Methodism was probably introduced about 1770 by Thomas Slater of Shottle, who had welcomed Francis Asbury and other preachers to his farm kitchen. John Wesley is said to have paid a visit with him to Belper (unrecorded in his Journal), preaching in the market place and visiting the site of a chapel then under construction in Chapel Street (opened in 1782; replaced in 1807 on an adjacent site). Wesley's Journal records a later visit on 5 July 1786, when he was forced to leave the turnpike road and 'hobble over a miserable common' because Slater had announced that he would preach there on his way from Sheffield to Derby. He is said to have preached under a tree whose location was later a matter of dispute. A chapel said to have seated 1,400 was opened in Chapel Street in 1807; a large schoolroom, also used for some years as a day school, being added in 1841. In 1844 an organ and gallery were added behind the pulpit.

Benjamin Gregory recorded that the Primitive Methodists were very strong in Belper, 'a genial, hearty, earnest and a much respected people' on good terms with the local Wesleyans. It was at Belper, according to Gregory, that they were first called 'Ranters'. The first PM chapel was opened in 1817 and replaced by a larger building, seating 700, on the same site in 1822. It was renovated in 1844, with new seating and a singers' gallery behind the pulpit. New school premises were added in 1864-65. There was another PM chapel at Cow Hill.

The Wesleyan Reformers opened a 'handsome brick building', seating about 700, with a schoolroom below in 1856.


John Wesley's Journal:

July 1786: 'Notice was given, without my knowledge, of my preaching at Belper, seven miles short of Derby. I was nothing glad of this, as it obliged me to quit the turnpike road, to hobble over a miserable common. The people, gathered from all parts, were waiting. So I went immediately to the market-place, and, standing under a large tree, testified, "This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent." '

  • Charles Willott, Historical Records of Belper (Belper, 1885) pp.13-14
  • G. Arthur Fletcher, Records of Wesleyan Methodism in the Belper Circuit 1760-1903 (Belper, 1903)
  • Methodist Recorder, 2 April 1903
  • WHS Proceedings (1927-28) pp.111-13
  • George Barrass, Methodism in Belper (Belper, 1993)

See also

Category: Place
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