The Public Hall - Atkinson (1882)

Information from Rob Gorst

Richard Atkinson, known as ‘The apostle of the Dales’ was a gamekeeper who lived at a place called Grouse Hall in Garsdale, near Sedbergh. Grouse Hall is at the edge of the dale, almost in the remote valley of Grisedale, (branching off the main Garsdale- Hawes valley), the dale in which the Richard Atkinson Memorial Chapel was built not long after his death in 1884 (I think). The last I heard was that the poor land in the dale was all being ranched from farms outside, and the chapel was long since converted into a dwelling as the farming families that sustained it had all left.

He died aged 40, and his gravestone is in Garsdale churchyard. I’ve attached a photo of it, also detailing the premature deaths of some of his children, which you may be able to read. He had two daughters who lived at or near Bentham in North Yorkshire I believe into the 1940’s.

Unfortunately, Jack Dawson, a Methodist lay preacher who used to visit Grisedale in the 30’s with his preaching father, and who told me the stories of Dick Atkinson which he had learned from his mother and the old people of his youth, died about three years ago. The best resources for info about Richard Atkinson that I know of are

1) ‘The Dale that Died’, a book about Grisedale written in the 70’s which some of the locals will have and which can be bought on Amazon if you’re desperate enough . There’s a chapter on him in the book.

2) A tape of a talk given to the Methodist local preachers in Sedbergh, also in the 1970’s, by an old preacher called Chris Pratt (he’s the guy in the background on the cover of the book), who was brought up in Grisedale and used to catch moles on our family farm. I have a copy of it somewhere. He tells some of the legendary tales, particularly of RA’s gift of ‘second sight’ and his amazingly powerful prayer life. It’s stirring stuff given in a wonderfully broad dales dialect and inspired me greatly as a young man. If you want I could try and locate the tape and see if there’s any way I can transpose it and send a copy of it to you in some form.

Extract from The Dale that Died Barry Cockcroft p24-25

Perhaps the last major mission Dick ever undertook was also his greatest. It happened at Sedbergh, which had not had a revival for many years and the elders of the chapel were worried at the lack of support in the town. They went, as so many did to Grouse Hall to ask his advice and he is supposed to have said: 'Give me three days and then I'll tell you what God says He then went to look down upon the old market town which marks the place where the two great northern regions of beauty, the Dales and The Lakes, reach over to each other. He saw a mist coming out of the Public Hall, spreading around the town and penetrating up an adjoining dale. When the elders came back he told them to hire the Public Hall, nominated another evangelist and promised to help personally. When he did finally present himself after walking the eight miles from Grouse Hall they turned on him angrily and declared: 'You don't appear to be much concerned about the sinners of Sedbergh'What they did not know(and apparently he did not tell them) was that he had spent the week in prayer, again without much sleep.

But he turned their rebukes into mute apology by climbing into the pulpIt and weaving the Atkinson spell once again. The Sedbergh mission went on for sixteen consecutive and tumultuous weeks and went down in local history as 'The Great Revival'..........

Additional Information

This is where the revival took place.