Kendal, Cumbria

Kendal was one of the places where Benjamin Ingham established a society, but it had already foundered by the time of Wesley's first of several visits in 1753. Francis Gilbert lived briefly in the town in the mid-1760s, but Wesley found the work seriously hampered by doctrinal wrangling. No lasting Wesleyan society seems to have been established until Stephen Brunskill, a local preacher from Orton, began preaching in the market place in 1787. Kendal was at first in the Dales Circuit; then from 1791 to 1794 in the Barnard Castle Circuit and then in Lancaster Circuit until a separate Kendal Circuit was formed in 1805. This was an extensive circuit with small widely scattered societies, even during the years 1878-1900 when a separate Ambleside circuit existed.

The society at first rented an old playhouse, buying it in 1795. In 1802 they moved to The Fold, a former Independent meeting house in Stricklandgate, before building their own chapel at the junction of Stricklandgate and Burneside Road in 1808. A Sunday School was opened on the premises, and also a day school which amalgamated with the Kendal Green British School following the introduction of compulsory education in 1880. A larger and more prestigious chapel was built on the same site in Stricklandgate in 1882 and is still in use, with renovations and extensions to the premises in the 1980s and early 21st century. Closer relations with the Kendal United Reformed Church raise the possibility of an amalgamation of the two congregations.

A visit in 1850 by Samuel Dunn and William Griffith to advocate the Reform movement met with little response despite some support from other nonconformists.


John Wesley's Journal:

April 1753: 'I preached … in a large, convenient room (the weather not allowing me to preach abroad), where Mr. Ingham's society used to meet. I was a little disgusted at their manner of coming in and sitting down, without any pretence to any previous prayer or ejaculation; as well as at their sitting during the hymn, which indeed, not one (though they knew the tune) sung with me. But it was far otherwise after the sermon, for God spake in His word. At the second hymn every person stood up, and most of them sang very audibly; and the greater part of the society followed us to our inn, nor did they leave us till we went to rest.'

June 1764: 'A few years ago the fields here were white for the harvest; but the poor people have since been so harassed by Seceders, and disputers of every kind, that they are dry and dead as stones; yet I think some of them felt the power of God this evening; and can He not "out of these stones raise up children unto Abraham"?

[Next day] 'I preached abroad at five; and, I believe, not in vain.'

April 1765: 'We rode on to Francis Gilbert's, at Kendal, where ther is now a real work of God. The genuine Gospel now takes root, and sinners are converted to God.'

March 1767: 'I preached at six, and spent a comfortable night at Serjeant Southwell's.'

April 1768: 'Seceders and mongrel Methodists have so surfeited the people here that there is small prospect of doing good; however, I once more "cast" my "bread upon the waters", and left the event to God.'

  • Cornelius Nicholson, Annals of Kendal (2nd edn., 1861), pp.166-7
  • Journal of the Cumbria Wesley Historical Society, no.70, Autumn 2012