Westgate - Primitive Methodists (1822)
In the autumn of 1822, the late excellent and useful Thomas Batty, was appointed to Barnard Castle Branch of Hull Circuit, and soon after his arrival there, he and his colleagues visited Weardale and the neighbourhood, and their labours were crowned with uncommon success. Crowds of persons went to hear them; many were pricked in their hearts, and soon found peace through faith in Christ.
The late J. D. Muschamp, Esq., was among the early converts,he speedily fitted up a barn for worship at Westgate, which was generally crowded to excess, so that many persons went half an hour before the appointed time, in order to obtain a seat. It was encouraging to the missionaries to find the place full of attentive hearers at the commencement of the service, many of whom had been for some time earnestly singing the praises of God, and in a prayerful and devout spirit were waiting to hear the preached Word. And that Word ran like fire among them, and multitudes were converted. "For a whole year,” says Mr. Batty, “I never heard any one inquire, ‘What sort of a meeting have you had?' The usual inquiry was, ‘How many souls have you had to-night?' meaning how many have found peace through believing?” From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p146.
“Those who remember the number of miles we travelled over high and rugged mountains," says Mr. Batty, "and through deep valleys, frequently through swollen streams in the gloomy winter season, or over lonely fells, with weary limbs, aching bones, blistered feet, sore throats, and hoarse voices, caused by incessant labour and fatigue; generally preaching three times on the Sabbath, frequently four times, besides attending prayer-meetings, leading classes, and walking many miles, will be ready to admit that our toil was great, and our hardships, sorrows, and privations, numerous. But our Heavenly Father gave us strength according to our day, and gladdened our hearts with the conversion of many souls. From the night we formed a little class at Low Rigg, the work rolled on with great rapidity, and filled the country. Such a work had never been known there in the memory of the living. It was chiefly among lead miners and colliers." The moral reformation which took place among the people was great and striking. Intemperance and its kindred evils were well nigh abolished; a drunken man could scarcely be met with where drunkards had formerly swarmed in great numbers,— and industry and virtue generally prevailed. "We had many enemies of one kind at first," says Mr. Batty, “but now their mouths are stopped, and we have got enemies of another kind, — the publicans, because their custom is lessened, many drunkards having become sober. On the other hand, we are getting a few friends among the tailors, some persons who formerly went in rags being now able to get new clothes; and we have many friends among the women, whose husbands were drunkards, spending much of their time and money in public-houses, but who, having become sober, they have now the comfort of their company at home, and the pleasure of going with them to the house of God." An occurrence which took place during the erection of a new chapel at Westgate, further illustrates the beneficial reformation which had been effected among the inhabitants, and the influence which it exerted upon candid minds in the higher classes. With a view to save expense, the miners employed their vacant hours in getting stones for the chapel out of the river or brook, which contained many stones such as were used for building in the neighbourhood. But information was laid against them before the authorities it being affirmed that as the stones tended greatly to break the force of the torrent which flowed down from the mountains during heavy rains, the next flood that came would be likely to wash down the bridge. Orders therefore were issued forbidding the miners to get any more stones out of the brook, and the erection of the chapel was thereby interrupted. The case found its way to Durham, and was brought before a meeting of magistrates and other persons. There it was stated that ‘the Ranters ' were taking stones out of the brook at Westgate, for the purpose of building a chapel, and that this would be likely to cause the bridge to be carried away, if a strong flood should come." An inquiry was started, "Who are the Ranters?" One person replied, "Well, gentlemen, you know what trouble you have had with the people in Weardale through poaching. You have fined them, and imprisoned them, and have used all the means in your power to amend them, and have failed; but the Ranters, so called, have gone among them, and have preached the Gospel to them, and a great reformation has taken place. They have been the means of doing more good among them than all the magistrates in the county of Durham ould do; and now the people want to build a chapel, and are getting stones for the purpose." This testimony was decisive. Permission was immediately given for a sufficient number of stones to be collected. The building went on again, and in due time was opened for religions worship. From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p147-8.
The building marked is the old Primitive Methodist Chapel, the building attached to it is the new one.