun from the earliest days of the New Room. It includes 1,200 documents about Methodism before 1900.

The doors around the Common Room lead to study bedrooms for the preachers. The John Wesley Rooms include a large collection of Wesley relics: a bed he used, the sloping window ledge on which he wrote, some of his letters, his study chair, the chair from which at Winchelsea in 1790 he preached for the last time in the open air, a portrait by Renton, the Enoch Wood bust, a lithograph of the Hitt portrait, and a first edition of his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament.

John's brother Charles stayed in the "Charles Wesley Rooms" occasionally from 1748 to 1749. After his marriage to Sarah Gwynne, he lived at 4 Charles Street, which bears a commemorative plaque.

The Francis Asbury Rooms contain many items connected with America. Asbury volunteered at the Conference here in 1771 for missionary service in America, where he became a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church and one of its most famous evangelists. Artifacts here include a picture of Asbury at prayer; a signed copy of the picture Offer them Christ by the modern American artist, Kenneth Wyatt, showing Coke, Whatcoat and Vasey sailing from Pill to America after the ordinations of 1784; and the No. 3 Cokesbury Bicentennial Bell, one of 1,984 such bells cast for the bicentennial of American Methodism.

Quick Facts on Wesley's New Room

Site Information
Names:John Wesley's Chapel · The New Room · Wesley's New Room
Categories:churches; museums
Styles:Georgian Era
Dates:1739
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:51.458125° N, 2.590193° W
Address:36 The Horsefair
Bristol, England
BS1 3JE
Phone:+44 (0) 117 9264740
Email:contact form
Website:www.newroombristol.org.uk
Hours:Mon-Sat 10am-4pm
Closed Dec 25-26
Lodging:View hotels near Wesley's New Room
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

References

  1. The New Room Bristol - official website
  2. The Rough Guide to England 7 (May 2006), 388.

More Information

© Chris Bertram
© Mike Reed
© Lyn Dafis
© Mike Reed
© Lyn Dafis
© Lyn Dafis

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