Our collections comprise over 15,000 objects and include ceramics, paintings, books and works on paper, silverware, furniture and costume, and many others. The museum was established in 1898 but a number of key items in our collection pre-date this and have been on display inside John Wesley’s House ever since Wesley’s death in 1791.
Scroll to see examples of objects you can see during your visit.
- Portrait of Mrs Mary (‘Molly’) Vazeille (1710-1781)read more →Oil on wooden panel
mid to late 18th century
Mary Vazeille, usually known as ‘Molly’, was the widow of a Huguenot City banker and merchant. She and John Wesley were married in 1751 after an exceptionally short courtship. Molly and John were not suited well for each other and the marriage suffered from misunderstandings and jealousy from the start. The marriage remained childless and resulted in separation.
- John Wesley walking between two of his preachers, Dr James Hamilton and Joseph Cole, in Edinburghread more →Oil on board
by Joseph Kay, c.1790
The picture depicts the three preachers, the best known Methodist preachers of their day in Scotland, walking together in Edinburgh in 1790. Wesley was small of statue, about 5ft 4 inches.
- Portrait of John Wesleyread more →Oil on canvas
after Thomas Horsley, late 1780s
In the background is the chapel Wesley built on City Road as it appeared when first built, with its original windows and smaller entrance portico.
- Thomas Coke’s Travelling Desk and writing toolsread more →Mahogany
early 19th century
Thomas Coke (1747-1814) was a friend and close associate of John Wesley. Controversially, he was ‘ordained’ by Wesley as superintendent of the Methodist cause in America, which eventually helped cause the split between the Church of England and the Methodists. Coke dreamt of setting up a Methodist Mission in India but died at sea on his way to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1814.
- The Holy Triumph of John Wesley in his Dyingread more →Oil on canvas
by Marshall Claxton, R.A. (1811-1881), c. 1842
John Wesley is depicted on his deathbed surrounded by a large group of family, friends and colleagues, uttering his memorable words: “The best of all is, God is with us”. Wesley’s bedroom was smaller than the room illustrated in the painting, which itself was painted fifty years after the event. It is likely Claxton employed artistic license; there is also a tradition which suggests Wesley died in a chair in his Study.
- John Wesley preaching on his Father’s Tombread more →Oil on canvas
possibly by George Washington Brownslow, 19th century
In June 1742, John Wesley revisited his home town Epworth in Lincolnshire, where his father had been rector of St Andrew’s Church. As an Anglican minister, Wesley offered to assist the Curate with the Sunday service but was refused, even though the Church was crowded with people who had come to hear Wesley preach. He therefore went into the churchyard and preached standing on his father’s grave. As the grave belonged to the family, it was impossible for the Curate to evict him.
- The Chapel complex, 1821read more →Watercolour
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the chapel was flanked by two near identical houses; in fact, five were planned originally with a central archway leading to the Chapel behind, but only two were built. Today only one, John Wesley’s House, survives.
- A Collection of Hymns, for the use of the People called Methodistsread more →Frontispiece
The ‘Collection of Hymns’ was the first comprehensive Methodist hymn collection published during John Wesley’s lifetime and the ancestor of all Methodist hymnals.
- Pulpitread more →Oak and pine, partially painted
early 18th century
This pulpit was used by John Wesley at his original London headquarters, the ’Foundery’, originally a government cannon factory which stood close to today’s Wesley’s Chapel. Made from pine and oak it is much simpler than the elegant mahogany pulpit which was given to the ‘New Chapel’ shortly after opening in 1778.
- John Wesley preaching from the Steps of a Market Crossread more →Oil on canvas
by J.W. Hatherell, mid 20th century
John Wesley is shown preaching from the steps of the market cross, possibly in his home town, Epworth, in Lincolnshire. He is said to have preached around 40,000 sermons and travelled some 250,000 miles in his lifetime.
- John Wesleyread more →Oil on canvas
by Robert Hunter (fl. 1748-80), c. 1765
John Wesley is usually portrayed in old age, with white hair. This portrait is unusual in that it depicts a more youthful Wesley, younger apparently than his sixty-two years.
- Wesleyan chapel money boxread more →Ceramic
Staffordshire, early/mid 19th century
The design of this money box reflects the Methodist tradition of building preaching houses and small chapels rather than traditional churches with spires. Methodists were often reminded to be thrifty, and to give to good causes.
- Teapotsread more →Ceramic
Staffordshire, late 18th century
Commemorative ware featuring John Wesley was popular during Wesley’s later years and increasingly so in memory of Wesley after his death in 1791. Like these teapots which are made of creamware (a type of ceramic associated with Josiah Wedgwood), they usually featured an image of Wesley and a prayer or moral text.
- Clothing and spurs worn by John Wesleyread more →Textile, leather and metal
late 18th century
A few items of clothing belonging to John Wesley are preserved and on display in John Wesley’s House.
- Portrait of Christread more →Oil on canvas
by Herbert Beecroft (1864-1951), 1927
And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the Lord’s words; “Tonight before the cock crows you will disown me three times (Luke XXII.61)
This painting is among the most reproduced paintings of Christ of all time. Beecroft lived in Reading and attended Methodist Church there, before emigrating to Australia in 1905.
- John Wesley’s death maskread more →Plaster
The original mask was made immediately after John Wesley’s death; this cast was taken from it in the 20th century.
- John Wesley pulpit and clock statueread more →Ceramic
Staffordshire, mid 19th century
Ornaments depicting John Wesley were very popular in the Victorian age as mantelpiece decorations. Many depicted a clock probably to emphasise the passing of time and as a reminder to lead a worthy life.
- Busts of John Wesleyread more →Ceramic
Staffordshire, late 18th and early 19th centuries
The model on which all three busts are based was modelled in 1784 when Wesley sat for sculptor Enoch Wood, a member of a famous family of Staffordshire potters. The original was made from basaltware, an unglazed ceramic which enabled Wood to portray Wesley with much realism. The museum owns many Wesley busts; these are some of the most realistic.
- Samuel Wesleyread more →Oil on canvas
by John Jackson R.A. (1778-1831)
Samuel Wesley (1766-1837) was the son of John Wesley’s brother Charles. He was a child prodigy and, like his father, became a well-known composer and organist.
- New Chapel, City Roadread more →Engraving
This view shows the New Chapel (today’s Wesley’s Chapel) shortly after it was built. Wesley described the Chapel as ‘neat but not fine’. Although changes have been made over the years Wesley would still recognise ‘his’ City Road Chapel today.