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Wesley Church

Wesley Church is the third church in Perth built to serve the Methodist community. The first chapel was built in 1834, a second was built from 1841.

As the Methodist community continued to grow, a much larger church became necessary. Work was commenced in 1867, and on 24 October that year the foundation stone was laid by the late Governor Hampton. When opened in 1870, the brick building, one of the most impressive in Perth at the time, was designed in the Early English Gothic style by architect Richard Roach Jewell.

The building was constructed of locally-made brick, with cut stone facings at the corners and capping to the buttresses. The roof was covered with wood shingles. However, due to a shortage of money, they had already spent £3,000, the church was unfinished when it opened, Although the pews were in place, there was no gallery for the choir, nor was there a pulpit.

The Meckering earthquake of October 1968 caused damage to several buildings in Perth. It shook Wesley Church and structural cracks appeared in the steeple, so a portion had to be removed. Today Wesley Church remains a place of worship for its congregation. It is also the home of Wesley Mission, which provides caring and support services for disadvantaged people.

Detailed Description

Wesley Church is the third church in Perth built to serve the Methodist community. Methodists were a Christian movement who took their inspiration from the teachings of the 18th century English preacher, John Wesley.

On 3 February 1830, the first Methodists arrived in the Swan River Colony aboard the Tranby. One of the leading members of the community, Joseph Hardey, settled on the Maylands Peninsula and built Tranby House. Joseph Hardey’s first public Methodist service was held under a tree in Perth in June 1830.

The first chapel was built in 1834, and was later converted into caretaker’s quarters when a new church was constructed. The original Methodist place of worship was finally demolished in 1898. A second chapel was built from 1841, and the first service held there on in January 1842.

As the Methodist community continued to grow, a much larger church became necessary. Work was commenced in 1867, and on 24 October that year the foundation stone was laid by the late Governor Hampton. When opened the church, one of the most impressive in Perth at the time, was designed in the Early English Gothic style by architect Richard Roach Jewell. The Gothic revival style was fashionable throughout Australia at the time not only for churches, for which it had strong historical associations, but also for other public buildings. Jewell submitted a plan for Wesley Church comprising the nave, chancel and bell tower with a tall and elegant spire, which was accepted with one alteration: the relocation of the bell tower from the north-east side to the south-east side.

The corner stone was laid on 24 October 1867, by Governor J. S. Hampton. A bottle containing news of the day was deposited in the cavity and the Governor was presented with a silver trowel by Joseph and John Hardey. The construction workers on site also built Perth Town Hall which was being erected one block to the east.

When it opened on 10 April 1870, the most obvious external feature of the church was the “plan, yet neat, tower and spire” which was 36m to the weathercock at the top. The main entrances were through the tower and a porch which faced William Street. However, there were two more entrances which were for the use of the minister when he walked from his neighbouring house.

The building was constructed of locally-made brick, with cut stone facings at the corners and capping to the buttresses. The roof was covered with wood shingles. At the back of the chancel was a beautiful memorial window, presented by the family of the late George Shenton, showing a picture of Jesus with a woman kneeling at his feet. Shenton had been one of the driving forces behind raising the money for Wesley Church, so it was appropriate he was remembered there.

However, due to a shortage of money, they had already spent £3,000, the church was unfinished when it opened, Although the pews were in place, there was no gallery for the choir, nor was there a pulpit.

By the mid-1890s, the influx of people during the gold rush meant more seating was required in Wesley Church. In 1896, a choir vestry and organ loft were built and alterations and additions to the church were made including, the north-east tower (which buried the original foundation stone), the addition of side galleries and the ceiling to the nave, and the south-west porch. The alterations were designed by architect J. J. Talbot Hobbs.

After World War I, a pulpit was placed in the centre of the chancel as a memorial to the fallen.

The Meckering earthquake of October 1968 caused damage to several buildings in Perth. It shook Wesley Church and structural cracks appeared in the steeple. A decision was made to demolish the steeple but when about 10 metres was removed, the remainder of the structure was found to be secure, so a copper cone was placed on the top to replace the removed section. The bell had to be taken from the tower, as it was probably too weak to support its weight. Instead, the bell was mounted outside the church on a concrete stand.

Today Wesley Church remains a place of worship for its congregation. It is also the home of Wesley Mission, which provides caring and support services for disadvantaged people.

Inquirer 27 April 1870

West Australian 26 June 1934

Location