We sent our history correspondent to Middleham this weekend, 14 May. The Methodist Chapel was celebrating 220 years of Methodist worship in the town. The current chapel building is 100 years old. The current crop of worshippers there organised a weekend of celebration; with a concert by Leyburn Ladies Choir on the Friday evening and a service on Sunday evening led by the Rev David Wood.
Our correspondent arrived Saturday afternoon towards the end of a day when coffee, tea and cake were being served. There was an exhibition in the chapel itself describing the history of the chapel in Middleham and several others in Wensleydale. Suitably fortified by the excellent refreshments served by the lovely folk of the chapel the exhibition was visited.
A number of people had dropped in throughout the day and were able to see a timeline outlining the years of Methodist worship in Middleham. This was supported by several excellent drawings of buildings in the town linked to the Christian community over that time.
One key exhibit was a letter that had been discovered as a result of someone in Wiltshire seeing an advert for the event on the circuit website; the letter dates from 1817 addressed to Elizabeth Duckworth from John Claridge on behalf of Lord Ailesbury threatening to evict her from her house in East Witton if she continued to hold public worship assemblies there. It wasn't until 1882 and a new landlord before a Methodist chapel could be built in the village.
There were also Sunday School registers and accounts books to be examined; there were circuit plans where the Local Preachers were listed and numbered; and the number appeared against a church and time; this was many years before squad numbers appeared in top flight football!
The building looked in pristine condition and the congratulations are due to the organisers for all their hard work and making this interesting event happen.