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History of Wantage Methodist Church

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, visited Wantage in July 1741 but made no comment except that he had tea.

In 1820, Thomas Bush, a country gentleman from Lambourne and a Methodist, stood on the White Horse Hill and looked out over the Vale of White Horse. He pondered on "the spiritual poverty of the people down below". He "took the Vale as his parish" and established Methodist meeting houses first in Childrey, then in Wantage and many other local villages.

"I feel Wantage and its neighbourhood laid on my mind and have for some years – I have petitioned a Quarterly Meeting to send a missionary – I believe Wantage and its neighbourhood to be wicked in a general way" he is reported to have written to a friend.

Also in 1820, the Wantage Wesleyan Methodist Circuit was set up. This included 17 surrounding towns and villages. It had its own minister, John Willis

In 1845 having outgrown two meeting houses, the flourishing Methodist Society built a new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on the present site in Newbury Street The Chapel was slightly smaller than the present one and had a caretaker's cottage at the back. Constructed of rag stone dressed with Bath stone, the cost of the Chapel was £1,271 14s 5d a significant fraction of which was borne by Thomas Bush

Two years later, Thomas Bush died, aged 62. This man to whose vision and generosity Wantage Methodist Church owes its existence is buried in the grave yard of Lambourn Parish Church.

Within a few years a Minister's house was built next to the Chapel and a vestry and a school hall were added to accommodate a Sunday School and a Wesleyan Day School. The day school existed from 1848 to 1929.

During a renovation in 1881 pews, a pulpit, singing gallery and gas lighting were installed. An organ had been in place since sometime between 1866 and 1872

The front of the chapel was remodelled in 1923 to accommodate the larger rebuilt organ and a redesigned pulpit. The access steps to the pulpit from the front were removed in the 1950's

Built to a lower standard than the Chapel, the old School hall became uneconomic to maintain. In 1992 the new Methodist Hall was built and dedicated to Church and community use.

The Chapel remained much the same till major refurbishment in 2015 created a more inviting and flexible space for church and community use in the 21st century.

Much of the information about Thomas Bush appears in chapter 9 of the booklet 'Reflected in Wantage' Part 2 by Kathleen Philip, who was a local historian.
During the Covid lockdown in 2021 a member of the congregation typed up a pamphlet "A church remembers 1845 to 1995", which gives a glimpse of church life over 150 years. This can be made available as a pdf document.

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