Islington, London

John and Charles Wesley preached in the old St Mary's parish church 1738-42, during the incumbency of the Rev. George Stonehouse. It was the scene of one of the most concentrated evangelical efforts of early Methodism, until protests by the Vestry brought it to an end. (Stonehouse resigned the living early in 1740.)

John Wesley continued to minister in Islington and Finsbury from the Foundery and then from Wesley's Chapel. The New Wells, near to Sadler's Wells, was a Methodist 'Tabernacle' from 1752 to 1756 and Wesley preached there in 1754. He frequently retreated to 25 Highbury Place, home of John Horton, a drysalter and member of the Common Council of London, dining there for the last time on 22 February 1791, a few days before he died. In 1821 Wesley's Chapel hired a butcher's shop in White Lion Street and established a Sunday School which evolved into the Liverpool Road WM Chapel (1826). Sir Francis Lycett and Samuel D. ('Judge') Waddy were members there and notable ministers included James H. Rigg, W. Morley Punshon and Luke H. Wiseman. The church closed in 1930 and the society joined with Drayton Park to become Islington Central Hall under the ministry of Donald O. Soper, who held open-air meetings in Highbury Fields. The congregation moved to Albans Place in 1953 and then in 1963 to Palmers Place as Islington Central Methodist Church.

There were Calvinistic Methodistchapels in Providence Place and Gaskin Street. The first two ministers of Union Chapel in Compton Terrace (1806) were former Methodists who became Congregationalists. In Cross Street from 1860 to 1866 a WM Missionary College founded by Dr Andrew Kessen taught Tamil and other languages to a dozen students from Richmond College preparing for work in India and Ceylon. The headquarters of NCH Action for Children is at 85 Highbury Park.


Islington parish, Vestry Minutes. 1739:

'6 May 1739. It having been agreed to all matters in difference between Mr. Stonehouse and the parish to ten gentlemen of the said parish, five of whom were nominated by Mr. Stonehouse, and five by the parish, it has been concluded by the said ten gentlemen that the Rev. Mr. Stonehouse shall absolutely refuse the granting of his pulpit to M.John Wesley, Mr. Charles Wesley,and Mr. George Whitefield, and that these gentlemen shall not officiate any more for him in the parish church or Churchyard, in any part of the duty whatever.' [Endorsed by the Vicar: 'I do hereby ratify and confirm the above agreement.']

19 August 1739: ' Complaint being made to this Vestry of several irregular practices of the Vicar of this parish, particularly of his holding illegal assemblies at the Vicarage house,… it is ordered nem. con., and agreed that a representation be made thereof to the Bishop of the diocese , and that the same be in the words following; i.e. Nwithstanding his being an ordained priest of the Church of England, and Vicar of the said parish…he hath nevertheless taken upon himself to hold illegal assemblies once a week and oftener in his own and other private houses, and there publish, preach and expound to a numerous audience contrary to law.'

Quoted in Leonard Hale, Highbury Methodism, its past, its present and its future (1924)

  • WHS (London and Home Counties) vols. 26 (1982) and 36 (1987)