Primative Methodism and
the Smaller Methodist Connexions

Primitive Methodism

The Primitive Methodist Connexion was formed in 1811 by two laymen, Hugh Bourne and William Clowse, who were expelled from membership of the Wesleyan Connexion because of their participation in revivalist camp-meetings. From the original Tunstall Circuit new societies were established and the Connexion grew rapidly. With stronger roots in working class communities than Wesleyan Methodism, the Connexion nevertheless developed structures similar to the Wesleyans.

Primitive Methodists in Islington met for several years in rented rooms before erecting a chapel in Frog Lane (later Popham Road), off New North Road. Opened in 1855, this was the first chapel built by Primitive Methodists in London. The chapel closed in 1897.

Caledonian Road Primitive Methodist Church

Poster announcing the opening of the Chapel in 1870On the other side of the parish, 1855 also saw the opening of the Metropolitan Cattle Market. In 1860 the Primitive Methodists rented a hall in Market Street for worship , having previously organised Camp Meetings in Tall Trees Meadow, at the top of Caledonian Road. The congregation moved twice before building a chapel by the South gate of the market, opened in 1870.

As with other chapels of the time Caledonian Road was created with a schoolroom in the lower part of the premises, the church services being held in the upper part of the building and its gallery. At some point (possibly 1892) a small classroom was added to the south side of the chapel to house the infant department of the Sunday School.

Poster announcing the opening of the Chapel in 1870

Caledonian Road Primitive Methodist Chapel. 
Date unknown - possibly 1920

Caledonian Road Primitive Methodist Chapel.  Date unknown - possibly 1920sOne of the principal Primitive Methodist churches in London, Caledonian Road hosted the Conference of 1873 . Several of its ministers held high office in the Connexion, including President of the Conference.


Early activities were marked by considerable evangelistic zeal. the church possessed a brass band and (in the words of the 80th Anniversary booklet) “the streets used to resound with the old hymns played by consecrated men.”


Well into the 20th century Caledonian Road was a thriving place. Other churches in difficulties or with opportunities they couldn’t properly meet would receive help in some form - whether by being allowed to use the chapel for a special meeting, borrow the crockery, or even have the loan of people to help them for a period. Daughter churches were set up over a wide area and the Primitive Methodist Circuit over which Caledonian Road presided covered an area stretching down to Westminster and out to the newly developing suburbs in Hounslow.


In common with many other churches, it was the second World War that saw the decline in church attendance.

The pulpit prior to the reordering of the church in 1976.In 1976 the local Social Services team leased part of the building, necessitating internal alterations. the ground floor pews were removed, rostrum and pulpit were removed to create a multipurpose space and part of the chapel converted to provide kitchen, vestry and new toilets.

The pulpit prior to the reordering of the church in 1976.
Members of the Women’s Own with the minister
Rev George Kendall OBE, late 1940s.

Today ‘Cally’ continues as the only surviving Victorian Methodist chapel in the Borough of Islington.

Other Primitive Chapels

A chapel was opened in Elwood Street on Christmas Day 1889. This was a congregation that had previously met in a variety of rented rooms in the vicinity. In 1927 new schoolrooms were built and when Gillespie Road (ex-Wesleyan) closed in 1933 the congregation  joined with Elwood Street. The church was closed in 1951 and the site redeveloped as LCC flats.

Other Primitive Methodist places of worship included:

  • Providence Chapel, Hornsey Road (1854 – c.1857)
  • Anatola Rd., Dartmouth Pk. Hill, c1877.  Larger chapel and school built 1883. Closed in 1936 after the opening of Archway Central Hall.
  • Durham Road (off Seven Sisters Road) (1877 – 1917)
  • Mission Hall, Story Street, Caledonian Road (1882 – 1896)
  • Hornsey Road. Meetings began in house in 1887, moved to Hornsey Rise mission at 21 Station Parade, Hornsey Rise in 1901, then to chapel built at 425 Hornsey Road (1908 – 1930).

Methodist New Connexion

The Methodist New Connexion was formed in 1797 by Rev. Alexander Kilham, who had been expelled from the Wesleyan ministry following his public condemnation of the leadership of the church over issues such as the administration of the Sacraments in Methodist chapels and the lack of lay participation in the government of the Wesleyan Connexion. Like Primitive Methodism it had its origins in the north of England.

In 1834 a society was formed in Islington and continued for several years meeting in private houses. It was not until 1854 that a chapel was built in Packington Street, at the junction with Arlington Street. The first minister of the chapel was the young William Booth, who went on to found the Salvation Army. Frustrated by the strictures of Circuit ministry, Booth requested the Conference of 1861 to be released to work full-time as an itinerant evangelist. When refused, he resigned from the ministry of the New Connexion. In 1865 he formed the Christian Mission in the East End of the London, which later became the Salvation Army.

During the early 20th Century the membership declined due to migration out of the area, and the chapel was kept going by the Connexion's Home Mission's Department. It survived the Methodist unions of 1907 and 1932 but membership declined after the Second World War and the church was closed in 1964.

Wesleyan Methodist Association

Another branch of 19th Century Methodism was the Wesleyan Methodist Association, formed in 1837 through the amalgamation of three smaller splinter groups. The WMA built a chapel in Charlotte (later Carnegie) Street, off Caledonian Road. Later known also as the Kings Cross Mission, the church was destroyed by a land mine in 1941 and after meeting in various temporary premises the remaining members joined King's Cross Methodist Church in 1960.


Last Updated: 2 November 2017