Wesley Church, Melbourne

Wesley Church is a Uniting Church in the centre of Melbourne, Australia.

Originally a built for a Methodist Church of Australasia congregation, it is named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. A statue of Wesley stands in front of the church. The Church, in Lonsdale Street was built in 1858, replacing an earlier Methodist chapel built in Collins St in 1835, the year Melbourne was founded.

Wesley Church was designed by Joseph Reed, who also designed the Melbourne Town Hall, the Scots' Church and St. Michael’s Uniting Church in Collins St. The church is in the English Gothic style and takes the shape of a cross.

In 1893, during the acute depression which followed the bank crash of 1891, Wesley became the base for the Central Methodist Mission, now called Wesley Mission Melbourne, which grew into one of Melbourne's largest non-profit social welfare agencies. Its headquarters on this site adjoin the church. Wesley Church became part of the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977.

The church is 50 metres long from north to south and 23.5 metres at the transepts. It has an octagonal spire rising 53.3 meters (above ground level, which was for many years the tallest point on the Melbourne skyline. Inside the church are two paintings by the noted 19th century Australian painter Rupert Bunny: "The Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32) and "Abraham's Sacrifice" (Genesis 22:1-14), which were given to Wesley Church in 1934.

Wesley's organ was the first pipe organ in Melbourne. It was built in England, and arrived in Melbourne in 1842, being moved to the present church in 1858. It was largely rebuilt in 1957.

Wesley's original congregation was mostly English and Welsh. Today the church's proximity to Melbourne's fast-growing Chinatown centred in Little Bourke St means it has a large Asian congregation, and one of its two ministers is of Chinese descent.

Photographic note

Wesley Church is extremely difficult to photograph, being hemmed in by city buildings and having a screen of trees obscuring the view from Lonsdale St. Possibly better results could be obtained in winter when the trees are bare.


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