in physical ruggedness, rising at times to grandeur, Weardale,
Nentdale, arid Upper Tynedale, together with Alston Moor, have
been glorious in spiritual force and beauty. Both the spiritual
and physical aspects of the territory are attractive, but our
limitations forbid an excursion among the heather-clad hills,
the naked scaws, the wooded bluffs, the brawling falls, the sylvan
glens, the expansive fells, and the floral-decked banks of the
streams; or to narrate the weird tales and romantic traditions
of a sterner day.
And the people! An engaging theme for the physiologist and psychologist: the physique, cast of mind, temperament, and habits of the pure Dalesman. W. D. Judson (Aldersgate, 1902) declares that one of the most representative Dalesmen living says: We are as much Scotch as they are in Fifeshire. The fact that Weardale at one time formed part of Strathclyde; the prevalence of Scotch names, words, and phrases; the mental and spiritual characteristics of the natives all spell Caledonia. We agree with Mr. Kendall that John Wenn hit upon a happy description of Northmen, and especially of Dalesmen, when he spoke of them as being anthracite in temperament. Northerners, continues Mr. Wenn, are not exactly comparable to carpenters shavings, soon alight and quickly extinguished; rather do they resemble anthracite in the slowness of its combustion and the retention of its heat . . . capable of sustained religious fervour could they but once be kindled. And kindled they have been from generation to generation since George Lazenby, Jane Ansdale, Anthony Race, F. N. Jersey, Thomas Batty, John Oxtoby, and others travailed in birth for souls in the highlands of Durham, Cumberland, and Northumberland. Volumes could he written on several topics hinted at.
some time after his arrival in Weardale before Thomas Batty saw
the arm of the Lord made bare in any marked degree. He passed
through bitter nights and laborious days, and he seemed to be
spending his strength for naught. Crowds attended the services,
but they could not be got to join the societies. There was one
night of awful depression. At that time Joseph Walton, leader
of the first class formed at Westgate in May, 1822, and one of
the mightiest men in the opening era, was fully in the fray,
and Batty had returned to the leaders house from what seemed
to have been a fruitless service at Ireshopeburn. The preacher had waded through snow, slush,
and water, and was in extreme gloom of soul. He could not speak
to Joseph; he could only sigh, and groan, and weep, so deep was
his distress. At last be told his host that if he could not succeed
soon, he would have to leave. Walton replied that he must try
a little longer, and he was cheered by the conversation they
had. A man who kept a tollgate between St. Johns Chapel and Prize,
with whom Batty lodged one night, also comforted him. The tollgate-keeper
was not at that time converted, yet he said :If, you will come
and preach about here every night for a week, you will soon have
a hundred people in society. . . . You do not know the people
as well as I do; they often stop and talk With me at the gate.
The man declared: The whole country is under convictions. Batty
took the tollgate-keepers advice, and the prophecy was fulfilled.
Ireshopeburn preaching place had been closed to the missionaries, but they soon had the choice of other two, as Anthony Race had said they would; and when Batty went to preach at Low Rigg, he found the congregation too large to be accommodated in the house, so he preached in the open-air. Before he had been speaking a quarter of an hour, a person fell down under the word, and cried for mercy. He was carried into the house, and a mighty prayer meeting commenced. A small society was formed that night, and the revival started. The magnitude of it may be gathered from the numerical returns of the branch for 1823. In March, when the revival began, there were 219 members on the roll; 308 were reported in June; in September the number had more than doubled, being 625; and in December, when there were five preachers on the ground, 846 members were reported, having multiplied almost fourfold in nine months. In the following quarters further substantial increases were reported, and Mr. Muschamp might well say to Mr. Batty: I think all the people in Weardale are going to be Ranters.
From the day Johnny Oxtoby entered the Dales, signs and wonders accompanied his ministry. On the second day after his arrival at Westgate, an extraordinary display of saving power occurred at Swinhope Burn the meeting in which Emerson Muschamp was converted and two days afterwards he was at Hunshalford. Held a fellowship meeting; three or four were sanctified wholly, and eight justified. That is all John says about the occasion in his journal; but George W. Armitage, who accompanied him, gives a full and glowing description of the service:
What took place at Hunshalford became a common scene, and the matter got noised abroad. Men travelled distances of twenty miles to get sanctified, and many devout Wesleyans attended the services for the same purpose. Two or three months after these manifestations began. Mr. Armitage confessed that he had not received the blessing so many declared they had obtained; but he sought it earnestly, and obtained it, while waiting quietly upon God in Bro. Watson's class at Westgate. I felt, he says, changed more fully into the image of the invisible, and filled with perfect love, perfect joy, and perfect peace. Several more were similarly affected in that class meeting, some being so filled with the fulness of God that they lay on the floor speechless. Such days were never seen in Weardale before.
Weardale has been the theatre of a succession
of phenomenal spiritual upheavals since the opening days. Each
from the beginning is generally known by the name of the leaders,
such as Batty, Oxtoby, Sanderson and Simpson, McKechnie, Lister,
Peter Clarke and John Watson,
Rust, Phillips, Lowery, Snaith, and others, not omitting Miss
leaders of that church, most of whom have since then passed into
the higher service, were kings o men. George Harrison, tall,
thin, alert; quaint, devout, practical; who lived to see his
eighty-seventh year, after a service of sixty years as class-leader.
Mary, his wife, whose encouraging words in the hours of depression,
Thomas Greenfield confessed, saved me to the work. Joseph Featherstone
(stepfather of Mrs. Emerson Phillipson and Mrs. T.
J. Watson), a commanding personality;
kindly, judicious, true; untiring in labour as a local preacher,
class-leader, and Sunday School superintendent; honoured by his
circuit as delegate to District Meetings, as also by his District
in being sent to Conferences, and elected to representative bodies
by those outside his Church. George Featherstone, a studious
local preacher, anxious for the intellectual progress of the
young. Featherstone Phillipson (father of John and Emerson),
a man of exceptional gifts, who spent the earliest years of his
married life in Canada and the United States, who was also called
upon to occupy front positions in the church and in the industrial
life of the people, and was one of the prominent figures, with
Hugh Gilmore and Dr. Livingstone, in securing a School Board
for Weardale in 1871-2. Nicholas Whitfield, a mystic of deep
and intense spiritual life and a successful soul-winner. And
Ralph Whitfield, Frank Pearson, and many other consecrated men
and women. What wonder, after the flight of decades, the hearts
of youths of that period should grow tender with such hallowed
Beyond the names of the mighty already mentioned, there is a host throughout the circuit recorded in the Book of Life: John Crowther and John Coultard; Joseph Stephenson and John Kidd, of Burnfoot; Thomas Lonsdale and Ralph Lee, of Westgate; Joseph Longstaff, John Featherstone, and William Vickers, of Stanhope; Cuthbert Fairless, of Rookhope; John Robinson, of St. Johns Chapel; and Joseph Collinson, of Frosterley, of blessed memory, among the number. Nor shall it ever be forgotten that from Frosterley went Joseph Jopling, the simple, saintly, successful evangelist, to give his life for the saving of men. There are the Watsons, the Waltons, the Gibsons, the Elliotts, the Pearts, and the Humbles also. Fanny Peart, of Lanehead! The very mention of her name will recall memories in the minds of many readers. In any, conversation about Primitive Methodism in the Dales, she holds a place apart. Her own grandsons Charles and Frederick Humble speak of her with affectionate enthusiasm. Her home had a prophets chamber, and what a number of the old ministers she had entertained in that farm-house. Her interest in her church was exceptional; she gloried in serving it. What a gift of prayer she had, and what faith! Emerson Humble was the first member and official of the Lanehead society, and Jonathan Humble (his son and Fanny Peart's son-in-law) was also a leading official and local preacher. Hannah English, of Wellhope, should also be mentioned; and Thomas English to-day gives his useful and unostentatious service to Whitley Bay society.
|It is questionable whether any similar area in the Connexion has given more men to the work of the ministry than Weardale. Beginning with Anthony Race, William Lonsdale, and William Dent, the list of men living and dead is a commanding one. Joseph Featherstone, Anthony Dent, Joseph Gibson, William Bee (for many years a Connexional leader in Canada), John and Timothy Nattrass (brothers, who also ministered in Canada), John Watson (writer, college principal, and President), John Charlton, Featherstone Watson, John Featherstone, John Elliott, John Phillipson (a gifted preacher, who has himself given a son to the ministry), Emerson Phillipson (Johns brother, who has bought or erected connexional property of the value of £33,000), Thomas Elliott (who has a high place in the ministry), Thomas J. Watson, Joseph James, Harrison Walton, Joseph Tweddle, Burnhope Dennison, Charles Humble, and Frederick Humble form a goodly succession. Joseph Rutherford is also a Weardale man, and many other sons or grandsons of natives arc serving in the itinerant ranks at home and in the colonies.|
Primitive Methodism", W.M. Patterson, London, 1909
Transcription: Andy Williamson; more of this book on his Revivalism web site