Islington and the Wesleys

Islington was still a village until the beginning of the 19th century.

St Mary's, the ancient parish church of Islington, had a brief connection with early Methodism through Revd John Stonehouse (1714-93), vicar of the church from 1738-40. He was a friend and supporter of John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield, who were invited to preach there on a number of occasions. However, the message they preached did not go down so well with the officers of the church. In April 1739 the churchwardens insisted that Charles Wesley show that he had a licence from the bishop to preach in the diocese, which he did not possess. A few days later Whitfield, under invitation from the vicar, came to preach, and was similarly denied access to the pulpit. Instead, after the service he preached a sermon from a tombstone in the churchyard 'to a prodigious concourse of people'.

The churchwardens responded by calling an emergency vestry meeting and prohibited the vicar from inviting Whitfield and the Wesleys to preach either in the church or the churchyard.

However, this was not quite the end of the matter. At that time John and Charles' mother Susannah was living in the parish with her daughter Martha and her son in law John Westley Hall. Stonehouse tried to have Hall appointed as his curate but was again thwarted by the churchwardens. He resigned not long afterwards.

Ironically, in the Victorian era St Mary's became a centre of Anglican evangelicalism.

Old St Marys Islington c.1750
Old St Mary's Islington c.1750

The medieval church has been rebuilt twice: in 1751-4 and again in 1954-6 following wartime damage.

There are numerous references in John and Charles Wesley's journals to friends and acquaintances in Islington, and towards the end of his life John Wesley often stayed at the home of John Horton at 25 Highbury Place. However, no Methodist meeting was established there in Wesley's lifetime.


Last Updated: 2 November 2017