36 The Horsefair, Bristol, BS1 3JE
Built in 1739, extended in 1748
Rubble stone walls, now covered with render.
Clay tiled roofs.
Methodist meeting house
The New Room (chapel) and upstairs Preacher’s rooms/museum are open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm all year round. Entry is free, donations welcome. Enter from Broadmead (opposite Boots the chemist). Holy Communion for all is held every Friday 1pm – 1.15pm. See website for details of other services and events.
John Wesley’s Chapel, also called the New Room, was built by John Wesley after he arrived in Bristol in 1739. On finding that Methodists had no place to go he bought land immediately and began building. What he created is widely seen as ‘the world’s cradle of Methodism’. By 1748 the site needed major extensions and most of the present building probably dates from this time.
Aside from a chapel, the building housed accommodation for worshippers, including John Wesley, a meeting house and a school and was used to dispense medicine to the needy. Rooms for people such as visiting preachers were placed over the main congregational space, making the most of a cramped site. An octagonal lantern in the chapel brings light down through both storeys.
Stairs to the upper rooms are reached by walking around the gallery and through the pulpit – perhaps a form of protection in times of Nonconformist persecution. The building still provides Methodist services and supports the needy. It also houses a museum about early Methodism.
Other events along the way include the building becoming a Welsh Calvinist chapel for a while from 1808 and Sir George Oatley restoring it in 1930 to conjure up its 18th century appearance. There is no firm evidence to suggest the identity of earlier architects. However, George Tully is often suggested as the architect of the work around 1748. This is chiefly because the giant columns, galleries and octagonal lantern are similar to the design of the Quaker’s Friars meeting house, which we know he designed for the Quakers in 1749.