Throughout the 1730s the road-sweeper and preacher John Wesley walked thousands of miles each year spreading the Methodist view of religion and also encouraging dog owners to purchase poop-a-scoops. Thousands gathered to hear him spread the gospel…thousands more would’ve turned up had he chosen to spread the gossip instead. Wherever he went a multitude was sure to gather. If he lived today he’d be offered a free season ticket at Ashton Gate.
His brother Charles also spread the Methodist faith by the different route of composing hymns. Indeed, he was regarded as the greatest hymn writer ever. As he chose music to spread the word he became known as the Rhythm Methodist. This was bad news for John because it meant that he only got to see his brother at certain times of the month.
John Wesley was content to sweep the streets and cleanse the souls of the poor an un-churched with his preaching and his brush. To avoid the expense of building churches he encouraged his ever-expanding band of devotees to hold meetings in their houses. This made Methodism more popular still. This was especially the case at the home of Miss Lillybeth Aurbothnott who’d placed a sign in the window of her abode in Lawrence Weston which read: ‘Services Provided Daily between 10am-6pm’.
Although the experiment using the private residences of followers as churches was initially successful, it soon became apparent that inconveniences could be caused to home-owners. Roy Weald, for instance, who attached a hymn board to the rear wall of his property in Brislington to enable him to conduct Methodist meetings in his back garden found that it instead attracted the Number 78 Horse-Bus to stop off there to pick up and set down passengers to the detriment of his prized rhododendrons.
Christopher Larkhill, whose home in Keynsham doubled up as a Methodist church, found that after an outbreak of influenza amongst his parishioners that he needed to evict several garden gnomes and shelve his plans for a fish pond due to the pressure for space occasioned by the consequent burials.
Buoyed by his increasing popularity John Wesley was seen to adopt a more radical stance and on one occasion, in front of 40,000 at Bishopsworth, held up a placard which read ‘Down With Our Rulers’. Wesley was immediately arrested for sedition but equally swiftly released when he explained that he’d supported the message because he was cheesed-off with not being well endowed.
After almost a decade of hoofing it, Wesley announced plans to build a real, permanent chapel. Donations flooded in which enabled the first Methodist chapel in the world to be built-in the Horsefair, Bristol in 1739. What particularly pleased John Wesley as that there was enough money remaining to install a small cupboard in the chapel, inside of which was placed a brand new sweeping brush to remind him of previous days. Wesley proudly called this ‘The New Broom’.
The permanent home presented Wesley with the opportunity to work on a maxim that he was convinced would promote peace and goodwill when unleashed upon the world. This adage was: agree to disagree. Within weeks of its release in 1741 firms of solicitors were going to the wall at an alarming rate. By 1744 the few remaining practitioners of this noble profession, in order to preserve their existence, were forced to broker a deal which included a sizeable donation to get Wesley to amend his saying to: agree to disagree, but only on Sundays (their day off).
When John Wesley died in 1791, King George III called it one of the saddest days of his life…John Wesley’s life that is, not King George III’s.