Whitchurch, Hants

The first home of the WM society was in a converted stable in Wood Street, following a visit from John Wesley in January 1759. Its licence as a place of worship described it as for the use of those 'dissenting from', corrected to 'belonging to the Church of England'. As early as his next visit at the end of the same year they had a 'new house' for him to preach in and by 1780 this had been 'much enlarged'. Their first known pastor was John Haime, who retired there and was buried there in 1784. He was succeeded as leader by Jasper Winscom, who had retired from business in Winchester.

The Whitchurch society outstripped that at Andover, even after Andover became head of a separate circuit in the early nineteenth century. In 1840 it returned 121 members, by far the largest in a predominantly rural area, which the Primitive Methodists found easier to cultivate. In the Religious Census of 1851 the chapel was said to hold 400, half of them free; and attendences were recorded as: 110 plus 58 scholars in the morning and 150 plus 30 scholars in the evening.

The present church was built in 1812, enlarged in 1904 and 1926 and refurbished more recently. Its bicentenary was celebrated in 2012. A Primitive Methodist chapel, opened in 1849, was rebuilt in 1902. The two congregations united in the WM building in 1967.

In June 2012 a plaque was unveiled marking the 'Hebrew's Field' in which Wesley preached on one of his visits.


John Wesley's Journal:

January 1759: 'On Friday the 12th I went on [from Salisbury] to Whitchurch, and preached at one to a large and serious congregation.'

October 1759: 'I preached in the new house at Whitchurch, and at Salisbury in the evening.'

October 1779: 'I preached at Whitchurch, where many, even of the rich, attended, and behaved with much seriousness.'

October 1780: 'The preaching -house at Whitchurch, though much enlarged, could not contain the congregation in the evening. Some genteel people were inclined to smile at first; but their mirth was quickly over. The awe of God fell upon the whole congregation, and many "rejoiced unto Him with reverence."'

  • Alison Margaret Deveson, Whitchurch Methodists: the story so far (Whitchurch, 2012)