Watchers of a Beacon: The story of the Cockermouth & Keswick Methodist Circuit
Transcription of a Centenary Souvenir, 1854-1954, by Ernest W. Griffin Parts II and III
PART II: 1854 -1954, “THE BEACON BLAZES”
The first Superintendent of the Cockermouth and Keswick Circuit was very appropriately the Rev. Robert Brown who had been the prime mover in bringing the circuit into being. His house in Cockermouth was the last on the left-hand side of Horsman Street. and his stipend was £80 a year. The second minister, who resided in Keswick. was the Rev. Joseph R. Cleminson, who received a stipend of £50 per annum. The first circuit stewards were Messrs. W. Thornburn and Anthony Furnace, and the circuit membership was 191. Prominent among the workers at Keswick at the time were F. Alexander, John Hewitson. Joseph Hutchinson and Joseph Spark; at Cockermouth there were the Thornburns the Todhunters Robinson Plummer and good Richard Bowman. Mr. Bowman, it seems, made a regular habit of having an apple lying on his table which he would sell to visitors for a penny in aid of the missionary box – afterwards begging the apple back again to do further service!
The second Superintendent was John Locke, on whom the biographer’s verdict is that he was a stirring sort of man but not above average as a preacher. He had, however, a vigorous and energetic wife! Mr. Locke published a book on theology, and it went through ten editions – chiefly on account of his good wife pushing the sales right and left! The Rev. William Unsworth was stationed in Keswick in 1856 when a great flood swept through, and submerged. the whole Vale of Keswick. It was caused by a heavy fall of snow, a sudden thaw, and then pouring rain; its effect was to make all the trees look like thorn bushes and completely suspend all traffic between Keswick and Cockermouth. During Mr. Unsworth’s ministry at Keswick, Jacob Holliday of Braithwaite was converted during a fellowship meeting. He went back to Braithwaite and embarked straightway upon forty and five years’ devoted service of his Master. He occupied every office his Church had to offer and his work was of inestimable value in pioneering the cause of Methodism at Braithwaite in company with two stalwart colleagues, Joseph Coats and William Hill. At this period, the thoughts of the leaders of the Keswick society were turning towards the acquisition of a site for a new Chapel. The old Chapel in the yard was, no doubt, the abode of angels, but, at the same time. it was a remarkably difficult spot in which ordinary mortals could meet and be comfortable. It was hard to find, and – when found-hard to enter without risking damage to life or limb due – among other things – to the loose boulders with which the entry was paved. Furthermore. just behind the Chapel, was an old tallow candle-maker’s shop and the persistent fragrance emanating therefrom was a seriously disturbing element in the weeknight meetings. A few more years had yet to roll by. however, before a new Chapel appeared.
The work was progressing well throughout the circuit-from Greysouthen, where the membership had reached the astronomical figure of 40 – to Scales, where Joseph Herd and Jacob Allison were tending the flock well. The farm-house kitchen services at Grange were by now well established, and at Brigham – in the Cockermouth section – a small chapel was built and opened in 1856. The following year, an organ was installed and dedicated in the Market Street Chapel, Cockermouth, the guest preacher for the occasion being the famous Dr. W. Morley Punshon, already growing into a Methodist “giant” of the nineteenth century. In 1858, the fortnightly services at Applethwaite were discontinued – partly due to the removal to Keswick of Mrs. William Hodgson who had been the mainstay of the little cause, and partly due, it seems, to the dubious practice of allowing the meeting-room to be used by another denomination – in this case, the Baptists- on alternate Sundays. As the minister in charge at the time remarked: “I do not think this arrangement answered well: two farmers on one farm is not likely to suit both parties: to whom does the produce belong?” At any rate, the Methodists vacated the hamlet as a preaching-place, and have not since returned. In 1859. Mr. Thomas Threlkeld, of Grange, built and promised to maintain. at his own cost, a separate room in the village wherein the Methodist society could worship until it were possible to build a Chapel. In 1860, the small Chapel at Dearham was enlarged, and – as at first – Tyson Rigg was almost solely responsible for the collecting of funds.
In 1861. three new preaching places appeared on the circuit Plan Dovenby, Redmain and Legburthwaite none of them alas destined to permanency. In the same year, Bassenthwaite disappeared from the Plan owing to the fact that the Primitive Methodists had become established in the village and had begun to build a Chapel; whereupon the Wesleyans rightly thinking that there was neither need nor room for both discontinued their meetings and joined with the Primitive Methodists, helping them substantially to raise the money needed for the new Chapel. In 1862, the Primitive Methodist societies in Cockermouth and district were transferred from Whitehaven to the Maryport Circuit. In the Cockermouth and Keswick Wesleyan Circuit however, there was dissent, that year, among the local preachers – some of whom objected to the name of a certain brother being retained on the circuit Plan after he had bought premises in Cockermouth for the making and selling of alcoholic licquor. There was heated controversy over the matter in the local preachers’ meeting, and. in the end, several preachers tendered their resignations. Another Chapel was added to the circuit list that year. when the tiny society at Sunderland accepted the free gift of’ a site from Sir Wilfred Lawson, and built a Chapel for worship, clearing all debts before it was opened. In this work, the Mumberson family, of 1scl Old Park. played a prominent part.
October 18th, 1863, was a great day for Keswick Methodists. In that year, the new Church – costing £l,205 – was opened and dedicatory sermons were preached by the Rev. Thomas M’Cullagh. The day was wet and unpleasant. but so great was the contrast between the old and the new premises, that the weather was completely forgotten . No longer would intending worshippers run the risk of colliding with the antiquated pump or fall over the various tubs barrels, ete. in the dark passage leading down to the old Chapel in the yard; the new building in Southey Street was easy of access and comfortable in proportions. The original trustees of the new Chapel were Anthony Furnace. Henry Cattle (through whose energies and enthusiasm, chiefly, the new building had arisen, John Tweddle, John Johnston, Joseph Spark. Mark Hodgson, William Keenliside, William Lupton, George G. Boulton, Thomas Threlkeld and Joseph Straughton. In the same year, a Chapel arose also at Embleton, and it was no longer necessary to use the home of Mr. Jonathan Grainger, at East House, for worship. The site for this Chapel was given by Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Mandale, and local friends who greatly helped on the work of building were Messrs. R. Pattinson, E. Thompson, J. Coulson, G. Armstrong and J. Wigham, so that the total cost of the building was only £127. Unfortunately, the foundations were laid over a hidden spring of water, and it was not many years before the building betrayed rents. cracks and bulges in abundance, and there was no alternative but complete rebuilding.
In 1864, a saintly local preacher from Dearham, William Blackburn, passed to a Higher Circuit at the early age of 47. Ministers changed with some frequency at both Keswick and Cockermouth in the 18GOs, but in 1867, the Rev. Patrick Pizey was appointed to Keswick. and was the first young minister ever to remain for three years in the town. In the same year, the Rev. Thomas Brighouse was appointed to Cockermouth as Superintendent. He came after a disappointment, for he had been invited to a much bigger circuit-but the stationing committee had directed him to Cockermouth. On his first Sunday evening at Market Street he said: “I have come to this circuit unexpectedly; you did not choose me: I did not choose you; but I have resolved to remain with you three years if all essential requirements be favourable.” They were. and he did! He was greatly loved as a Christian gentleman, and a living illustration of the fruits of the Spirit. He was an intimate friend of the Superintendent of the Maryport Primitive Methodist Circuit the Rev. Adam Dodds. They were often together at meetings in Cockermouth. and an unbiased observer once remarked that in business meetings any bitterness was immediately dispelled by the kindly words of Mr. Brighouse and the tears of Mr. Dodds. Also, in 1867 there seems to have been a resident Primitive Methodist minister in Cockermouth – the Rev. Thomas Wigham; unfortunately, he died in the town that year, in only the seventh year of his ministry. and was laid to rest in Cockermouth cemetery.
The flame of Primitive Methodism in the district continued to burn brightly. and the year 1869 saw two Chapels built and dedicated to the glory of God. At Little Broughton, the dedicatory sermon was preached by the Rev. William Graham. who had been converted as a lad, seventeen years previously in the class meeting held at Lancaster Todd’s house. At Keswick, the Tithebarn Street Chapel was built chiefly under the direction of the afore-mentioned lay agent, Joseph Jobling: members of the society at that time included Mr. Black (class leader). Tom Knowle. James Ferguson, William Robinson, William Park, Israel Hazelbrough. Cozen Watson, William Elliott, James Culling, George Telford and Henry Birkbeck.
In 1871. the debt still remaining on the Market Street Chapel in Cockermouth was finally cleared through the generosity of Mr. Joseph B. Thornburn. The Rev. Thomas M. Rodham Superintendent of the circuit from 1873 to 1876 was greatly loved: he afterwards returned to Cockermouth as a supernumerary died in 1900 and was interred at Cockermouth cemetery. In 1870. the services at Legburthwaite were discontinued. never to be resumed. In 1876, the Braithwaite Chapel was completely rebuilt at a cost of £250, and re-opened free of debt. 1876 was also a year when “revival” was in the air. Under the ministry of the Rev. Gregory Renton, the Wesleyans in Keswick received numerous converts some of whom later became prominent workers in the Chapel. In Cockermouth, the Primitive Methodists under the ministry of the Rev. Matthew Johnson, were also tasting the joys of revival and the High Sand Lane Chapel was filled with converts; the official records state that “souls were saved, night after night, for several months.”
In the mid 1870s the Keswick Sunday School Building scheme was launched, and the whole of the £400 needed was raised by the time the building was completed-a most commendable effort. In 1877, the Market Street Chapel at Cockermouth was completely renovated, and a new heating system installed. In 1879. Wesleyan services were recommenced, monthly, in Bassenthwaite – the place of assembly being the home of Mr. William Mandale at Dyke Nook Farm. In these days of schedules, statements and reports in abundance it is with a shock of incredulity, or a wistful sigh (according to temperament). that we learn that the June Quarterly Meeting in 1879 had “no business to record.” It was, however. at about this time that the Fern Bank manse was built. and taken over by the circuit as the Superintendent’s abode. Also, around this period, the Pardshaw Chapel underwent renovation and a much-needed porch was erected to keep out the keen east wind which sometimes threatened to blow the preacher out of the pulpit. In 1881. Robert McDowell, one of the stalwarts of the Lorton society, died, and left a sum of money for the maintenance of a Home Mission minister within four miles of Lorton. Unfortunately. the money was badly invested. and the tiny interest on the residue. being totally inadequate for the original purpose. is now paid into the circuit account each year.
In 1882. the Wesleyan society at Bassenthwaite took over the Chapel from the Primitive Methodists. who had been passing through the doldrums. and £75 was the figure agreed upon as the purchase price. A successful mission was conducted at the Market Street Chapel. Cockermouth by the Rev. John Gawthrop. At Brigham. the expanding society had found the 1856 Chapel quite inadequate and had built a new and larger one adjoining the old at a cost of £700. The new premises were opened and dedicated by the Rev. Thomas M’Cullagh on May 9th 1883. At Great Broughton also the old Chapel had proved too small for the work so a new Chapel and Sunday School were built on a close of land near to the old site. It was rumoured that the new buildings were erected on what was once the old Broughton Cockpit. During these years, circuit stewards included Richard Hogarth, Reuben Mumberson, Robert Mandale, P, Thompson and R, Henderson, of Keswick, together with Josiah Raine, Henry Fisher and Joseph Kerr, of Cockermouth. Local preachers in the circuit included Atkinson Steele, W, Tomlinson, Robinson Plummer, John Alcock, J, Abbott, W, Ostle, A, Grainger, R, G, Askins 2nd G, Heckles. In 1884, services were commenced in the village of Threlkeld, in cottages owned by Mrs, Greenwood, and later in property belonging to Isaac Todhunter. The Christian Workers’ Band opened a mission-room in the village two years later. and granted the use of the room to the Wesleyans on alternate Sundays. This arrangement has continued down the years. and is still in force at the present time. 
Meanwhile, the Primitive Methodists in Cockermouth had been looking for larger premises and eventually found them in the National Schools in New Street. These they purchased for £410 and then spent another £400 converting them into a Chapel. The Rev. Thomas Guttery, Chairman of the Sunderland District opened and dedicated the new Chapel in the presence of a great congregation on April 23rd 1885. The first trustees were John Clark, mill overlooker: J. T. Campbell. mill overlooker: Thomas Hetherington. tailor; Thomas Thursby tanner: John E. Metcalf, railway clerk: Thomas H. Fletcher, tinsmith; George Ritson, coal agent: William Grave, mill overlooker: Walter Scott, warehouseman: John Hinde, labourer: George Warwick, printer: Thomas M. Wilson, printer: Robert Hurd, labourer: William Rook, tailor; Robert Johnston, labourer: and Henry Williamson, engineman. The minister of the society was the Rev. Ralph Shields. It is notable that the chairman at the Opening Meeting was Mr. John Clark. who had been for over forty years a member of the society, and had also been one of the original trustees when the Primitive Methodists took over the High Sand Lane Chapel from the Wesleyans. For thirty-five years he had rendered outstanding service to the cause as Sunday School Superintendent. In the same month of that year. a great character passed to his reward – Tyson Rigg of Dearham. In the annals of Dearham Methodism, and -we think in the Lamb’s Book of Life, his name will stand for ever.
In 1887. alterations were put in hand at the Eaglesfield Chapel; the old high-backed pews were removed and-with the installation of the more roomy and comfortable seats now in use-privacy was sacrificed for convenience. The following year the present large Chapel at Dearham was opened and dedicated by the Rev. Thomas Brighouse. Renovations costing £40 were carried out to the Chapel at Scales in 1890 the whole cost being met by subscriptions. In this year the Rev. Atthul’ Brigg Superintendent at Cockermouth died-after a short illness-to the great grief of the entire circuit to which he had verily been a true father in God. He was succeeded by the Rev. John W. Henderson -the Rev. John W. Colwell having acted as ‘supply’ during the intervening months.
In 1893. the Cockermouth Primitive Methodist Society. which had prospered under the successive ministries of the Revs. Robert B. H. Hanley and Matthew T. Pickering, was detached from the Maryport Circuit and made the head Church of a circuit of its own – the other societies in the circuit being at Keswick, Dearham, Broughton Moor, Little Broughton and Blindcrake. The Superintendent who lived at Cockermouth was the Rev. John G. Bowran who afterwards rose to be
the President of the Primitive Methodist Conference, and who became well known as a writer under the pen-name of “Ramsay Guthrie.” At Blindcrake, a small Primitive Methodist Society had been in existence for a few years, and in 1894 two small dwelling-houses in .the village were converted into a Chapel. at a cost of £120, and the faithful members have met regularly in this Chapel ever since. Also in 1894 a Chapel was at last erected by the patient and persevering society at Grange. It cost just over £300. and was opened on July 12th, the dedicatory sermon being preached by the Rev. E. J. B. Kirtlan who later became well-known as the Rev. Dr. E. J. B. Kirtlan, B.A. a great “character” among Wesleyan ministers, and a predecessor of the present writer, at Hove.
The circuit steward of the Cockermouth and Keswick Circuit in 1895 was Mr. J. W. Lupton-who had already served the circuit for ten years as a local preacher-and who was well set on a life-time of faithful service to Methodism in the area. At the time of writing, Mr. Lupton is living-hale and hearty in his mid-eighties-in retirement at Barnstaple. Devon. The present writer-acknowledging gratefully the help afforded by the historical writings of Mr. Lupton, and the late Mr. Robin Plummer, in the compilation of this booklet-wishes Mr. Lupton every continued blessing as he proceeds steadily towards his “century.”
In the mid-1890s, concern was being felt in some quarters over the wide boundaries of the circuit and one or two committees were called, at the request of the Quarterly Meeting, to consider the division of the circuit. At one time, there was a proposal that the whole Cockermouth section should amalgamate with Maryport; at another, there was a suggestion that the Dearham society should be ceded to the Maryport Circuit; at yet another, it was mooted that Ullock should be transferred to the circuit from Workington. All these proposals, however, came to naught at the time and the suggestions were dropped.
Meanwhile, the work was proceeding steadily. In 1898, an organ was installed in the tiny Chapel at Sunderland with Miss Bewsher assuming the duties of organist. This arrangement was much to the liking of the local preachers, some of whom told almost libellous stories of the singing accomplishments of the congregation! A new harmonium was installed in the Keswick Church during the same year; the circuit seemed to be becoming suddenly music-conscious. Also in 1898, new ground was broken at Threlkeld Quarry, and in May of that year, services were commenced in the new Day School, kindly loaned to the circuit for the purpose by the directors of the Quarry. A Sunday School was also begun, under the joint superintendency of Messrs. John Morley and John Stuart of Keswick.
It may be of interest to note some of the prime workers in the various societies at the close of the nineteenth century. At Cockermouth, among others, the names of Tunstall, Drummond, Sealby, Kennon, Pape, Youdale, Clulow, Patrickson, Fisher, Robinson, Cawley, Eilbeck, Fletcher, Steele and Smaile were well in the limelight, whilst great sorrow was felt at the passing of three great stalwarts in the year 190D- Atkinson Steele -after seventy years’ magnificent service as a local preacher, Mrs. Palmer Robinson and Josiah Raine. At Greysouthen, Miss Carruthers, Messrs.
R. Hindmoor, Joseph Renney, W. Stephenson and J. M. Tweddle were the leading workers. At Brigham, Messrs. A. Kennard, S. Messenger and J. Thompson mainly carried the standard; Great Broughton was blessed by the labours of Messrs. J. and T. Gribbins, T. Gardner, J. Webster, R. Beattie, George Irving, C. Watson and Henry Henderson. Messrs. Jennings and Gill were indefatigable workers at Lorton; Embleton elders included the names of Bewsher, Gould, Allinson, Newbold, Gibson, Charters. Martin, Wilkinson. Mandale and Sharp; at Eaglesfield, Messrs.
J. W. Rothery. W. Bell, Matthew Fox. Charles Fox. John M. Fox, and Jonathon Huddart kept the torch blazing; at Pardshaw. Messrs. Lacklinson. Greenup and Radley. together with the Misses Wood, rendered signal service; in the Sunderland society. the names of Thirlwall, Bewsher, Hetherington and Maughan were prominent. Famous names at Keswick. at this time, were those of R. Henderson, R. Mumberson, P. Atkinson, W. Richardson, R. Hogarth, J. Iredale, J. W. Lupton, W. P. Mandale, J. Morley, J. Sewell, W. Spark and P. Thompson. At Braithwaite, the work prospered under the care of Messrs. Jacob and William Holliday, with the assistance of Messrs. Pattinson, Abbott and Lobb. At Grange, the leaders were John Gill, Charles Hill, George Mounsey, John Robinson, Joseph Thompson, Nicholas Woodend and Miss Threlkeld. The new venture at Threlkeld Quarry brought Messrs. J. Jordan, W. J. Love, S. Alderson, J. Rea and Mr. and Mrs. Noon into the circuit limelight, while at Bassenth¬waite, well-known Methodist names were Watson, Harding, Strong, Davidson, Graham, Raven, Thompson, Corfield, Laidlaw, Satterthwaite, Irving, Kinnear, Brough and Jackson.
The membership returns of the circuit, as at December 31st, 1900, are of interest; they were as follows :-Cockermouth, 103; Dearham, 29; Greysouthen, 2; Brigham, 7; Great Broughton, 22; Lorton, 4; Embleton, 8; Eaglesfield, 12; Pardshaw, 11; Sunderland, 4; Keswick. 90; Braithwaite, 19; Grange, 27; Threlkeld Quarry, 14; Bassenthwaite, 4. It will be seen from lhese figures that Greysouthen had fallen into very low waters, and in October, 1901, a circuit mission was commenced in the village, headed by Messrs. W. B. Goodman and Joseph Tunstall. This mission at once produced results, and new members were soon added to the society. It will also be seen that Scales does not figure at all in the circuit returns for the simple reason that for some months the congregations at the Chapel had consisted entirely of bare, wooden benches. While this state of affairs may have been quite welcome to, say, local preachers on trial, who need thus have had no fears of criticism of their eloquent discourses, it was, nevertheless, rightly considered to be a challenge to the circuit, and in March, 1901, a determined effort, headed by preachers from Keswick, was made to get the society on its feet again; this attempt, though brave. unfortunately produced no lasting results possibly because of the progress being made nearby at Threlkeld Quarry. Here, in October, 1902, the memorial stone-laying of the Chapel took place, the building being completed and opened in 1903, at a total cost of £1,050, the dedicatory sermon being preached by the Rev. John J. Brown. Chairman of the District. In the same month, the Society at Embleton transferred their services to a temporary meeting-place at the farm-house of Mr. Lobb. Netherscale, while the old Chapel was pulled down. and a new one built on the same site at a cost of £450. The builder was Mr. John Gibson, who remained in life-long membership at the Chapel he had built, dying-full of faith and years-in 1950.
Extensive renovations had also been carried out, in 1902, to the little Chapel at Greysouthen, including the re-seating of the entire building, and the replacement of the old pulpit by a new rostrum and communion rail. Circuit stewards, during this period, induded J. Morley and P. Atkinson, of Keswick, together with Noble Patrickson and W. H. Youdale, of Cockermouth. When the Superintendent of the Cockermouth and Keswick Circuit-the Rev. William G. White-was taken ill soon after his advent to the circuit in 1902, and was unable to work for nearly twelve months, the Rev. E. J. Bennett Richards, a pre-collegiate, was sent to act as his supply. After his college course, Mr. Richards returned to the circuit, and ministered at Keswick between 1906 and 1909. In 1908, the Primitive Methodists at Little Broughton carried out alterations to the Chapel property, and built a Sunday School on to the existing premises. A leading light in the society at this time was Mr. Jack Byers, who went on to give a lifetime of faithful service to the Chapel he loved. In 1909, the Southey Street Church at Keswick was enlarged and remodelled, a generous subscriber to the cost being Sir John S. Randles, M.P. In 1910, after many years of deliberation, the Dearham society was transferred to the Maryport Circuit where it has remained ever since. This was the first large link in the chain to be broken. and with this transfer. an association with the old circuit which had lasted for eighty years came to an end. A further link was to be severed, with the final closure and sale of the little Chapel at Scales -an event which took place during the Great War, the same procedure being followed, some twenty years later, at Sunderland.
The Cockermouth society, however, had an eye to the future even in time of war – like Jeremiah at Anathoth. The members negotiated for. and finally bought, a site in Lorton Street in the year 1914, with the intention of building a new Church – a project that had, perforce. to be postponed for several years.
The Rev. W. Woodman Treleaven had been invited to the circuit as Superintendent in 1918, but he died shortly before he could take up the appointment, and Conference designated his son-the Rev. Woodman Treleaven. M.A. to fill the vacancy for one year; Mr. Treleaven, despite his short stay was not forgotten in the circuit, and he returned as Superintendent in 1936. Circuit stewards, in 1918, were Mr. J. H. Fawcett. Cockermouth. and Mr. J. W. Lupton, Keswick-the latter serving in this capacity for the second time. In 1925, when Mr. Mossop Fox and Sir John Randles were circuit stewards. Conference granted permission for the sale of the still-unused Lorton Street site at Cockermouth. Happily, this power was not used. and with the advent to Cockermouth of the Rev.
W. Talbot Ellams in 1920, plans were speeded up for the building of a new Church. In 1928. when the circuit stewards were Mr. T. Sealby. Cockermouth. and Miss Sarah Potts, M.A., Keswick, the Rev. Seth Swithenbank took over the Superintendency and with his coming the designation of the circuit was inverted to read “Keswick and Cockermouth.”
The stonelaying of the new Lorton Street Church at Cockermouth took place in 1931, and on April 26th, 1932, the Church was opened and dedicated by the President of the Wesleyan Conference the Rev. Dr. C. Ryder Smith, B.A. The great rejoicings of that day had but one cloud the fact that one of the prime movers and most energetic workers for the new Church-Mr. F. J. Pape had passed away very suddenly some few weeks previously. The whole premises cost something in the region of £7,000. In the following year. the old Market Street Chapel was sold to the Urban District Council for £325, and it now fulfils the distinguished role of Town Hall. At the end of the 1930s. the little Chapel at Lorton which had been struggling for many a year finally closed its doors for public worship and except for a few months in the summer of 1949 it has remained closed ever since. But there were other building ventures. however. during the 1930s, including the erection of new schoolrooms at Bassenthwaite, Eaglesfield and Pardshaw.
Inspired by the spirit of reunion conversations at all levels took place between representatives of the Keswick and Cockermouth Wesleyan Circuit and the Cockermouth Primitive Methodist Circuit, during the mid¬1930s, with a view to official amalgamation. These negotiations came to a successful conclusion when, in September, 1937, the fusion of the two circuits took place, and the two Methodist beacons at last became merged into one. The circuit however was divided at first, into three definite sections as regards both financial and pastoral organisation: the Keswick section was under the charge of the Superintendent the Rev. Woodman Treleaven, M.A the Lorton Street section was under the charge of the Rev. Wilbert Walton and the New Street section came under the care of an active Supernumerary the Rev. Harry M Hull.
This arrangement lasted throughout the war without alteration save in the personnel of the ministerial staff But the Rev. Joseph Coombs who was both Superintendent of the circuit and Chairman of the District from 1946 to 1950, paved the way for a complete amalgamation of the sections within the circuit and during the ministries of the Rev. E. Grieves Smith and the present writer this reorganisation was brought about. In 1950, the Cockermouth section became one single unit, and for two years a lay pastor assisted the minister in exercising pastoral over-sight. In that year, the Dearham ex-Primitive Methodist Society was transferred to the Maryport Circuit, being followed, in 1951, by the Broughton Moor society. The year 1953 saw the problem of redundancy in the villages of Great and Little Broughton solved temporarily and, be it hoped, permanently by the fusion of the ex-Wesleyan and ex-Primitive Methodist societies in those villages, the two societies meeting together for worship in each Chapel alternately. In the same year, the New Street ex-Primitive Methodist Church in Cockermouth, after a long and honourable history, closed down, and those members who were willing to do so, joined the Lorton Street society. Having thus put its own house in good, internal order, as far as is at present possible, the circuit may surely face the future with confidence and with faith.
It is impossible to close this section without paying tribute to certain stalwarts who are still serving the circuit, after many years, and whose faithfulness shall surely merit the promised reward of the Crown of Life. First among local preachers of the Keswick and Cockermouth Circuit is Mr Tweddle Stephenson, who has rendered forty-five years’ uninterrupted service in the pulpits of the circuit, and who has worked devotedly as Sunday School Superintendent and Class Leader at Great Broughton for more years, probably, than he cares to remember. Mr W. H. Thompson, J.P., and Mr T. J. Forsyth-the latter now giving excellent service as circuit steward-have also an unbroken record of service, as local preachers, down the years. From the old Primitive Methodist Circuit, veteran preachers include Messrs Fred T. Henderson, Richard Lindsay, Fred Askew, Robert T. Metcalf and Joseph W. Carter. Among stewards, those who have, over the years, more than satisfied Paul’s requirement that “a man be found faithful” are Mr. T. H. Pearson, of Southey Street Church, Keswick, who has served for over thirty years as society steward, and has also served for a term as circuit steward; Mr. Robert T. Metcalf, of Tithebarn Street Church, who has undoubtedly done more for his Master in that society than any other living man; Miss Mounsey of Grange, the Misses Lamb of Threlkeld Quarry, and Mrs. Clark of Bassenthwaite ladies who have done “a man’s Job” for their societies through the years. At Lorton Street, one cannot overlook the names of Messrs. Tom Sealby, John T. Gill and George Nelson, among a host of others, who for more than thirty years have fought the good fight and kept the faith. And what shall 1 more say? For the time will fail me if I tell of the Corjetts and the Carruthers of the former New Street society, the Byers and Hendersons of Little Broughton, the Misses Law and Mr. Hetherington of Blindcrake, .the Tiffins and the Gibsons of Embleton, and Mrs. W. Mossop of Pardshaw – all of whom, through faith, from weakness were made strong, and waxed mighty in fighting the good fight. Apart from stewards, there are, indeed, many others – far too many to mention individually whose loyalty and love throughout the years have been at the same time the mainstay and the inspiration of the circuit.
Finally, the circuit has a record of young men sent into the ministry of which it may justifiably be proud-both as regards the number and the calibre of its candidates. Included among these are John Relph, Daniel Sanderson, William Graham, John Snaith, Mayson Penn, William S. Tomlinson, Robert Mandale, John Hannah, J. Johnston Roe, John R. Reid and Alan Whittle – all of whom may be regarded as “old boys” of the circuit.
May there yet be many more who, having lit their torch of faith from this Methodist beacon among the Cumbrian mountains, shall go forth to hold it high as ministers of the Church at home and overseas.
PART III. 1954 – ? “HEAT OR LIGHT’!”
The title of this booklet was given with purpose aforethought. The task of a beacon is to radiate not heat but light. We may disregard here its post-sixteenth century use as a warning of danger or a sign of celebration, but dwell upon its earlier function, in this country, as a direction indicator on peak, castle ramparts or harbour wall. Watchers of a beacon would not, therefore, gather round it in order to warm themselves at the fire – but would observe its light from afar as a guide through the darkness of the night.
The flames of the Spirit which brought this circuit into being were not kindled in order that men should gather into a circle round the fire as a mutual admiration society: they were lit so that the light of God’s eternal truth in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ might shine forth as a beacon in the darkness around. to guide travellers on their pilgrimage through the world.
It has been pleasant and, I hope. profitable to look back. But our faces must now be turned towards the future with the firm resolve that we shall be not unworthy of those who have gone before us in the faith; for “they, without us shall not be made perfect.”
Here may be recalled the story of that very brave woman Gladys Aylward who, after being rejected as a missionary candidate by austere and somewhat remote committees, still felt the urge of the Spirit to do work for God in lands overseas. Feeling frustrated, and very concerned as to what God would have her do, and yet being convinced that in some way He would make the path plain, she picked up her Bible, and-opening it at random – happened upon the story of Nehemiah. She read how Jerusalem had needed him – and he went. Then she heard a Voice -“Is Nehemiah’s God your God?” “Yes,” she answered. “Then do as Nehemiah did,” said the Voice. “But I’m not Nehemiah,” she said. “No,” said the Voice. “but I am still God!”
And He is still God today! The God of John Wesley and Robert Gate, Richard Bowman and Moses Rayner, Joseph Thornburn and Thomas Threlkeld, Jacob Holliday and John Clark-and all the others in the Methodist story told in these pages – their God is still our God! And if we can be true to the spirit, the principles and the loyalties of those who have gone before us and put our trust also in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever-we may surely claim, in John Wesley’s words, that “the best is yet to be!”
May the light of this Methodist beacon among the fells and vales of Cumberland ever burn more brightly, and may it thus be the means of leading countless more travellers home to God!
“We are watchers of a beacon whose light must never die,
We are guardians of an altar that shows Thee ever nigh:
We are children of Thy freemen who sleep beneath the sod:
For the might of Thine arm we bless Thee, our God, our father’s God.”
(M.H.B. 715). (Charles Silvester Horne).
Peter Nicholson, February 2013