A visit from HRH The Duke of Gloucester, marked the official opening today (13 July) of the New Room on The Horsefair in Broadmead, marking the end of an 18-month multi-million pound development project, partly funded by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Finally poised to assume its deserved position as one of Bristol’s most popular tourist destinations the New Room – also known as John Wesley’s Chapel – now boasts a stylish visitor centre, featuring a state-of-the-art heritage museum, brand new café and gift shop, and a much-needed education/conference centre. The redevelopment was made possible by a £2.6m National Lottery grant and £1.4m from the Bristol Methodist District and other smaller trusts.
After meeting members of the New Room team HRH attended a special service in the chapel and unveiled a memorial plaque created in honour of the occasion.
Known as ‘the cradle of Methodism,’ the New Room is the oldest Methodist building in the world, built in 1739 by preacher John Wesley. It was the starting point for the Methodist Church which now has over 75 million members across the globe.
HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who is the Queen’s cousin and a full-time working member of the Royal Family, has a special interest in heritage and the built environment. Before the service he enjoyed a personal guided tour of the new museum and was presented with a copy of the newly-published book, ‘The Cradle of Methodism’ by Gary M Best, the first-ever full-scale history of the New Room.
Manager David Worthington said: “This building has been at the heart of Bristol’s history for nearly 300 years.
“Our new visitor centre will make Wesley’s work accessible to all, and we hope visitors will be fascinated to discover what a pioneer John Wesley was and how far ahead of his time – campaigning for causes like gender equality, abolition of slavery, healthcare, education, and the natural environment.
Mandy Briggs, the new Room’s education and outreach officer, said: “The New Room is such an important historical site, so we are delighted that it is now so much more accessible to visitors from Bristol and beyond.
“The new visitor centre enables us to bring Wesley’s work to life through tours, workshops and talks to schools and colleges as well as events for all ages in our new education room.”
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “The New Room is one of the most important buildings in the history of Methodism and now, thanks to National Lottery players, its place in the history books is set to be revealed to a whole new audience.
“We’re delighted to celebrate this opening which will see 18 months of fantastic hard work pay off as Bristol gains a new community and learning space and unprecedented access to this remarkable aspect of its heritage.”
The rejuvenated New Room and visitor centre is open from Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 4pm all year round. Entrance to the chapel is free, and visitors can enjoy a Fairtrade coffee and home-baked cake or light lunch at the brand new café.
Admission to the new museum is £3 for children and £6 for adults, with family tickets at £9 for one adult plus children, or £14 for two adults plus children. Other concessions are available. For details see www.newroombristol.org.uk or call 0117 926 4740.