Becoming chapels and everyday congregations: how the repair and maintenance of London’s Wesleyan chapels illustrates their communities’ everyday practices and experiences (1851-1932)

Slatter, Ruth (2020). Becoming chapels and everyday congregations: how the repair and maintenance of London’s Wesleyan chapels illustrates their communities’ everyday practices and experiences (1851-1932). Journal of Design History, 33(1) pp. 34–49.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epz032

Abstract

This article uses archival references to maintenance and repair to approach nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Wesleyan chapels and their material contents as ‘becoming’ things. Reflecting on the material changes that made the maintenance or repair of Wesleyan chapels necessary, or occurred because of these processes, it considers what maintenance and repair reveal about everyday practices and experiences within these communities. This article’s approach allows it to draw conclusions about individuals’ personal and mundane engagements with Wesleyanism in London during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As such, it overcomes some of the problems that historians interested in the everyday have traditionally faced as a result of the shortage of surviving personal testimonies about the everyday nature of church attendance during this period. Using Wesleyan chapels from London’s northern suburbs and East End as case studies, this article particularly focuses on the repair and maintenance of organs and chapel interiors. It uses these examples to reflect on the practicalities of everyday life in Wesleyan communities, demonstrating how considering moments of repair and maintenance highlights the (sometimes fraught) interrelationships between the spiritual, social, and practical priorities of Wesleyan communities.

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