Ruth Mason

History of Design

Loving Cup

Lead-glazed earthenware with underglaze transfer-printed decoration

12 x 20 cm

Title of Dissertation: Religious Space and Religious Practice – The design of nineteenth-century metropolitan Wesleyan space, 1861–1901

Previous studies in religious history have conventionally focused on official doctrinal and theological developments. Those focusing on the history of Protestant nonconformity have also overlooked its material culture and design, maintaining the pervasive belief that it had no material tradition. Taking late nineteenth-century metropolitan Wesleyanism as its case study, this dissertation challenges these historiographical trends. Inspired by Henri Lefebvre’s theories of space, it considers locations of Wesleyan practice as spaces created by a combination of architectural form, material objects, use and users. Using this definition of space, it compares the ideal designs of Wesleyan spaces officially promoted by the denomination’s leadership, with the nature of the spaces actually implemented by metropolitan followers. It thus develops a spatial approach to the design of religious locations in order to explore how Wesleyanism was practised rather than prescribed.

After opening with a discussion of the ideal character of Wesleyan space, this study goes on to investigate the implemented designs of metropolitan chapels and circuits. It concludes that although Wesleyan followers made attempts to achieve the ideals, in practice these aims were often impractical, unproductive or undesirable. Divergence from the ideal most commonly took one of two forms: being more heavily influenced by contemporary society than desired, or placing a greater emphasis on particular aspects of Wesleyan spaces’ theological goals, to the detriment of others. On occasion, such deviations resulted in the theological motivations of the movement being undermined; more often, they obtained the denomination’s theological aims to greater effect.

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Supported by: The Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship

© Victoria and Albert Museum Purchased through the Julie and Robert Breckman Staffordshire Fund, Victoria and Albert Museum, c.1–2002



BA (Hons), History of Art, St John's College, University of Oxford, 2010


Research assistant, Polesden Lacey, National Trust, 2010–11; House steward, Mompesson House, National Trust, Salisbury, 2009; Internship in the development department, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 2008–9


Gillian Naylor Award, Royal College of Art, 2011; Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship, Royal College of Art, 2010–12


Free from Censure: A Communion Token from the Scots Church London Wall, Ruth Mason, Journal of the Antique Metalware Society, 2011


Reading Methodist Space: The Design of Wesleyan Chapels in Nineteenth-Century London, Oxford-Manchester Methodist Studies Seminar: Inaugural Seminar, The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, Oxford Brookes University, 2012; Navigation Tools? Negotiating the 1862 International Exhibition Through Guides and Ground-Plans, Helen Cresswell and Christina Woody, Internationality on Display: Revisiting the 1862 International Exhibition , Victoria and Albert Museum , 2012; The Art of 'Art at Home': Domesticity and Commercialism in Late Victorian Britain , British Conference of Undergraduate Research , University of Central Lancashire , 2011