Gossipgate Chapel

I had the pleasure of visiting Alston in Cumberland last week. It claims to be both the most remote as well as the highest market town in England, which, having driven there, I can pretty much vouch for. It is so far north that the local Royal Mail delivery vans even display the Scottish regalia rather than the English with which we Sasannachs are more familiar.

My companion and I were on the hunt for old chapels, of which we found three out of four. The old Congregational church, now a private home but formerly an art gallery, is a rather solid-looking pile, with windows and doors too small for its wide walls, detracting from an otherwise pleasing symmetry. Yet it was not the architecture that caught my eye, but its location within the town: Gossipgate. I cannot find the origin of the name, but it was presumably an entry point to known for its use by a certain type of person, who enjoyed transmitting information, usually about others. Gossip comes from ‘God’ + ‘sibb’, meaning ‘a relative’, hence the sense was ‘a close friend, one with whom one gossips’. So was the old chapel a place of friendship, in which folk could freely talk with each other, and to their close God? Or a nest of nosey, bickering types, with their noses in other folks’ business? Perhaps both, perhaps neither, but it is now closed in any event.

I pray Martin Top may be a place for godly brothers and sisters in Christ, to share and care. I pray we never become a gossip shop or a gossip gate, where others’ business is spread abroad like muck in a field.

A perverse man sows strife,

And a whisperer separates the best of friends.

Proverbs 16:28