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'The world is my parish'

John Wesley (1703-91) preached often in the East End throughout his long life and ministry. According to his diary, on Sunday 1 October 1738 he was at St George-in-the-East for both the morning and afternoon services, and adds that on the following days I endeavoured to explain the way of salvation to many who had misunderstood what had been preached concerning it. He records that he was with his brother Charles in the early morning singing and reading letters. They walked together and breakfasted at Mr Parker's in Wapping at 9am. At 10am he read prayers, preached and administered holy communion at St George's; dined at Mr H's [name left blank] before returning to St George's to read the prayers, preach and baptize. His schedule for the rest of the day was full: At 4.30 at Mrs Ironmonger's, many tarried, tea, conversed, prayer; 5.30 Mr Sims' singing &c; 7.15 Mrs Sims', singing, supper, prayer; 8.45 at home, singing &c; 11 prayer, conversation; 12. 'Home' probably refers to Mr Bray's in Little Britain, where he and Charles were staying.

This was shortly after his return from the United States, and several months before he submitted to be more vile (as he put it) and follow Whitefield's example of 'field preaching' in the open air - from which point he began to attract large crowds. 

In 1742 he preached at Ratcliffe Square [now Ratcliffe Cross Street], and on ten occasions at St Paul's Shadwell. The last was on 24 October 1790, at the age of 87, five months before his death; his Journal records St Paul's Shadwell was....crowded in the afternoon, while I enforced that important truth 'One thing is needful' and I hope that many even then resolved to choose the better part. George Wolff of Wellclose Square, the Danish-Norwegian consul and a convert to Methodism, was one of his executors - see here for more details.

On 4 February 1739 George Whitefield preached at St George-in-the-East. He, like Wesley, was an Anglican minister, and in some ways a fellow-founder of Methodism, responsible for the 'Great Awakening' in the United States, but they had a fundamental theological disagreement - Wesley was Arminian and Whitefield Calvinist (and so allied to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion - see below). Here is the account from his diary (as edited by Luke Tyerman in the 19th century) of a momentous day, before he returned to the USA:

1739. Sunday, February 4. Preached in the morning at St. George's in the East; collected £18 for the Orphan House [Bethesda, the oldest charity in North America]; and had, I believe, six hundred communicants, which highly offended the officiating curate. Preached again at Christ Church, Spitalfields; and gave thanks and sang psalms at a private house. Went thence to St. Margaret's Westminster*; but, something breaking belonging to the coach, could not get thither till the middle of the prayers. Went through the people to the minister's pew, but, finding it locked, I returned to the vestry till the sexton could be found. Being there informed that another minister intended to preach, I desired several times that I might go home. My friends would by no means consent, telling me I was appointed by the trustees to preach; and that, if I did not, the people would go out of the church. At my request, some went to the trustees, churchwardens, and minister; and, whilst I was waiting for an answer, and the last psalm was being sung, a man came, with a wand in his hand, whom I took for the proper church officer, and told me I was to preach. I, not doubting but the minister was satisfied, followed him to the pulpit, and God enabled me to preach with greater power than I had done all the day before.

After this, I prayed with and gave an exhortation to a company that waited for me. Then I went to Fetter Lane, where I spent the whole night in watching unto prayer, and discussing several important points with many truly Christian friends. About four in the morning, we went all together, and broke bread at a poor sick sister's room; and so we parted, I hope, in a spirit not unlike that of the primitive Christians.

* There are alternative versions of what happened here, most of them involving more confrontation, and violence, that Whitefield acknowledges, and resulting in opposition to his preaching elsewhere.

St George's Wesleyan Methodist (Centenary) Chapel 

A society of worshippers in the East End was established in 1746. In 1812 they built a chapel, seating 1100, to the east of where St George's Town Hall now stands in Cable Street, and the burial ground soon after. Right is an 1840 advertisement for 'St George's East Cemetery' ['New Road' was then part of Cable Street, rather than the northern extension of Cannon Street Road]; it stresses the security of the site, with high walls and railings, and resident minister and sexton. Exclusive and perpetual rights of burial in any plot could be purchased, with moderate terms for common interments. But, as with the parish churchyard, burials ceased in 1854 following the 1852 Metropolitan Burial Act which created public cemeteries. In 1876 the Vestry bought the burial ground for £2,700 and incorporated it into St George's Gardens.

In 1845 Zilpha Elaw [left], a black American woman preacher, visited the church. A day school was established in the schoolroom; McGill's 1861 census states that it had about 150 pupils. Until the mid 19th century it was a flourishing chapel, but encountered difficulties as the neighbourhood changed. From time to time they had to ask for some financial help from other circuits, though they did manage to install, and pay for, hot water and toilets in 1876, when George Curnock (1817-87) was the minister. As a young man in Bristol he had become a keen advocate of temperance - he would later say that he found being teetotal hard at first, and had been advised to take stimulants to continue with his work. He produced The Railway Navigator: Or, Recollections of Robert Blake, who was Killed by a Fall of Earth on the Tiverton Road Line, March 8th, 1847, which was later distributed as a Wesleyan Temperance Tract. Before coming to London, Curnock had ministered in Hulme, Manchester (where he acted as 'precentor' at the District Synod, starting the hymn tunes), Huddersfield, and Leicester - whence he organised a trip to Rome, where the group met Ferdinando Bosio, an Italian Methodist minister, and held a service in his mission room. He became a popular Wesleyan preacher.

In 1874 the new Metropolitan Lay Mission provided a worker, to undertake district visiting; Curnock set up a Mission Band and in 1882-3 they visited 520 houses every Sunday. He held open air services and class meetings, and set up a mothers' meeting. When the grant was withdrawn in 1884, the congregation managed to pay him for a further year. In 1881 he was a committee member organising a major Œcumenical Methodist Conference (with American participation) at City Road Chapel. Nehemiah Curnock (1840-1915), right, transcriber and editor of the standard abridged edition of John Wesley's Journal, was a relative (? uncle).

In the 1886 Religious Census of London, which lists Thomas Dixon as the minister, attendances were listed as 281 in the morning and 399 in the evening.

In 1885 Conference established the London Wesleyan Methodist Mission, as a response to the spiritual destitution of London and the need for new ways of working in the light of George Mearn's 1883 broadside The Bitter Cry of Outcast London - which included many local references, including women and young children making sacks for a farthing a time. One controversial provision was the waiving of the normal 'itinerancy' rule that ministers should move on every three years, to enable continuity in areas where lay leadership was weak. They chose the well-nigh forlorn hope [despite the above figures!] of St George's Wesleyan Chapel as their base, and the Revd Peter Thompson [left] was stationed here, living at 242 Cable Street. (Charles Edward Robb, living with his family in Pell Street, was the housekeeper.) Although in the coming years there was pressure for radically new patterns of mission and ministry – such as Hugh Price Hughes' Forward Movement – for the most part existing structures were retained and strengthened. The range of activities - including a Boys Brigade branch (meeting in Wellclose Square), a Dorcas Society, a girls' sewing class, a maternity society, a training home for girls, reading rooms, and the distribution of soup, coffee and clothing, as well as renewed worship - was impressive, but not new in principle (and mirrored Anglican provision). Weekly rather than quarterly collections were introduced, a quarterly morning communion was introduced for those who could not attend in the evening, and temperance work continued. Thompson was instinctively a paternalist, but he was a member of the Anti-Sweating League, and preached during the 1895 elections on 'Am I my brother's keeper?' 

A major innovation, however, was to hire secular premises as new-style mission halls, and in 1891 the Mission took over Wilton's Music Hall, whose story is told here. It was known as the 'Old Mahogany Mission'. For further details, see Margaret Jones, 'New Creation' in the East End Mission 1885-97. She uses the record books, and the Mission's magazineThe East End (started in 1894) as evidence. The mission also took over 'Paddy's Goose', as the White Swan public house and music hall along The Highway was popularly known. Frederick James Edwards was assigned to the Mission for a time during this period.

A generation later, St George's was one of several East End missions to provide cinematographic entertainment, introduced by the Revd Frederick William Chudleigh [left]. There were few entertainments available to working-class youngsters, and motion pictures proved more popular than magic lanterns! See Luke McKernan, 'Diverting Time: London’s Cinemas and Their Audiences, 1906–1914' in The London Journal, vol.32 no.2 (July 2007). See here for details of Cable Picture Palace (1913-40), at 101-105 Cable Street.

As Warden of the East End Mission [advertisement right, fromThe Children's Newspaper 28 March 1931], Fred Chudleigh (1872-1932) was a well-known and popular missioner, with thousands of East Enders lining the route at his funeral - see his biography by R.G. Burnett Chudleigh:  A Triumph of Sacrifice (Epworth 1932). He was a socialist, and member of the Independent Labour Party, writing the foreword to a collection of essays on Christ and Labour (Jarrold 1912), edited by Charles George Ammon, Labour MP for Camberwell and later Baron Ammon; he was also a scoutmaster with the National Peace Scouts, who had broken away from the 'militaristic' Baden-Powell organisations (compare the Woodcraft Folk, which had similar origins within the Co-operative movement). Initially he supported, and the Mission housed, the work of Pastor Kamal Chunchie, who had worked with Lascars in the area, in setting up a centre, the Coloured Men's Institute, for the black and Asian communities, but they disagreed over strategy (the centre was somewhat separatist), and new links developed with the Presbyterian church in Canning Town. 

Sister Doris, a Deaconess, came to work here in 1940, when the Revd Tom Collins was working at the Old Mahogany Bar (ironically for a Methodist, his name was that of a popular cocktail of the time!) and the Revd Edward Harland was in charge of St George's Chapel. Here are some memories of her arrival, and the following is an account of a later incident:

I was working as a Methodist Deaconess at St George’s, Cable Street, in the east end of London in 1940. One Tuesday afternoon when the Sisterhood was over and the ladies had dispersed, I was busy clearing up and folding the second hand clothes that we had for sale on the stall, to put away into the cupboard, when Mrs. Burgoyne turned up. This was most unusual, as she had not attended the meeting. She had come to tell me that her husband had died in the shelter overnight. I talked with her, and decided to go with her to her flat and see the insurance book which she had in her husband’s name. It was a very poor “book”, with extremely few entries, a shilling here and there. It was obvious that it would not yield any substantial amount for a funeral. This was clearly a case where the Council would have to take responsibility. However, Mrs. Burgoyne’s chief concern lay elsewhere. She said, and kept saying, “I must have my little bit of black!” Whether she ever got her “little bit of black”, I have no idea. As it was well on into the evening I suggested that she get her night’s rest and I would be with her at 8.30 a.m. the next day. I requested that she did not do anything until I arrived. To my surprise, the next morning I discovered that Mrs. Burgoyne had been to the undertaker and had set in motion the funeral arrangements. I had to go to that gentleman and explain the financial situation. He soon realised that it would be a case for the Council, or he would be faced with a bad debt. So it transpired that poor Mr. Burgoyne had to suffer the indignity of being transferred from a private, to a Council coffin when the men came round to collect the body! In due time notice was received of the place and time of the funeral, and that transport for four would be provided. On the day, the minister, Mr. Harland, went to conduct the service, together with Mrs. Burgoyne and her friend, and a Salvation Army officer. When the party was returning Mr. Harland indicated to the driver that he would like to get out at the Church, but Mrs. Burgoyne protested, “You don’t want to get out here, the paper said that there would be provision for four!” For her that obviously meant food!

Most of the premises [left - next to the Town Hall] collapsed in the early 1960s, but the congregation continued to care for those in need locally, especially the homeless and dispossessed. They offered a kitchen and soup run, and medical care, and the premises were used for a film on homelessness. The Revd Eugene (Gene) W. Morse, from Missouri, was stationed here from 1974-78; before his arrival, he was minister of Winchester United Methodist Church, and received a Bahelor of Divinity degree from St Paul's School of Theology, Kansas City. Having lived in the Mission at 583 Commerical Road and working particularly at the Men's Care Centre on Cable Street, Gene and his wife Lettie, now living in St Louis, Missouri (where until retirement in 2005 he was executive director of Kingdom House, providing child care facilities), have recently been in touch. On a recent visit to London they spent three nights at their former home - now a hotel - and found that much had changed, but some things had not!

Ronald (Ron) Gibbins was the Superintendent of the East End Mission from 1964 [right, greeted on appointment by Mgr Derek Worlock - on the right - then of SS Mary & Michael, Commercial Road, later Archbishop of Liverpool, a keen ecumenist working closely with Bishop David Sheppard]. In 1949 Gibbins, born in 1922, formerly an RAF gunner, had ran a 'back to church' campaign, and was apparently banned from various pubs and working men's clubs in the north-east and London because, said the Licensed Victuallers Association, he was likely to cause breaches of the peace, and also interfere with business ... he had been drinking lemonade in public houses, handing round religious leaflets, and singing hymns at the piano. At the height of Beatlemania, Gibbins told reporters that a Fab Four version of 'O come, all ye faithful' might provide the church with the very shot in the arm it needs. From 1979 he was minister of Wesley's Chapel, the 'mother church of world Methodism' in the City, and active in international Methodist affairs (and also commenting on freemasonry - Methodists are not barred from joining, he said, but secrecy of any kind is destructive of fellowship). In 2012, aged 90, he gave an address 'Hopes for Marriage' at the wedding of his grandson Seth Lakeman (a folk music star)'s wedding in Cornwall. He died in September 2015.

The day centre building failed in 1989, and with it most sources of statutory funding and trust giving. One of their final projects, in 1992 (when Ian Hamilton was the minister) was the Cable Street Club for up to 16 latchkey kids. Eventually, the site was sold for private housing. Baptismal registers for 1812-37 and burial registers for 1828-54 are held at the Public Records Office, and baptismal registers for 1838-1910 at the London Metropolitan Archives.

Footnote: a Methodist quack
In the 1850s Richard Talbot, a schoolmaster, became a Wesleyan local preacher, but only preached one sermon, finding that the cure of bodies was more lucrative than the cure of souls. He set up as a 'Surgeon and Apothecary' in Watney Street, and later elsewhere, offering galvanism (electrical treatment that was seriously studied at the time, but also exploited by quacks, some of whom claimed it could bring the dead back to life) as a cure for toothache, rheumatism, tic douloureux, and other ailments - "Gone in a moment!" He was successfully prosecuted under the Medical Act for deception and for claiming false (German) qualifications, and fined £10.

St George's Wesleyan Free Church / United Methodist Free Church, Cannon Street Road

John Wesley predicted that there would be many splits and regroupings within Methodism once it became a separate denomination, and so it proved - see the diagram left! Most were on matters, not of doctrine, but of church order and worship (including one over the use of organs). The Protestant Methodists split in 1827 (Leeds was their centre), and in 1836 the Wesleyan Methodist Association (with 20,000 members, centred on Manchester). These two groups amalgamated under the latter title, and in 1857 joined others who had seceded in 1849 under the leadership of James Everett, following the expulsion of some ministers on a charge of insubordination; they then took the name United Methodist Free Church. Their chapels tended to be quite imposing, on a par with the Wesleyan ones, and often had grand organs (they produced their own hymnal in 1889) and 'graded' pews; their ministers were well-educated, and served on a pattern similar to the Wesleyans - an initial twelve months, extended to 3-4 years by invitation of the local quarterly meeting; see here for a note on their college in Manchester. They were active in foreign missions, especially in China.

St George's Wesleyan Free Church was established in the late 1850s in the former Trinity Episcopal Chapel (which has been built as a Congregational chapel). McGill's 1861 model census says that 'Trinity Methodist' seated 500, with 30 in the Sunday School; but this report from the 1861 Sunday School Teachers' Magazine & Journal of Education: suggests that either he was referring to another building (but which?) or had greatly under-estimated the size of the Sunday School:
The anniversary meeting was held 21st October. The meeting was large and platform well filled, Robert Charles, jun., Esq. in the chair. The report was very encouraging. There are 448 scholars on the books, and 38 teachers, 36 of whom are church members. The divine blessing had accompanied the labours of the teachers: in the past year several scholars were converted. The first class girls is large, and all are avowedly Christian. Of the first class males, seven-tenths have given their hearts to Jesus. One teacher had had his earnest prayers and strivings answered by the conversion of nine of his scholars. The prayer meetings have been numerously attended, and great earnestness shewn. One child had been instrumental in leading its parent to the Saviour. The secretary, who had filled that office thirty-eight years, had been compelled to resign, having removed to a distance. A children's service is conducted, at which about 100 attend.

In 1864 the AGM of the Wesleyan Methodist Local Preachers' Mutual-Aid Association was held at the chapel, reporting on its usual course of usefulness as an almoner of the Methodist Churches; it had 2254 members (416 honorary) and made total payments in the year of £2055 (sickness, annuities and funeral costs). The chapel is shown on this 1868 map. By 1871 it had become St George's United Methodist Free Church (when the Sunday School presented to the senior superintendent a handsome Timepiece and to the senior secretary Dr Adam Clarke's 'Commentary', in six volumes). In 1878 they moved to new premises, also in Cannon Street Road, which were licensed for worship and registered for marriages; the former chapel was demolished.

There were three local UMFC chapels - Cannon Street Road, Jubilee Street, and Piggot Street in Limehouse. In the 1880s the Rev. William John Christophers was minister of all three.
The 1886 Religious Census of London records attendances of 114 (morning) and 87 (evening) at Cannon Street Road, 208 and 137 at Piggot Street and 77 and 72 at Jubilee Street. Christophers had previously ministered in Alfreton and Peckham, and from 1898 was at Praze, in Cornwall (where in 1901 he took part in a procession in Camborne, in torrential rain, to mark the centenary of Richard Trevithick's first steam locomotive run), and a decade later at Downham Market in Norfolk. A friendly society was based at the chapel - 'Whitechapel & St George's Improved Mutual (formerly 248th Starr-Bowkett)'. (A Starr-Bowkett Society was a co-operative, non-profit institution providing interest-free loans to members and operating on the principle of mutual self-help.)

In 1907 the United Methodist Free Church joined with the New Connexion and the Bible Christians (based primarily in Devon and Cornwall) to form the United Methodist Church, one of the three groups (the others being the Wesleyans and the Primitive Methodists) which, with a few exceptions, were finally re-united in 1932 to become The Methodist Church (of Great Britain). But by then the Cannon Street Road chapel had long gone; in 1895 there was a synagogue on the site. The Chapel Pharmacy at no.139 is the only surviving clue to its existence.

Primitive Methodists

The second main split in Methodism produced Primitive Methodism, popularly known as the 'Ranters'. It brought together the followers of Hugh Bourne (who held day-long camp meetings) and William Clowes. Originally a radical, revivalist and mainly rural grouping (until 1834, London formed part of the Norwich District), in time they became more 'respectable' and closer in style and politics to other branches of Methodism, with chapels alongside them in most parts of the country. Paul Sugden and Thomas Watson, from the Leeds circuit, came to London in the 1820s, followed by Clowes from the Hull circuit in 1824, who wrote in that year London is London still, careless, trifling, gay, and hardened through the deceitfulness of sin .... Oh, for God's might arm to be outstretched to shake the mighty Babylon to its centre. In 1843 John Flesher (Bourne's successor as editor of the monthly magazine) persuaded the Connexional Conference to move its Book Depot from Bemersley, a village in Staffordshire, to London, creating a central wheel of management  with the Book Room and Headquarters side by side. Among other things they published the annual magazine (started before 1834 in Bemersley: from 1902 it became the Aldersgate (Primitive Methodist) Magazine) and the current version of Connexion's hymnal, edited by Hugh Bourne in 1825: only authorised hymnbooks could be used in their chapels.

For that year (1843) only, the minister was William Harland (1801-80) - a Yorkshireman and a popular 'Ranter preacher' among the seafarers and fishermen of the East coast where most of his 43-year ministry was exercised, but whom (like others just-mentioned) Conference sent to London, where he was Superintendent of the London mission, and also general superintendent of home missions (a new, undefined, role which did not last). Back in Hull, he became Editor from 1857-62, and in that year was President of Conference. In 1861 he produced the Primitive Methodist Revival Hymn Book, 'compiled from the large and small hymn books [of Bourne in 1825]', which went through various editions. He was a keen total abstainer and supporter of the Band of Hope. Liberal in politics, he was conservative in church polity.

[John Flesher's edition of the hymnbook - based on Bourne's work and other sources - was produced at Sutton Street in 1865 under the publisher's name of William Lister. A further version - which attempted a more thoroughgoing return to Bourne's work - emerged in the late 1880s [left], edited by Dr George Booth JP of Chesterfield, and issued under the publisher's name of
James B. Knapp (previously a preacher in the Leintwardine circuit in Herefordshire), who also published in the 1890s (from 6 Sutton Street and 28 Paternoster Square) titles such as C.T. Blomfield Not Rich, Yet a Gentleman (an 'improving' romance), and various books for children, including Henry Woodcock Poor Charlie the Cripple; John Harvey Two Boys; Henry Wood Smith Little Jim; Samuel Warren Farnford, or, School Life Tweny Years Ago; Wallace Gray A Child of the Hills; and Made for It; or, The Wild Flower Transplanted.]  See this note and link on Methodist hymnals generally.

The 1872 map [right] shows that the 'Prims' built a chapel on the site at 6 Sutton Street, just east of Christ Church Watney Street, whose vicar G.H.McGill's 1861 model census says it seated 120, and estimated that the 'Ranters' Sunday School' had 100 attenders; however, the 1864 Primitive Methodist Magazine says it seated 400, but was unsatisfactory because it was in a yard concealed from view by dwelling houses. (McGill also lists another 'Primitive Methodist' chapel in Watney Street, accommodating 50, but be probably meant the New Connexion chapel described below.)

From 1874-81 Richard Solomon Blair (1838-1910) was attached to London Circuit VIII, based at Poplar but including Sutton Street. (Primitive Methodists tended to speak of 'stations' rather than 'circuits'.) He served for 30 years in East London, and on retirement was the honorary secretary of the Whitechapel Institute and Home of Rest, as well as of the Hartley London Chapel Debt Reduction Fund.  He wrote
The minister's wife; or, light at eventide (1871), A memoir of Billy Durrant, Local Preacher, bookseller and poet, compiled from his letters, journals and poems (1884); Reaching the masses; or, ten years' experience of mission work in East London (1884) and Nailed up the old barn door and what came of it (1894). Thomas Humphries was the minister recorded in the 1886 religious census of London.

In 1876 the forereunner of the Whitechapel Mission was launched, as the 'Working Lads' Institute and Home' (WLI), at the Mansion House, with the Lord Mayor of London presiding and Henry Hill, a City banker, its chief benefactor. It rented premises at The Mount on Whitechapel Road until 1885 when a new building, at 285 Whitechapel Road, was provided for its work (hitting the headlines when it was used for one of the 'Ripper' enquiries). In 1896, when WLI was short of funds, Thomas Jackson seized the opportunity and bought it, continuing the work of helping young men into employment, and providing beds for the homeless - a 'Home for Friendless and Orphan Lads' - now in an evangelistic context (the Mayor and Sheriff and others continued to support the work, attending the annual anniversary events). Left, as both institute and mission hall, and post-1906 when worship had transferred to Brunswick Hall (see below).

Jackson [left at various periods in his life, plus 1931 painting by Frank Beresford, bought for the Memorial Room at WLI by his successor on behalf of Revd W. & Mrs Potter] was one of the great figures of Methodism in this period. Born in Belper in 1850 (where he attended a Unitarian Sunday School), he served in the East End for 56 years until his death in 1932 (the year of Methodist re-union), and also founded missions in Walthamstow, Clapton and Southend. In 1901 he acquired premises at Marine Parade, Southend, for convalescent and holiday stays. In Whitechapel, the Mission provided free breakfasts and penny dinners for local children, medical service, free legal advice, a night shelter for homeless men, distribution of food, coal and grocery tickets, and prison gate rescue work amongst young lads, which developed into full probation work - Thompson being recognised as a probation officer. On 18 October 1926, to mark his jubilee in ministry, the Mansion House was opened for his supporters. He died in 1932. See further Brian Frost & Stuart Jordan Pioneers of Social Passion: London's Cosmopolitan Methodism (2006).

In 1906 the Mission had acquired from the Congregationalists Brunswick Hall [two views right] - formerly Sion Chapel - at 208-12 Whitechapel Road, which enabled the separation of social and evangelistic work. It was licensed for worship in 1907, and for weddings in 1911, and acquired an organ by Henry Speechly of Dalston, formerly in the Primitive Methodist Chapel at The Oval, Hackney Road. [Interior right, and House of Rest far right.] 

Thomas Jackson's succcessor was James E. Thorp (1919-46) [left - note the wing collar of earlier years, which Jackson had also worn]. He was from Sowerby Bridge (where he attended the Primitive Methodist Sunday School) and had previously ministered in the south west. He brought several of Jackson's ideas and projects to fruition - he too was a recognised probation officer - including the acquisition of  Windyridge, at Thorrington near Colchester, as a farm colony and hostel qualifying as 'conditional residence' for those serving probation orders. A group of lads had camped in the grounds some years before, and Mrs Atterton, a retired teacher, gave effect to her late husband's dying wish that their house should be used for this purpose. Right are images of the 'group of lads' admitted in Whitechapel in the course of one year, and homeless men receiving rations. London Metropolitan Archives holds a rich resource of material from this period, including accounts of night shelter users from 1926 and photos of  WLI activities in the 1930s. Here are many of of the annual reports of the Mission from those times to the present day.

After the war, Arthur Edward Doughty Clipson [left] was the superintendent minister from 1947, until his death in 1964. He had previously served in the Kidderminster, Pickering, Bolton and Bradford circuits. In 1948 the Mission acquired  a house in Tulse Hill, which they named 'Whitechapel House' - it was a probation hostel until 1956 when it became a hostel for homeless lads. The WLI youth centre and general office remained at at 279 Commercial Road. Refurbished, it was re-opened in 1958 by the Duke of Edinburgh. In Clipson's time there was manual work and classes for social readjustment in the family. Eric Murray [right] was also a minister in the circuit at this time; in his latter years [far right] until 2011, living in Surbiton, he chaired the English Committee in aid of the Waldensian Church Missions - Italian Protestants whose fascinating history long predates the Reformation, and who have much in common with Methodism (their guest house and centre in Rome is highly recommended!) 

The Superintendent of the Mission from 1964-70 was William Parkes (1964-70) [first right]. Born in Dudley, he candidated for the ministry in Korea while serving with the RAF and trained at Hartley Victoria College from 1953, serving in Barnsley and Sheffield. In 1963 he held a World Methodist Council scholarship at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, studying 19th century non-Wesleyan Methodist movements: an example of many published articles is 'The Original Methodists: Primitive Methodist Reformers'  [the so-called 'Selstonites'] in Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society vol XXXV (1965). A London PhD in criminology followed (and a paper 'Defences for Violence' in the New Law Journal for 1970). There were other historical and devotional works and collections of sermons. He wa appointed a royal chaplain, and in his later ministry (based in Essex) conducted preaching tours, and camp meetings in the USA, until his death in 1999.

J Rodney McNeal (and his wife, a former deaconess) came at same time. He was the son of George H. McNeal, of Wesley's Chapel and a founder of the Sheffield Mission. Rodney had served widely, including Methodist centres on the continent after the war; he came here from Bradford, where he had chaired the immigration liaison committee and worked among Pakistanis.

John Jackson [right] was Superintendent from 1970-74. He was a fourth-generation railwayman from Winsford in Cheshire, working in signalling and telegraphy, and was ordained in 1945 (studying at Richmond Theological College in Surrey - a Wesleyan college founded in 1843 which closed in 1972), and had served in Stroud, Yorkshire, Stoke on Trent, Darlington, the Victoria Hall Mission in Bolton and then as Superintendent of the Albert Hall, Nottingham (also the city's main concert hall at the time) where Sunday morning worship had been televised.

Dr John Henry Chamberlayne was the minister until 1981 [ith his deaconess wife Mary - left]. He was originally a scholar of ancient Hebrew religion (Man in Society; The Old Testament Doctrine, Epworth 1966), but became a lecturer on world religions and sociology at Natal University in South Africa, and Atlanta University in the USA, and a missionary teacher at Central China University. Back in England, he was an Open University tutor, teaching the course 'The [originally Man's] Religious Quest', with The Quest of Faith: an introduction to contemporary religions (REP 1969) as a source book; he was a member of the British Association for the Study [previously History] of Religions. His London doctorate on 'The People's Religion of China' was the basis of
China and Its Religious Inheritance (Janus 1993). In 1996 (by then retired to Croydon) he provided the Horniman Museum with 48 'Chinese objects'. He died in 2003.

His successor was also a minister with scholarly and practical interfaith experience. Peter Jennings (b.1937) [right, and with his wife Cynthia] was a pupil of Manchester Grammar School and after Oxford trained for ministry at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester where his interest in the Hebrew scriptures led to an MA in Semitic Studies. After a probationary ministry in Swansea, he was ordained in 1965 and became tutor and warden of the Social Studies Centre of the London Circuit (East) of the Methodist Conference, involved in youth work in an ethnically diverse community in north London. He then became General Secretary of the Council for Christians and Jews (founded 1942 by Chief Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz and Archbishop William Temple). A 1976 profile in the Jewish Observer and Middle East Review said without being disrespectful, the best way to describe the delightful Rev. Peter Jennings, general secretary of the Council of Christians and Jews, is 'an irreverent reverend'; his language is colourful....  He came to Whitechapel in 1981 as Director of the Mission, but continued his CCJ involvement, as chair of the standing conference of local councils, and remained involved with the British Friends of Nes Ammim, a pioneering Christian community in Israel. See further Marcus Braybrooke Children of One God: a history of the Council of Christians and Jews ( Valentine Mitchell 1991). In Jennings' time here, as Muslims replaced Jews on the local scene, he said we should stop calling Muslims 'people of another faith' and start calling them 'other faithful people'. He left in 1990 to become a superintendent minister in Ilford.

His successor at the Mission was John Lines MBE (1990-95) [first left]. John was a Metropolitan Police motorcyclist before ordination, and his hobby the preservation of old buses (see p11 of this link); he is now honorary vice-president of London Stedfast Association, for former members and supporters of the Boys' Brigade.
Richard Chapple (1995-99) [second left] came as Superintendent from Bexhill-on-Sea and went on to Colchester. David Hill succeeded him as superintendent of the Tower Hamlets circuit. Tony Miller MBE [right] was the first lay Director of the Mission: he was a volunteer in 1981, became daycare manager in 1988, and undertook overall responsibility in 1995. During these years the centres at Southend, Windyridge and Tulse Hill closed, and the Mission gradually returned all its operations to Whitechapel. Brunswick Hall at 208-12 (Maples Place) was demolished in 1969 and rebuilt; it still operates as a day centre (and our parish supports it with Harvest gifts each year).

Methodist New Connexion, Bethesda Chapel, Watney Street

The New Connexion was the first of the Methodist splits, led initially by Alexander Kilham (1762-98) [right], a minister in Sheffield, not on any doctrinal issues but over the rights and representation of lay people in church governance. It was a democratic movement, giving an equal voice to ministers and elected laity - for which the 'Kilhamites' were denounced as revolutionary sympathisers of Tom Paine. A 1795 'Plan of Pacification' failed to resolve the issue, and they broke away in 1797, founding their own chapels throughout the next century. 

A local New Connexion congregation was established in 1835 when a small chapel in Watney Street was leased; it was given the name Bethesda ('house of mercy' - John 5.2, the pool, elsewhere called Bethsaida or Bethzatha, where Jesus healed a sick man). In the 1850s, when its services were listed as 11am and 6.30pm, with a Monday evening meeting at 7pm, its joint ministers were George Hallatt and William Cooke - both significant in the Connexion's history.

George Hallatt (1810-88, born in Sheffield: see above) was a minister for 57 years. He had previously served in East Anglia where he had engaged in debate with disciples of Robert Owen's utopian socialism. In 1839 their journal The New Moral World reported The Rev. Mr. Hallatt, of the Methodist New Connexion, has delivered three Lectures in opposition to our views, and Mr. Farn three in reply; to hear the concluding reply we had a more numerous audience than we ever had before; our hall was completely filled. We challenged the Rev. Gentleman to meet Mr. Farn in discussion, and offered to pay all expenses attendant upon it, and admit the public gratuitously. The gentleman, however, declined the invitation; thinking, no doubt, that discretion was the better part of valour. We issued 500 large hand-bills, briefly stating our principles and the objects we have in view, and challenging the Clergy of the town to a discussion thereon; but no defender of the present system was to be found. The address was eagerly sought after, and created a great sensation in the town. In the same year Hallatt published a pamphlet A Reply to the Yarmouth Socialists' Address, and the following year Infidel Socialism Calmly Considered (Norwich 1840). After his time in London, he returned to East Anglia: he was the minister of King's Lynn Tabernacle in 1868, and a leader of the temperance movement.

William Cooke (1806-84) became the leading theologian of the New Connexion - some items of its centenery memorabilia (eg the Doulton Tyg - a three-handled pottery cup - in the Hird Collection at Mount Zion Chapel, Halifax) depict a triumvirate of Kilham, Cooke and Samuel Hulme (1806-1901). In 1854 he argued robustly, but unsuccessfully, for a name-change to 'the Methodist Free Church' (since the Connexion was no longer 'new'): The truth is we believe ourselves to be 'Free'. We are 'Free' not only in doctrine but in every branch of our polity. He edited the Connexional Magazine, wrote The Methodist New Connexion: Its Church Polity and Principles Explained and Defended in 1859, and produced its hymnal in 1863. In 1864 two American colleges made him an honorary Doctor of Divinity.

The Connexion had no formal training college until 1864, but Cooke ran a training centre in south London (Albany Road). It was here that William Booth studied, prior to his ordination to New Connexion circuit ministry; Cooke was so impressed with him that despite his youth (Booth was only 25) he made him Superintendent of the London Circuit. Booth's journal records visits to his tutor's chapel. Acccording to Frederick St George de Lautour Booth-Tucker in The Life of Catherine Booth: The Mother of the Salvation Army (Salvation Army 1892), in 1854 he made his first visit to the East End of London, where the New Connexion had maintained for many years a small cause, and where he was destined eleven years later to establish the foundations of a world-wide movement:
Sunday, March 19th, 1854. Left home at 10 o'clock for Watney Street; felt much sympathy for the poor neglected inhabitants of Wapping, and its neighbourhood, as I walked down the filthy streets and beheld the wretchedness and wickedness of its people. Reached Bethesda Chapel, and found a nice little congregation, who seemed to hear the word  of the Lord gladly. At night a good congregation. Felt much power in preaching. The people wept and listened with much avidity. Commenced or rather, continued the meeting by  holding a prayer-meeting. All, or nearly all, stayed. Gave an invitation to those who were decided to serve the Lord to come forward and many came fifteen in all of whom fourteen professed to find Jesus, and went home happy in His love. Many of these were very interesting cases. All engaged were much blessed. Tired and weary, I reached home soon after 11 o'clock.

And in May that year there is another entry:
At Watney Street I held a week's special services, preaching every night. Very many gave their hearts to God. I never knew a work more apparently satisfactory in proportion to its extent. Some most precious cases I have beheld, and I thank God for them. The people appear very happy and united. God bless and keep them!

Referring to the same meetings in one of his letters, Booth says:
We had indeed a glorious day yesterday. Good congregation in the morning. In the afternoon we held a love-feast. Seventeen spoke, and nearly all praised God for the day I came among them. Many of my spiritual children, with streaming eyes and overflowing hearts, told us how God, for Christ's sake, had made them happy. At night, notwithstanding the unfavourable weather, we had the place crammed every nook and corner, and in the prayer-meeting we had near twenty penitents. Mr. Atkinson's daughter and Mr. Gould, her intended husband, came forward and with many tears and prayers sought and found mercy. Two black women came, and altogether it was a good night.

See below for the Salvation Army.

Some further Methodist links

There was a German Wesleyan church in Commercial Road, whose contacts were both with Germany and the USA.

This site chronicles the various editions of hymnals for the 'people called Methodists': a story as complex, if not more so, than the Anglican one - a key difference being that in Methodist liturgy hymns are seen as the bearers of doctrine, which therefore require some degree of central authorisation, whereas in the Church of England credal formularies provide this, and hymns and hymnbooks have always been a matter of 'private enterprise'.

Ordination training colleges of the non-Wesleyan 'strands'
In 1847 the New Connexion appealed for £20,000 to build a college, but only a third of this sum was raised. In 1864
the Sheffield steel tycoon Mark Firth financed Ranmoor College (he and his brothers played a key role in the development of this affluent western suburb). It opened with 16 students [right] and closed in 1919 when Victoria Park College, in Manchester [following paragraph], became the base for all the United Methodists (staff having commuted across the Pennines for a time). The building became a nurses' hostel for the Royal Hospital until 1940, then an Air Raid headquarters, then for 16 years a men's hall of residence for Sheffield University; it was demolished in 1965.

The United Methodist Free Church college was built in 1871 in Victoria Park, Manchester. From the 1980s the Bible Christians had tailor-made courses at Shebbear for their ministers, but they moved to this site after the 1907 union that created the United Methodist Church - the New Connexion, as noted above, joining them a few years later. Student group [left] in 1926.

Primitive Methodist
training began in 1863 at Elmfield House, near York, moving to the Sunderland Theological Institute in 1868, and to Manchester in 1881, to link with the new Victoria University of Manchester (formerly, from 1851, Owen's College). Here in 1878 a grand college was built in Alexandra Road South, and extended from 1893-98 (see this description of the early years) and subsequently; in 1906 it was named Hartley College after Sir William P. Hartley (of jam fame). Its most famous tutor (from 1892-1929) was Arthur Samuel Peake, author of the famous one-volume bible commentary, first Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism in Manchester University and a Pro Vice-Chancellor. In 1934, after Methodist reunification, it became Hartley Victoria College when nearby Victoria Park College (above) joined it [college chapel window right]. In 1973, when training moved to the new Luther King House, it became a hall of residence for the Royal Manchester (later Royal Northern) College of Music, and in 2001 Kassim Darwish Grammar School for Boys, an independent Muslim school.

Luther King House, in Brighton Grove, was built on the site of the former Baptist College [left], and began as a union with the Northern Baptist College, to which was added Northern College (United Reformed Church, Congregationalists and Moravians) and the small Unitarian college, plus links with the mainly-Anglican (non-residential) Northern Ordination Course to form a Federation, which in 1998 became the Partnership for Theological Education, in recognition both of its wider links and emphasis on training for the whole church, not just clergy. The site is marketed as a functions venue, and is licensed for civil marriages [chapel right, and courtyard].


New Mulberry Gardens Chapel, Pell Street (later St Matthew's Church)

The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion was (and is, for a few chapels remain, mostly in the south-east) a group of Calvinistic Methodist churches, under the personal direction of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon until her death in 1791. She liked to move ‘her’ ministers around on a regular basis! They trained at Trevecca in Wales, and then, after her death when the decision was made to move to a convenient place near London, at Cheshunt [right]; the trust deed for the college makes interesting reading, and has some links with the family of Dr Herbert Mayo, Rector of St George-in-the-East. When the Connexion's training transferred to Cambridge, the site became an Anglican theological college, sponsored by the four local dioceses of London, St Albans, Southwark and Chelmsford, from 1909 until its closure in 1969.

From 1773, the Countess' ministers preached under the mulberry trees in Wapping,  and in that year she reported that I am treating about ground to build a large, very large chapel at Wapping; in 1776 Mulberry Gardens Chapel was opened. The reason for the delay relates to disagreement about the choice of minister; this, and the subsequent history of the building, are explained more fully in this biography of the Countess. It was fitted up in a tasteful manner and opened using Anglican rites. Allegedly the hymn-singing was so hearty that Dr Mayo, in his nearby meeting-house, could not be heard when preaching. 

One of her ministers, appointed in 1778, was a Cornishman John Eyre, an able and well-respected preacher, who was ordained into the Anglican church the following year (not all that strange, since the Connexion did not regard itself as formally separated from the established church, and used its liturgy). He went on to serve in Chelsea and Homerton. However, he kept contact with former friends, and was a keen supporter of the London Missionary Society. Two others whom she did not appoint - despite local pressure - were William Simpson, despite his significant financial contributions to the chapel, and William Aldrige, who left the Connexion and became a Calvinistic Methodist, though remained on good terms with the Countess - he also subscribed to Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative.

T. & R. Allen's Brewery declined to renew the lease on this chapel when it expired (instead it was offered to Pell Street Meeting), and the congregation dispersed - some to the Countess' original chapel at Spa Fields, some to Sion Chapel, but most to Charlotte Street. When this latter building in turn was demolished to make way for the Docks, she built 'New Mulberry Garden Chapel' in Pell Street, with its main entrance in Prince's Square, in 1802 (see opening notice right from the Evangelical Magazine vol.10). It was a simple building – a plain brick box, without even a bell-cote, and had high pews and a gallery. There was a vault below, and two further ones under the school and almshouses, which became very full and insanitary. (In his will John Luden, slopseller of 14 Upper East Smithfield, who died in 1845, had specified burial in this vault for his son Joseph, and for himself, but it is doubtful whether this was achieved given subsequent developments.)

As explained above, the Anglican liturgy was used in the chapel, whose minister from 1804-07 was the Rev Isaac Nicholson. He was born in Netherwasdale, Cumbria in 1761, was an ordained Anglican minister, and had been President of the college at Cheshunt following the death of Lady Huntingdon; he published a Collection of Hymns....for Mulberry Gardens Chapel in 1807. He was a noted preacher, and gave lectures every Tuesday evening. Among his published sermons, delivered at Pell Street, were The Office and Operations of the Spirit of God as a Witness, intended as an antidote against the virulent poison of the Sandemanian heresy, diffused in London by the Hibernian stranger (1806). He was also an opponent of promiscuous and unscriptural communion, and instigated a system of moral examination by church leaders for admission to the sacrament. After his death in 1807 (aged 47) this and other aspects of his church governance were subject to legal challenge in the High Court of Chancery. While this was being resolved, some of the congregation transferred for a time to the Pell Street Independent Meeting, which in 1805 had taken over a former mariner's chapel twelve yards away.

(The Court of Chancery was also later involved in setting up a trust for unclaimed Nicholson family money. Some years later, one Peter Nicholson of Georgia in the USA, who lived as a miser, was discovered by a neighbour to have a large cache of dollars and slugs of Californian gold, which he guarded closely; when he died the money was never found.)

Nicholson's successor, whom he first met while convalescing from 'nervous debility' in Cumbria and brought back to London, was the Rev Robert Stodhart,  for more details of whom see here. He remained until 1842 (living in Islington), and died died in 1846, aged 67. They chapel continued to use the Anglican liturgy; by this time, however, church order was similar to that of the Congregationalists. In his time the chapel became an 'auxiliary society' of the London Missionary Society, founded in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and nonconformists - and which became the main missionary agency of the Congregationalists.

When the Independent chapel in Pell Street closed around 1833, Stodhart bought the premises at auction to prevent it falling into inappropriate hands. The Connexion abandoned Mulberry Gardens Chapel in the 1840s (the last recorded baptisms were in 1837 - and see here for the visit of the black evangelist Zilpha Elaw in 1845), but there was one more minister: when Stodhart resigned in 1842, Joseph Cartwright took his place. He was an Independent who had been offered a Church of England title but declined; had served in Orpington and Devonport; and had supplied at New Mulberry Gardens Chapel for several weeks before receiving their call. The Monthly Repository's portrait gives a glimpse of which doctrines mattered, and the language in which they were expressed:

Mr C is one who boldly declares the whole of a free-grace Gospel, by exhibiting the glory of its doctrines, the necessity of its experience, and the certainty of its practical effects. The scope of his ministry may be condensed as follows:- The everlasting love of Jehovah the Father; the blessedness enjoyed by the church secured in the purposes of grace, founded in the decretive will of God alone. The love of Jehovah Jesus, as developed in the great work of redemption, undertaking our cause, assuming our nature, bringinh the church up to himself in an everlasting oneness, and sustaining all his covenant offices and characters, for her well-being in grace, and her exaltation from grovelling corruption, to songs of praise, crowns of salvation, and thrones of eternal glory. The love of Jehovah the Spirit in his covenant work of regeneration, quickening dead souls by his sanctifying influence, subduing the depravity of out first Adam's nature, carrying on the work of grace to consummation in glory, and finally making us meet for our Maker's kingdom.

His ministry here was short-lived. The chapel stood empty for a time, before the parish church acquired it and it became St Matthew Pell Street. Among those who ministered here in the late 1850s was Thomas Tenison Cuffe, who having seceded from the Church of England in 1850 to join the Countess' Connexion apparently returned to the Church of England a few years later.

In 2004 Sotheby's sold a picture [left]  by Anthony Stewart (1773-1846) of A Child, said to be the Baroness Emilia Kayne von Gorgan Schillitz, wearing a low-cut white dress with frilled trim, her right arm raised, holding her coral necklace, parkland background, in a gilt-mounted papier-mâché frame. In the reverse of this miniature was a card from Mulberry Gardens Chapel (why is not clear) with the words 'A. Stewart, Portrait & Miniature Painter, 17 Prince's Square, St. George's East' and his trade label.

Zion Chapel
In 1790 - the year before the death of the Countess - the Connexion took on a former theatre on Whitechapel Road, which was fitted out as Zion Chapel. The dressing rooms were turned into vestries, and a pulpit built on the front of the stage. It was fairly spacious: the pit was filled with seats, and the galleries were large and accommodating. When Pell Street failed, efforts were made to revive the Connexion's cause locally. went into decline on the death of the Countess, despite various attempts to revive the cause: i
ts minister in the 1840s was James Sherman, 1796-1862, trained at Cheshunt College. In 1846 Bosun Smith attended a Tea Meeting, and wrote of his hopes that since Pell Street was a complete failure, there should be one settled minister, and occasional supplies from the country to make it popular, and a great evangelical working manufactory, to qualify laborers male and female, for the immense mass of wretchedenss, filth, and misery, drunkeneness, debauchery and crime, in the vicinity of Zion Chapel. This is all the more necessary, because in the main street of Whitechapel, and at no very great distance, is a Hall of Science, filled with crowds of the working classes to infidel lectures night after night.

This Hall of Science was perhaps the Tower Hamlets Institute at 81 Whitechapel High Street. Followers of Robert Owen, who has created radical industrial communities around the country, also created in urban areas some Halls of Science (often purchasing former chapels) which have been characterised as a
cross between mechanics' institutes and Methodist chapels. In the 1840s the City Road Hall of Science was described as 'The Society of theological Utilitarians' in G.J. Holyoake's journal The Reasoner (he moved away from both Owenite and Chartist principles towards the concept of 'secularism'). Like the Owenite communities, these Halls did not last long - they lacked the necessary infrastructure. John Harrison in Robert Owen and the Owenites in Britain and America (2009) suggests that this was because the earnest working man or lower middle class clerk who wanted educational self-improvement or rational amusement could get it at the mechanics' institute without taint of infidelity; and the political radical would find himself in more congenial company at the Chartist rooms ... Only those who required secular sectarianism would attend regularly at the Owenite Hall. Furthermore, radicals had networks of pubs and (in many places) the goodwill of vestries granting them the use of parochial buildings.

In the event, Zion chapel burnt down in 1864 and was rebuilt two years later by Congregationalists as Sion (New) Chapel.


Although the East End made a huge impression on William Booth, he did not return here for more than a decade. In 1857, he was appointed by the New Connexion to a ministry in Brighouse, in the Halifax circuit (having married Catherine in 1855), and following his ordination in 1858 was appointed to Gateshead. But he found this too restricting, and fell out with the church authorities, so resigned and became an independent evangelist, returning to London in 1865.

Many of the sites associated with his new organisation - which began as the The Christian Mission, but in 1878 became The Salvation Army (with Catherine his wife and Bramwell his son in key roles) - lie just outside this parish, as this excellent Whitechapel Walk site shows. For instance, Professor Orton's Dancing Academy at 23 New Road [right] - now divided into flats - bears a blue plaque commemorating the Mission's first Sunday meetings after their tent in a disused Quaker burial ground [now Vallance Road Gardens] had blown down. But 102 Christian Street is in the parish, and it was here that the Army's rescue work may be said to have begun, when in 1881 Mrs Elizabeth Cottrill, 'converts sergeant' at Whitechapel Corps, took into her already-overcrowded home (16 members of three families) a young girl living in a brothel, who had come to the penitents' bench. J. & K. Knitwear now occupies the building [far right]. For some years around the turn of the 20th century, the Salvation Army had premises on Cable Street, next to what is now the Overground station.

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