A BLUE plaque has been unveiled outside a New Age shop which is believed to be the first building in Dorset to be used by the Methodist Church.

Research has revealed that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, held the faith’s first meeting in the county in what is now Body, Soul and Spirit in Gloucester Street.

The discovery was made on the property’s deeds belonging to shop owners Allison Chan and John Conway.

Methodist archivist John Russell enlisted the Dorset History Society to decipher the Old English language on the documents.

Methodist followers attended the plaque unveiling with Weymouth and Portland Mayor Ray Banham doing the honours.

He said: “This is a great day in the history of Methodism for Weymouth.

“We’re here to unveil a plaque illustrating that John Wesley came to Weymouth on September 6, 1776 to preach to people.

“John Wesley preached in this house in Weymouth to as many people as it would contain.”

Mr Conway, who opened the shop earlier this year with Ms Chan, said there has been a lot of interest in the building since the historical revelation was made.

“It’s a lovely discovery and a lot of people have been in asking about it. I think it’s become a bit of a talking point,” he said.

The Reverend Christopher Moreton, of the Methodist Church in Poole and Swanage, said it was an honour to be invited to see the blue plaque unveiled.

He said: “John Russell is a member of our church and asked me to come along and support the occasion. It’s so nice to see so many people here.

“It’s very interesting that we are here today for something that happened around 250 years ago and the gospel message of the people is still here today.”

Mr Russell said it was satisfying seeing his research come to fruition.

He added: “Knowing that 15 months’ research work has led to this plaque is satisfying.

“It should attract more visitors to Weymouth in the summer months. Methodists will want to come and see where John Wesley preached.”

Jo Hibbard, British heritage officer with the Methodist Church, said the shop will feature in the next edition of the church’s guide to Methodist sites in this country and will give Weymouth a boost.

She added: “I think it’s interesting that Wesley had a focus on bringing the spiritual and the physical together.

“It’s even more interesting to find ourselves in a period of history now in which we have discovered the Methodist movement began in a building that’s concerned with the spiritual.”