First Methodist chapel in Great Yarmouth

Site of the first Methodist chapel in Great Yarmouth, and opened by Rev John Wesley in 1783.

This was the first Methodist chapel in Great Yarmouth and was opened in 1783 by the founder of Methodism, Rev John Wesley. Methodism was active in the town for about 30 years before the chapel was built.

Thomas Olivers was the first person to try and bring Methodism to Great Yarmouth in 1754. Mr Olivers set up on the Market Place with a hymn and prayers and a crowd gathered around. However, their mood soon changed and they attacked Mr Olivers who was forced to flee into a house in the Rows. They eventually escaped back to Norwich on horseback, but were attacked with sticks and stones as they left and had potatoes and turnips thrown at them.

The next person to bring Methodism to Great Yarmouth was Captain Howell Harris in 1760. Captain Harris was in the Brecknock Militia and he also preached in the Market Place. Once again an angry mob was ready to surround the preacher, but Captain Harris was more cunning than Thomas Olivers and dressed in his full regimental uniform and surrounded himself with soldiers. The mob was both astonished and terrified and joined in with the service, and this was a turning point for Methodism in the town.

Rev John Wesley visited Great Yarmouth several times. First was in 1761, when he described the town as 'a large and populous town, and as eminent for wickedness and ignorance as any seaport in England.' Over the next few years, Methodism in Great Yarmouth became more settled, with various reports written by John Wesley in his journal, but by 1779 it had gone completely.

However, Methodism was restored in the town by a local brazier by the name of Mr Samuel King. The new society began holding worship first in Mr King's own kitchen and over the next few years moved from rented rooms in various buildings in the town. The growing Methodist society then decided it needed a permanent place of worship and land and bricks were donated by a Mr Bell on the north-west side of Ferry Boat Row (or Row 8), which would now be close to the edge of Fuller's Hill roundabout. On 22nd October 1783 the Row 8 chapel was opened by John Wesley.

At that opening service, John Wesley preached from a wooden pulpit which became known as the 'Wesley pulpit'. This was moved from one chapel to another as the Methodist society grew and eventually ended up at Gorleston Methodist church, where it still is and is used weekly for Sunday worship.

As that first Methodist society grew, they moved to a larger chapel in 1792 on the corner of King Street and Regent Street. Over the course of time they moved to a series of larger chapels. The descendant of that Row 8 chapel still exists as what is now known as Christchurch, which is between Deneside and King Street.

John Wesley