Todmorden, Yorks

Todmorden Edge Farm   Click to enlarge
Todmorden was visited by John Wesley 14 times between 1747 and 1790, but the early development of Methodism owed much to a former curate, William Grimshaw and the Scottish itinerant William Darney. Grimshaw's Haworth Round held Methodism's first circuit quarterly meeting on 18 October 1748 at Todmorden Edge Farm South, where one of Darney's societies had formerly met. Chaired by Grimshaw, it was attended by John Bennet, Darney and 31 class leaders, all but one of them men and including six from Todmorden. The first WM chapel was erected at Doghouse in 1783, and a second in York Street in 1827. Todmorden Circuit, formed in 1799, expanded rapidly in the following decade; but under the leadership of John Fielden, cotton manufacturer and radical reformer, the town later became a leading centre of the Methodist Unitarians, whose 1865 chapel was built for them by his son Joshua.

The Religious Census showed that by 1851 Todmorden had a higher than average proportion of Nonconformist worshippers, nearly half of whom were Methodists. In 1942 York Street WM amalgamated with Bridge Street (founded during the WMA secession of 1835-37) and the united society later moved into the York Street Sunday School building, redesignated Todmorden Central Methodist Church.


John Wesley's Journal:

May 1747: 'We then climbed up [from Shore] to Todmorden Edge, the brow of a long chain of mountains, where I called a serious people to "repent and believe the gospel". '

August 1748: 'I … rode to Todmorden Edge. Here several prisoners were set at liberty.'

June 1752: 'The minister was slowly recovering from a violent fit of a palsy, with which he was struck immediately after he had been preaching a virulent sermon against the Methodists. 'I preached on the side of a mountain to a large and earnest congregation…'

April 1755: 'About ten I preached near Todmorden. The people stood, row above row, on the side of the mountain. They were rough enough in outward appearance; but their hearts were as meltring wax.'

April 1780: 'I preached in Todmorden church, with great enlargement of heart.'

April 1782: 'I preached, about eleven, in Todmorden church, thoroughly filled with attentive hearers.'

July 1784: Between one and two I preached in Todmorden church; and, at five, in our own preaching-house, boldly situated on the steep ascent of a tall mountain.'

April 1786: 'How changed are both the place and the people since I saw them first! "Lo! The smiling fields are glad; and the human savages are tame!" '

April 1788: 'About ten we began the service in the church at Todmorden, crowded sufficiently. I found uncommon liberty among these poor mountaineers.'

  • M. & F. Heywood, A History of Todmorden (Otley, 1996)