Methodism in the town can be traced back to 1771, when a room, accommodating 200 was rented for the use of the Methodist society. John Wesley preached at its opening on 2 December to a crowded congregation. But numbers dwindled (as Wesley seems to have anticipated) and the room was given up after only three years. A further attempt made largely on the initiative of a Mr. Jessup, also failed; but in 1807 the Rochester Circuit began regular services in a room in West Street, then in one in Princes Street, despite Gravesend being described as ‘too wicked a town for much good to be done’.
The first chapel was built in 1812 with financial support for the small society by well-wishers from Gravesend and Rochester. Lit at first by candlelight from a former chapel in Rochester, the chandeliers were replaced by gas lighting in 1835. Other changes included an enlargement of the chapel in 1841. In the 1840s the Sunday School met in a room in Manor Road, moving in 1846 to one in Peacock Street.
As the cause gradually progressed during the century, the premises eventually proved inadequate and a new church, complete with tower and spire and including classrooms for the Sunday School, was opened in 1906. Following its centenary, a project was launched in 2010 for the church’s redevelopment as ‘Gravesend Church and Community Centre’. Phase One, completed in October 2015 at a cost of £165,000, included a new Community Centre entrance and improved provision for such outreach as the work of Street Pastors, a Food Bank, meals for vulnerable people, a winter Night Shelter and laundry facilities for the homeless and a variety of other community activities. Phase Two envisages a new Community Café and kitchen, improvements to the entrance on Milton Road and a counselling room.
John Wesley's Journal:
December 1771: 'I went down with several of our friends to Gravesend, where a building, designed for an assembly-room, was employed for a better pupose. It was quite crowded; yet abundance could not get in. After reading prayers, I preached on part of the second lesson, Heb. viii. 9, 10, 11. The room was pretty well filled at five in the morning. Fair blossoms! But what fruit will there be?'
December 1772: 'I read prayers and preached to a crowded congregation at Gravesend. The stream here spreads wide, but it is not deep. Many are drawn, but none converted, or even awakened. Such is the general method of God's providence: where all approve, few profit.'