The Methodist Church, Bridge Street
John and Charles Wesley were Church of England priests in the 18th century. They felt called to bring the word of God to non-churchgoers and to address some of the pressing social issues of the day, matters not high on the agenda of the Established Church at that time. In due course this became a separate denomination known as the Methodist Church.
John Wesley died in 1791 but the first Methodist Church that can be traced in Hungerford was built in Church Street in 1807. It is intriguing that in the deeds it is recorded that the Chapel was built on a previous Wesleyan site. There is no record of this earlier Chapel though it might well have been a private house where the owner allowed meetings to take place. In 1869 the Wesleyan Methodists moved from Church Street to Bath Road where a fine Gothic Church had been built. As was customary in Methodist churches, there was a day school attached to both Church Street and Bath Road. With the increase in traffic in the 20th century, this proved to be a poor site both as a Church and School as people found it difficult to cross the busy road and in 1971 it was finally closed.
Methodist Church The enthusiasm of the 18th Century reformers known as Wesleyan Methodists had waned after the death of John Wesley and by 1811 a new Church known as Primitive Methodists was formed. It was not until 1833 that Hungerford experienced the enthusiasm of the Primitives when evangelists Thomas Russell and John Hyde came into the town.
They formed a group in a/house at the town end of Salisbury Road. By the 1860’s this was too small and a new Church was built in 1868 in Bridge Street, hardly a stone’s throw from the Wesleyan Methodists in Bath Road opened a year later. Both churches in the 19th century were very well attended.
In 1932 the various splits in Methodism were brought together by the Deed of Union and one Methodist Church was formed. This was more easily done on paper than in reality and in Hungerford both Wesleyan and Primitives continued to meet separately until Bath Road was closed in 1971. The Wesleyans were invited to join with the Primitives at Bridge Street but many found themselves unable to do so.
In 1993 Bridge Street was refurbished, chairs installed instead of pews, a garden established by the river, and other improvements made. This year a modem kitchen has been installed in the Hall to continue the Methodist tradition of hospitality. Much work continues to be done there to make the Church relevant within the town and to help where possible in a wider context. Bridge Street has a reputation for being a warm and welcoming Church in which to worship.