Stroud, Glos.

As early as 1737 George Whitefield spent some time in the area. In 1739 he, Howell Harris, Charles Wesley and John Wesley each made visits to the area, though between 1744 and 1756 the latter paid several visits to nearby Wallbridge without apparently preaching in Stroud itself. His Journal records at least 50 visits before his last in 1790. Charles Wesley had made around a dozen visits by 1756, when he described 'a little steady society' of 43 meeting in a house in Wallbridge that 'had kept together for years'.

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In 1763 an octagonal preaching house was erected in Acre Edge (now Acre Street) under the superintendency of Alexander Mather. On the last of John Wesley's visits he noted that it was 'far too small'; it was enlarged in 1797 and the same year a Stroud Circuit was formed out of nine societies (but with only four Methodist buildings) and around 230 members from the Gloucester Circuit. James Rogers became the first Superintendent minister. A more spacious chapel was built in Castle Street in 1876 and in 1879 the original 'Round House' became (and remains) the Salvation Army Citadel. From 1790 a number of WM chapels were built in the surrounding area as Methodism spread. From 1909 to 1928 Stroud was part of a geographically large Mid-Gloucestershire Mission, only to revert again to the smaller Stroud Circuit.

Under Whitefield's influence Rodborough Tabernacle was built in 1750; this later became Congregational (now URC). Ebley Chapel (1797), became part of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion and remains as such, though now also 'Unaffiliated Congregational'.

Primitive Methodism came into the area as a result of mission outreach from the Midlands around 1823 and the Chalford Hill chapel was built that year. In the early days the work was known as the Stroudwater Branch of the Brinkworth Circuit; a Stroud Circuit was formed in 1830 with fewer than 200 members. In its first 50 years the circuit erected 12 chapels. The Stroud PM society first met in the local theatre, until a chapel was built in in Parliament Street in 1835. In the suburbs of Stroud, Butterrow was opened in 1856 (closed in 1996), Selsey in 1863 (closed 1965 and demolished for road-widening) and Cashes Green in 1901.

Following Methodist Union, in 1933, the former WM circuit and the two former PM circuits of Stroud and Cirencester joined to form the Stroud and Cirencester Circuit. In 1978 boundary changes involving two circuits took place. Cirencester became a circuit, while Stroud linked with Dursley to become the Stroud and Dursley Circuit. By 1947 the Parliament Street chapel had been sold and became the Cotswold Playhouse. The Castle Street premises were sold in 1980 to become flats and the Methodist of Stroud found a home with the Anglicans in St. Alban's Church, Parliament Street. Their premises were enlarged in 1983 by the addition of the Wesley Rooms.


John Wesley's Journal:

June 1743: 'The rain ceased, and we had a fair, pleasant day; so that many were at the market-place, while I applied the story of the Pharisee and Publican; the hard rain in the morning having disengaged them from their work in the grounds. There would probably have been more disturbance, but that a drunken man began too soon, and was so senselessly impertinent that even his comrades were quite ashamed of him.'

March 1764: 'How many years were we beating the air in this place! One wrong- headed man pulling down all we could build up. But since he is gone, the work of God takes root, and the society increases both in number and strength.'

March 1765: 'I … preached in the new house. But a considerable part of the congregation were obliged to stand without.'

March 1769: 'The people appeared to be all alive, and ready to devour the word. Afterwards we had a lovefeast, at which many, both men and women, spoke with all simplicity, what God had done for their souls.'

July 1777: 'I was much comforted at Stroud among an earnest, serious, loving people.'

March 1780: 'I preached at Stroud, where there is a considerable increase of the work of God.'

March 1784: 'To my surprise, I found the morning preaching was given up… If this be the case while I am alive, what must it be when I am gone? Give up this, and Methodism too will degenerate into a mere sect, only distinguished by some opinions and modes of worship.'

March 1789: 'I had proof that either people or preachers, or both, had left their first love. I strongly exhorted them to remember from whence they were fallen, and do the first works. God applied his word, and I suppose two hundred were present at five in the morning.'

March 1790: 'The preachng-house was far too small to contain the congregation; so that several hundreds (it was supposed) were obliged to go away. But the power of God remained with us; and great was our rejoicing in Him.'

'Wesley taught Stroud people how to sing. The women sat on one side, the men on the other; and, leading the tune, he used one hand to guide the females, the other to direct the gruffer sex, using both hands when men and women were to join, and this with quiet art that never failed.'

Rev. W. Chapman, Congregational minister

  • 'A Cotswold Circuit' in Methodist Recorder, 20 Aug. 1903
  • Stroud and Cirencester WM Circuit: Baptisms, lists of members, marriages, transcribed by the Eureka Partnership, Stoke Mandeville (2009)