Foundery, London

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For over 45 years John Wesley's headquarters in London was the former royal arsenal on Windmill Hill to the north of Moorfields, which had stood empty since an explosion seriously damaged it in 1716. In 1739 Wesley acquired the lease for £115, spent £700 repairing and equipping it and held the first service there on 11 November. When he withdrew from the Fetter Lane society in July 1740, the Foundery became the home of the first Methodist society in London. It was a multi-purpose building, with two entrances, one into the preaching house and the other into the living quarters and band-room, which also served as schoolroom and book room (where Methodist publications were stored and sold). There was also stabling for the preachers' horses. The preaching house, complete with galleries, held 1,500, with men and women segregated Moravian-style. The living quarters included rooms for Wesley himself, his mother during her closing years, some of his preachers and a number of poor widows. He insisted on a common table for the whole 'family'. The school for poor children had two teachers and 60 pupils and for many years was in the charge of Silas Told. One of the earliest ventures was the first free dispensary in London, for which Wesley later engaged an apothecary and a surgeon. By 1776 the lease was running out and Wesley made plans for a move to his 'new chapel in the City Road'. But the Foundery was not finally given up until November 1785.

What has long been identified as the pulpit from the Foundery is now in the Museum of Methodism in the crypt of Wesley's Chapel, London. Some doubt remains about its fate when the Foundery ceased to be in Methodist use, but it eventually came into the hands of Thomas Jackson, who presented it to the Theological Institution in 1856. It remained at Richmond College until transferred to City Road when the college closed in 1972.

In 1746 Wesley published his first collection of hymn tunes, under the title A Collection of Tunes set to music, as they are commonly sung at the Foundery , popularly known as 'the Foundery Tune Book'. Although printed by a leading London music printer, it was full of errors, was never reprinted and may have been little used. It nevertheless was a landmark in the development of English hymnody, in that it included a considerable number of German chorales and adaptations of tunes by Handel.


'I preached at eight, to five or six thousand. On the spirit of bondage and the spirit of adoption; and at five in the evening to seven or eight thousand which had been the King's Foundery for cannon. O hasten the time when nation shall nor rise up against nation, neither shall they know war any more.'

John Wesley, letter to James Hutton, Nov. 14(?), 1739

'Our little company met at The Foundery, instead of Fetter Lane. About twenty-five of our brethren God hath given us already, all of whom think and speak the same thing; seven- or eight-and-forty likewise of the fifty women that were in band desired to cast in their lot with us.'

John Wesley's Journal, 23 July 1740

'It stood in the locality called "Windmill Hill", now known by the name of Windmill Street. The building was placed on the east side of the street some sixteen or eighteen yards from Providence Row, and measured about forty yards in front, from north to south, and about thirty yards in depth, from east to west. There were two front doors, one leading to the chapel, and the other to the preacher's house, school, and band-room. The chapel, which would accommodate some fifteen hundred people, was without pews, but, on the gorund floor, immediately before the pulpit, were about a dozen seats with back rails, appropriated to female worshippers. Under the front gallery were the free seats for women: and under the side galleries the free seats for men. The front gallery was used exclusively by females, and the side galleries by males...

'The band-room was behind the chapel, on the ground floor, some eighty feet long and twenty feet wide, and accommodated about three hundred persons. Here the classes met; here, in winter, the five o'clock morning service was conducted; and here were held, at two o'clock on Wednesdays and Fridays, weekly mettings for prayer and intercession. The north end of the room was used for a school, and was fitted up with desks; and at the south end was the book-room for the sale of Wesley's publications.

'Over the band-room were apartments for Wesley, in which his mother died; and at the end of the chapel was a dwelling-house for his domestics and assistant preachers, while attached to the whole was a small building used as a coach-house and stable.'

Luke Tyerman, Life of John Wesley, I pp.271-2

  • G.J. Stevenson, City Road Chapel and its Associations (1872) pp.13-60
  • James T. Lightwood, 'Notes on the Foundery Tune-book', in WHS Proceedings 1 pp.116-17, 2 pp.147-60
  • J. Henry Martin, John Wesley's London Chapels (1946) pp.20-29
  • Herbert W. White, 'The Foundery Pulpit', in WHS Proceedings, 33 pp.139-41
  • Max W. Woodward, One at London: the story of Wesley's Chapel (1966) pp.17-33