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Brief History of Temple Street Methodist Church

A familiar view of Keighley's industrial townscape, painted by Harry Turner in 1947
Keighley's industrial townscape, painted by Harry Turner in 1947

Methodism arrived in Keighley in 1742 with the conversion of John Wilkinson a journeyman shoemaker. Under his leadership a group of 10 people met together each week in his cottage where they sang a hymn or a psalm, read a prayer and held discussions. After three months of meeting in this way the Lord spoke to Wilkinson and he began to preach. His first convert was Thomas Colbeck a twenty-one year old town businessman who played a great part in taking Methodism to the towns and villages for miles around and became one of the main trustees for most of the early Methodist Chapels in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

On 25th February 1746 John Wesley made his first visit to the town and met Wilkinson and Colbeck. From small beginnings grew the great ‘Haworth Round’ as the Circuit was called, stretching from Keighley to Whitehaven. Within a year the ten original people who met in John Wilkinson's cottage had grown to 100.

Temple Street Wesley Chapel built in 1846
Temple Street Wesley Chapel built in 1846
Photo © Gerard Charmley 2012

The first Meeting House was in a granary above John Wilkinson's cottage. In 1753 the Society had grown too large for the granary and Thomas Colbeck bought land on Temple Row to build a larger House. This new Preaching House was opened in 1754. The building was enlarged in 1764 and by 1777 it had to be enlarged again. The membership in 1810 had risen to 363 and once again the building was too small. The building of Eden Chapel began and was opened the following year, Temple Row being used as the Sunday School. From 1816 - 1826 a continuous revival centred around Eden Chapel and the membership grew to 884.

In 1843 more land was bought and a new Chapel was built on the site of the first one in Temple Row. Eden Chapel was converted into a Sunday School. Work began in 1845 and the new Wesley Chapel, with a seating capacity of 1,600, was opened on 27th November 1846.

In 1784 a Sunday School was opened with 100 children. By 1785 there were nearly 300 children attending. In 1792 the school was reorganised and it was used by all denominations. By 1815 almost 900 children were attending.

In the 1950's and 60's there was tremendous growth in the youth work at Temple Street, begun by Rev Frank Thewlis and continued by Rev Archie Bradford. Over 300 young people were involved in a wide variety of activities including: Sunday School, Cubs, Scouts, Guides, Brownies, Boys Brigade, Life Boys, Girls Guildry/Girls Brigade, Youth Club, Film Club, Saturday evening Jazz Club with a ‘God Slot’ and Youth Choir. Activities for older members included: Young Wives, Sisterhood, Ladies Supper Club, Mens Supper Club, Twentieth Century Club and Choir.

The story continues with the Keighley Shared Church history.

Letter sent by John Wesley to Thomas Rankin in 1762

Thomas Rankin was a native of Dunbar. He heard Wesley preach at Morpeth in May 1761 and rode on with him to Newcastle. He wrote to him in October about his call to preach and was sent to Sussex. When the work in America began, Wesley appointed him General Superintendent. He sailed on April 9th 1773, but he returned in 1778 and spent his last years in London where he died in 1810.

This letter from John Wesley to Thomas Rankin was donated to Temple Street Methodist Church. The text of the letter is:

"Bristol. March 20, 1762 
My Dear Brother, 
You should act as an Assistant in Sussex. Therefore see that our Rules be everywhere observed; and spread our books wherever you go, particularly Kempis, Primitive Physic and Instructions for Children
Before eight weeks are ended the Societies will be able to secure you an house. O be simple! Be a little Child before God! 
I am 
Your affectionate brother J Wesley 
Read and pray much. 
To Mr. Tho. Rankin, At Mr. Barker's, In Sevenoaks, Kent"