Belize Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Honduras Bay

Belize chapel, Honduras Bay
Wesleyan Chapel Committee, 1865

The Wesleyan Methodist work in British Honduras began in 1825, in the main town of the Colony, Belize. A full account of the first century of the work, by Rev. J.B. Brindley, may be found here

The first chapel, built in 1830, was destroyed by fire in 1863, and this building replaced it, opening on 23rd December 1866. The drawing above also accompanied the following description of the building published in Building News (9 March 1866).

“In March 1863 the town of Belize was nearly destroyed by fire. The buildings, with few exceptions, were of timber, with roofs of inflammable materials, which, under a tropical sun, are constantly in a favourable state for rapid combustion. The flames spread with great vehemence, and speedily reduced the greater portion of Belize, to ashes. Among the buildings destroyed, was the Wesleyan Chapel, which had been built of mahogany, about forty years before. Fortunately this was insured.

The authorities of Honduras very judiciously decided that Belize, should not be rebuilt in materials liable to a similar calamity to the one from which it has suffered, and all new buildings therefore, are to be of brick or stone, with tiles or slated roofs. As no building materials of this kind are to be procured in the colony it was found necessary to export everything but the timber from this country.

The principal part of the building, shown in the accompanying woodcut, faces the east, and the congregation look in the same direction. And this not from regard to the old custom of orientation, but because during the most sultry season the sea breeze from the east is indispensable for comfort if not for existence. Accordingly it was necessary to have as many windows as possible in the eastern front, and these as well as all the other windows in the building had to be made to open. During another part of the year, storms of wind and rain are prevalent, and this circumstance necessitated the covering of the flights of steps, four in number, which lead to the chapel, occupying the first floor of the building. The chapel is 80ft. by 50ft.; and with the western gallery will seat 800 persons. It is roofed in one span by 4 wrought iron principals, carrying purlins of the same metal, which are boarded, felted, and slated with blue and green Countess slates. Internally the principals are intersected by arched timber ribs, supporting a boarded ceiling, and thus leaving an air space between this and the slate boarding to moderate the heat. A portion of the ironwork of the principals is visible from the interior of the chapel, and is painted in appropriate colours and partly gilded.  The roof was manufactured by the Tweedale Company from designs by the architect.

The building is of pavior bricks, which were supplied, together, with the lime and cement, by Messrs. White. The doors and window dressings are of white brick, moulded for the purpose by Messrs. Eastwood. The Portland stone copings and York steps were supplied by Messrs. Freeman, and the gable crosses were carved by T. Sharp, Esq.

The town of Belize is built on a swamp, and is remarkable for bad foundations. One solid ridge of ground runs across it, and on a portion of this the chapel is built. The older buildings are raised on piles a few feet from the ground, and in this case, free ventilation under the floors is provided for. The lower story contains boys and girls schools, entered by the two doors in front. All the windows are fitted with cast iron sashes, made from designs by the architect, by Messrs. Grissell and Co. As before stated, every window will open. The cost of the building and fittings will be £6000. A foundation stone sent out for the purpose was laid about a year since by the Governor of the Colony, and the building is now approaching completion. Mr. Hoole, of Craven-street, is the architect.”

The architect, Elijah Hoole (1838-1912) was the son of the Rev. Elijah Hoole, General Secretary of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, and he was also responsible for the design of Wesleyan chapels in Canada, and in England.

The Rev. Brindley added (p22 of his book) that

“the building exceeded the architect’s estimate of cost by nearly a Thousand Pounds. the funds of the Parent Society [i.e. the WMMS] were generously given towards the cost and a debt of gratitude is due to them first of all.”

After listing contributions from government and private sources he continues

“Nearly two thousand pounds was raised by donations, subscriptions, bazaar, and the opening services.”

proving that Methodists raise funds for redevelopment in the same ways, wherever they are in the World.

References

The Eleventh annual report of the Wesleyan Chapel Committee, 1865 page 121

The Building News Vol. 13, 1866 p155

Brindley, J.B. Sketches of the Wesleyan Mission in British Honduras Belize: The Clarion Press, 1916

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