John Wesley visited Beverley fourteen times between 1759 and 1790. The first class meeting in the town had been established in Hilton's Yard under the leadership of Francis Hilton. His daughter Jane corresponded frequently with him. Both John and Charles Wesley had friendly links with the nearby Hotham family. The first preaching house (1787) was a former cockpit in Wood Lane. A prominent member was Thomas Parker, who worked closely with Thomas Coke on his first missionary plan in 1783. A new chapel was opened in Walkergate in 1805 and Beverley became a separate circuit in 1825. A Wesleyan day school, established in 1844, earned a great reputation among educationalists, largely through the impact of William Spencer, headmaster 1848-1887.
A larger chapel (by W.J. Morley and George Woodhouse) was opened in Toll Gavel in 1891. Extensive alterations and modernisation were completed in 2004. Other WM chapels were at Beckside (1825-1882), Keldgate Mission (1899-1963), Flemingate (1882-2004) and Queens Road (1961-1982).
Under the leadership of Mark Robinson, a Beverley linen-draper, the Church Methodists, who wanted Methodism to continue its intimate association with the Church of England, opened an impressive chapel in 1825. It had a short life, closing in 1830.
The first PM society was formed in 1821. Their Wednesday Market chapel was opened in 1825, replaced by a larger chapel (by Joseph Wright of Hull) in 1868. The Primitive Methodists proved to be the strongest branch of Methodism in the town. The Meadley family were prominent. A PM Mission was launched in Norwood in 1881 and replaced by a larger building in 1901; this is still open. In 1955 they joined with Toll Gavel and in 1976 a joint Methodist/URC church was formed in the Methodist building.
The Wesleyan Reformers built a chapel c.1850, replaced in 1858 by the UMFC chapel in Trinity Lane. No records have survived. Despite being dogged by financial problems, the cause survived until 1926. The building still stands.
In 2006 the Circuit comprised Toll Gavel, Norwood, Bishop Burton, Walkington and Tickton (joint Methodist/Anglican).
John Wesley's Journal:
July 1759: 'I preached at eight in Mr. Hilton's yard, near the great street in Beverley; and was surprised to see so quiet and civil a congregation… All the men were uncovered, and the whole audience was attentive from beginning to end; nor did one person give us a rude word while we rode from one end of the town to the other. This … made me forget all my labour.'
April 1764: 'Between eight and nine I began preaching at Beverley, in a room which is newly taken. It was filled from end to end, and that with serious hearers. Perhaps even these may know the day of their visitation.'
July 1766: 'I preached at six in a house as warm as an oven; and the people were tolerably attentive. Who knows but we may find again, after many days, the bread we are now casting upon the waters? [Nextr day] 'I took a view of Beverley Minister, such a parish church as has scarce its fellow in England. It is a most beautiful as well as stately building, both within and without, and is kept more nicely clean than any cathedral which I have seen in the kingdom…'
June 1784: 'About one I preached to a large and remarkably serious congregation at Beverley.'
June 1788: 'The house here, though greatly enlarged, was well filled with high and low, rich and poor; and (it being the day of the Archdeacon's visitation) many of the clergy were there. I rejoiced in this, as it might be a means of removing prejudice from many sincere minds.'
June 1790: 'About noon I preached at Beverley to a serious, well-behaved congregation.'