The Wesleys in North Molton
John Wesley himself visited North Molton twice and in his journal for Tuesday 4 October 1757 he wrote that: “Between twelve and one the next day I reached Northmolton [from Bideford] and finding the congregation ready, began immediately. There have been great tumults here since I saw them before, but God has now rebuked the storm. When the gentry would neither head not pay the mob, the poor rabble were quiet as lambs. We rode to Tiverton in the afternoon.”
His brother, Charles Wesley, visited on 5 September 1758. “Set out from Tiverton in foul weather. Took horse at seven. To escape a shower, I baited at a little alehouse. Gave word of advice to the poor ignorant landlord and his daughter and went on my way (and a vile one it was) without any more rain, till we came, between twelve and one, to Northmolton, twenty measured miles from Tiverton. I dined on a cup of tea, which I had taken care to bring with me, and shut myself up till night, when I preached the gospel with more comfort and life than I have done since I left Bristol. Not a word seemed to be lost upon them. The seed fell upon good ground. I had a feast with them, so wanted none elsewhere. My friendly old host gave me the best he had, but the bacon and hen were such as my teeth could not penetrate. However our clean, warm beds made us amends. I found the room full at five and exhorted them to come boldly to the throne of mercy and grace.”
Charles Wesley’s journal 12 September 1758 records that: “Yesterday morning I hardly tore myself from poor Phill [his niece]. Her husband walked with me a mile [from Barnstaple] and parted with tears. They forced a servant on me as far as Northmolton, fifteen miles from Barnstaple. The afternoon was all my own. At night I declared the end of the Lord’s coming “that we might have life”. The door was again wide open. I bestowed an hour on my host and his family in singing, conference and prayer. Tuesday morning I rose at four, preached at five, set out after breakfast, and reached Tiverton, twenty miles from Northmolton by one.”
The first Wesleyan church began in 1831 – when John Karslake was 5 – in a leased cottage with garden which might be where the present Methodist church now stands. The cottage served as the worship centre until the first Chapel was built in 1837 but this was soon found to be inadequate. In 1890 an adjoining piece of land was purchased and a new chapel opened in 1891. The original building was used a schoolroom and is still in use as the church hall.