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

Burnsall & Thorpe Overseers Records

Held at Northallerton Record Office

Rate books, sometimes referred to as Poor Rate books, detailing those who were paying the rate which was used at least in part to support the poor of the parish.  Here is an example:

Thorpe Rate Book 1869

Occupier Owner Description Situation
Rev Wm Bury himself tithe rent charge Thorpe
John Constantine Robt Proctor esq land & buildings Thorpe
Richd Constantine Robt Proctor esq House and garden Thorpe
Christopher Dean himself land  Colllin
Edward Green K Kitching esq land & buildings Thorpe
Stephen Herd himself land & buildings Thorpe
Stephen Herd Mr Horton land & buildings Cookram
Stephen Herd Mr Dawson land Pasture
Stephen Herd Mr Richd Hebden land Mickleflats
Anthony Hodgson Mr Hebden Hall House and garden Thorpe
Anthony Hodgson late Henry Featherstone Folly garden Thorpe
William Hodgson Rev J W Nowell land & buildings Essoe
W A Nowell Rev J W Nowell land & buildings Waddy
William Paley R Proctor esq land & buildings Langorton
Anthony Pinder late Sir E Tempest land Squire share
John Pinder R Proctor esq land & buildings Thorpe
Joseph Robinson Mr Thomas Lupton land & buildings Ings House
Joseph Robinson Linton poor land Poor grass
William Stockdale R Proctor esq land & buildings Thorpe
Bradley Simpson Mr Thomas Plets land Kay Cross
John Waite Mr Josias Atkinson land & buildings Thorpe

Signed by John Constantine & Stephen Herd, overseers and churchwardens.

The payments to individuals exempt from paying the rates are normally shown in the Overseers Accounts as it was the duty of the Overseers to collect the rate and distribute to the poor.  For example

Burnsall Overseers Accounts 1818/1819

Joseph Hudson house rent & turves £9-2-6
Ellen Knowles house rent & turves £9-17-4
Ann Hebdin house rent & turves £6-12-4
Hannah Kay house rent & coals £7-6-6
Margaret Knowles house rent £6-19-0
Henry Green Rent & trousers & clogs 18/4 £4-18-4
Dinah Verity house rent & coals £7-16
Nancy Pickover rent £4-17-6
Mary Nailor house rent & coals £7-16-0
Eliz Bumby house rent & coals £7-16-0

These records run from 1724 to 1869

Vestry Records held at Northallerton Record Office

Arncliffe Overseers of the poor records 1848-1849.

Charity records including Fawcett’s Charities 1632-1896, Topsfield’s Charity 1866-1909, Litton Dale Poor Money 1815-1860, Canon Shuffrey’s Charity 1928, general charity records 1830, Charity for Ecclesiastical Purposes 1984.

Henry Fawcett’s charity was established c.1619 by Henry Fawcett alderman of Norwich to give £10 p.a. to the minister of Halton Gill for teaching poor men’s children and reading service; the sum to be paid as a rent charge from an estate in Roughton, Norfolk; (see PR/ARN/8/5). Topsfield’s charity was funded by a close of 8 acres in Settle and a rent charge of 50/- p.a. from ‘Stephen Field’, at Halton Gill, given by Elizabeth Topsfield, daughter or widow of William Fawcett, to the use of the curate of Halton Gill, and the poor of Halton Gill and Arncliffe; (see PR/ARN/4/2/8 and PR/ARN/8/5). Litton Dale Poor Money was funded from the interest of a benefaction of £30 and was to be distributed to the poor; (see PR/ARN/8/5). Canon Shuffrey’s charity was set up to purchase fuel for the poor of the parish of Arncliffe with Halton Gill using the 4% interest of £100.

Chapel fund and charity accounts 1849-1871

Account book 1870-1895 1857-1883

Littondale poor money 1815-1885

Dalehead Poor money 1815-1834

1842 distribution of charity money


Churchwardens acc 1815-1861

Overseers 1724-1869

Thorpe rate books 1771-1965


Parish accounts including those of the chapel wardens 1742-1780, constables 1743-1825, churchwardens 1781-1994, overseers 1742-1874, and highway surveyors 1777-1819.
Records of poor law administration including apprenticeship indentures 1723-1801, settlement certificates 1720-1779, bastardy bonds 1761-1848.

Bolton Abbey

Churchwardens’ accounts 1855-1975.

Halton East charities 1864-1902.
School records for Skipton Grammar School 1548-1836, Skipton Girls’ School 1884-1919, Bolton Abbey School 1889-1895 and general school records 1880-1892.


Charity records 1901-1908.


Accounts 1771-1965