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West Street Chapel, London

In Wesley's day the West Street area was described as squalid, disturbed by quarrelling and the noise of costermongers and 'practising musicians'.

The chapel was built in the late seventeenth century for a Huguenot congregation and was rented by John Wesley in 1743 as his base in West London, with the approval of the Archbishop and the Bishop of London. Until the building of his new chapel in City Road, it was usually referred to simply as 'the Chapel', distinguishing it from the Foundery.

The Chapel was 'a plain, unpretending structure with large windows and a little belfry rising above the roof cornice.' The inside had Ionic columns and a plain arched ceiling.

Charles Wesley conducted the first Methodist Watchnight service there on 3 July 1747. John Fletcher hurried there from his ordination in March 1757 to assist John Wesley in administering the Lord\'s Supper and, as a consecrated building, it was the scene of regular sacramental services, prolonged by the large numbers of communicants. On 29 November 1759 services were held as part of the General Thanksgiving Day for Wolfe's capture of Quebec; and in 1779 Brian Bury Collins preached at a service inaugurating the Naval and Military Bible Society.

In 1798 the society moved to a chapel in Great Queen Street, the forerunner of the Kingsway Hall. The West Street building became a chapel of ease of St. Giles parish, used on weekdays as a boys' school. In 1830 it was bought by an Irish society for Anglican services in Celtic and in 1888 became the home of the Seven Dials Mission. The building still stands, with a plaque commemorating its use by the Wesleys.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

'May 1743: (Trinity Sunday) 'I began officiating at the chapel in West Street, near the Seven Dials, of which (by a strange chain of providences) we have a lease for several years. I preached on the Gospel for the day, part of the third chapter of St. John; and afterwards administered the Lord's Supper to some hundreds of communicants. I was a little afraid at first that my strength would not suffice for the business of the day, when a service of five hours (for it lasted from ten till three) was added to my usual employment. But God looked to that: so I must think; and they that will call it enthusiasm may.'

Daily Graphic, 22 August 1901

Sources

  • John Telford, Two West End Chapels (1886)
  • Daily Graphic, 22 August 1901
  • Methodist Recorder, Winter Number, 1904, pp.91-3
  • Florence A. Reeve, 'West Street Chapel', in WHS Proceedings, 16 pp.137-41
  • J. Henry Martin, John Wesley's London Chapels (1946) pp.47-49
  • John C. Bowmer, The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper in Early Methodism (1951)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Place

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