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The Beginning

The Salem Wesleyan Reform Church at Blucher Street, Barnsley was built in 1825, with seating for 350 persons, a schoolroom and classrooms that were opened later, in 1852. It was built as an impressive town centre Congregational Chapel.


The beginnings of the Wesleyan Reform Union go back to 1849, when numbers of people within the Wesleyan Church thought to be responsible for the preparation and publication of ‘fly sheets’, were arbitrarily expelled by the Wesleyan Conference. These ‘fly sheets’ were held to be critical of the Wesleyan Church (which joined with the Primitive and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church in 1932). Many of those ejected in this way, plus their many followers who stood for religious freedom, began to worship regularly from 1851 in the largest building in Barnsley, the Corn Exchange. On the 26th January 1857, the ‘Reformers’ held a ‘Day of humiliation, fasting, thought and prayer’ for guidance. Later they held a meeting in the vestry of Salem Congregational Church, kindly loaned to them for the occasion. They set up a committee to look into the purchase of the Salem premises from the Congregationalists. They negotiated and, on the 28th July 1857, the sale was agreed. The purchase price was £600, a considerable sum in 1857! Payment was made in instalments over six months, the final payment of £100 being made on the 19th May 1858.

Salem Wesleyan Reform Chapel opened on the 19th August 1858 and the adjoining schoolroom on the 15th November 1858. Salem celebrated its centenary with a range of services and meetings between Saturday 2nd March and Sunday 10th March 1957. The main services were conducted by the Rev C Finnemore of Norwich. The 150th Anniversary Services held on Sunday 18th February 2007 and conducted by Philip Nuttall, were relatively low key, although still a source of joy and inspiration.