The Methodists in Wimborne can trace their history back to the end of the 18th century when John Parsons was offered a house in West Borough in which to preach. However feelings ran high, the local residents did not want them and after all the windows had been broken, they were forced to move out of the town to Colehill. Here again they met with opposition and had to move to another cottage in Colehill.
In 1801 a young Methodist named Peter Hawke came to Wimborne Grammar School from Stalbridge as a Writing Master. He joined the Methodist Society at Poole being unaware of the existence of the group at Colehill. However Peter did join up with them in about 1804 and in 1807 when they were formed into a Methodist Society he was appointed as joint leader with Mr. Joseph Sims who had recently arrived from Bath with his wife Hannah. John Parsons, by this time, had moved from the area.
In 1808 it was decided to make another attempt at establishing a Society in the town and Joseph Sims hired a house in West Borough which, as required by law, had to be licensed for worship by the County Court. This being done, the building opened for worship on the 6th November 1808 and two hundred years later on the 6th November 2008 the present congregation celebrated this momentous occasion when the Revd Dr Kenneth Greet preached at the anniversary evening.
By 1820 the Methodists had outgrown their premises in West Borough and a purpose-built chapel called 'Ebenezer' was erected in the Corn Market, mainly due to the generosity of Joseph Sims and his brother-in-law John Meatyard, who sadly did not live to see the building completed.
The Society went from strength to strength, membership in 1828 was 54 and had reached about 100 when Wimborne became head of a circuit of 12 chapels with 350 members.
For 60 years Peter Hawke was a central figure in the Wimborne chapel serving as Local Preacher and Class Leader. He died in 1867 having outlived his wife and three of his children, but the legacy of his witness lived on and in 1869, the congregation having outgrown their premises even though they had been enlarged in 1846, a new church was built on rising ground in King Street. This building had galleries on three sides and could seat 650 people. It was an imposing building but rather impracticable and this was demolished in 1966 and the present church erected on the site and opened in October 1967.
Peter Hawke's memory lives on in the memorial window behind the pulpit which was brought from the previous church and has at its centre the initials P.H and the date 1867. See separate page (Memorial Window) for details of all those whose names are commemorated on the Roll of Honour.
In 2012, the Wimborne Circuit merged with the adjacent Christchurch and Lymington circuit of seven churches to become the present Christchurch and Wimborne Circuit, initially with 19 churches.
With thanks to Mrs Barbara Marriott for her research into the history of the church.