« The Glorious Dales -- Revival in Weardale »
Extracts from the book by W. M. Patterson (1909)

[visual emphasis added e.g. Watson]

Glorious 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.


It was 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:

While many spoke of the goodness of God, a mighty power came down, It struck one (a believer) speechless; two others fell to the floor in great agonies, and rose praising God for what they felt. Another man began to pray for a clean heart, which he received; and soon after he was so filled with the perfect love of God that he jumped up and down, shouting Glory! with all his might. His countenance testified the reality of what he professed he was indeed extremely happy. sinners then began to tremble before God, and presently five or six fell down and cried for mercy. . . . That was truly the beginning of good days. . . . The members grew in faith, and, when they began to pray the power came down, and frequently struck one and then another down, till sometimes six or eight lay on the floor together.

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 Bulmer.

Lanehead was the scene of the outbreak in William Lister's time. It began at the usual weekly prayer meetings, at which a young man who had been at a funeral was converted. At a watch-night service, in the same week, and on the following Sunday, when Mr. Lister preached, several more were converted, and for many weeks thereafter crowded services were held nightly, and the society was lifted into a stronger position than it held before. It was William Lister who put
Dr. John Watson on the plan as a local preacher. Henry Phillips was his first superintendent when he entered the ministry in his native circuit, and they saw the might of the Most High displayed in transformed lives. The revival during the superintendency of Mr. Phillips commenced at Frosterley in 1861. The society had entered a new chapel (built on the site of present one), and the occasion created widespread interest. People flocked in such numbers to the new place that a complaint arose that it was too small. In about two months the society increased from 68 members to 147. Joseph Makepeace was one of the prominent workers at that time. Like a fire the revival spread throughout the circuit. In spite of wretched winter weather, the chapels were crowded. Men had sleepless nights on account of spiritual distress, some of them were compelled to walk miles to obtain salvation, and numbers were called out of bed in the dead of night to pray with souls in trouble. John Lowery, of Gateshead, and his wife were then labouring at St. Johns Chapel, where a comparatively large chapel had been built in 1852, and for six weeks the converting work went on. As the outcome of that movement over the circuit hundreds of new members were added to the roll. Not long afterwards there was another gracious visitation at nearly all the places in the station, in which Peter Clarke and his colleagues laboured strenuously.

After having spent many years in the ministry, John Phillipson still cherishes in his memory a prayer meeting at Wearhead on a Sunday evening in 1868, after George Race, jun., then in his youthful strength, had preached. Some two hundred people, he says, had gathered in the body of the church:

While they sing and pray there was heard a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, and the hosts of God were mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. The whole place was moved. The people swayed like the ripening corn-fields in the autumn winds. What a volume of song I What power in prayer What patient waiting I There men and women sing and pray until every heart catches the fire. What a holy fervour, depth of love, strength of faith, and joyous hopes find expression. No wonder that a number of seeking sinners find their Saviour in that prayer meeting.

But the 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 memories!

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.

Source: "Northern Primitive Methodism", W.M. Patterson, London, 1909
Transcription: Andy Williamson; more of this book on his
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