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Hinde Street Church, London

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On 14 November 1761 John Wesley records that he 'spent an hour with a little company near Grosvenor Square'. Since he goes on to write that 'for many years this has been the darkest, driest spot of all in or near London', but is now 'become a fruitful field', we can be sure that the 'company' was of fairly recent foundation, and it is a reasonable conclusion that he was meeting a society formed earlier that year. Since 1743 the main centre of Methodism in the West End had been West Street chapel, but London was rapidly expanding westwards and this new society was on the edge of that expansion in North Mayfair. It first appears in the preaching plan as worshipping in a meeting room at Grosvenor Market. Upon the expiry of the West Street lease in 1798 the society there moved to premises in Great Queen Street, but some of its more westerly based members joined the Mayfair society, which in that year moved to its first chapel in Chandler Street (now Weighhouse Street). The Chandler Street chapel soon proved too small for the congregation and in 1810 the short move across Oxford Street was made and it was replaced by the first Hinde Street chapel, designed by William Jenkins, on a corner site near Manchester Square and sometimes known as the 'Dutch Oven' because of its proportions.

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This was to be the spiritual home of many leading figures in London and connexional Methodism. But for many years it was crippled by a continuing debt, which was not cleared until 1878. The present (second), Hinde Street chapel, designed by James Weir, was opened in 1887, free of debt. Hinde Street had a distinguished ministry in the nineteenth century, with seventeen of its ministers elected President of Conference whilst serving there.

A distinctive feature of its twentieth century life was the decision to establish the church as the focus for Methodist students at London University. MethSoc and the Sunday night Group (SNG) thrived in the 1950s and Ď60s. Hinde Street has provided a community house for young adults since the 1970s and added a second house in 2001. International links have been important to Hinde Street and in the 1980s it began a 'twinning' link with the Methodist Kreuzkirche in Leipzig, then in communist East Germany.

The Conference of 1917 decided that Hinde Street Chapel, together with Warwick Gardens chapel in Kensington, should become partt of the West London Mission. In 1980 Kingsway Hall closed and the work of the West London Mission moved to the Hinde Street site. Hinde Streetís tradition of innovative thinking was developed from 1999 with the establishment of the annual Hugh Price Hughes lectures. The life of this remarkable Methodist church will be celebrated in 2010-11, a quarter-millennium since its beginnings and 200 years since the opening of the first Hinde Street chapel..

Sources

  • Nehemiah Curnock, Hinde Street Chapel, 1810-1910 (1910)
  • Philip S. Bagwell, Outcast London: a Christian Response (1987) pp.81-94
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988) pp461-2
  • Alan Brooks, West End Methodism, the Story of Hinde Street (2010)

Entry written by: JCH
Category: Place

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