Weymouth, with the adjoining Melcombe Regis, formerly a busy port, was in decline in the early eighteenth century, but became a fashionable resort after 1789 under royal patronage. It was a stronghold of Dissent which, together with the isolation of southern Dorset, may have delayed the arrival of Methodism. (Portland to the south had been visited by Charles Wesley in 1846 and a society was led by William Nelson- possibly a relative of John Nelson - until his death in 1770, and Methodism was reintroduced by Robert Carr Brackenbury in 1791.) A small society existed in Weymouth from c.1776, when John Wesley preached in its 'new house'. This was once thought to have been the Assembly Room in the King's Head Yard, but is now identified by its deeds to have been 14 Gloucester Street and marked by a blue plaque, unveiled on 25 November 2013. A chapel was built in Conygar Lane (later 'Lower Bond Street') in 1805, replaced by Maiden Street (designed by James Wilson) in 1867. Weymouth remained in the Salisbury Circuit until 1794, when Blandford Circuit was formed (renamed Poole Circuit in 1797 and Weymouth Circuit in 1805). A short-lived Wesleyan Reform society bought the Conygar Lane chapel in 1868, but sold it again in 1880.
A PM Mission, established in 1834 by the Sunderland Circuit, rented the Assembly Rooms, but a dispute between the two itinerants split the society and the mission was taken under the wing of the Manchester Circuit. A chapel was built in Hope Square in 1841. The mission continued small and isolated until revitalized during the ministry (1855-59) of Robert Pattinson (1826-66; e.m.1851). The St Leonard's Road church (1872) was badly damaged in World War II. The society united with Maiden Street in 1962 and the church was sold and converted into maisonettes.
In 2002, just after the completion of a major refurbishment, Maiden Street church was gutted by fire, necessitating redevelopment on a different site. The new church, complete with many new facilities, opened in March 2009 in Melcombe Avenue.
John Wesley's Journal:
6 September 1776: 'I preached in the new house at Melcombe to as many as it would contain.'
Entry written by: JAV
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