The Fund was the brainchild of William Arthur, launched in 1861 as a WM response to the rapid growth of London and the situation revealed by the Religious Census of 1851, in which London recorded the lowest overall rate of attendance anywhere in the country. Arthur and Francis Lycett were appointed treasurers; W. Morley Punshon and Edward Corderoy secretaries. Its threefold purpose was 'to promote the erection of commodious chapels in suitable situations in and around the metropolis, to assist in the enlargement of existing chapels... and to secure eligible sites, especially in the new localities'. This was seen as 'indispensably necessary to the stability and permanence of the work of God'. The Fund played a major part in almost doubling the number of WM chapels in London by the end of the century. Lycett himself gave £1,000 towards each of 50 chapels. By 1914 grants totalling £301,241 had been made towards 190 new chapels, including £117,000 towards the new Leysian Mission premises. But the percentage of the population (3.3%) which London Methodism could accommodate still fell far short of the 11.9% average in England and Wales as a whole.
'The…Fund originated in a meeting of a few friends held in the house of the Rev. W. Arthur. It was afterwards publcly and formally founded at a meeting held in the Centenary Hall, on April 17, 1861.
'The objects of this Fund shall be: 1. To promote the erection of commodious Chapels in suitable situations in and around the Metropolis. 2. To assist in the enlargement of existing Chapels, but only in those cases where, by the alteration, they are made equally capacious with the new Chapels aided by this Fund. 3. To secure eligible sites, especially in new localities, with the co-operation of the Circuts in which they may be situated.
'The populaion of London has [in three years] increased, at the very least, by 150,000 souls. At the rate of one Chapel to ten thousand of the population, it would have required fifteen new ones to keep pace with this increase… Had the people of London a general desire to enter Methodist Chapels, we could accommodate less than four per cent. of them.'
First Report of the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund (1863)