Bury St Edmunds

Trinity Chapel   Click to enlarge
John Wesley's 17 visits between 1755 and 1790 were made often on his way to Norwich. Anglican dominance in rural Suffolk, coupled with a strong Dissenting presence in the town, meant that the society remained small, though Wesley spoke more of their spiritual strengths than of their weaknesses. Of his last visit in October 1790 the Bury Post records his 'very crowded congregations', adding that 'The indefatigable labours of this venerable old gentelman, now in his 89th year of his age, are truly astonishing.' A house was licensed for worship in 1766, but the first chapel was not built until 1812, replaced by the present one, Trinity, in Brentgovel Street nearer the town centre, on 16 March 1878. The preacher on that occasion was Alexander M'Aulay. A second church was opened in 1957 to serve the needs of post-war housing developments.

At the time of the 1851 Religious Census the Wesleyans reported 106 free sittings and 294 others, and attendances of 104 plus 48 scholars in the morning and 90 plus 6 scholars in the evening. (No PM figures have survived.)

The first PM preachers arrived in 1829 and rented a building the following year. The early years of the mission were a difficult struggle and William Peaceful arrived in 1847 to find the society demoralised and excluded from their chapel because of failure to pay the rent. He rented a chapel in Garland Street, despite opposition from the society and their refusal to worship there. His street missioning, visiting and preaching succeeded in bringing new life to the work. Larger premises, also in Garlad Street, were called for in 1851 and in 1902 the congregation moved into a former Congregational chapel in Northgate Street.. In 1934 they united with the WM society in the latter's premises.

What is now Culford School was founded in the town in 1881, followed on the site by the East Anglian School for Girls until the amalgamation in 1972. The Martins MHA opened in the town in 1962.


John Wesley's Journal:

19 February 1762: 'I rode to Bury, and was glad to find a little serious company still. But there cannot be much done here till we preach abroad, or at least in the heart of the town. We are now quite at one end; and people will not come from the other till they have first "tasted the good word." '

24 October 1763: 'Here the mob had for some time reigned lords paramount; but a strange gentleman from London, who was present one evening when they were in high spirits, took them in hand, and prosecuted the matter so effectively that they were quelled at once.'

15 February 1769: 'I … found not only an attentive audience, but a little society athirst for God.'

2 November 1772: 'I preached to a little company on the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. This love is the very thing they want; but they did not like to be told so. But I could not help that: I must declare just what I find in the Book.'

7 December 1775: ' I preached at seven to the largest congregation I ever saw there. We used to have about a dozen at five in the morning. But on Friday the 8th I suppose we had between forty and fifty.'

20 October 1790: 'I preached at Bury to a deeply attentive congregation, many of whom know in whom they have believed. So that here we have not lost all our labour.'

  • Isaac Dorricott, Memorials of an Earnest Life, or Records of the Rev. William Peacefull (1878), pp.67-69
  • WHS(EA) 3 (1960) pp.3-4; 6 (1961) pp.6-7; 10 (1964) p.4; 13 (1965) pp.5-7

Entry written by: WDH
Category: Place
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