Burley Meeting Report

Thursday 3 October 2019 by Susanne Young

The Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society met 3 October and community historian Robert Schofield presented his talk ‘The Early Methodists of Wharfedale’.

Preacher Benjamin Ingham, from Ossett, came to Wharfedale in 1738 and married Lady Mary Hastings, sister in law of the Countess of Huntingdon. His son founded the Inghamite societies of West Yorks and Lancs. John Nelson, a stone mason from Birstall who was not on good terms with Ingham, developed societies around Bradford, Keighley and Otley and introduced John Wesley to the area. William Darney, a wandering pedlar and shoemaker known as Scotch Will, was a powerful Calvinist preacher who set up societies in Calderdale and Rossendale. He fell out with the Wesleys. John Bennett took over Darney’s societies and founded Methodism in the area. He fell out with John Wesley when he married Wesley’s ‘intended’ Grace Murray. William Grimshaw, Haworth curate and close friend of John Wesley, established the large Keighley Circuit which extended from Elland to the Scottish border. He converted Jonathan Maskow from Burley in Wharfedale who became a preacher. Thomas Colbeck, a grocer from Keighley, was a preacher in the area and married Sarah Flesher of Otley. On 30 April 1748 Bennett and Colbeck were entertained in Ilkley by Ellis Cunliffe and his wife Elizabeth Lister.

When Grimshaw died in 1763 William Fugill compiled records of the Keighley Circuit which provide a fascinating account of early Wharfedale Methodists and are currently held at Keighley library. These records include societies in Otley, Burley in Wharfedale, Addingham, Askwith, Grassington, Keighley and Haworth. Members’ names, occupations and addresses are recorded and their commitment or otherwise to the cause is noted on four separate occasions, ranging from ‘pure’ to ‘asked to leave’. 

John Ritchie and his wife Beatrice Robinson were prominent Otley Methodists and John Wesley stayed in their home there. Wesley conducted Ritchie’s funeral in Otley Parish Church indicating the inclusive nature of the established and non-established churches at that time. The Ritchies are buried in Otley churchyard together with often forgotten preacher John Bretell. The Ritchies’ son became a preacher and their daughter Elizabeth became Wesley’s companion and house-keeper and nursed him before his death.

The Society’s next meeting will take place 7.30pm Thursday 7 November at the Salem Church Hall, Burley when Phil Judkins will present ‘Confusions Masterpiece: The D Day Deceptions’. Members and non-members welcome.

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