Mount Zion: Celebrating John Wesley

This article was originally shared on The Methodist Blog on 21 February 2024 and written by a member of the Connexional Media Team. You can find the original blog here: Mount Zion: Celebrating John Wesley – Methodist Church

This April marks 250 years since John Wesley first preached at Mount Zion. The Chapel stands at Upper Brockholes, in beautiful surroundings on the edge of Ogden Moor in Yorkshire. Visitors often comment on the fact that the building looks as if it has come straight out of one of the Bronte sisters’ novels, which is not surprising as the Bronte family started life in nearby Thornton and it’s possible to walk across Ogden Moor to Howarth.

Mount Zion may look idyllic in the sunshine, with its dramatic backdrop of moorland, however Wesley’s initial impression of the original 1773 chapel’s location, was not altogether favourable. He stated in his journal that ‘I rode to Bradshaw House, standing alone in a dreary waste. But, although it was a cold and stormy day, the people flocked from all quarters’ and the ‘house afforded hospitality and shelter for man and beast’.

The latter comment is significant as the existence of Mount Zion, was in part due to the inhospitable climate, which had previously caused problems. In 1772 a snowstorm resulted in impassable drifts, which left a visiting preacher stranded for a week at a Methodist society member’s house. Consequently, it was decided that a chapel was needed and in 1773 Mount Zion, Bradshaw (so called because of its location in the Anglican parish of Bradshaw), opened its doors for worship. John Wesley regularly preached at Mount Zion, staying in the cottage which still adjoins the chapel in a small first floor room now known as the ‘Prophet’s Chamber’. He made his last visit in 1790 aged 87.

In 1797 when the New Connexion led by Alexander Kilham, broke away from the Wesleyans, the ‘Kilhamites’ outnumbered the latter at Upper Brockholes. Consequently, the Wesleyans met in a barn directly opposite the chapel, leaving the New Connexion to meet at Mount Zion. Local legend has it that there is an underground tunnel which connects the chapel and the barn.

The meeting house was replaced in 1815, but the original foundation stone is still evident in the vestry and the 1773 sundial presides over the front exterior. The pew rent board remains in situ in the vestry and the Belgian organ from 1892 is in working order. The chapel also houses the Horace Hird collection of Methodist ceramics and a growing collection of artefacts, Methodist memorabilia, and archive material.

Regular worship at Mount Zion ceased in 2014, when it was designated as a heritage chapel. However, services still take place at least six times a year to mark key points in the Christian calendar and to celebrate important events such as the 250th Anniversary of Wesley preaching at Mount Zion, which will be marked this year on Sunday, 21 April, with a special service celebrating Mount Zion’s continuing presence in the local community. The celebration will be led by Reverend Kathie Heathcote and District Chair Kerry Tankard, with an address from Methodist Vice-President, Kerry Scarlett.

The chapel will be open to general visitors, who wish to explore the building, its collections, or take in aspects of its extensive monumental graveyard. A small sample of tapestries from the Weardale Museum, will be displayed in a mini-pop up exhibition. These fascinating modern tapestries, created by volunteers, chronicle the history and achievements of Methodists and Methodism across the years. It’s a great opportunity to have a sneak preview.

This event is an example of the aspiration for Mount Zion, to remain a special place in the community, even in this age of the ‘World Wide Web’; a solid, permanent reminder of the fact that generations of ‘people of faith’ have brought us to where we are today, creating a heritage, which although firmly rooted in the past, may still inform the present and influence the future; inspiring people of all faiths and none, to learn about, cherish and seek to preserve this heritage and to add their own stories to those which the chapel already tells.

By Diane Hadwen


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