Our History

Methodism was brought to Rye in 1756 by one of John Wesley's itinerant preachers named Thomas Mitchell.  He came from Yorkshire and was described as "one of the bravest" of Wesley's preachers.  He must have made an impression on the town, as John Wesley himself followed up the visit two years later, in October 1758, and preached here several times.  In 1759, Rye was designated as the head of the Sussex Circuit, which covered a huge area of East Sussex and West Kent.  Where the early Methodists in Rye met is not clear, but we do know that, in 1770, they moved into a property in Mermaid Street that had been used previously by a Presbyterian congregation.

John Wesley visited Rye eleven times in all.  His initial visit in 1758 was followed by return visits in 1767, 1771, 1773, 1775 and 1778, all of which occurred in the winter months, between October and January.  He came again in 1784, 1788, 1789 and 1790.  By 1789, the Methodist society had grown to such an extent, that it had to leave the premises in Mermaid Street and move into a new building in Church Square.  Wesley recorded, in his journal of 28th January 1789,  that "At the earnest importunity of our friends, on Wednesday 28th I went to open the new preaching-house at Rye.  It is a noble building, much loftier than most of our houses, and finely situated at the head of the town." The fact that Wesley himself opened the chapel and bestowed such praise upon the congregation was seen as a great honour.  Wesley returned to Rye for a final time in 1790 and then travelled on to Winchelsea, where he preached his final open-air sermon.  John Wesley died in 1791 and Methodism was left to develop without him.

As the result of work by Robert Raikes, an English philanthropist and Anglican clergyman, a Sunday School was established by the Methodists in Rye in 1813.  Sunday Schools, at that time, did not focus just on Scripture and Christian Doctrine, but also taught reading, writing and arithmetic.  By 1841, the "noble building" which Wesley had described, was no longer large enough for the growing congregation and it was torn down and replaced, on the same site, by and even larger one.

Their role in education served to strengthen the Methodist Church in Rye to such an extent that, at the turn of the twentieth century, an ambitious plan was made to construct a purpose-build Sunday School, just across the road from the church.  Building began around 1900 and was finally completed in 1903 at a cost of £2,500 and this is the building which is now used as Rye Methodist Church.

Rye Methodist Church suffered greatly in the Second World War.  A German bomber, returning from a raid over London, jettisoned a string of bombs over the town.  The chapel, which had served the Methodists in Rye since 1814 was severely damaged and the Sunday School had all of its windows blown in.  The congregation struggled on, using makeshift premises in the patched-up Sunday School building.  It was considered impractical to restore both premises and, in due course, the chapel site was sold, the building demolished and a large house, now St Mary's Rectory, built on the land.  The complete renovation of the Sunday School was delayed due to haggling over the terms of wartime compensation and it wasn't until 1954 that it was completed and the building reopened and dedicated as Rye Methodist Church.


The Present Day

Although small in number, we are a welcoming congregation with a strong musical tradition.  As well as meeting for worship on Sunday mornings, at 10.30a.m., we have an active Guild and House Group, both of which meet monthly, a choir which sings for special services and a Messy Church who meet on Friday afternoons, during school and half-term holidays.  We are also a member congregation of Rye and District Churches Together, meeting in a variety of churches on the fourth Sunday of each month for a united afternoon or evening service (depending upon the time of the year) and three times a year for a United Morning Communion Service.  Our members also attend a monthly ecumenical Spirituality Group, run by our minister, Revd. Ian Pruden.


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