Railway Chapels

In the 1860s, the London and North Western Railway sent a 'scripture reader' to minister to the labourers building the Ingleton branch line. St Gregory's Anglican Church, in the Vale of Lune, was built as a result of this work. Not very far away, at Hawes Junction, Grooves and Woodiwiss, contractors for the Midland Railways Company, built a wooden chapel for their workers, close by the present Moorcock Bridge. This was replaced by the stone chapel there to this- Mount Zion Methodist Chapel. What great days they were, when even commercial ventures would seek to provide for their employees’ spiritual needs. How many souls were converted to Christ through the good will of the great railway companies, we cannot tell. Sadly, both chapels are now essentially redundant, with the Garsdale Methodists still holding special services in the latter.

Building railways must have been physically demanding work, with the labourers living far from civilisation. The temptations to fill the evenings and weekends with booze and scuffles may have persuaded the companies’ investors to create more wholesome diversions, which would result in fewer hangovers and injuries. Profit margins may have been their true motive, but I am glad they did it. Not only are we bequeathed two pleasant little places of worship, but those souls labouring in lonely places may have heard that sweet invitation:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-29)

Today’s commercial and industrial enterprises remunerate their work forces much better than their Victorian predecessors, and have a greater care for heath and safety. Yet for spiritual cure of souls, our modern companies sadly lack. ‘Religion’ is deemed to be too private a matter, and may even be thought a bit weird. Victorian labourers had emptier stomachs but fuller souls; we in the 2020s are typically overweight, but spiritually starved.