On 14 October 1735,John Wesley and his brother Charles sailed on The Simmonds from Gravesend in Kent for Savannah in the Province of Georgia in the American colonies at the request of James Oglethorpe, who had founded the colony in 1733 on behalf of the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America. Oglethorpe wanted Wesley to be the minister of the newly formed Savannah parish, a new town laid out in accordance with the famous Oglethorpe Plan. It was on the voyage to the colonies that the Wesleys first came into contact with Moravian settlers. Wesley was influenced by their deep faith and spirituality rooted in pietism. At one point in the voyage a storm came up and broke the mast off the ship. While the English panicked, the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. This experience led Wesley to believe that the Moravians possessed an inner strength which he lacked. The deeply personal religion that the Moravian pietists practised heavily influenced Wesley's theology of Methodism. In December 1737, Wesley fled the colony, due to legal proceedings, and returned to England. Wesley returned to England depressed and beaten. It was at this point that he turned to the Moravians. Both he and Charles received counsel from the young Moravian missionary Peter Boehler, who was temporarily in England awaiting permission to depart for Georgia himself. John's famous "Aldersgate experience" of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, in which he heard a reading of Martin Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans, revolutionised the character and method of his ministry.
The chapel opened in 1778 to replace John Wesley's earlier London chapel, the Foundry, where he first preached on 11 November 1739. 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. 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. 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. 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. The communion rail was a gift from Margaret Thatcher. 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. 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 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 Museum of Methodism tells the history of Methodism from John Wesley to the present day and its contribution to shaping Britain’s political and social history; it is housed in the crypt of the Chapel. There is ramp access for wheelchairsinto the Chapel. The Museum of Methodism and disabled toilet are accessible by lift. Wheelchair access to the ground floor only of John Wesley's House.
Location : 49 City Road, London, EC1Y 1AU
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 16:00.
Tickets : Free (donations welcomed).
Tel: 020 7253 2262