The main Open Doors weekend offer at the New Room in Broadmead, also known as John Wesley’s Chapel, is free entry to its state-of-the-art museum which opened in 2017 with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
But the team at the New Room – a Grade 1 listed 18th century building and the world’s oldest Methodist chapel – has also organised a variety of other free Open Doors activities. These include: a series of ‘spotlight talks’ on different aspects of the New Room’s transformation over 280 years; access to its specialist reference library and, last but not least, family-friendly drop-in craft workshops.
The museum – free for the weekend but normally ticket-entry only – offers 12 interactive rooms which vividly bring to life what it was like to live in Georgian Bristol. There is an audio guide for adults and another special version for children, as well as a family trail and a dressing-up cupboard for young visitors.
Meanwhile the weekend’s specialist spotlight talks – each lasting just 15 minutes – will reveal intriguing stories about the architectural design, sustainable heritage and interpretation of the John Wesley’s chapel which is known as the ‘cradle of Methodism’ and is described in Pevsner’s Architectural Guide as exuding ‘a magnetic calm.’
The 10.30am and 1.30pm talks will be about the creation of the New Room visitor centre, designed by architects, Purcell. At 11.30am and 2.30pm visitors can hear about the fascinating challenge faced by designers Cod Steaks in creating an interactive museum in an eighteenth-century space. And the 12.30pm and 3.30pm talks will describe what influenced architect George Tully when he designed the New Room back in 1748.
The talks will take place on all three days of the Open Doors weekend, 13-15 September, starting from the light-filled glass atrium where the New Room’s café is located. Pre-booking is not required, and all talks are free although donations towards the upkeep of the chapel are appreciated.
On Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September only, visitors can access the New Room’s reference library where they will find over 9,000 books, pamphlets and bound journals of Methodist history, local studies, biographies, and critical studies of John and Charles Wesley and their works.
And on all three Open Doors days there will be fun for younger visitors at free drop-in craft sessions where they can help design and build furniture for a miniature shoebox house in the inspiring surroundings of the New Room’s museum. Sessions start at 11am, end at 3pm and are suitable for children from five years of age. No booking required but all children must have an adult with them.
Nearest parking is the Galleries car-park, or there are disabled spaces immediately outside the New Room’s Horsefair entrance. The ground floor of the chapel is accessible from both the Broadmead and Horsefair entrances and the visitor centre’s museum, library, toilets and baby-changing facilities are accessible by either stairs or lift. Guide and assistance dogs are welcome.