Cockermouth was missioned by John Parrott in 1834. He preached in the Market Place, and subsequently a camp meeting was held on Papcastle Common by the Carlisle preachers, and the love-feast was held in the old Theatre, at the Sun Barn. There is a minute in the Carlisle records of September 1835, authorising the taking of a room at Cockermouth, and it is presumed to be the rented room in St. Helen s Street, which was the meeting place for some years, after which a room was taken at Vinegar Hill. When the Wesleyans vacated High Sand Lane Chapel, the Primitives rented it, ultimately buying it. For almost fifty years they remained in this old sanctuary, in a yard, down a lane.
Multitudes were converted in it from time to time, but the character and situation of the building caused most of them to drift to other churches. "We literally fed the other churches of the town," says one who knows. A commanding work of grace took place there in 1882, which produced a revolution, and which is talked of until this day with fervour. Hitherto, probationers had never stopped longer than one or two years. Matthew Johnson, of poetic soul and literary gifts, combined with evangelistic fervour, was in his fourth year when he arrived. He remained five years. Previous to the beginning of the revival, Cockermouth had twenty-five members and contributed 3 10s. to the quarterly meeting. Downcast and terribly anxious, the young probationer determined that something must be done. Eventually, it was agreed that Mr Johnson should try a week of special services. Assistance was obtained from Maryport and Little Broughton, and the campaign opened on Monday, October 23rd, 1882, with a street procession, led by a brother who could play a concertina. Byers, Irving, Tunstall, and other Broughton stalwarts, together with the minister, gave exhortations and invitations to the chapel on the way. For seven weeks this went on night after night. It was a new thing in Cockermouth. At the start the chapel was well filled, and then became crowded. Conversions began, curiosity was awakened amongst all classes in the town, standing room could not be found, and shoals were swept into the Kingdom. "What a fervour marked everything singing, praying, speaking!" remarks Mr Johnson, as he recalls the scenes of a quarter of a century ago :
I see them yet as they were then. Old George Ritson, beginning to pray on his knees, but before he was finished he had been all his length on the floor, his great voice bellowing out, Glory be to God! and other ejaculations. Dear old Harry Williamson, an ex-Presbyterian (father of Mrs Robert Gillender), did good service; and John Clark, the father of the church, with his great frame and woman s heart and modesty, who had stuck to the cause through all its ups and downs, the beloved of the Sunday scholars. The few younger men there were also worked well, and the processions increased in number and in power, and soon the town and district were stirred as they had not been within living memory. Some young men from Maryport did splendidly. Everybody was willing to speak outside or in. Converts secured on the Sunday were found exhorting on the Monday. The converts were of all ages, and all churches benefited, including the Church of England. It was hard work, but how blessed! Numerically and financially Cockermouth became first in the circuit. We got the young men on to the plan as soon as possible, and one of them, J. E. Metcalf, went out as a minister to New South Wales, and is doing good work."
‘Northern Primitive Methodism’ by W M Patterson, published 1909, page 147.