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Keswick, Cumbria

John Wesley passed through Keswick several times, beginning in 1749, usually on journeys between Kendal and Whitehaven, but is not known to have preached in the town.

By the end of the 18th century, Keswick is recorded as being in the Barnard Castle Circuit. Robert Gates, a saddler and local preacher of Penrith, visited regularly at this time and in 1803 Keswick was transferred to the Brough Circuit. By 1806 meetings were being held in a cottage opposite the present day Crosthwaite Parish Room, prior to the first chapel being built in 1814 in Temple Yard, off Keswick Market Place. This chapel served the Wesleyan Methodists for almost 50 years. In 1818 Keswick became part of the Wigton Circuit. In 1835 Rev. Edmund B. Warters was appointed the first full-time minister resident in Keswick, but when a new Workington Circuit was formed three years later the Keswick minister moved to Workington. Keswick WM Circuit and Cockermouth WM Circuit joined forces in 1854 – an arrangement which has lasted for over 150 years. In 1863 a new Wesleyan chapel was opened in Southey Street.

A Primitive Methodist Society is known to have existed in 1840, but seems to have lapsed a few years later, before a revival in the 1850s led to the building of Tithebarn Street Chapel in 1869. Both WM and PM causes grew in the 1880s in line with the growth of tourism and residential development. Wesleyan Methodism advanced further in the early part of the 20th century under the patronage of Sir John Scurrah Randles, a West Cumberland Iron Master, a Conservative MP and son of Dr Marshall Randles, a former President of the WM Conference (1896). Southey Street Chapel was enlarged in 1909.

Keswick is the home of the Keswick Convention, which has been held annually since 1875. Frequent speakers have included prominent Methodists, such as Dr Charles Inwood (1851-1928), Dr Arthur Skevington Wood (1916-1993) and Dr Donald English (1930-1998).

Sources

  • Ernest W. Griffin, Watchers of a Beacon; Centenary Souvenir (1954)
  • Frederick A Benjamin and O M Mathews, Facet (sic) of Life in Keswick, 1757-1975: Methodism (Keswick, 1975). [ Benjamin’s collection of lantern slides is deposited in the Carlisle Record Office.]


  • John Burgess, A History of Cumbrian Methodism (Kendal, 1980) and Jottings from Keswick in WHS Cumbria Branch Journal 22, 1988
  • Norman Fishburn, Early Methodism in Keswick, in WHS Cumbria Branch Journal 23, 1989
  • Ian G Beattie, Wesley’s Cumbrian Routes, Part 1, in Cumbria Wesley Historical Society Journal 65, 2010

Entry written by: RW
Category: Place

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