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John Wesley’ Chapel

John Wesley’ Chapel in the Horsefair, Broadmead is the oldest Methodist Chapel in the world built in 1739. George Whitefield, who worked with the poor in Bristol preaching in the open air, asked John Wesley to come and take over his work. John Wesley gave his first sermon to a crowd of 3,000 people in the open air. He was barred from preaching from the pulpits of Bristol so he built his own premises which he called ‘our new room in the Horsefair’ and it is still known today by Methodists as the New Room. The Chapel was also used as a dispensary and schoolroom for the poor and can be seen today just as it was in the 18th Century. Charles, John’s brother was also a Church of England priest and they shared the belief that the Christian faith should be for everyone. Charles was a hymn writer of great renown his most famous include Hark the Herald Angels and Love Divine.

The Chapel consists of a two-decker pulpit, the upper part being used for the sermon and the lower part for the rest of the service. The people originally sat on plain benches, men and women segregated by a dividing panel down the centre.

Charles sometimes stayed in the Charles Wesley Rooms and he lived for many years with his wife at 4 Charles Street. The Common Room upstairs was where appointed and visiting preachers lived and there are study bedrooms for the preachers off from this room. The cupboards contain a collection of books and around 1,200 documents about Methodism before 1900. There is a window through which John Wesley could watch his preachers and a grandfather clock dating from around 1670 donated by Samuel Wesley, John’s father. John Wesley visited every year from 1739 to 1790 and spent more nights here than anywhere else during that period.

Outside in the Courtyard stands an equestrian statue of John Wesley, a stable, and the grave of Captain Thomas Webb and his wife. Through the door into the Horsefair Courtyard, there is a copper plate on the outside of the Chapel Door, probably placed there by John Wesley, containing texts about giving to the poor. Through the wooden doorway there is a small courtyard where you can see the foundation stone and in the main courtyard garden on the Horsefair side of the building is a statue of Charles Wesley.

 

 

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