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Nenthead Methodist Church

A Grade II Listed Building in Alston Moor, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.7881 / 54°47'17"N

Longitude: -2.3417 / 2°20'30"W

OS Eastings: 378122

OS Northings: 543744

OS Grid: NY781437

Mapcode National: GBR DF22.TC

Mapcode Global: WH91X.0X57

Entry Name: Nenthead Methodist Church

Listing Date: 23 April 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1408095

Location: Alston Moor, Eden, Cumbria, CA9

County: Cumbria

District: Eden

Civil Parish: Alston Moor

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Alston Moor

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

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Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, 1873 to the designs of George Race, incorporating the western block of an earlier 1826 chapel at its west end.


MATERIALS: coursed square sandstone blocks to east and south elevations, more roughly laid to north elevation; west elevation is rendered and roughcast. Sandstone dressings and graduated Lakeland slate roofs with stone flag roof to porch extension. Wrought-iron finial and cast-iron balustrades.

PLAN: rectangular with a small porch with later extension to north side, later extended, and a small rectangular building attached to the west end.

EXTERIOR: situated at the centre of the village on a corner site with main elevations fronting Church Lane and the main road. All windows have 4-pane fixed casements, which retain some original latticed glazing; their hinged top lights have Y-pattern glazing, and all windows have coloured glazed borders. The roof is pitched, there are gable copings and the east gable is surmounted by an ashlar block carrying a cruciform plan finial and the west gable by a stone stack.

The east gable is symmetrical with a pair of central pair of round-arched doorways, with double panelled doors, stop-chamfered ashlar jambs, moulded imposts and keyed archivolts. There are fanlights above the doors (boarded over) and above these is a large ashlar block with the words ‘WESLEYAN CHURCH 1873’ inscribed within a sunken panel. To either side are windows with similar heads and sills. At gallery level there is a similar arrangement with two central windows rather than doors and above this the pattern is repeated at a smaller scale (all boarded over). The south elevation fronts the main road with four square-headed windows to the ground floor and four round-headed windows to the gallery; there is a partially blocked doorway at the west end similar to the main entrance. At the south eastern corner of the chapel, there is a large ashlar block inscribed: Laid by/ MRS W D STEPHENS/of Newcastle/August 22nd 1873. The north elevation has four rectangular-headed windows to each level and a hipped roof porch at the west end with a boarded door and overlight; the porch has a later lean-to extension. The west gable is partially obscured by an attached single-storey building with a hipped roof, interpreted as part of an earlier chapel on the same site and later used as a Sunday school; it has a large inserted opening in its south elevation and a pair of round-arched windows in its west elevation. Above its roof line, at gallery level on the main chapel there are two round-arched windows (blocked in with brick), and a similar window above.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are two large chamfered stone piers with pyramidal caps in front of the main doorway, to the south is a low flat-coped wall and to the north a length of spiked-top railings.

INTERIOR: the entrance opens into a rectangular lobby with an open string staircase with turned balusters and moulded newels, at each end giving access to the gallery. Set into a mat well at the foot of the south stair there is a stone tablet from the earlier chapel bearing a flower decoration and scallop-like ornaments in its upper corners; it is inscribed ‘CHAPEL ERECTED 1826’ beneath lettering in the form of an arch reading ‘WESLEYAN METHODIST’. A four-panelled door at each end of the lobby leads into the main body of the chapel, and between them a pair of circular windows with coloured radial glazing.
The main body of the chapel has a boarded floor and dado, and pine fixed benches with shaped ends; a central block of six, even under the gallery on the south with two further at the front set at right angles, and six on the north. The dais is centrally placed at the west end, enclosed by communion rails it has a panelled front with a raised reading desk on scrolled foliate brackets with rails on either side carried by similar decorative uprights to the communion rail below. There is a short stair at each side with a handrail carried on ornamental cast-iron balusters and the organ is set to the rear. Curved doors to either side give access to the Minister’s room and a large kitchen, which extends into the porch projection. The windows have rope-moulded plaster surrounds. The gallery is carried on seven cast-iron piers with foliate capitals, and the gallery front is of cast-iron openwork with cruciform, floral and leaf motifs. Beneath the gallery, the side walls have a moulded plaster cornice. The main body of the chapel has been ceiled over at the level of the top of the gallery balustrade.

At gallery level there is a boarded dado, and all seating has been removed. The windows have rope-mould surrounds and plaster archivolts carried on shaped corbels. With the exception of the west wall there is an ornate plaster cornice, and the ornate ceiling has a large central rose within a diamond-shaped panel enclosed by a further twelve panels; the corner panels contain smaller roses. The organ remains in situ with stencilled pipes.


The Quaker-owned London Lead Company, lessee of the area’s mines, was keen to encourage nonconformist faith within its mining communities and, in common with many villages in the North Pennines, Nenthead was provided with both a Primitive and a Wesleyan Methodist chapel. John Wesley is known to have preached in the area in the mid and later C18. In 1826, the London Lead Company gifted a site upon which a Wesleyan chapel was erected; the footprint of this building is depicted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1860 as a rectangular building with smaller blocks appended to either end. In 1873, the present chapel was constructed and its depiction on the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1890 shows it to occupy the site of the central and eastern block of the first chapel; this suggests that the original western block remained standing and it is thought that it was used as a Sunday school to the new chapel. The two Methodist congregations in the village joined in the 1930s and there after used only the Wesleyan Chapel.

Reasons for Listing

Nenthead Wesleyan Methodist chapel of 1873 is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: Methodism was an integral part of the character of C19 lead mining settlements in the North Pennines, the spiritual and social lives of their inhabitants being inextricably bound up with activities centring upon chapels such as these.

* Architectural interest: Italianate in style, the exterior is articulated with ashlar detailing including stop-chamfered jambs, moulded imposts and keyed archivolts and similarly well-detailed interior plaster and metalwork. .

* Cast-Iron work: the unusually ornate decorative ironwork of the interior is attractive and precisely made, of which the gallery fronts, paralleled at the Grade II* Westgate Chapel, are of particular note.

* Intactness: this is an almost intact C19 Methodist chapel, whose only significant loss is that of the gallery seating.

* Group Value: it has group value with a cluster of features associated with the lead mine to which the village owes its existence which illustrate the significant relationship between lead company and community.

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