James Wheatley became a Methodist itinerant c. 1742/3, but was expelled from the Methodist movement in 1751 by John Wesley following allegations of immoral conduct . Wheatley attracted a large following (but also riotous aggression) as an independent preacher in Norwich from 1751.
He built a wooden meeting-house (or tabernacle), which was destroyed by the mob, but subsequently replaced it with a proper chapel, called the Tabernacle and supported by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. In 1754 he was charged in the Consistory Court with adultery, convicted and left Norfolk.
John and Charles Wesley visited Norwich in 1754, when the scandal about Wheatley was at its height, and Charles established a class. A ruined building was given to them, which became known as the 'Foundry'.
John Wesley provided money for its repair. In 1759, John Wesley united the Foundry and Calvinistic Tabernacle congregations, but the resulting society proved unmanageable and Wesley thankfully relinquished the congregation in 1765.
The remaining Methodists built Cherry Lane Chapel in 1769 with money raised by John Wesley. John Wesley visited Norwich more than 40 times. He also visited Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn frequently, as well as many other Norfolk towns and villages, including in 1781 Little Walsingham with its many shrines to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
By the 1851 census, most of Norfolk's churchgoers were Methodists. Primitive Methodism received a ready welcome in 1821, but disputes and divisions among Methodists in the middle years of the 19th C dealt a severe blow to the Wesleyans and many left. Both Primitive and United Methodists flourished, with the former much involved with the rise of agricultural trades unions.
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