Methodists & Methodism Washburn Valley – Castley to Norwood Bottom

By Stanley Merridew

The lower part of the valley was part of the Otley Circuit whose records are housed at Leeds Archives.


Isaac Atkinson is credited with starting Methodism in Castley around 1820, although a record of a chapel can only be gleaned from the name Chapel Hill Lane.  He was a tenant of Castley Hall farm and Castley Manor Farm.   I understand Chapel Hill Lane was diverted when the railway came, so possibly the chapel was pulled down at the time.  In 1851 the chapel census was signed by John Adamson.

From the Wesleyan Roll we can deduce the society was very active at this time judging by the number of names shown comprising the Dickinson, Hannam, Hutton, Mundell, Newby, Parker, Pickard & Rodgers families.


The village appears in the Keighley circuit records as early as 1760.  However, it is not until 1776 that the house of Joseph Mawson was licensed for preaching.  The applicants were Lee, Harrison, Brown, White and Rayner.    Later in 1799 the home of Robert Walker was licensed.  On this occasion the applicants were Potts, Brown, Stead, Richie and Armistead.  The chapel was erected in 1826.  The land was bought from John Stead and the cost was met by loans over many years from J Taylor of Weeton, W Clapham, T Renton and William Rodgers

At the time of the religious census in 1851 the steward was Joseph Kendall.   The following signed the Wesleyan Roll: Job Gill, Grace A Morrell, Joseph Kendall, Robert Kendall and several members of the Fearnside family who are shown as “of York, lately of Leathley.


The village is mentioned in the circuit records as early as 1785 although the chapel was not built until 1836, Licensed in the name of John Gill.  He appears in the Wesleyan Roll as “In memoriam – a faithful Methodist of the old school.”  Also listed is John Morrell, “In memoriam – One of the most earnest & devout Christians the Circuit has ever known,” plus Alfred Ingle and members of the Hutton & Wood families, including William Wood, shown as steward & leader.  The Religious census of 1851 was completed by Samuel Roundell.  The chapel records 1836 to 1975 are held at Leeds Archives.


There appears to be no record of a chapel at Lindley.  However, James Myers, “Eventide Review of Primitive Methodism in the Otley Circuit”, published 1920, mentions regular services held originally in the home of Rupert & Hannah Young at Lindley Wood and later in the farmhouse of the Davies family.


The hamlet appears in the early records but it was not until 1903 that a chapel was erected.   George & Ada Carver, James & Christopher Crabtree, William Dale & Mary Halliday appear in the Wesleyan Roll as of “Clifton.”   Mary Halliday is noted as having saved her guinea in threepenny bits.  Northallerton hold the marriage register for 1982-1983 only.

Norwood Bottom

The chapel opened on 1920 and is still in use today.  However the Methodist cause was evident for many years previously.  W F Seals, “Methodism in the Otley Circuit” 1974, mentions services held at the home of Mrs Davy from 1856.  This could be George & Jane Davy who were living at Brass Castle in 1851 but had moved to Leas Bank Hall by 1861.  By the turn of the century the Wesleyans were using the old banqueting hall at Norwood Hall, the home of the Smith and Shepherd families.

The Primitive Methodists held open air meetings at Sword Point in the middle of the nineteenth century and also at Bride Cross House above Dob Park Bridge. The Wesleyan Roll shows – Robert Smith of Norwood Bottom, “Steward, leader, upwards of 40 years ministers & local preachers have been welcomed in his house.   Norwood would be poor indeed without this family.”  Other members of his family are also listed along with Jesse & Ann Wall.


The building was erected in 1835 as a school but shortly afterwards the Robinson Library opened and the school moved there allowing the Primitive Methodists and later the Wesleyans to takeover.   Susannah Holmes paid her guinea for the 20th Century Fund.

Timble Methodist Sunday School Outing 1928

Rear: Alec Wray (driver)

Back row: Billy Ward, Andrew Dickinson, Herbert Proter, Edith Dickinson, Alice Proctor, John Ward, Lily Wise, Willy Dolpin, Thomas Gill, Agnes & Mark Bradley with son Harry

Middle row: not known, Mary Dickinson, Sally Dickinson, Doris Ward, Mary Dickinson with grandson Geoffrey Ellison, Emma Dolphin

Front row: Alice Gill, Harold Beecroft, Rhoda Ellison, Alec Ellison, Nancy Ellison. 

Life in Castley Lane

By JM Parish

First published in the Wharfedale Newsletter September 1993

The recent report in the Wharfedale (Wharfedale & Airedale Observer) concerning a proposal to build houses in Castley Lane brought memories flooding in.   The house in Castley Lane – each with a piece of land going down to the river – were originally built by the West Riding County Council.  The land was made available by Squire Fawkes as smallholdings for ex- servicemen a few years after the end of the 1914-18 war.  My parents were among the first tenants.  At number one the sign read:

                   SEPTIMUS GARDENER Maker of Gardens – Seedsman – Florist Closed on Sundays

These were the GARDENERs, members of the Methodist Church in which Mr Gardener was a local preacher.

I forget the name of the original family at number two.  They were followed by the LONGBOTTOMs, who were there for many years before moving to Pool.  The BLANDs were at number three then the PODMORE family at number four.  Mr Podmore, who was disabled, did hairdressing and I believe, insurance collecting.

Next were the DENTONs, (still there I think), and at number six were the O’HALLORANs with a poultry farm.  They lived opposite “the big tree”, a landmark known to all.  At number seven were Mr and Mrs JAGGER and at number eight the LEACH family.  Mr Leach was a remote figure, working permanently on the night shift at Pool Paper Mill, so when playing there we had to be quiet.

Number nine bore the sign:

DOBBY Joiner, Painter & Poultryman

I remember helping their lively, high-spirited grand-daughter Myra, who lived with them, to turn the handle of the small mill which kibbled the whole grains into the right size for the chickens.  Mrs Dobby and next door’s Mrs STONEHOUSE – (I believe the WHITEHEADs lived there first) – used to catch the bus at the end of the lane to Bradford with baskets of eggs to sell there to regular customers.

At number eleven (where the son’s widow still lives) were the KITSONs, next door to us at number twelve.  Their daughter, Joyce and I being of an age, grew up together, until Mother (then widowed) decided to move to Otley, after the river had flooded twice.  One year it stopped level with our front doorstep and the next time came into the house.  The family of Norman HUDSON, a motor mechanic with a false leg, were at number thirteen.  He built up a small haulage business.  The GLOVERs were at number fourteen.  Mrs Glover worked part-time as a cashier at the cinema in Otley.  At number fifteen were the LUPTONs and at number sixteen the WEDGE family.

Most of these families had children around the ages of my sister and me.  We all walked to Pool school together and played hopscotch, skipping, whip and top and marbles in the road outside our houses or ranged through each others’ houses and gardens at hide and seek or bobbies and thieves.   As well as calling at each others houses people would meet when out walking.  How we walked!  It was a recreation and a necessity and visitors were always taken for walks.  Only Mr Hudson and later the farmers, had motor vehicles and people would often walk down the lane from the bus stop together after having been to Otley.  I remember on summer Saturday nights, with the bedroom window open, hearing the farm men passing by, singing Nellie Dean.  All the men who didn’t have businesses were in work, some at the mill, some on farms and others in trades.  All had large gardens, most kept hens and some had a pig or two.

My father, William (Billy) Lupton DENISON, being from a family of butchers, used to kill the pigs for people.

When I think back it is surprising, with the size of the families, how many also had lodgers, sometimes unmarried brothers or sisters.  Castley Lane supported many people.

I don’t know the lane now, or if you could call it a settlement but originally it was a community which didn’t draw its skirts aside from neighbours but shared their lives with them.  I am truly glad I grew up a Castley Laner.