photo kindly sent in by Des Brady

Hidden away in the village of Heptonstall is a remarkable chapel. It is the oldest Methodist Chapel still in continuous use in the world and is one of only a few Octagonal ones to be built.

A tablet on the chapel wall states:

The oldest Methodist Chapel in the world in continuous use.

The society was founded by William Darney about 1742. The Rev. John Wesley preached at Heptonstall for the last time in 1786.


A Scotsman, William Darney, was the first man to bring Methodism to this area around 1742, along with the preaching of John Nelson, a travelling stonemason. Local groups were formed and were named "Darney Societies".


Charles Wesley visited the area in 1747 and preached to them and later the same year his brother John came to undertake how these groups should be run. The outcome was that in 1748 a meeting was held at Todmorden and the first Methodist Circuit was formed.


Large crowds always gathered wherever John Wesley preached and none more so than in Heptonstall, where his appearances were always eagerly awaited and well attended. This brought up the matter of a chapel being built, so that the there would be a permanent place for people to gather away from the harsh elements, which inevitably interrupted the outdoor meetings.

Indoor meetings were held from 1750 in the central building of three cottages known as Litherstone in the village. It became known as "The Preaching House" and it is thought that John Wesley would have preached from the upstairs window to the congregation assembled below
John Wesley recommended that the new chapel be built in the octagonal style and he laid the foundation stone himself. It was thought that this design would distinguish it from the church and avoid any conflict, as it was to be a preaching house. A total of only fourteen octagonal chapels were built and three others already in use were at Norwich, Rotherham and Whitby. It was also thought that by building an octagonal shaped chapel, the devil would have no corners to hide in.
The roof for the new chapel was transported over Mount Skip by packhorses and was built by the same craftsmen who had earlier built the Rotherham chapel. As the building neared completion, the trains of packhorses would be followed by hundreds of worshippers, all in joyous mood and singing the wonderful hymns that Wesley wrote. Whatever the weather would have been; cold, windy, snowy, sunny or rainy, it wouldn't have mattered to them as they followed over the hills until they reached Heptonstall.

Mount Skip


They were having a new chapel built where they could congregate and hear the greatest preacher of the day preach to them, and how they thronged to listen to him. People would come from far and near when they knew he would be preaching there and all together he made 21 visits to the Heptonstall chapel.


The chapel was finally finished in 1764 and people would attend the church service first and then later they would have an extra helping of religion by also going to the chapel.

In 1795, it was decided that a Sunday School should be opened, as it was the only form of education that the poorer children could get. Even then, it would only be a basic schooling in reading and writing, but better than nothing. They would meet in the chapel after services more than likely, and huddle together for warmth, whilst they struggled to understand what they were being taught. The present day Sunday School is just below the chapel and wasn't built until 1891.
By 1802 the Society had swelled to 337 members and over 1,000 scholars in the Sunday School. Things were beginning to feel a little cramped and it was decided to extend the chapel and it was done by "stretching" it. The original octagonal shape was kept by pulling down one end and extending two side walls. There is no trace of these alterations, so good was the workmanship, just a slight difference in the stonework at the base on the east side.
The extra space created by this enlargement enabled a new raised pulpit and a singing pew to be installed. The new extension left the society in debt, but by 1804 they managed to raise enough money to build a minister's house on Northgate. (Shown below)
Worship still goes on in this historic chapel. Well attended Sunday services are the normal practice and perhaps John Wesley is still in people's minds as they sing the hymns that have been sung here for nearly 240 years.
War Memorial

click on photo to enlarge


To The Glory Of God

This Tablet Was Erected in Honour

Of the young men of this Church and Sunday School

Who served during the Great War 1914-1919

Rev. A. A. Kick


John W Greenwood

Fred Greenwood

Ernest Smith

Hartley Greenwood

Walter Sutcliffe

Richard Hartley

Jeremiah Cherry

Bert Thomas

Fred Greenwood

James Varley

Ernest Hardman

Willie Jackson

Richard Varley

James W Holt

Thomas Thomas

Thomas Tupson

Edward Wilde

Milton Judson

Wright Sutcliffe

Albert Greenwood


Norris Collinge

James Dunkley

George H Sunderland

James Hartley

George H Greenwood

Fielding Sunderland

Harold Robertshaw

Fred Pickles

George Smith

John Smith

John Thomas

Thomas Lowe

Albert E Dunkley

Herbert Smith

James Bowe

Fred Collinge

Willie Clough

James Waddington

Arthur Varley

Harry Smith

Joseph Leary

Willie Patchett

John Waddington

Herbert Greenwood

Herbert Helliwell

John Greenwood

John Hartley

Arthur Wadsworth

Ernest Thomas

Richard Greenwood

James Townsend

James Pickles

Albert Gunning

Herbert Rastrick

Hardman Robertshaw

Edward J Sunderland

Sam Townsend

James Greenwood

Archie Wilde

Wilfrid Jackson

Richard B Barker

John Helliwell


James Wilde

James Bancroft

Ben Collinge

Fred Wilde

Robert Greenwood

Willie Smith

Ernest Judson



Fred Greenwood

Herbert Sutcliffe

John Patchett

Thomas R Ashworth

Willie H Thomas

James Robertshaw

Harry Thomas


Burial Ground

The burial ground is very well maintained and is pretty. The graves are easy to read, and the garden is lovely. A couple of graves and inscriptions from the burial ground are detailed below:


In memory of Miles SUTCLIFFE of Barewise nr. Todmorden

Who died Oct 29th 1875 aged 67 years

Also of Betty SUTCLIFFE, his wife

Who died June 6th 1876 aged 67 years.


In Loving Memory of my dear husband

Ernest JUDSON of the West Riding Regt.

who was killed in action at Zonnebeke in Belgium

Nov. 25th 1917 aged 37 yrs.

In the midst of life we are in death


In Memory of Betty the daughter of Robert & Sally SUNDERLAND

of Todmorden who died Sept. 15th 1862 aged 14 yrs.

Also of the above named Robert Fielding SUNDERLAND

who died Dec. 8th. 1872 aged 58 yrs.

Also of Sally SUNDERLAND wife of the above

who entered into rest Feb. 20th. 1876 aged 62 yrs.

They are not lost but gone before.

Death is swalled up in victory.


In Memory of Thomas SUTCLIFFE

who died in great peace April 18th 1833 aged 59 yrs.

He was converted to God in his 24th year. Was a class leader 34 years & a local preacher 26 years. Some of his last words were:

"I'll praise my Maker while I've breath

And when my voice is lost in death

Praise shall employ my nobler powers

My days of praise shall Ne'er be past

While life and thought and being last

Or immortality endures."

Also of Sarah his wife

who died happy in the Lord June 15th 1825 aged 49 yrs.

Also of Mary wife of Thomas Sutcliffe of Todmorden

who died March 12th. 1877 aged 63 yrs.

Also of Thomas SUTCLIFFE her husband

and son of the aforesaid Thomas and Sarah Sutcliffe

who died March 26th 1877 aged 65 yrs.


In loving memory of Jane the beloved wife of Charles BUTTERWORTH

of Todmorden who died Jany 15th 1862 aged 52 years.

Also of the above named Charles Butterworth

who died Jany 7th 1889 aged 78 years.

Also of Marshall VARLEY grandson of the above

who died Jany 7th 1889 aged 5 years.


In Loving remembrance of Thomas WALTON of Foster Mill House

Hebden Bridge who died June 8th 1877 aged 56 yrs.

Also of Sarah Grace 2nd. daughter of the above

who died August 18th 1877 aged 25 yrs.

Also of Sarah wife of the above named Thomas Walton

who died on the 22nd of June 1861 in the 73rd year of his age.

In loving memory of Robert Spence Walton M.B. son of the above

who died on June 15th 1920 in his 84th yr.

Also of Mary Louisa Walton sister of the above

who died Decr 22nd 1950 in her 89th year.


In loving memory of William H. HOLLINRAKE of Blind Lane

Died Jany. 30th 1925 Aged 66 years

Also Hannah wife of the above Died Febry 3rd 1924 Aged 68 years

"At Rest"

Also of Percy dearly loved husband of Delia Mabel POLLARD

Died April 18th 1964 aged 55 years


In loving memory of George DEWHIRST of Heptonstall

who died April 26th 1889 aged 25 years.

Also of Sarah wife of the above died Aug. 15th 1890 aged 24 years.