Heathfield Chapel, North Yorkshire

There is a mysterious tabernacle on the hillside in Nidderdale. .

It’s marked on the OS maps of the valley, which is how I stumbled across – climbing up a path from Wath, with a view to walking up Heathfield Moor. The chapel stood out as I walked along Chapel Lane (giveaway).

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It looked smart , I especially liked the cross at the roof apex. The chapel looked well looked-after, but there was no sign of services or use. I was tempted to peer in the windows, but then thought it might be someone’s home now and a sweaty walker staring as you eat tea might not be that welcome.

Still I am intrigued – and there’s lots to be intrigued about with this chapel and the hamlet it’s in. The chapel is ex-Methodist and according to online sources ceased its use as a chapel in 1970. It’s unusual for Methodist churches to be dedicated to a saint.

At the time, I stopped and wondered, then carried on walking, but it has been in the back of my mind. Why? Who? How? I don’t have answers to any of the questions, but I’ve come across a few interesting snippets.

1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown CopyrightAccording to William Grainge’s 1863 book on Nidderdale, Heathfield “does not possess any features of interest”. He did record that it was at one time the most important settlement in the area, founded by Saxons. In the Domesday book it is called Hegrefeld, which means “open land frequented by jays or magpies”. Lovely, isn’t it?

Heathfield chapel

The chapel is pretty isolated and the community there today is described as isolated/rural. I’m a big fan of the Streetcheck site, which tells us Heathfield has 192 residents.

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I hope they enjoy the views of this chapel as much as I did. I’ve heard a lot of tin tabernacles, but hadn’t seen one of these prefabricated buildings before. A product of the industrial revolution  – corrugated iron was a great way to provide easily erected temporary structures. These were in demand partly because of nineteenth century religious revival. However the same technology built village halls, hospital wards, houses, pavilions and a range of other spaces. Companies specified in providing these prefabricated structures. Glasgow firm R R Speirs exported 75 churches between 1908 and 1914. Isaac Dixon’s 1874 catalogue was aimed at the landed gentry! The structures were not just constructed in the UK, but many were exported to Canada and Africa, and to California and Australia during their gold rushes. Do you have a tin tabernacle near you?

For a thorough medieval history of the village – see here!

I think the North Yorkshire Record Office has some records for the chapel – TBC …

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4 thoughts on “Heathfield Chapel, North Yorkshire

  1. The chapel dates to 1898/1899 I can’t remember which. It is currently in use by the Leeds Boys Brigade who own Leng House (further up the way) which is used as a hostel for all sorts of groups. I’ve just stumbled across this blog today, whislt doing a bit of light research on the chapel for a possible project we’ll be doing on it. Good to know people do notice it! Becky Emms, 12 Leeds BB

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  2. Hi I’m supporting Becky above with their Lottery bid, to bring the former Methodist Chapel at Heathfield, back up to present day standards. Members of my family have continued to live at Heathfield since 1927. They had to move out of Lodge & Haden Carr farms at the top of the Dale, due to the building of the Reservoirs, i.e. Scar & Angram. We are a Methodist family and my Grandparents, Aunts,,Uncles and parents were all members at Heathfield. Up into my teenage years, I remember attending Services there, especially special Anniversaries. It’s like a Tardis, it seems much bigger inside than out, so very deceptive. It will be nice to see it restored to it’s former glory if funding is successful.
    The question of it been named after a Saint though is not correct, as the Methodists didn’t do this. The confusion probably lies with another Tin Tabernacle erected by the Church of England on the other side of the hill from this Chapel. On that side which overlooks Wath Village, just below the large barn and over into the last field, above the main road. Just as you go over the style, and enter that field, at the top of the field to your right you can still see a platform, and cut away steps leading down to the main road, opposite the Bus Shelter at Wath. It is on a public footpath so is quite accessible. I’m not sure when this one was erected or removed, but I can remember it being there.
    Jane Simpson (Nidderdale)

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