Aysgarth Methodist Chapel was full for its final service before its official closure on April 22.
The few remaining Methodist chapels in mid and upper Wensleydale were represented at the service on April 7, as well as St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth, and the local community.
The service was led by Dr Richard Wilkinson who for many years was a local Methodist lay preacher as well as being the organist at St Andrew’s Church.
He spoke of his own sadness about the closure of the chapel which, he said, had been a wonderful centre for the village.
He reflected on the history of the chapel and the local man to whom it has been a memorial – the Rev Sylvester Whitehead who served for ten years as a missionary in China and who, in 1904 became the President of the Wesleyan Conference.
The present chapel was built by local craftsmen in 1900. It replaced a cottage on the site which had been used for services since 1766.
Dr Wilkinson remembered those who had ministered there and recalled the annual nativity plays in which the village children participated.
“These were a wonderful experience for all of us, led by Jean Cockburn and Rona Trowell,” he said.
Mrs Cockburn started the nativity plays in 1966 four years after taking over the chapel’s Sunday School. For the past 20 years or more she has assisted Rona Trowell with the nativity plays and all age worship services.
“I ‘m very grateful that I’ve had over 90 years of being a chapel member,” said 92-years-old Mrs Cockburn as she shared some of her memories. She is one of the five remaining members of Aysgarth chapel who made the decision to close it.
Another was Pauline Becket who told the congregration: : “We have reached the end of a long road and we have to look for a new direction.”
She sang a solo at the beginning of the service, and there were two duets by Emma Cloughton and Colin Bailey. The organist was Diane Hartley.
After the service Mrs Cockburn was presented with a bouquet of flowers by Mary Hugill as a thank you for all she had done at the chapel for so many years.
Most of the congregation remained in the chapel afterwards for the buffet tea.