Victorian London - Religion - Methodist - City Road Chapel

    And here let us note that Bunhill Fields contain the dust of many great Nonconformists, such as John Owen and Isaac Watts, and of Daniel Defoe, the author of a book which most boys and girls have read, Robnson Crusoe. Here also lies Susannah Wesley, the mother of John Wesley; but to find her monument we have to cross City Road, and look into the precincts of the dear old mother chapel of Methodism. Here, on the right hand side of the yard, as we face the chapel front, we see a fair, sightly monument to the memory of this excellent woman, who, after a life of many storms and trials, found a haven of repose in the dwelling-house connected with the old Fonndery chapel, which stood not many hundred feet from this spot, on Windmill Hill, afterwards called Windmill Street, but now forming part of Tabernacle Street.
    In front of us is the far-famed chapel, now more than a century old, seeing it was opened by Mr. Wesley on Sunday, November 1st, 1778. For a long time it was called the New Chapel, and so well does it carry its age that even now we can­not style it an ‘old’ chapel, except as a term of endearment— 'dear old' place. The outside of the chapel, as you see, has a quaint, pleasant, classical appearance; and Mr. Wesley did not exceed the truth when, at its opening, he pronounced it ‘perfectly neat, but not fine.’ Passing through the Doric portico, we enter the venerable building, and are pleased with its light, cheerful aspect. There is the old pulpit, in which so many great preachers have stood; and behind it the semi­circular recess in which the communion table stands is lighted by three windows, and has its right and left walls covered with tablets in memory of the Wesleys, Fletcher, Clarke, Benson, and Coke, while in the centre we can read the Lord’s Prayer, the Commandments, and the Creed. A deep gallery runs round three sides of the chapel; numerous tablets on the lower walls commemorate the names and the worth of several eminent ministers and laymen and devout ladies; and a fine granite pillar stands as a son’s memorial to Dr. Waddy.Behind the chapel is the principal part of the graveyard, in the centre of which we shall find Mr. Wesley’s tomb and monument, enclosed by iron rail­ing. In the vault beneath are also buried his sister, Mrs. Hall, and four of his preachers. Near to this is the grave of the learned Dr. Adam Clarke, and chose by are buried the Rev. Joseph Benson, Richard Wat­son, Samuel Bradburn, and other famous ministers.
    As we return from the back of the chapel, and walk along towards City Road, we find on our left hand ‘Wesley’s house,’ a plain brick building, in which Mr. Wesley lived, whenever he was in London, from the year 1779 till his death in 1791. His apartments were on the first floor, his sitting-room facing City Road, and his bed-room being the back room with windows towards the chapel. A few relics of him remain in the house: his good old clock, which stands on the staircase, and still keeps excellent time; his comfortable high-backed chair, which is used by the President at every London Conference; his book­case, bureau, side table, and, lastly, his teapot, presented to him by the celebrated potter, Wedgwood, capable of holding over four quarts, and having on its sides the well known ‘graces,’ ‘Be present at our table, Lord,’ and, ‘We thank Thee, Lord, for this our food.’In an adjoining street—Castle Street—are the spacious premises known as ‘The Wesleyan Conference Office,’ or ‘Book Room,’ from which issue monthly many thousands of books, magazines, tracts, &c., and to which a nev adjunct is now to be found in the beautiful book saloon lately opened in City Road, opposite the Artillery Ground, which may be regarded as one of the latest, and not the least appropriate, of the many monuments in London to the Founder of Methodism.

Uncle Jonathan, Walks in and Around London, 1895 (3 ed.)

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Wesley's Chapel

Wesleyan Chapel - photograph


The Chapel informally named after the founder of Methodism is in the City Road, which leads from Finsbury to the "Angel," and it faces the east entrance of Bunhill Fields, the famous cemetery where Bunyan, Defoe, Isaac Watts, William Blake, and other celebrities are buried. The foundation stone of the building was laid by John Wesley in 1777, with the words, according to repute, " Probably this will be seen no more by any human eye, but will remain there until the earth and the works thereof are burnt up"; and in this unpretentious place the great Evangelist frequently preached until he died in March, 1791. In March, 1891, to commemorate the centenary of his death, a statue of this remarkable man, shown in the act of preaching, was erected in the open space in front of the chapel.