Wesley’s diary records several visits to Leith. Sometimes he was just passing through to take the ferry to Arbroath, on other occasions he also preached. Various rooms were used, some more suitable than others. On one occasion the crowds who came to hear Wesley were so large that the frame was removed from a first floor window and Wesley preached from the sill addressing audiences both inside and outside simultaneously!
A permanent home for the society was first found in a flat in Dock Street acquired in 1815 and thereafter a larger Chapel was built in Duke Street. Eventually the congregation moved to Great Junction Street and at the opening of the Chapel in 1868 the preacher was the President of Conference. (The Methodist Conference was established as the ruling body of the Methodist Church after Wesley’s death.)
In 1933 that building was replaced with the new Leith Methodist Central Hall on the same site.
‘Central Halls’ were designed as multi-purpose buildings. They were deliberately built not to look like churches. Religious services were held on Sundays, but the Saturday night entertainments were a huge attraction, intentionally in competition with pubs, music halls and the theatre! Small rooms were built to host community activities supported by income from ground floor shop rentals.
A major re-ordering of the building took place in 1986. The Great Junction Street frontage was sold off to help fund the creation of a bright first floor flexible worship space with cafe and meeting rooms downstairs. Members gave time, money and energy to make this a success including fulfilling ministerial functions when required. Lively choir concerts, Church Away Days and links with social projects in the area were a feature of Church Life at Leith.
Always firm that everything should be underpinned with prayer, the congregation also felt called to undertake various forms of outreach among young people in Leith both within and beyond the Church. Their faith and vision enabled a paid youth worker to be first employed in 1996. This work has expanded enormously over the years and continues now through partnership with YMCA Edinburgh, based in the church premises.