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The Methodist Background

THE METHODIST BACKGROUND (WENTWORTH STREET CHURCH)

 

In 1978, when Wentworth Street Methodist Church joined Westgate United Reformed Church, to form a single society worshipping at the Westgate premises, two major centres of Christian witness over two hundred year coalesced to form the church we have today.  Founded at about the same time, both had played key roles in the development of evangelical Christian life in our city and its surrounds.

 

Methodists.

Established in the 18th Century by a Church of England clergyman, Rev. John Wesley, the Methodist connexion was originally intended to be a movement within the Church of England; however gradually it came to be a separate denomination.  Methodism stressed what at the time were forward thinking ideas - that in God’s grace ALL can be saved, that even on earth Christians should strive for perfection, and the witness in the heart of God’s Holy Spirit.

 

In the 19th century Methodism grew rapidly but was subject to splits, which led to “Wesleyan” and “Primitive” Methodists, and “Bible Christians” and other groups.  Eventually most of these groups reunited, in 1932, by a parliamentary Act of Union.

 

Methodism is sometimes said to have been “born in song” - a reference to the hymns of Rev Charles Wesley (John’s brother) and others, sung with enthusiasm by early Methodists and still to this day.

 

At the time of the first World War Peterborough and surrounding areas had 56 Methodist chapels.  Consolidation following Methodist Union and, regrettably, closure in a number of cases has substantially reduced the number so that today the Methodist preaching plan for the Peterborough area has 14 preaching places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Above: Wentworth Street exterior   Right: Choir stalls, pulpit and altar

 

Recorded Methodist history in the city centre, as with the URC, begins at the opening of the nineteenth century.

 

About 1800

Methodism commenced in Peterborough with a small society of 7-8 persons, forming part of the Kettering preaching circuit.  Initially, meetings for prayer and worship were held at a cottage in Bridge Street.  In 1807, Peterborough became part of the Stamford circuit and a cottage was obtained and licensed for worship.

1818

A Wesleyan Methodist preaching house was established in Wood Street (close to the original Congregational chapel).

1825

Peterborough Wesleyan Methodist circuit established.  At this time Primitive Methodists, another arm of the Methodist movement, were also active in Peterborough.

Establishment of a circuit locally was followed by substantial missionary activity in villages around Peterborough, with Methodist societies established in most villages by the end of the 19th century.

1833

Building of the first Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Wentworth Street.

1860

An organ, and gallery, were added to the first Wentworth Street Chapel, to cope with increase in the number of worshippers.

1874

Redevelopment of the Wentworth Street site: the new chapel could seat 1100.  At about the same time, daughter churches were established in other parts of Peterborough, some of which including Dogsthorpe and London Road (now Southside Chapel) remain to this day.

1932

Wesleyan, Primitive and United Methodist churches joined together by an Act of Union to form a single Methodist connexion.  In Peterborough, this led to establishment of a single circuit with Wentworth Street as the central church.

1978

Closure of the Wentworth Street premises, and combination with the URC congregation in Westgate Church