Methodists & Methodism Upper Wharfedale

By Stanley Merridew

Methodists & Methodism Upper Wharfedale

By Stanley Merridew

Upper Wharfedale was originally part of the Haworth/ Keighley Circuit.  The earliest recording of Methodism in the area was at Skyrethorns in 1763.  This was followed by early societies forming in Burnsall, Grassington, Hebden & Skyreholme.  John Wesley preached in Grassington in 1780 and again in 1782.  No doubt this would have increased his followers in the dale.

As time progressed and the number of his followers increased, the size of the circuits reduced and in 1810 Grassington became the head of a Wesleyan Methodist Circuit stretching from Barden northwards, taking in Littondale and the hamlets beyond Buckden.

The Primitive Methodist sect were also active, opening chapels at Grassington in 1837, Hebden, Howgill & Threshfield.

The voluminous array of records for the Wesleyan Circuit is held at Bradford Archives but there is little documentation of the Primitive Methodist movement.

The Wesleyan Circuit Schedule Records for 1838 & 1841 show the following chapels and the number of members:

                                1838   1841                        1838  1841

Arncliffe 9 4 Linton 10 10
Barden 10 10 Litton 5 4
Buckden 9 20 Skirethorns 8 9
Burnsall 11 4 Skyreholme 8  
Conistone 9 10 Starbotten 3 3
Grassington 123 87 Thorpe 7 9
Hebden 18 30 Yockenthwaite 7 6
Kettlewell 32 49      

It would appear the opening of the Primitive Methodist Chapel had affected the numbers across the road at the Wesleyan Chapel.  Note also no figure is shown for Skyreholme in 1841.  Many of these meetings were at this early stage still held in homes or barns.  One surviving minute book lists subscribers to the building of Buckden new chapel in 1891 and Burnsall new chapel in 1901. 

From the circuit schedule books for 1907 it is possible to deduce the decline in the number of chapels:

September 1907

Grassington              W Foster                    4

T Foster                   14

Miss Foster               5

Mrs Powell             13

Minister                      6

Hebden                      W Johnson            15

Burnsall                     W Stockdale          11

Barden                       Mrs Croft                    3

Kettlewell                   Minister                      6

Buckden                    Minister                      5

Starbotton                  Minister                      2

Conistone                 W Ingleby                  6

Handily for family historians these show the names of the class leaders.  These records for the chapels continue to 1971.  Also available from a report in 1897 is a record of when the chapels were appointed:

Grassington 1810

Rock House Cottages 1878

Hebden 1877

Kettlewell 1835

Buckden 1892

Burnsall 1840

Barden Tower 1884

Starbotten 1860

Conistone 1885