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Newbury

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The Wesleyans first met in premises in Cheap Street, replaced in 1755 by larger premises in Northbrook Street (perhaps the workshop,described by John Wesley in 1770 as ' a large commodious place'. It was not until 1804 that a site for a purpose-built chapel was purchased. Land adjoining it to the north was acquired in 1837 and a new church was opened in 1838. Its interior was described as 'of Puritanical plainness, with high-backed box pews, and the pulpit standing three feet higher'. The 'Wesley's Chapel arrangement', with the communion table in a recess behind the central pulpit, is the only one surviving apart from City Road Chapel itself.The chapel was renovated in 1875, 1898 and 1990 and again, most recently, in 2014. A WM day school was opened in 1852 behind the chapel; it closed in 1908, was renamed 'Wesley Hall' and demolished in 1989.

Newbury was in the Oxford WM circuit until 1795; then became the head of a separate circuit. It amalgamated with Hungerford circuit in 1910, and separated again 1929-1971.

The first PM place of worship was in Union Street, replaced by Bartholomew Street in 1877. This was demolished in 1962 as unsafe, with services continuing in the schoolroom. Village chapels had been opened at Wash Common and Stroud Green in 1874. The Stroud Green and Bartholomew Street societies amalgamated in 1967.

Methodist Union in 1932 was celebrated by United Choir Festivals in 1934 and 1935, but in the post-war years various plans for redevelopment were thwarted by economic depression. Also, by 1977 Northbrook Street was a Grade II* listed building, confirmed in 1981, largely because of the arrangement of its pulpit and sanctuary in the 'City Road' style. A service was held in 1990 to celebrate Northbrook Street's restoration, the opening of new premises in place of Wesley Hall and the formation of one Methodist church in Newbury, incorporating the former Wash Common and Stroud Green PM societies and the City Mission. In 2014 the church underwent furtther extensive repair and refurbishment.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

February 1740: 'I … declared the grace of God at Newbury… And though the church was full of (chiefly) genteel, well-dressed people, they behaved as if they knew God was there.'

March 1770: 'I had been much importuned to preach. But where? The Dissenters would not permit me to preach in their meeting-house. Some were then desirous to hire the old play-house; but the good mayor would not suffer it to be so profaned! So I made use of a workshop - a large, commodious place. But it would by no means contain the congregation. All that could hear behaved well; and I was in hopes God would have a people in thjs place also.'

March 1790: 'The congregation was large, and most of them attentive, but a few were wild as colts untamed.'

Sources

  • George W. Dolbey, 'Northbrook Street Church, Newbury', in Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, vol.43 (1981), pp.25-6
  • Joan Booker, Thy Chartered Freemen: a brief history of the growth of Methodism in the Newbury area (1990)

Category: Place

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