John Wesley first visited the city in 1760, but did not preach there until 1768. A chapel was built in New Street in 1772, but when Wesley preached there in 1778 he found it already too small. The first Pump Street chapel, on the site of a former Independent chapel, was opened in 1795; rebuilt in 1813 and enlarged in 1874, it was replaced by a new church in 1902. This in turn was succeeded in 1968 by St Andrew's as part of a city-centre commercial redevelopment. Its second-floor sanctuary reflects the influence of the Liturgical Movement. Worcester was in the Gloucester Circuit until a Worcestershire Circuit was formed in 1788. There was also a Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion chapel in Deansway.
In 1820 the PM boy preacher Thomas Brownsword was arrested while preaching at Stourbridge and imprisoned with others in the county gaol at Worcester. At the court hearing, the case against him was dismissed and a mass meeting was held at the race course. The widespread publicity and popular support this engendered led to a PM society being formed, which at first was in the extensive Darlaston Circuit. The chapel built in George Street (1882) closed in 1963, the congregation joining with the one in Pump Street.
Charles Wesley's Journal:
5 July 1751: 'Coming to Worcester in the afternoon, we heard the rioters had been at the room on Monday evening, in expectation of me, and made great disturbance. I doubted all along whether I had any business here at this time. Yet, at the desire of the poor people, went to their room at seven. Almost as soon as I began the mob interrupted. But in spite of their lewd, hellish language, I preached the gospel, though with much contention. They had no power to strike the people as usual, neither did any molest us in our way home.
6 July: 'We were hardly met, when the sons of Belial poured in upon us, some with their faces blackened, some without shirts, all in rags. The began to "stand up for the Church", by cursing and swearing, by singing and talking lewdly, and throwing dust and dirt all over us; with which they had filled their pockets, such as had any to fill. I was soon covered from head to foot, and almost blinded. Finding it impossible to be heard, I only told them I should apply to the magistrates for redress, and walked up stairs…
'I spent an hour with [the mayor], pleading the poor people's cause. He said he had never before heard of their being so treated - that is, pelted, beat and wounded, their house battered, and windows, partitions, locks broke; that none had applied to him for justice, or he should have granted it; that he was well assured of the great mischief the Methodists had done throughout the nation, and the great riches Mr. Whitefield and their other teachers had acquired; that their societies were quite unnecessary, since the Church was sufficient; that he was for having neither Methodist nor Dissenters.
'I easily answered all his objections. He treated me with civility and freedom, and promised, at parting, to do our people justice. Whether he does or not, I have satisfied my own conscience.'
John Wesley's Journal:
March 1768: 'The difficulty was, where to preach. No room was large enough to contain the people; and it was too cold for them to stand abroad. At length we went to a friend's, near the town, whose barn was larger than many churches. Here a numerous congregation soon assembled; and again at five, and at ten in the morning. Nothing is wanting here but a commodious house; and will not God provide this also?'
March 1769: 'I began preaching about six in the riding-house. Abundance of people were deeply attentive; but towards the close a large number of boys made a great noise. When we came out, men and boys joined together in shouting and pushing to and fro. Many were frightened, but none hurt. Hitherto could Satan come, but no farther.'
March 1770: 'I preached in a large, old, awkward place, to a crowded and much-affected audience. Afterwards I met the society of about a hundred members, all of one heart and one mind; so loving and closely united together that I have scarce seen the like in the kingdom. [Next day] I met the select society. How swiftly has God deepened His work in these! I have seen very few, either in Bristol or London, who are more clear in their experience…'
July 1771: 'Our brethren had chosen a place for me, in a broad street, not far from the cathedral, where there was room for thousands of people; and we soon had company enough, part serious, part like the wild ass's colt; but in a while the serious part prevailed, and silenced or drove away the rabble, till we had a tolerable degree of quietness, and concluded in peace.'
March 1774: 'The society here continues walking together in love, amd are not moved by all the efforts of those who would fain teach them another gospel. I was much comforted by their steadfastness and simplicity. Thus let them "silence the ignorance of foolish men!" '
August 1774: 'I preached … in the evening at Worcester, which still continues one of the liveliest places in England. Here I talked with some who believe God has lately delivered them from the root of sin. Their account was simple, clear and scriptural; so that I saw no reason to doubt of their testimony.'
July 1777: 'The rector of the parish was at the preaching; a candid, sensible man. He seemed much surprised, having never dreamed before that there was such a thing as common sense among the Methodists! The society here, by patient continuance in well-doing, has quite overcome evil with good; even the beasts of the field are now tame, and open not their mouths against them. They profited much when the waves and storms went over them; may they profit as much by the calm!'
March 1779: 'Upon inquiry, I found there had been no morning preaching since the Conference! So the people were of course weak and faint.'
April 1781: 'I found one of our preachers, Joseph Cole, there, but unable to preach through his ague. So that I could not have come more opportunely. Sunday, 22nd… At three the service began at St. Andrew's. As no notice had been given of my preaching there, only as we walked along the street, it was supposed the congregation would be small; but it was far otherwise. High and low, rich and poor, flocked together from all parts of the city; and truly God spoke in His word; so that I believe most of them were almost persuaded to be Christians. Were it only for this hour alone, the pains of coming to Worcester would have been well bestowed.'
March 1785: 'The siciety is in great peace, and striving together for the hope of the gospel. I have not seen greater earnestness and simplicity in any society since we left London.'
March 1787: 'I preached … in the evening, to our lovely and loving people at Worcester - plain, old, genuine Methodists.'
March 1788: 'The house is far too small for the congregation. The Methodists here have by well-doing utterly put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; so that they are now abundantly more in danger by honour than by dishonour.'