Upper Eden Valley, Cumbria

Methodism came relatively late to the Upper Eden Valley, mainly because the area was a stronghold of the followers of Benjamin Ingham. Unlike George Whitefield, John Wesley did not involve himself until after internal divisions had greatly weakened the Inghamites' cause. A Kirkby Stephen circuit, with Brough as its head, was formed from part of the extensive Dales Circuit in 1803. Appleby became its head in 1823 and Kirkby Stephen took over the role in 1877. An 1881-82 Plan for the Kirkby Stephen and Appleby WM Circuit lists 29 chapels, most with two services per Sunday. The present day Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Tebay Methodist Circuit was formed in 1932 and comprised 34 societies as recently as 1982.

The first WM chapel in Kirkby Stephen, opened in 1809, was replaced in 1820 by other premises near the Market Square. Centenary Chapel was built in 1839, refurbished in 1899 and 1979, and now serves as the town's only Methodist Church. The first WM chapel in Appleby opened in 1823 in what is now Chapel Street. Appleby's present day church, in the Sands, was built in 1888 and has recently been substantially refurbished.

PM was introduced into the valley from Barnard Castle via Stainmore, a society being established in Brough in 1823. Other causes followed in the area, sometimes in rented premises, but the first PM chapel in Kirkby Stephen was not built until 1865, being succeeded in 1902 by the Fletcher Hill Chapel, which closed in 1979 and is now used by the YHA. The 1865 chapel is now a Masonic Hall. The first PM chapel in Appleby, the Rock Chapel, opened in 1874, and closed in 1936.

The WMA secession of 1835 considerably weakened the Wesleyan cause in Appleby and its surrounding villages, ten WMA societies being recorded in 1836 when the Appleby WMA circuit was formed. The Tabernacle, was built in Chapel Street, Appleby in 1837; rebuilt in 1873 (by which time it had become UMFC), it closed in 1952.

  • John Burgess, A History of Cumbrian Methodism (Kendal, 1980)
  • John Burgess, 'Methodism in Westmorland', in WHS Cumbria Branch Journal 8, 1980
  • David F Clarke, This Other Eden, (Penrith, 1985)
  • B. Anthony Dent, 'Bolton, Dufton and Appleby', in WHS Cumbria Branch Journal 64, 2009

Entry written by: RW
Category: Place
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