Birstall Chapel case

When the chapel at Birstall, Yorks was rebuilt in 1782, the trustees included in its deed a clause providing that, after the death of John and Charles Wesley, the choice, appointment and removal of preachers should revert to them. John Wesley condemned this as 'Presbyterian' and a threat to the itinerancy, but was persuaded to sign the deed. He later came to see this as an error on his part. The subsequent Conference decided that, unless the trustees rescinded this provision, a fund should be raised to build a new chapel and settle it 'on the Conference plan'. Thomas Coke was sent to negotiate with the trustees, but without success, despite the offer of compensation. The Conference of 1783 took steps to get all the chapels settled on the Model Deed, but similar disputes occurred later at Dewsbury and North Shields and conflict between the Conference and local trustees continued after Wesley's death, e.g. at Bristol in 1794. The Birstall Chapel case was not finally resolved until 1881, by an Act of Parliament, Sir William Middlebrook, a native of Birstall, negotiating with the Charity Commissioners.

  • L. Tyerman, Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley MA (4th edn., 1878), 3 pp.373-83
  • E.B. Perkins, Methodist Preaching Houses and the Law (1952) pp.25-30