On his first visit in 1762, John Wesley preached at the home of a Mr Dobinson. He returned in 1764, when he was granted permission by the mayor to preach in the market place, but was hindered by a noisy mob. The old malthouse behind St Michael's Church was opened that year as a Methodist preaching house. John and Charles Wesley and Fletcher, John William all preached in the first chapel (1764), which stood in St Michael's Lane, off Queen Street. Derby's first Sunday School was started there in 1785, only five years after Raikes began his in Gloucester. The building survived until its demolition in 1971. A more spacious church was built in King Street in 1805, replaced in turn in 1841 by a larger and an impressive building seating 1600, complete with mahogany pulpit and one of the finest organs in British Methodism. King Street was frequently referred to as 'the mother church of Derby Methodism'. It was the conference church used for the penultimate Primitive Methodist Conference of 1931. It closed as a society in 1961, although the chapel had become unsafe to use from 1950, with its assets used to establish the new suburban church of St John’s Allestree. One of its ministers was George Macdonald of the famous Macdonald family and grandfather to Rudyard Kipling amongst others. From this mother church came a number of chapels notably those of Greenhill and London Road (also known as Canal Street) . The former, which was originally opened as an Independent chapel in 1815 was bought by the Wesleyans a few years later, subsequently became the head of a separate circuit in 1871 and was seriously affected by the Arminian Methodist Connexion separation of 1831. London Road, opened in 1861 was built to mission workers of the nearby Midland Railway. After extensive alterations, this was reopened in 1927 as the Queen's Hall Mission, becoming for many years a separate mission circuit under Home Missions. A modern facade was added in 1965. Although the interior was destroyed by fire in1991 it was repaired, rededicated and reopened at Pentecost in 1992. It closed in 2012. Primitive Methodism began when Winfield, Robert, farmer and pioneer evangelist of Ambaston, invited Kirkland, Sarah (Mrs. Bembridge) to conduct a love-feast at Ambaston in 1815. Three who were present from Derby invited her to preach in Derby the next day, a class was formed and Derby became briefly the second circuit of PM in 1816 until superseded by Nottingham in 1817, becoming a separate circuit once more in 1836. Its first church was built in Albion Street c.1817-18; replaced by one in Traffic Street, which was regarded as the mother church and from which a number of churches and circuits were established. Whilst not part of Derby at the time (but now part of the inner city) a society was established at Normanton which was originally on the Tunstall plan. An old barn at Normanton, often called 'the Cathedral', was used to meet and this was the predecessor of the St Thomas' Road Church, which until its closure in 2021 was therefore one of the oldest PM societies in continuous existence. When Griffith, William, Superintendent of the Ripley WM Circuit, was expelled by the WM Conference of 1849, he settled in Derby and ministered for 22 years at the Becket Street United Methodist Free Church built in 1857. The Methodist New Connexion built a chapel in Devonshire Street in 1824 before purchasing the Temple Church on London Road in 1836. This was replaced in 1900 by a new church in Dairy House Road. At the time of Methodist Union in 1932 there were 29 WM, 18 PM and 5 UM churches in and around Derby, organised into three WM, four PM and three UM circuits which subsequently amalgamated into several circuits. In 2009, all the circuits in Derby became a single circuit.


Charles Wesley's Journal:

16 March 1744: 'Set out for Derby. Preached at a Society of David Taylor's, whose immoderate warnings against us has made them ten times more eager to hear us. A plain proof that his poor sinners are still under the law.'

John Wesley's Journal:

August 1762: 'I had sent word that I did not intend to preach; but after I had rested a while in my chamber, coming down and finding the house full of people, I spoke to them half an hour in a familiar manner, and then spent some time in prayer. I believe God touched some of their hearts; indeed, it seemed none were unmoved.'

March 1764: 'Mr. Dobinson believed it would be best for me to preach in the market-place, as there seemed to be a general inclination in the town, even among people of fashion to hear me. He had mentioned it to the mayor, who said he did not apprehend there would be the least disturbance; but if there should be anything of the kind, he would take care to suppress it. A multitude of people were gathered at five, and were pretty quiet till I had named my text. Then "the beasts of the people" lifted up their voice, hallooing and shouting on every side. Finding it impossible to be heard, I walked softly away. An innumerable retinue followed me; but only a few pebble-stones were thrown, and no one hurt at all… 'At seven I met the society, with many others, who earnestly desired to be present. In the morning most of them came again, with as many more as we could well make room for; and indeed they received the word gladly. God grant they may bring forth fruit!'

March 1765: 'The new house was thoroughly filled; and the people behaved in a quite different manner from what they did when I was here last.'

March 1766: 'I never saw this house full before, the people in general being profoundly careless. I endeavoured to show them their picture by enlarging on those words, "Gallio cared for none of these things." '

March 1772: 'Both the room and the yard were crowded enough, and yet abundance went away. After preaching, the people hung at the doors, and could not be persuaded to go away. So at length I suffered them to come in with the society, and strongly exhorted them to worship God in spirit and in truth.'

March 1774: 'In the evening I preached at Derby, and had the satisfaction to observe an unusual seriousness in the congregation. Careless as they used to be, they seemed at length to know the day of their visitation.'

June 1777: 'It was supposed the people would be afraid to come, as part of the roof had lately fallen in… But they were not afraid; the house was well filled, and even the rich attended with seriousness.'

July 1779: 'I preached in the evening at Derby to many genteel and many plain people.'

July 1782: 'I trust the work of God will now prosper here also. All the jars of our brethren are at an end, and they strive together for the hope of the gospel.'

July 1786: 'The house at Derby was thoroughly filled in the evening. As many of the better sort (so called) were there, I explained (what seemed to be more adapted to their circumstances and experience), "This only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have found out many inventions." [Ecclesiastes 7:29] '

  • J. Jones, One Hundred Years ago: Wesleyan Methodism in Derby (Derby, 1883)
  • Methodist Recorder(W)1896 pp.35-8
  • George Sails, At the Centre: the story of Methodism's Central Missions (1970), pp.62-3
  • G. Arthur Fletcher, 'Derby - the old chapel in St. Michael's Lane', in WHS Proceedings, 15 pp.109-112
  • Colin Hinds, 'John Wesley and Methodism in Derby, 1703-2003', in Heritage: Journal of the East Midlands Wesley Historical Society 15:2, September 2014, pp.22-32

• B.A.M. Al'r. History of the Derby and District Affiliated Free Churches. Derby,1901, pp 79-81, 86-88, 89-92, 109-112, 115-118 and 131-134. • H B Kendl, The History of the Primitive Methodist Church, 2 vols. London: Bryant, vol 1 pps.194-201, vol 2 p.471. • Dr W Pkes The Arminian Methodists, the Derby Faith: A Wesleyan Aberration in Pursuit of Revivalism and Holiness. Cannock: Goodwin, 1995, pp. 9-25. • Primitive Methodist Church 112th Annual conference, Derby 1931, Simpson and sons, Friar Gate Derby, 1931, pp. 19-23.