Cockfield (1835)

But nowhere was the change more apparent than at Cockfield. It had a most unenviable notoriety, and at one time was the rendezvous of the worst characters for miles around. The report in any of the adjacent villages that "the Cockfielders were come," was the signal for the people to look after their poultry, to make their property safe, and to put the constables on the alert. William Clowes, as we have seen, preached there three times in June 1820. Almost a year afterwards Samuel Laister was there, and on July 29th, 1821, held a camp meeting on Cockfield Fell the third assembly of the kind in the county and was greatly cheered by the fact that twenty persons found peace with God that ay. George Pierson held services in the village in 1823, but there is no record of any society having been formed until 1824, when Hewson and Flesher were in the circuit, Martin Durham, who founded a cause at Staindrop, and his wife being among the first members. Of the camp meeting conducted by Pierson on the Fell in 1823, he says there was a great number of people, "and several persecutors, but we came off tolerably well. Lord, have mercy on them."

Including a few from the country, Cockfield congregation never exceeded more than eight or nine persons when Mr Spoor entered the circuit in 1835, and the place was as low in morals as it was in religious feeling. The good old leader, J. Raine, was much distressed. In such a condition was the cause that William Young, of Ingleton, had often tried to get it taken off the plan. That was the plight of Cockfield when Joseph Spoor "stormed" it. When he arrived in the village he accosted the first person he met and asked him where Mr Raine lived. "Are you the new preacher?" questioned the man, who happened to be a member, and receiving a reply in the affirmative, invited the newcomer to tea, remarking at the same time that there would be few at the meeting. "Will there not?" quickly responded Mr Spoor. "Glory be to God, the place will be full!” After again shouting "Glory to God!" the man took fear, and bolted, leaving the preacher to find his way to Mr Raine’s house. The latter, though apt to despond, was one of those faithful souls who stick to their posts in the dark days as well as the bright, and to whom Primitive Methodism owes more than has ever been acknowledged. As he left the house to open the chapel doors, he told Mr Spoor not to hurry, as there would not be many at the service. I tell you the chapel will be full; glory be to God! shouted the young enthusiast in reply, and the leader went his way thinking the preacher an " odd chap."

Mr Spoor tucked his hat under his arm, put on a black velvet cap which he used at open-air services, and taking out his hymn-book, started from the door, singing down the street, frequently kneeling to pray, exhorting the people, and announcing the service. All this he did without a soul to help him. Presently he came upon a number of men collected near a brewery for sport, gambling, or annoying passers-by. He sang right into the middle of them, and knelt down and prayed most earnestly. "There s going to be a grand sale tonight at the Primitive Methodist Chapel," he cried out when he rose from his knees. "We are going to sell the devil up, and leave him neither stick or stool, and I am the auctioneer. The sale will commence as soon as I arrive at the chapel. You are all invited; come every one of you." He then sang away to the chapel, with a crowd following him. The place was packed, and as he prayed and preached strong men trembled, and many were the slain of the Lord. It was the turning of the tide in the moral and spiritual condition of that village, and the fruitage was influential for all time. There was persecution, but the attempt of a mad woman to blow up the loft in which a service was proceeding, and the conspiracy of some young men to knock away the prop supporting the upper apartment of a dwelling when it was crowded, were frustrated, and many of the conspirators and interrupters were converted. A number of the converts in the revival became able local preachers, and the famous Cockfield camp meetings are spoken of until this day.

‘Northern Primitive Methodism’ by W M Patterson, published 1909, page 72.

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