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
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:
Grassington W Foster 4
T Foster 14
Miss Foster 5
Mrs Powell 13
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
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:
Rock House Cottages 1878
Barden Tower 1884