Attleborough was the first place in Norfolk mentioned by the Wesley brothers on their first visit to the county in 1754. Later, John Wesley must have passed through the town on the turnpike to Norwich on many occasions, but it is never mentioned in either his journal or his diaries.

A Methodist society was in existence by 1782 when on 6 July an application was made to register 'the dwelling house of Andrew Webster, worsted weaver'. He was a Local Preacher in the circuit. A chapel was opened in September 1809 , seating 250. In 1812 the Attleborough Circuit was carved out of the existing Diss Circuit.

The foundation stones of a new chapel were laid on 30 June 1871 and the building was opened on Good Friday, 29 March 1872. It cost £1,116 and was known as St John's. Two years later a schoolroom was added and in 1875 a manse was built for the Superintendent Minister, entirely paid for by Robert Lovett, the Sunday school Superintendent. An organ was installed in 1882 built by the firm of Ernest Norman of Norwich (later known as Norman and Beard). In the mid twentieth century it was sold to Bethesda Baptist Chapel in Stowmarket.

[St John's Wesleyan Church]

The society suffered a heavy loss in the First World War with four men killed in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign and another fourteen elsewhere.

At Methodist Union the existing Attleborough Wesleyan Circuit remained the same, but with the addition of London Road Primitive Methodist Church and two country Primitive Methodist chapels.

In August 1956 major problems were found in the fabric of the church building. The cost of repairs was beyond the means of the congregation, so it was decided to close the church and join the London Road Church (formerly PM). The amalgamation was accomplished in in November 1956. St John's was demolished in 1960. In 1991 the Wesleyan cemetery was taken over by the Parish Council and made into a public garden.

The Primitive Methodists first appear as a fledgling society in 1821. From 1825 it appears regularly in the records, first as part of the Rockland Branch of the Brandon Circuit and then in the Rockland Circuit. A chapel was rented from 1839.

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In 1862 a new chapel was opened, designed and built by Isaac Lebell, a blacksmith and local preacher from Scoulton. The Quarterly Meeting gave precise instructions as to its size; it was to be 30 feet long by 24 feet wide and was to have three steps up to the pulpit. The cost was £288 and it contained 130 seats. An average of 130 attended the Sunday services. It was situated on the east side of what was then known as Gardenhouse Road, but which quickly became known as Chapel Road. In 1872 it was enlarged and four years later a schoolroom was built behind the chapel. In 1913 it was sold to the Salvation Army.

A new chapel had been opened in December 1909, designed by the Norwich architect A.F. Scott. Built of red brick with stone facings, its flamboyant entrance was decorated with red granite pillars, stylised flowers and heavy gothic arches ending in little stone faces in mediaeval fashion. The preacher at the opening service was Rev. Henry Yooll of Norwich, ex-President of Conference.

[ London Road P.M. Church]

November 1956 saw the congregation of St John's welcomed into the London Road church. A new school hall designed by Clifford Dann was opened in 1967. A Youth Club flourished there in the 1990s and is still very popular.

The Independent Methodist congregation at Attleborough formed part of the Great Hockham Circuit of Independent Methodist societies. The circuit was formed in the late 1840s and came to an end in 1857. The missionary, William Sanderson, visited the circuit in 1850. He took services at Attleborough in a barn and spoke optimistically of the congregation he found at Attleborough.


  • Norma Virgoe, O Little Town (2013)