Methodism was brought to Benalla in 1853 by the Rev. John Ride, a veteran evangelist of the Primitive Church Connexion. John Ride was born in Derbyshire in 1789 - during the lifetime of John Wesley. He was accepted as a candidate for the ministry shortly after his twenty first birthday.
He was ordained and began his life as an itinerant preacher, preaching outdoors and holding cottage prayer meetings. In common with other outdoor preachers, he was stoned, harassed and persecuted. He was shown no sympathy by the magistrate and with others was taken to court on trumped charges of holding unlawful meetings.
The magistrate imposed a goal sentence on him and he spent three weeks in the Liverpool Prison. Later he was goaled again in the Winchester on similar charges. He was eventually cleared of these charges.
In 1849 the call came from the infant colony of Victoria as a Preacher of the Primitive Methodists. John Ride sailed from Southampton in August 1849 arriving in Melbourne on the 17 January 1850. His fame as a preacher had preceded him and he carried out his itinerant ministry - often travelling long distances on horseback to preach. For two years he was the only Primitive Methodist minister in the Colony.
In 1853 John Ride's health failed and he was superannuated from the active ministry and with his wife Martha, moved to Benalla, where their son had a business in Arundel Street north near the Black Swan flats. Shortly afterwards, they moved across the river to the east side and lived in 'Ivy Cottage.' With the growing population, John Ride found the need from the proclamation of the Christian message there being no resident minister of any denomination. So again he began preaching, holding outdoor services under a gum tree at the corner of Mitchell and Benalla streets, as well as conducting cottage prayer meetings.
Requests were sent to Melbourne for a full time minister in the late 1850s. The Rev. William Walton, newly arrived from Yorkshire, arrived in Benalla in November 1860. The Rev. Walton set about organising meetings to appoint officials and hold the first Quarterly meeting. A Chapel was built in 1863 on land near the intersection of Barkly and Salisbury Streets. At the same time a Mission House was built opposite
The Chapel was opened on the 3 January 1862. The Rev. John Ride, greatly wishing to be present at this historic occasion, was taken by horse and gig, but was too ill to be taken into the Chapel - but his wish was granted - he witnessed the service through an open window. John Ride passed away just two weeks later, on the 19 January. John Ride was buried in the Benalla Cemetery. Ride Avenue Benalla commemorates the name in Benalla. From ‘Methodism in Benalla and District 1853-1975’ by Keith George.