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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Guernsey

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Morley Chapel in St Peter Port.
© Courtesy of Gillian Lenfestey
A religious conversion

"Methodists" was originally a nickname applied to a revival movement in 18th-century Britain based within the Church of England and led by, among others, the brothers John and Charles Wesley. In 1787, John Wesley decided to sail to Guernsey to spread the Methodist word, but strong winds blew his ship off course, forcing the vessel to dock at Alderney, where he succeeded in converting some of the locals. However, Wesley did eventually make it to Guernsey - the first chapel on the island was built by the French-speaking community in 1788 at St Peter Port. By the 20th century, Wesley's word had spread to the extent that there were 32 Methodist chapels on Guernsey - 7% of the population declared themselves to be Methodists in a 1911 census.

Morley Chapel at St Peter Port.
© Courtesy of Gillian Lenfestey
However, over the years Methodism has been decreasing in popularity, with falling numbers leading to amalgamation of congregations and, inevitably, to the closure of chapels. Although the chapels are often rather rudimentary in their design and construction, their Methodist origins do lend them a uniquely historic atmosphere. This, combined with their considerable size, gives them good potential for conversion into homes - in 20th-century Guernsey, religious conversion has been superceded by building conversion. Indeed, over a third of Guernsey's Methodist chapels have now been turned into living spaces. The interiors are large enough to allow imaginative designs, so people are able to buy innovative accommodation with many charming period features at an affordable price.

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