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John Wesley preached in the town for the first time in 1765. Encouraged by his visit to the area, a schoolmaster named Thomas Coleman, a native of St. Nicholas, moved down from London the following year and built a small schoolroom in Love Lane, using it also for preaching. Its location was in Meeting Court, an area then known as Puddle Dock. He also preached at Birchington and St. Nicholas. Disagreement between him and the Canterbury preachers caused the latter to take over the work in Margate and in 1785 they built a chapel in Hawley Square, which was opened by Wesley on 1 December 1785.

In 1810 Hawley Square chapel was found to be unsafe, land was bught to the east and the chapel rebuilt on a larger scale. Further enlarged in 1844 by the demolition of property in Princes Street, it was reopened by Dr. Robert Newton on 11 July. Further extensions, including new galleries, took place in1896. New churches were opened at Cliftonville in 1878 and at Buckingham Road in 1898.

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Updated: 6 June 2018

Born in Sweden, the son of a Lutheran minister on the island of Gotland, he responded in 1775 to the ‘call of the sea’ and sailed under the captain of an English timber ship who duped him into entering into a four-year apprenticeship. Finding himself in Portsmouth, he took the opportunity to become a rigger in the dockyard and eventually saved enough to buy a small boat and set himself up as a fisherman and waterman in Portsmouth harbour.

Soon afterwards a fellow dockyard worker invited him to go and hear the Methodist preaching and in 1787 he was converted under William Ashman and began to preach himself, chiefly to the farm labourers in the outlying villages. At one such village, where the work was being given up because of fierce opposition, he volunteered to go and his calm determination to stand his ground in the face of hostility led to an invitation to return, so that regular preaching was resumed.

His wife was a native of Portchester and had inherited property there. So in 1803 they came to live in the village and he began to hold meetings in their home. Growing numbers encouraged them to move into a hired room and eventually he built them a chapel in Castle Street in1818. It remained his private property until transferred, free of debt, to the first Methodist trust in 1826.

Marblestone was long remembered as’eminently a cheerful, happy and contented man’, grateful for the many blessings and deliverances of his life. He died on 17 Aprill 1839.

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Updated: 6 June 2018

Opened in 1858 in Grace’s Alley, East London, as part of the Old Mahogany Bar, the music hall became part of the East End Mission in February1888 under the pioneer minister Peter Thompson. It reached it peak in the 1930s under the leadership of the lay pastor G.F. Dempster, with many forms of social outreach, But heavy bombing of the area during World War II followed by slum clearance left it in a dilapidated state. It was sold to a rag merchant, but under the leadership of the conservationist John Betjeman was saved from demolition and bought in 1964 by the British Music Hall Society.

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Updated: 5 June 2018

Primitive Methodist local preacher, Liberal politician with advanced views, and temperance advocate, was born at Dye House near Hexham. He worked on his father’s farm until sixteen when along with his brother he moved to Blaydon and became a butcher. Initially he attended a Newcastle Baptist chapel, but soon united with the Primitive Methodists and became a local preacher. He retired from commercial life in 1857. In 1834 he joined the Moderation Temperance Society, which permitted the drinking of beer and wine but not spirits. He served as the Secretary of the North of England Temperance League, was a Vice President of the United Kingdom Alliance, and also a good Templar and Rechabite.

Having moved to Gateshead, he was elected to represent the West Ward in November 1867 and continued on the borough council until his death on 15 September 1885. He was Mayor of Gateshead in 1873 and again in 1874, and was elected to the aldermanic bench in 1876. He also was for a time a Poor Law Guardian.

A drinking fountain was erected to his memory in Saltwell Park about 1886.

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Updated: 11 May 2018

Primitive Methodist coalminer, draper and politician, born in July 1816 at Percy Main, near North Shields, one of seventeen children. At nine he became a trapper boy in the pit, opening and shutting doors for the men to push the tubs of coal to the shaft. In 1826 the Primitive Methodists missioned the colliery village and this led to his conversion. At twenty-one he left the pit and began a small drapery business in Percy Main, then in 1845 moved to North Shields. He was elected to the Board of Guardians in 1864 and so continued until at least 1889. Elected to the borough council in 1870, he was mayor in 1881 and an alderman from January 1884. He was also a director of the Primitive Methodist Insurance Company.

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Updated: 11 May 2018

A Winchester ironmonger who overcame his prejudices against Methodism after discovering that John Wesley’s teaching agreed closely with the doctrines of the Church of England. He and his wife with two others met at first in his mother-in-law’s summer house. By 1765 their numbers had risen to 12, reinforced by military groups stationed in the city. Winscom became the leading figure in the Winchester society and took it upon himself in 1785 to buy a place of worship in Silver Hill, which then had to be sold because of debts. He corresponded quite frequently with Wesley, who learned from experience not to trust him, and was often at loggerheads with the local itinerants. As a local preacher he monopolised the services at the town chapel until Wesley insisted that he exchange with them from time to time. But a business trip the Isle of Wight and contacts with soldiers posted to Gibraltar and Jersey enabled him to play a part in the spread of Methodism to those places.

In 1787, following the death of John Haime, he retired to Whitchurch, offering himself a year later as a itinerant. Wesley was at first inclined to put him in charge of the Salisbury Circuit, which at that time was still extensive, including most of Hampshire and Dorset as well as southern Wiltshire and needed strong leadership, but on second thoughts made him one of the junior preachers and then put him down for Oxfordshire in 1790. By 1791 he had chosen to abandon the itinerancy and return to Whitchurch, where he continued to take almost all the services, as he had done in Winchester. He died in 1809, and his burial is recorded in St.Maurice’s parish, Winchester on 19 January.

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Updated: 3 May 2018

This was a weekly newspaper published throughout 1885 alongside the Methodist Recorder. Both the names of its contributors, its advertisements and much of its contents clearly reflect its Methodist origin., as does the fact that it was published from 161 Fleet Street, the address of the Methodist Recorder at that time.

Contributors to the first issue include J. Robinson Gregory and notably a sermon by Dr. R.W.Dale of Carrs Lane, Birmingham, which is give pride of place. The Editorial gives no indication of the individuals responsible for its genesis, but declares: ‘Our main design is to address ourselves to the intellectual and spiritual improvement of the Christian congregation rather than to the plant and politics of the cause. It seems to us the great need of the times is the enrichment of the soul of the people; in this direction we will do whatever is in our power. The Christian Church has suffered immensely by forsaking the highest platform, and wasting time and force in controversies which are little more than beating the water into foam. No doubt the trumpet as well as the trowel plays its part in the development of the kingdom of God; the trumpet, however, is generally in request, and wind is apparently the last thing that will be wanting; so we are content to address ourselves to the humbler task of the trowel.’

Later issues included articles by J.H. Rigg on ‘Wesley as Preacher’ and ‘Wesley’s Itinerancy’; but reports also on the Wesleyan and other Methodist Conferences and the Anglican Convocation, clearly indicate the intention to present an interdenominational coverage, The final issue on 30 December 1885 states that the Recorder ‘will in future include some of the features of this Journal, and which from the first inst will be permanently enlarged’.

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Updated: 29 April 2018

Part of an area on the Surrey/Hampshire border long known as 'the Methodist Desert', Godalming had a chapel as early as 1792, to which a young missionary was appointed in 1793. It became the 'Godalming and Crowdhill Mission in 1797 and the 'Surrey Misssion' in 1809, with various preaching places, including a former Congregational chapel in a back street. Lay pioneers in the area included James Horne of Flexford and Nomandy, whose preaching 'created an unofficial circuit' and Isaac Austen of Godalming.The old chapel was not replaced until the present H.P.Hughes Memorial Church was opened in Bridge Road in 1903.

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Updated: 27 April 2018

Born on 16 July 1827 into a Wesleyan Methodist family at Doddington, Shropshire, he was the son of William Smith (1798-1879), an iron founder, builder and property developer. In 1853 he joined his father’s business and by 1858 was managing the foundry. In 1860 he moved the business to Mill Street and Castle Street, Whitchurch. The London Gazette of 4 December 1860 listed a ‘patent applied for’ by Robert Thursfield Smith and Thomas Suckley, Agricultural Implement makers of Whitchurch, for ‘an improved apparatus for smutting and screening grain and distributing other granular substances’. In the 1871 Census Robert is recorded as an ‘Iron-founder, Civil Engineer, and Timber Merchant employing sixty men’, and by 1879 he had built a foundry in Talbot Street close to the railway. He died at Whitchurch on 12 March 1907.

Robert and his wife were members of and great supporters of the Wesleyan Chapel in Whitchurch (1810-1879) (now the Whitchurch Heritage Centre). They were heavily involved in raising funds for St. John’s Wesleyan Church, Whitchurch. Mrs Sarah Smith (nee Savage, 1832-1894) raised over £1,000 by organising a 4-day bazaar. The Church was opened on 24th April 1879.

Robert had a passionate interest in the Wesley family and Methodist history and amassed one of the largest collections of Methodist manuscripts, including 60 John Wesley letters, his Georgia Journal and a large library of Wesley Hymns and other Methodist books. Part of his collection consisting of 858 items dated from 1735 to 1898 was purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in 1903. The collection was gifted to the John Rylands Library, Manchester in 1908 and became the foundation of the largest and world-famous collection of Methodist manuscripts, printed books and memorabilia.

Several members of the Smith family are mentioned in the stained-glass windows in St John’s Methodist Church, Whitcurch.

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Updated: 22 April 2018

The pulpit in the parish church at South Leigh near Oxford bears a plaque claiming that John Wesley preached there for the first time on 19th September 1725, after his ordination as a deacon on the previous Sunday. This is an error based on a statement by Wesley in his Journal many years later under the date 16 October 1771: ‘I preached at South Leigh. Here it was that I preached my first sermon six and forty years ago.’ Wesley meant ‘the first sermon I ever wrote’, not ‘the first time I preached it’. During the week after after his ordination his Diary is blank, with no reference to any sermon preparation. But a week later, on Sunday October 3rd he records preaching at Fleet Marston, west of Aylesbury in the morning and at nearby Upper Winchendon in the afternoon. Thus began a memorably long and active ministry, which ended with his sermon at Leatherhead on the 22nd February 1791. The occasion at South Leigh to which Wesley refers many years later was not until 12 February 1727, and by then he had preached the same sermon thirteen or fourteen times.

St. Mary’s, Fleet Marston is now little more than a shell, in the hands of the Redundant Churches Trust, but can be visited by arrangement.

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Updated: 17 April 2018

See Mission House

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Updated: 17 April 2018