8. Chapel and Community

 

Existence in this remote village and its surrounding area had never been easy. At these altitudes the climate can be harsh, and there was no electricity or piped water until the second half of the 20th century but the village had its butcher,  co-op and pub. What mattered was the community spirit which prevailed – many families were interrelated having lived in the area for many generations. At the centre of this community was Blackshaw Head Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built originally in 1815, from subscriptions raised by the founders, who originally met at Appletree Farm.

 

Blackshaw Head chapel is one of the earliest Methodist Chapels in the country. There was a major  modification to the plan a few years after it was built with the addition of a Sunday School wing   in  1838, and there were successive alterations to  the school over the years.  The original plan of the building was so designed that the main building incorporated two doors creating separate entrances  for boys and girls to attend  Sunday School in the chapel itself (the paths to these entrances can still be seen today on the south side of the building leading to blocked-up doorways converted to windows)

 

The importance that was attached to educating the young not only in bible studies but also in reading and writing at a time when  there was no formal education  gives us a prime insight into the mentality of the founders. The non- conformist movement swept the country in the eighteenth century and it was the preaching of John Wesley that encouraged many to join the Methodist movement. By this time the established church had grown increasingly apart from ordinary people – often being seen as little removed from the “squirearchy”. Blackshaw Head belonged to the ecclesiastical Parish of Halifax with the nearest church Thomas a Becket at Heptonstall.
It was a long way to travel to worship at an institution that no longer seemed  to cater for the majority of people’s spiritual needs nor take account of a growing wish for self improvement of a large section of the population  of Blackshaw, (mainly handloom weavers and small farmers) who felt excluded in a highly hierarchical and class bound society.

 

In 1843 The Sunday School had two hundred and forty  scholars and sixty-six teachers There were similar high numbers in other chapels close by. Charlestown had its own vibrant chapel and Sunday School first at  Old Naze, then at Nazebottom(see photo)

 

Major improvements were made to the main part of Blackshaw Head Chapel itself   in 1899-1900 with the addition of a new eastern  door and alterations to the roofline. It was probably about this time that the interior was fitted out with fine woodwork.

The first interment in the chapel graveyard took place in 1817 but since then many generations of chapel-goers and local people have been buried there as attested by the fine stone monuments.