Cumbria, Whitehaven & the Wesleys


John Wesley travelled into Cumbria either via Weardale, Nenthead and Alston to Whitehaven or along the Tyne valley to Carlisle. Methodism was slow to establish until many former members of Benjamin Ingham's societies, founded some 20 years earlier (independent, but with roots in the Moravian and Methodist movements), transferred their loyalties in the 1760s.

Whitehaven became the most important centre of early Methodism in north-west England. John Wesley made 25 visits 1749-88, using the port for visits to Ireland and the Isle of Man , and also on journeys to and from the north-east of England and south-west Scotland. The first chapel was opened in Michael Street in 1761, eventually replaced by Lowther Street Chapel in 1877.

Primitive Methodism was warmly received by the sea-going and mining communities. William Clowes' successful preaching tour of 1823 led to the formation of the Fox Lane society.

Grace Murray became housekeeper at the Orphan House, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1745. In the summer of 1749 she accompanied Wesley on one of his preaching tours in Ireland, where he proposed marriage. John Bennet, one of Wesley's preachers, had also proposed to her.

Charles disapproved of his brother's likely marriage to Grace and during John's second visit to Whitehaven, in September 1749, Charles had an angry and damaging confrontation with John over his relationship with Grace. Charles then went on to ensure Grace married John Bennet instead (in October 1749 at St Andrew's Church in Newcastle).