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Beginning in 1765, several houses were registered for Methodist meetings, but with little lasting effect. John Wesley passed through in 1753, but did not preach until 1767 and then did not return until October 1783. By 1787 a small society had been formed with the encouragement of the Fay family of Above Bar Independent Chapel (dating from 1662), until it began to meet at the same time as services at the chapel. The first members were mostly poor and the town was in economic decline. Their various meeting places included a disused auction room and then a scaffold loft in Hanover Buildings. A turning point was reached in 1791 when they won the support of the Independent minister, William Kingsbury.

Southampton became a separate circuit in 1798. Their first chapel, in Canal Walk, was opened in 1799, built the previous year, apparently as a speculation, by a local bricklayer, Thomas Bartlett. It was enlarged in 1823 and replaced by the larger gothic East Street chapel in 1850. In 1925 a Central Hall was opened in St Mary Street (sold 1965). Meanwhile, suburban chapels opened as the town expanded and its fortunes revived later in the nineteenth century. In 1928 the St James Road Church replaced the chapels at Church Street, Shirley (1843) and Howard Road, Freemantle (1907).

An attempt by the Bible Christians to mission the town from the Isle of Wight in 1825 was unsuccessful, but by 1851 a new start had been made in St Mary's parish. The Traveller's Lodging House in Simnel Street was taken in 1852 and Jubilee Chapel, Princess Street, Northam opened in 1863, replaced in 1874 by St Mary's Road (formerly Baptist?; closed 1934).

Following a visit by William Clowes, in 1833 a PM mission was launched by the Hull Circuit, supported by James Crabb. This became an independent circuit in 1852. Their first chapel, St Mary Street (1837), was in the working class area, replaced by one in South Front by 1887.


John Wesley's Journal:

October 1767: 'The wind being so high that I could not well preach abroad, I sent a line to the mayor, requesting leave to preach in the town hall. In an hour he sent me word I might, but in an hour more he retracted. Poor mayor of Southampton! So I preached in a small room, and did not repent my labour.'

August 1787:

'At seven in the evening I preached in Mr. Fay's school-room, to a small but deeply serious congregationů I believe some of these will not be forgetful hearers, but will bring forth fruit with patience.'


  • 'Early Methodism in Southampton', in WHS Proceedings, 21 pp.204-5
  • James W.M. Brown, The Story of St. Andrew's Methodist Church, Sholing (Southampton, 1986)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Place

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