New Room, Bristol and the Somerset Coast

Today we caught our breath a little bit in Cardiff before heading out to nearby Bristol. The day before we drove from Durham, stopped to visit friends, sorted out problems with the rental car in York, saw a few sights in Epworth, and made it to Cardiff, Wales. The drive was about 350 miles and we got in somewhat late so we decided to rest a bit this morning. This is where our American friends say, “Oh, 350 miles. That’s not too bad of a drive. I would do that to go to lunch with my brother.” Our British friends say, “350 MILES IN ONE DAY!?! ARE YOU DAFT?!? I WOULDN’T DRIVE THAT OVER A THREE WEEK HOLIDAY!”

Driving differences aside, we crossed the Bristol Channel and the Severn River into Bristol, England. At one time, Bristol was the second largest port in England (behind London). Ships sailed from Bristol to Africa to kidnap Africans to sell them into slavery in the New World. There they would reload with sugar, tobacco, and other wares from the Caribbean and the American Colonies. Sailing back to Bristol in a triangle of commerce, the ships would repeat the process. Such was the Bristol that John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, found in the mid 1700’s.

In 1738, Wesley had a powerful spiritual experience with God and began powerful preaching and service in the Name of Jesus Christ. One important site of this activity was Bristol. The Bristol of Wesley’s time was a crowded, busy, and dirty seaport. The city was full of the problems that such issues bring. In 1739, the people called Methodists, built a building in which they could gather for Christian worship, study, prayer, and service. They called it the New Room. It was later rebuilt and expanded to ensure sound construction and adequate space.

The New Room is still open to Methodists and curious visitors alike. There is a bustling commercial district all around it today. We found a place to park (a feat in itself!) grabbed some lunch at a counter-service restaurant (Beth quite fancies Pret-A-Manger) and found the New Room.

A new museum about the New Room and the early Methodist moment just opened a few weeks ago. It is free to visit the New Room preaching house, but a small fee is required to see the museum. The museum is well-done and worth the price of admission. Not only did we enjoy seeing the story of how God used these men and women in ministry, but we enjoyed browsing through the books and shop. If only the library had been open…Alas!

After leaving Bristol, we drove down the coast to Somerset to see what the coast is like in that part of England. It is different from our beaches on the Alabama Gulf Coast, but we liked seeing the wide open spaces and rocky cliffs. We grabbed and ice cream and walked along the shore. The high here got to almost 68F/20C and the sun it out. The locals think the summer heatwave is here. We are putting on sweatshirts in the cool breeze!

Stay tuned tomorrow when we are off for an out-of-this-world-and-time-adventure that can only be found in Cardiff!




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