End of era as Forest Chapel closes
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
A CHAPTER of upper dale history ended on Sunday, October 20, with the final service of a Methodist chapel.
Forest Methodist Chapel closed after 152 years at the conclusion of the 6.30pm service.
Middleton-in-Teesdale now has the last remaining Methodist chapel in the upper dale.
The Wesleyan chapel at Forest was built in 1867.
Harold Beadle, who produced a piece on its history in 1948, wrote: “A piece of land was obtained from the Duke of Cleveland, who was the owner of Raby Estates, and apart from the actual mason work and the furnishings, all the work, such as digging the foundations, quarrying and leading the stone, was done voluntarily.”
Judith Tarn, a circuit steward who presented a compilation of memories during the final service, said the closure became necessary because of dwindling attendance.
She said: “It is not what you want, but it is a sign of the times. Society moves on and people don’t value the church as much as they used to. Society is different. In those days people didn’t move far and the church was their social hub.”
She added that many of those who had kept the chapel going in recent years were people from the Forest-in-Teesdale area but who had retired to Middleton.
“Now they are older and feeling the pressures of their age. It takes a lot to keep a place going – you need a property steward and a steward to communicate with the preacher.”
County councillor Richard Bell recalled attending harvest slide shows at the chapel, as well as the Silver Christmas Tree event, which saw people decorate a tree with envelops containing cash donations.
He said the chapel had also been used as a polling station.
He said Durham County Council is now looking at alternative venues for the polling station, with Forest of Teesdale Primary School being a likely substitute.
As for the future of the building, he said: “I believe the building will revert back to Raby Estates.
“It is better than some places because it has electricity, it has water, and it has sewerage, so it is convertible to a dwelling.”
Revd Bev Hollings led the sermon during the final service and the singing group Together performed various songs including Psalm 23.