Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Epworth
Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, Epworth

Brothers John and Charles Wesley were born and raised in the Lincolnshire village of Epworth, where their father Samuel served as the rector of St Andrew's Church for 40 years.

The Wesleys were the prime movers behind what is now the Methodist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the English-speaking world. The Wesleys did not intend to start a new church. In fact, they were firmly against a break with the Anglican Church; what they wanted was reform.

History

It was only after the death of Charles Wesley in 1788 and John in 1791 that their followers broke from the established Anglican Church to create what would become the Methodist Church.

Almost a century after the death of the Wesley the General Conference of the Methodist Church decided that a church should be built in their home town of Epworth to honour the Wesleys.

The memorial garden and church
The memorial garden and church

The result was the Wesley Memorial Church. The foundation stone was laid in September 1888 and the church was officially opened in 1889. Work was not completely finished until 1891, 101 years after John Wesley's death. The original architect was a Mr Hicks, but he was asked to resign in 1888 and was given £75 for his troubles. He was replaced by a Mr Bell, who saw the project through to its completion.

The local Wesleyan Congregation had until that time worshipped in a chapel on Chapel Street, but they moved into the new church in June 1891.

The building site cost £500 and construction itself ran to £2749. The Epworth Wesleyan Circuit contributed £1500 towards the cost. Methodism in the Epworth area had several divergent strands. The Wesleyan Society had close links to John Wesley's teachings, but there was also a Primitive Methodist Society and a Methodist New Connexion congregation, each of which maintained its own place of worship. It was not until 1965 that the Wesley Memorial Church became the sole place of Methodist worship in Epworth.

The church interior
The church interior

What to See

You enter the church through the broad west door and step immediately into the vestibule. There you will see a table that was originally the communion table in the New Connexion Chapel. On the table are a pair of oak salvers given to the church in 1938. They were made from the wood of a timber beam that supported the bells in St Andrew's Church tower.

Above the table is a dedication tablet reminding us that 'The memorial stones of this chapel were laid on the 20th & 21st September 1888 by the persons whose names are thereon inscribed'. There are 33 memorial stones, commemorating donors from across the UK.

From the vestibule you move into the body of the church, which is almost unchanged from the day it opened.

One of the historical highlights inside the church is the 18th-century communion table used by Charles and John Wesley in St Andrew's Church. It was at this communion table that Rev Samuel Wesley gave Charles and John their first communion.

The table was made redundant following restoration in St Andrew's Church. It was sold and ended up in a local pub for many years, but when the Wesley Memorial Church as built the pub owner donated the table.

The communion table from St Andrew's Church
The communion table from St Andrew's Church

Behind the communion table is a triptych of lovely oak panelling given in 1896. The panels are inscribed with the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments. The organ dates to 1891.

Another major feature inside the church is a set of superb stained glass windows. The chancel window dates to 1896 and was a gift from the brothers Thomas and Emerson Bainbridge. It shows Christ telling his disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all people.

Over the central three lights is a panel with a portrait of John and Charles Wesley. The brothers are shown looking towards their childhood home of the Old Rectory. The portrait is encircled by a phrase that is reputedly John Wesley's dying words, 'The best of all is, God is with us'.

The west transept window is a memorial to Emily Breeze, given by her husband William in 1946. The east transept window commemorates the life of Thomas Blaydes and his children. Blaydes was a member of the congregation here for 67 years. In the east transept is a Book of Remembrance, recording the names of all those from the Isle of Axholme who died in WWI.

Copy of L-F Roubillac's bust of John Wesley
Copy of L-F Roubillac's bust of John Wesley

The beautiful oak font was a gift of Mrs Thomas Walker of Bolton and was given in memory of Susanna Wesley, mother of John and Charles. The brothers owed much of their 'methodical' approach to religion from their mother's educational approach.

In the Memorial Chapel is a tablet commemorating John Wesley. It was brought here from the earlier Wesleyan Chapel on Chapel Street. Near the memorial is a bust of John Wesley, a copy of the original by the French sculptor Louis-Francois Roubillac. Roubillac was a contemporary of Wesley and died in 1762, almost 30 years before Wesley's death.

Memorial Garden

Outside the church is a modern memorial garden created in 2013 as a gift from Steve Walsh, a regular attendee. One of the main garden features is a striking statue of John Wesley standing on top of a globe. This statue is a reminder of Wesley's quote that 'the world is my parish'. Near the statue is a bas-relief of Charles Wesley.

Statue of John Wesley in the memorial garden
Statue of John Wesley in the memorial garden

Getting There

The Church is extremely easy to find. It stands on the south side of High Street, at the western approach to the town, just off the A161. It is easily reached on foot from the Old Rectory and St Andrew's Church. The Church is normally open to visitors daylight hours and was open when we visited.

More Photos

About Epworth, Wesley Memorial Methodist Church
Address: 37 High Street, Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, DN9 1EP
Attraction Type: Historic Church
Location: On the High Street, just off the A161
Website: Epworth, Wesley Memorial Methodist Church
Location map
OS: SE781038
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express

Best of Britain Express Art Prints

HERITAGE

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