John Wesley preached in Minehead in 1744 and 1745, probably on the beach, on his way to South Wales; but it was not until 1811 that a Methodist society was formed in the town, meeting initially at the Court Place in Bampton Street. The first chapel was built in 1850 at Alcombe, then a separate village a mile or so east, though nowadays part of the town. The chapel became part of the Dunster Circuit.
The coming of the railway to Minehead, an extension of the line from Taunton to Watchet, brought in early tourists and the town began to grow, becoming a holiday destination for folk from up country, notably the Midlands and London. Tourism brought in money and an expansion of trades and trading. The Methodists of Alcombe became aware of the need for a more central chapel. Although a site was difficult to obtain, Squire George Fownes Luttrell generously offered a piece of land in Station Road (now known as The Avenue). A committee of trustees under the chairmanship of the Revd Richard Groves was appointed to oversee the building of a new chapel there.
The first trustees included George Brown, watchmaker, Isaac Floyd, draper, William Shrives, gardener, Edwin Foy, ironmonger and James Phillips, miller, many of them from Porlock. A solicitor, Tom Henry Hosegood, moved from nearby Williton. All these had family members and later offspring who contributed greatly and devoutly to the life of Methodism in Minehead.
The chapel was eventually built and opened in 1876, the Revd S S Rowe preaching the sermon. It remains as the south aisle of the present church, often still referred to as “The Old Church”. In 1884, another committee under the Revd. H. W. Haime, was set up to consider the chapel’s enlargement. Architects Foster and Wood of Bristol, who had designed the original chapel, were again appointed and the building was constructed in Bath or Ham Hill stone facings, initially by John Pearce, whose contract was later terminated, and was finished by J H Langdon. The opening was on Wednesday 30th June 1886 with the Revd. T Tapley Short as preacher.
An organ was installed in 1898. Sunday School rooms including a large hall were added at the rear (away from the road) in 1905/6 during the ministry of the Revd. Joel Peters and these are now used for a variety of spiritual and secular events.
Minehead is now part of the West Somerset Circuit, which includes the Alcombe church, and extends from Porlock in the west to Watchet in the east and on to Brendon Hill to the south, with the Bristol Channel to the north. Today’s Church and premises are Grade II Listed and in recent years have undergone substantial refurbishment at considerable cost – including provision for people with impairment, the eradication of dry rot, re-roofing and window repairs. They occupy a prime location in the heart of the town, serving the needs of Methodist and other Christian denominations and are widely used as an excellent venue for community activities.
John Wesley's Journal:
April 1744: 'Between five and six in the evening we reached Minehead. Finding a general expectation of it among the people, about seven I preached near the seashore to almost all the inhabitants of the place. Most of the gentlemen of the town were there, and behaved with seriousness and dignity.'
July 1745: 'I rode to Mr, [George] Thompson's, near Barnstaple, and the next evening to Minehead.'