Farnhill Primitive Methodists

By Stanley Merridew

Readers of both the Wharfedale and Keighley journals may recall my previous articles regarding the Primitive Methodist movement in both Addingham and Eastburn.  In both I referred to “Silsden Primitve Methodists” by WJ Robson published in 1910.  This gives a detailed history of the churches and chapels within the former Silsden Primitive Methodist Circuit.

Farnhill was also part of the Silsden Circuit with evidence of a chapel from the early part of the nineteenth century, although it may have spent sometime in the Keighley Circuit.  This is apparent from the Keighley PM Circuit Roll Book dated 1833 which shows the following as being members at Farnhill:

John Todd (leader), Mary Todd William & Rachel Law, Henry, Elizabeth¸ Ann, Martha, Hannah, Peter & Holdgate Green, Jane Dinsdale, Jane Wilson, Martha Hewett, James & Henry Harrison, George Laycock¸ Robert & Sarah Lightfoot, Ann, Margaret  & Isabella Wilson, Isaac & Mary Overend, Elizabeth Bannister, Jacob & Thomas Lilley, William, Margaret & Thomas Spencer,  Hannah Day, Judith Parkinson, John Hill, William Shuttleworth, Lambert Smith, John Sutton, Peter Pedley.

A later entry in the same book for 1839, shows the congregation considerably reduced:

John Todd, James Harrison, Judith Parkinson, Mary Overend, Jacob Lilley, William Spencer, Thomas Spencer, Edmund Tempest, Margaret Todd & Robert Townsend.

The reason for the downturn is not apparent but could have been due to a reduction in employment in the village.  These early services would, according to the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, taken place preaching room was erected in Starkey Lane about 1830.   (I understand this was next door to the Wesleyan Chapel.)  This was enlarged on a number of occasions before being replaced c1899 by the building shown below on Main Street, backing onto the Leeds/Liverpool Canal.  This was still in use until very recently.  However a planning application for conversion into apartments is currently under consideration.

According to WJ Robson the superintendents of the Sunday School up to 1910 had included John Hill, Isaac Overend, Smith Laycock, Heaton Mosley, John Green Mosley, Anthony Spencer, Robert Mosley and Jabez Birtwhistle.  He gives some biographical detail and photographs of those involved with the chapel for example:

John Todd, born at Lotherdale, died 2 May 1854

Judith (wife of the above) died 17 October 1829 aged 39

Matthew John Barron, local preacher, founder of the Sunday school at Farnhill, died aged 80, 23 December 1898 at the home of his daughter, Mrs Cooper of Ash Street, Crosshills.

Jacob Lilley, local preacher for 39 years.

West Yorkshire Archives at Bradford hold many records concerning Farnhill chapel.  The following may be of most help to family historians:

Seat Rents 1864-1957, Sunday School Record Books 1926-1941, Attendance Registers 1936-1971, Roll Books 1939-1945, Choir Attendance Register 1923-24

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