Keld Chapel, Swaledale

At Keld in Yorkshire's Swaledale is an impressive former Congregational Chapel (For Cumbrian Keld’s Chapel, see here). Unlike Salem Chapel, it saw fit to join the United Reformed Church in 1972. It is one of those traditional, old chapels to which time’s fingers has left largely unmolested, and which has an interesting past. The church’s own official history records

On the 6th of June 1561 Ralph Alderson left in his will twelve pence for the priest at Keld to pray for his soul. The Reformation was in full swing…

It was only in partial swing up there if men were still paying priests to pray for the dead. Nevertheless, I imagine that this pre-reformation chapel became an Anglican chapel of ease, though it lay ruinous by 1789 when one Edward Stillman stood in the centre of the ruined chapel and planted his stick in the ground, declaring:

“Here will I have my Chapel and here will I preach the Gospel.”

He rebuilt the chapel with two adjoining rooms, one a schoolroom, the other his own living room. He rebuilt in 1818 along with a proper manse and land for burials. He was still there until he died in March 1837, nearly five decades after stabbing the ground with his stick, and claiming it for Christ and His gospel.

I cannot vouch for the present doctrine of Keld Chapel one way or another. Although most British denominations are pallid and dying, rural congregations are sometimes better immune from central decay. In many places, there are chapels enough but no gospel preached; soon enough, these become places where there are neither chapels nor gospel. Although I was grateful to God that Keld’s chapel doors remain open, I pray that God would raise again a generation of Edward Stillmans who will walk among the ruins of British Christianity and plant their staffs, not just to erect churches but to preach again the old gospel which our nation so very much neglects, forgets, corrupts and ignores.