information on the New Room is on display in the 'Places of Worship' case in the Places Gallery.John Wesley is depicted in the painting 'Some Who Have Made Bristol Famous' in People Gallery
We took possession of a piece of ground, near St James's churchyard, in the Horse Fair, Bristol, where it was designed to build a room large enough to contain both the Societies of Nicholas and Baldwin Street ... On Saturday, 12th, the first stone was laid, with the voice of praise and thanksgiving.
Journal of the Reverend John Wesley, May 1739
John Wesley opened the first-ever purpose built Methodist chapel in Bristol in 1739. The chapel was modest in size and built on land Wesley had purchased on the Horsefair. It became known as the New Room and was used by the congregation just three weeks after building had begun.
The New Rooms were enlarged in 1748 to accommodate up to 1,000 worshippers. This marked Methodism's official split from the Church of England, and its establishment as a religion in its own right.
The new building had a rectangular meeting room with an octagonal lantern window above it, small side windows and columns to support side galleries. The walls had a grey-white limewash and the woodwork was painted a stone colour.
The congregation sat on backless wooden seats to hear preachers deliver services from a two-tiered pulpit. Wesley and other preachers would stay in the upper rooms, which were joined to the galleries by stairs. The building was also used as a school, a library and a dispensary.