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  • Writer's pictureMrs Helen Hughes (May 1941)

1925: Formal Opening

On October 23rd 1925 the formal opening of Wesley House took place. At noon the Principal conducted the earlier part of a service of Dedication in the Lecture Hall (below the Library) which was crowded with representative Methodists and members of the University.

Dr Ritson, then President of the Conference, took charge of the proceedings later and preached. He spoke also with much appreciation of the welcome given to Wesley House by the University, especially by the Master and Fellows of Jesus College. Mr ES Lamplough accompanied the hymns on the harmonium and Mr Gutteridge was on the platform. For him it was a day of great thankfulness. The feelings of those present were well expressed in singing "Now thank we all our God" and "We come into our Fathers' God".

At 1.15 a distinguised company met for lunch at the Lion Hotel. The Principal who presided had on his right hand the Vice-Chancellor (Dr Seward, Master of Downing) and, on the left, Dr Ritson (the President of the Conference). Mr Gutteridge, Sir Thomas Barlow, the Mayor of Cambridge (Mr Hartree), the Secretary of the Conference, Mrs Ritson and Mrs Hughes were also at the High Table.

Amongst the guests were the Master of Jesus College, the Master of Selwyn, the Master of Christ's College, the President of Magdalene, the Master of Trinity Hall, the Principal of Newnham, the Public Orator (Dr Gloven), the Regius Professor of Divinity (Dr Havine), Prof FC Burkitt, Prof Bethuse-Baker, and Prof Sir Arthur Quiller Couch. Nonconformity in the University was represented by Principal Oman of Westminster, Principal Cave of Cheshunt, Dr Andersson Scott and Dr Carnegie Simpson. Among other guests were the Headmaster of the Leys School, the Chairman of the East Anglia District, Dr WTA Barber, Dr Workman, Prof Lofthouse, Mr John Finch, Mr HW Payne, Mr RE Holloway, Mr RJ Holloway, Mr ES Lamplough and the students of Wesley House. Dr Riston proposed "Our Guests" to which the Vice-Chancellor replied, and the toast of Wesley House was given by the Regius Professor, to which the Principal and Mr Gutteridge replied.

After lunch the Principal led some of the guests back to Wesley House, where a delightful little ceremony took place in the Dining Hall. Sir Thomas Barlow presented a portrait of his life-long friend, Mr Buckstone Browne, the eminent surgeon, and that he himself had greatly admired for a long time. To his great joy, Mr Buckstone Browne had given him the portrait on his eightieth birthday and now he wished Mr Gutteridge to accept it for Wesley House. After Mr Gutteridge had suitably acknowledged the gift, Mr Buckstone Browne gave an interesting story of his association with it.

The portrait hung for some years in the place of honour in the Dining Hall. It represents an elderly gentleman in a russet coat, his scanty grey hair framing a face of quiet and attractive strength. It is attributed to Romney and resembles in some respoects his "Portrait of a Young Gentleman" which hangs in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Mr Buckstone Browne believes that it is a portait of John Wesley. For a while correspondents to the Times and other papers debated the points of subject and artists. The controversy died, but the portrait remains, the valued gift of two devoted and generous friends. Mr Buckstone Browne also presented a china bust of John Wesley by Enoch Wood.

During the afternoon the President of the Conference and Mrs Ritson held a Reception for the Methodists of Cambridge and the District for whom tea was provided in the Common Room and Dining Hall.

At 6pm there was a Methodist Meeting in the Lecture Hall under the Chairmanship of Mr Gutteridge. After prayers by the Rev H Bisseken, Headmaster of the Leys School, and apologies for absence had been read, Mr Gutteridge told of the events which had led up to that "happy day". He referred with deep gratitude to friends who had helped the scheme but who had passed away:- Mr William Greenhalgh, Mr Albert Read, Sir Henry Holloway and Mr Williamson Lamplough. He said it was hoped to build a College Chapel and a residence for the Principal some day. The President (Dr Ritson) followed with an address on the Wesley quotations in the Library "The best of all is God is with us" and "I look upon the whole world as my parish". Dr Barber, the Rev FL Wiseman and the Principal also spoke. And so, with prayer and thanksgiving, Wesley House took its place as one of the Theological Colleges of Methodism.

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