Walking in London with Wesley

It’s hard to believe that today was my last full day in London – if I think about it for too long, I start to get a little teary-eyed, so I’ll just jump in to tell you about my Saturday.

Every British Studies class had final exams this morning, except for us. (We’re special!) We did however have to either meet with Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis to tell them our research paper title, problem statement, and research questions, or send them an email with said pertinent information. Since I only solidified my topic a few days ago, I decided to meet with the professors to make sure we were all on the same page. The meeting was successful, and I was soon on my way to continue my research. As I’ve mentioned before, London is a late riser, particularly on the weekends, and many of the city streets were uninhabited… it was a lovely and peaceful way to start the day as I walked from site to site or hopped on empty double decker buses.

During my first trip to Wesley’s Chapel, I picked up a number of brochures – one of them was titled John Wesley’s London Walking Map, and leads interested parties on an approximately two-hour walk to 15 sites that are related to John Wesley’s life and ministry  in London. The tour began at Wesley’s Chapel and lead me to prominent sites such as the Bunhill Fields burial ground, where Wesley’s mother, Susanna is buried. Other notable figures buried in the graveyard include the poet William Blake, Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, and John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

John Wesley's Walking Tour Map

John Wesley’s Walking Tour – Courtesy of http://www.methodistheritage.org.uk/londonwalkingtour.htm

Two of my favorite stops along the way were the Museum of London and my return to St. Paul’s:

The Museum of London was built in 1976, and details the history of London from prehistoric times (prior to the Roman era) all the way to today. Ironically, this was the museum I skipped on Wednesday morning in order to conduct research – now my research has led me here! Outside of the Museum is the Aldersgate Flame, a memorial plaque built in 1981 which commemorates Wesley’s profound conversion experience on May 24, 1738, on that very site. In his writings, Wesley described the experience with phrases such as “I felt my heart strangely warmed…”

Aldersgate Flame - John Wesley's Conversion Place Memorial outside of the Museum of London

Aldersgate Flame – John Wesley’s Conversion Place Memorial outside of the Museum of London

Wesley also appears inside the Museum of London, which has multiple permanent gallery displays. The Expanding City: 1666-1850s gallery is home to a few items relating to Wesley, including a portrait of him giving his last sermon on February 23, 1791, as well as other memorabilia.

I backtracked my way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was stunning on this sunny Saturday. By this time, people were out and about with their giant cups of coffee, lounging on the Cathedral’s steps. Though I’ve been to St. Paul’s multiple times, I never knew there was a statue dedicated to Wesley on the church grounds, so I had to go on a bit of a scavenger hunt to locate it.

John Wesley's Statue - St. Paul's Cathedral

John Wesley’s Statue – St. Paul’s Cathedral

Located in the northwest corner of the churchyard, the bronze statue stands 5 feet, 1 inches tall – Wesley’s height in real life – and was erected in 1988. Inscribed on the plaque are these words that encompass a pillar of Methodist teachings:

By Grace ye are saved through Faith 

The statue is a cast of the original marble statue, created by Samuel Manning, and the original can be found today in the Methodist Central Hall, a Methodist church, conference centre, and art gallery in Westminster.

I have to say that the walking tour helped me capture a sense of Wesley’s life in London, as well as the legacies he has left behind – it is clear that Wesley was truly an influential Briton, and though the US has the largest population of Methodists in the world, it is all too easy to forget to trace our church history back to England. My feet may be tired, but my mind is churning with thoughts and ideas for my research paper.

Cheers to a successful and productive morning,

Taylor

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Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism

As you may remember from a few weeks ago, Jade and I attended a moving service at Wesley’s Chapel on our first Sunday in London. So, needless to say, I woke up this morning with a feeling of excitement to return to this beautiful place! After some less-than-pleasant experiences in attempting to narrow down a research topic, I had an inkling that my experience today at Wesley’s Chapel would be a success – and I am happy to say to that I was correct! Though I got a little lost at first (the Old Street Tube Station is quite confusing!), I soon found my way back to the Chapel. Since London is a surprisingly late riser (hardly anything opens before 10 am), it was quiet and peaceful in the courtyard of the Chapel.

John Wesley Statue at Wesley's Chapel

Hello again, Mr. Wesley…

After enjoying those few peaceful moments, I wandered into the Chapel and downstairs into the Museum of Methodism.

Welcome to the Museum of Methodism

On my first visit to the Chapel, we briefly walked through the Museum, so it was nice to take my time walking through the displays and seeing the various documents, facsimiles, pamphlets, magazines, hymn books, and ephemera related to the history of Methodism – from John Wesley‘s time to the present. Wesley, who along with his brother Charles, are considered the co-founders of Methodism, built the Chapel in 1777, and moved into his house next-door in 1779. After his death in 1791, John Wesley was buried in the Chapel graveyard. The Chapel itself has sustained fire damage, survived World War II, and has undergone multiple renovations. In 1898, John Wesley’s House became a museum, and the Museum of Methodism opened in the crypt of the Chapel in 1984. The buildings have such a rich history, and are central to not only John Wesley’s life, but also of Methodism itself…

I also had a chance to speak with Christian Dettlaff, the Curator of the Museum; he was so friendly and was happy to answer some of my questions about the Museum. Since 1977, the University of Manchester has served as the official archive of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, but prior to this date, the archives were actually kept at Wesley’s Chapel and John Wesley’s House. Now that the bulk of Wesley’s papers are located in Manchester, the Museum today focuses mainly on acquiring

Wesley's Prayer Room

Wesley’s Prayer Room

documents and items related to the history of the Chapel and the House. Wesley’s House is packed with items belonging to the late theologian, including his furniture and personal library (consisting of 474 books); these books are used by researchers even today, and many of the books bear his signature on the inner cover.

All in all, it was a very productive morning for me at the Chapel, Museum, and House. The staff and volunteers made this born and raised United Methodist feel right at home, and it was rewarding to learn more about Wesley’s life as well as the history of Methodism itself, both for my personal and academic interests. The gift shop in the Museum was full of helpful materials for my research paper, including a complete catalogue of the collection of letters written by Wesley that are held at the Museum.

Though the formatting and structure of this research paper is unlike any paper I’ve ever previously written, I appreciate the fact that Dr. Welsh and Dr. Griffis are pushing us outside of our comfort zone – after all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?!

Until tomorrow,

Taylor

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Westminster Abbey

Part One: A Visit to Westminster Abbey 

Hello, hello!

It’s hard to believe that this sunny and particularly warm Tuesday was our first day of class in a week! It’s been great to see my classmates again and hear about everyone’s mini-break adventures. But alas, the vacation is over and we’re back to work…

This morning there was an optional trip to the Maughan Library, the library of King’s College, where we’ve been living these past few weeks. While I wanted to see this apparently amazing research library, I chose to focus on my research paper. After mulling over various topics, from John Wesley to the British Museum archives, none of which have panned out, I then decided to check out the BFI’s collections. But you’ll read more about them later.

I’m sad to report that my morning did not go as planned, as I woke up having yet another heart episode. After several hours of resting in bed though, it finally stopped in time for me to run a few quick errands and then meet for the class trip to the Westminster Abbey Library! (No pictures could be taken inside the library, but if you click on the link, you can catch a glimpse of what it looks like inside)

Librarian and Keeper of the Muniments Sign - Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Westminster Abbey’s Library

With this fantastic sign on the door of the library, located in the East Cloister, we rang the doorbell and headed upstairs. (Fun Fact: I had no idea what a “muniment” was, and it turns out it basically refers to the records/archives. The technical definition is a document such as a title, deed, contract, etc.) We met with Dr. Tony Trowles, the Head of the Collection, who gave us a rundown of the history of the Abbey itself, as well as specifics about the library. The current library, established since 1591, is located in what used to be a monk’s dormitory! In 1587, a man named William Camden became the first appointed librarian of Westminster; today, Dr. Trowles is only the 34th appointed librarian. If you do the math, that means that in 427 years, there have been 34 men in charge of Westminster’s collections, averaging about 12.5 years of employment/person.

Surprisingly, only approximately 1/2 of the library’s collection is religious in nature (sermons, history of the early Church Fathers, etc.), and there is a sizable collection of British history, which includes the reign of the Romans. The library’s early printed book collection is now closed and rarely added to, as the focus of acquisitions today is on the Abbey itself (the building, monuments and memorials on the grounds, coronations, etc.) The muniments detail the administrative history of the Abbey and dates back to the 10th century.

Today, the library is still in fact a working library, and visitors can utilize the collections in the Reading Room, while the small group of staff work to answer specialized inquiries and research questions that pour in from around the world. In addition, staff are just beginning to computerize the library’s catalog, meaning a good old fashioned card catalogue is still in use! (Personally, I love that fact about the Abbey…. it just seems fitting to me).

I know that I gushed over getting to visit St. Paul’s library, and y’all are probably tired of reading about my affinity for theological libraries, but I’m going to say it again – I am SO thrilled that I was able to tour Westminster’s Library. Something about them just makes this future librarian’s heart happy.

Part 2: A Semi-Productive Afternoon 

I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without mentioning our daily class tradition – at virtually every library/archive/museum we’ve visited, Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh have assembled us into fabulous group photos! At this point, we have a fairly large and impressive collection of group shots from all across London and beyond! After our tour of Westminster ended, Dr. Griffis led us to the nearby Trafalgar’s Square, where we took several group shots – remember, that’s where my main man, Lord Nelson is located, so I was happy to visit his monument yet again. At the bottom of this post I created a slide show of our group photos so you can see my classmates and some of the places we’ve been! We’re a motley crew, but I think we’re all pretty awesome.

Since I did not have a chance to check out the BFI this morning, I made a solo trip there after leaving Trafalgar’s Square to scope out their Reuben Library, and maybe speak with a librarian there about helping with my research paper. Needless to say, that trip ended in disappointment, and I trudged back from the BFI to our dorms (fortunately, it’s a 5 minute walk), and tried to re-group.

BUT, after an emergency meeting with Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh, I am pleased to announce to everyone that I now OFFICIALLY have a research topic – though really I’m back to square one, I will be writing about John Wesley and the Museum of Methodism! I have been given permission to skip our Museum of London tour tomorrow morning in order to do some research, so I can’t wait to get started and update you all tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that this works because we are rapidly running out of research time!

I am stuffed full of pizza, and sleepy after a relaxing night in our dorms, so I’m off to bed.

Send me happy research thoughts, please,

Taylor

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