Lottery Fund boost for world's oldest Methodist chapel

Trustees of Bristol's New Room, founded by John Wesley, celebrate the award of Heritage Lottery funding.

The oldest Methodist chapel in the world is to embark on a major building programme to bring it into the 21st century thanks to a massive grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 276-year-old New Room in Bristol, founded by John Wesley, has been awarded a grant of £2.5 million. The money will be used alongside a grant of £1.4 million from the Bristol Methodist District to enable the existing facilities to be updated and the erection of a new three-storey building in its courtyard.

The ground floor of the new building will feature a shop and a café for visitors. On levels 2 and 3 there will be a large multi-media lecture and education room for up to 60 people, an extensive resource library on Methodist history, an archives room and offices.

A lift will connect the floors and the existing museum will be completely revamped to reflect John Wesley's work in Bristol, in 18th century Britain, and around the world. The interior of the chapel, an architectural gem, will not be changed.

Rev Ward Jones, Chair of the New Room Trustees and the Bristol Methodist District, said: "We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded us this significant grant. The New Room has been situated in the heart of Bristol for over 275 years and we now have the chance to look to the future in a very exciting way.

The interior of the New Room.

"We will be able to upgrade our current facilities so that we can properly welcome and inform visitors from the local area, from schools and colleges, and from all over the world."

The New Room, as Wesley called it, was the starting point for the growth of the Methodist Church, which currently has 75 million members around the world.

Rev Mandy Briggs, Education and Outreach Officer, said: "Wesley's original focus was on education and we want to develop our work in this area, as well as being a place of history and faith that the people of Bristol and beyond can explore, enjoy and treasure.

"We will be able to offer tours, workshops and talks to schools and colleges as well as events for all ages in our new education room."