1877 : Methodism in Mitcham

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – Saturday 22 December 1877

METHODISM AT MITCHAM

The following particulars as to the history of Methodism generally, and particularly in regard to the parish of Mitcham may be interesting to our readers. They formed the basis of lecture given by Mr. John Wade a short time since.

The term Methodism was first applied about the year 1729 to four young men at Oxford, namely, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and two others named Morgan and Kirkham, and a year or two afterwards to Messrs. Ingham, Broughton, Clayton, Hervey, and last, not least, George Whitfield, who met together at stated times for prayer, searching the Scriptures, and mutual edification, and also devoted themselves to the visiting of the prisoners in the gaol, the sick, and the poor. This course of conduct did not fail to attract the notice of their fellow collegians, and it is recorded that one of them, a young gentleman of Christ Church, exclaimed, Here is a new set of Methodists sprung up! alluding to some ancient physicians, who were so called about 30 or 40 B.C., and the name has been applied to them or their followers ever since. They were also derisively called “Sacramentarians,” and the “Holy Club.” Many of the influential masters and doctors of the University frowned upon them, but to no purpose. It was thought desirable by the family that John Wesley should succeed his father as incumbent at Epworth, but Wesley preferred remaining at Oxford as a tutor. About April, 1735, a new colony was formed in Georgia, North America, and Mr. Wesley consented to there as chaplain. Mr. Wesley’s High Church principles some time after brought him into collision with the authorities, and he left Georgia in October, 1737. February, 1738, he arrived in London, having been absent therefrom about two years and four months, and became acquainted with the Moravians, whom he afterwards joined. He subsequently visited the Moravian settlement at Hernhut, in Moravia, and on his return to England, as he was shut out of the churches, and Whitfield commenced preaching in the open air. In July, 1740, Mr. Wesley separated from the Moravians, and established a society which met a place called “The Foundry,” which had been used for casting cannon, in Moorfields, and from this date, until his death in 1791, in the year of his age, he pursued a successful career in spreading religion through the land. The first mention of Methodism as respects Mitcham is contained in vol. 4 of Mr. Wesley’s Journal, page 117, under the date of January 12, 1764 (113 years since), where there occur the words:—

”I preached at noon at Mitcham, and in the afternoon rode to Dorking, but the gentleman to whose house I was invited seemed to have no desire that I should preach, so that evening I had nothing to do; but on the next day (Friday, Jan. 13th) I went at noon into the street, and in broad place not far from the market-house proclaimed ’The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ At first two or three little children were the whole of my congregation, but it quickly increased, though the air was sharp, and the ground exceedingly wet, and all behaved well but three or four grumbling men, who stood so far off that they disturbed none but themselves, had purposed to preach there again in the morning, but a violent storm made it impracticable, after preaching at Mitcham on the way, I rode back to London.”

Nothing appears to have arisen from this first effort of Mr. Wesley to introduce Methodism into Mitcham, until about years after, namely, on March 13th, 1776, on which date an entry occurs in his journal the effect that he went to Mitcham and found a little company just started up. The house being too small, preached the front of house adjoining the high road, where the earnestness of the people made up for the keenness of the east wind. The place where Mr. Wesley preached on this occasion was opposite the King’s Head inn, Lower Green. The next notice under the date of Nov. 6th, 1787, and records the fact that Mr. Wesley again preached at Mitcham. Steps were then taken build chapel. A piece of ground was taken on the Causeway on lease for 71 years, and the chapel was opened in November, 1789 Mr. Wesley preached in the new chapel December 1st, 1789, and Mitcham continued part of the London circuit until the year 1811, the pulpit being mostly supplied from London. After this it formed what was called the Brentford circuit, still more recently the Hammersmith circuit, and since the year 1838 part of the Croydon circuit. The lease of the old chapel having expired, a fresh site was obtained on the opposite side of Mitcham Green, near the old chapel, for years, and on this site the present new chapel has been erected at cost of about £1,100.

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