Around the time the Americans were declaring their independence from Britain, Wesley's Chapel was being built in London. Although unknown to most tourists, this church is of great importance to Methodists around the world - it has been dubbed the "Cathedral of World Methodism."
John Wesley (1703-1791) was an Anglican minister, evangelist, and the founder of Methodism. The site in the City of London includes not only Wesley's chapel but also his house, his tomb, the Foundry Chapel, and the excellent Museum of Methodism.
History of Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism
Wesley was already an ordained minister in the Church of England when he underwent an evangelical conversion at a Bible reading in London in 1738.
In his subsequent preaching, he encouraged a life of prayer, Bible study, and charity work. Eventually Methodism became a separate denomination from the Church of England and today there are up to 70 million Methodists worldwide.
The site of Wesley's Chapel was purchased from the Corporation of London in 1776 and construction by a local preacher commenced in 1777. The Chapel was opened on 1st November 1778.
Wesley used the City Road Chapel (only later called "Wesley's Chapel") as his London base. Wesley's Chapel was the first Methodist church in London built for the celebration of communion and preaching. It is not the first Methodist church, however - that honor belongs to the New Room in Bristol.
In 1891, to mark the centenary of Wesley's death, the chapel was refurbished. The original oak masts that supported the gallery were replaced with marble pillars from around the world. As it was the Civil War era, the chapel received are two pillars from America: North and South. The stained glass windows were also added at this time.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got married at Wesley's Chapel in 1951. A devout Methodist, she attended services here from time to time but the security arrangements eventually made it very difficult to do so.
Wesley's Chapel remained in continuous use by Methodists until structural problems forced it to close in the early 1970s. It was repaired and reopened on November 1, 1978, its 200th anniversary, in the presence of the Queen Elizabeth II.
Today, there are about 300 members of Wesley's Chapel. The congregation includes a significant number of West African Methodists, which reflects the missionary emphasis of the denomination.
What to See at Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism
Although Wesley called his chapel "neat, but not fine," its Georgian lines and other features are quite attractive. The chapel was built according to Wesley's own design. It faces Bunhill Fields across the street, where his mother Susanna is buried. Wesley's tomb is behind the chapel.
The Museum of Methodism, in the chapel's crypt, traces the history of Methodism from Wesley to the present day. It includes original letters penned by John and Charles Wesley, John's pulpit, items associated with Methodism's missionary work around the world, and a small gift shop.
Wesley's House was built next door to his chapel in 1779. Wesley spent the last 11 winters of his life here and died in his bedroom on March 2, 1791. Visitors can view many of John Wesley's belongings inside the house.
Quick Facts on Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism
|Names:||Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||51.523745° N, 0.086539° W|
|Address:||49 City Road|
|Phone:||020 7253 2262|
|Hours:||Chapel, house and museum: Mon-Sat 10am-4pm; Sunday noon-1:45pm|
Closed Dec. 25-Jan 1 and public & bank holidays except Good Friday.
|Lodging:||View hotels near Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism|
- Personal visit (June 24, 2007).
- Wesley's Chapel and Leysian Mission - official website
- Wesley's Chapel, House & Museum of Methodism - Frommer's Attraction Review
- Wesley's Chapel and House and Museum of Methodism - UK Travel
- Wesley's Chapel, London - review by the Mystery Worshipper
- Methodist Heritage in Southern England - Methodist Heritage
- The Methodist Church in the UK - official website
- Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism - Go Historic - includes review with description of visit by this author
- Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism, London - Go Historic
- Photos of Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism, London
Below is a location map and aerial view of Wesley's Chapel and Museum of Methodism. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.