Methodist Chapels


Methodist Chapels are less well studied and documented than those of the established church - the Architectural features of these chapels are covered elsewhere. In their heyday at the turn at the century there were probably some 115 active chapels scattered across the Island - typically there would be five or six chapels in each Parish; often each Wesleyan Chapel would have a corresponding Primitive Methodist Chapel as near neighbour. Following the amalgamation of 1932, and especially in the last 30 years, many of these chapels were sold off, often becoming private dwellings.

The first Methodist chapel was opened in Peel in the early 1780s - that of Thomas Street Douglas followed in 1787.
By 1800 there were around 15 Wesleyan Chapels.
In a 1813 circuit plan 67 meeting places were listed, of which 13 were cottages. Within two years of the arrival of the Prims, a 1824 plan lists 23 places of worship (though most were cottages). By 1862 Moore quotes a combined total of 91 chapels, 20 ministers and 200 lay preachers. By the turn of the century the Methodists were divided 3:2 Wesleyan:Primitive with the former having 71 chapels (12 ministers and 173 lay preachers) and the latter some 39 chapels (7 ministers, 124 local preachers). Figures quoted by A.W.Moore History of the IoM (1900) p733

The figure below illustrates the chapel capacity available between 1800 and 1851 (figures are taken from the 1851 religious census);
[Seating Capacity]
Many of the early Wesleyan Chapels were established 1790-1800 followed by relatively slow growth until the 1830s spurt; the Prims established a large chapel early on in Douglas.
Chapels were organised into preaching circuits; in 1911 those of the Wesleyans were:

The Primitive Methodists originally had two circuits North (Peel & Ramsey) and South (Douglas & Castletown); by the mid 19th Century there were four circuits based on the main towns. Still later sub-divisions of these circuits occurred. A fifth, Laxey based, circuit was created in 1892 reflecting their strength in this area.
Each circuit would have a trained superintendent minister appointed by the Conference, usually for a three year period, though sometimes for just for a single year, before being rotated to other posts in Britain. These rotations, deliberately intended to avoid dependence of any community on a particular pastor, had the effect of welding the Methodist Church into a unified whole [to paraphrase Davies]. The bulk of the preaching would be by locally born lay preachers.

Currently (1998) there are 29 chapels still in use, split between three circuits: Douglas and Peel, Castletown and Ramsey.

Wesleyan Methodist chapels were generally held under a 'model' deed - 'the legally and Methodistically settled' query on for example the register of deeds shows that the vast majority were.
Primitive Methodist Chapels were 'owned' by trustees, until 1899 under Manx law the heirs of any deceased trustees also became trustees whether or not they were members. In that year a bill went through Tynwald to bring them more into line with the Wesleyan Methodist Chapels. The Primitive Methodists did not appear to keep such list of deeds - the circuit plans need to be consulted.


I have tried to reference all the sources upon which I have drawn - special thanks must go to the staff in the Manx Museum Library - as anyone who has been lucky enough to work there the staff are unfailingly helpful. The various Chapel Histories are generally filed under E.240 in their classification scheme.

Other information presented in this page, and elsewhere, is often drawn from secondary sources, often unrelated to Methodist History; however the all too brief descriptions of visited chapels in the Manx Methodist Historical Society Newsletters form a base on which I have drawn. A further source of historical information is the interim, and unfortunately incomplete, Story of Manx Methodism by Ms E.V.Chapman.
I have copied out various lists and put them into Web pages so others can more readily access the material
Special thanks are due to Mrs T.Wilson and Mr J.Gair


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 1999