In 1788 a small group of Methodists established a Book Society in Westgate.
‘the members being sensible of the benefit to be had by reading as a means for increasing heavenly wisdom, holiness and present and future happiness; do agree to purchase a collection of religious and instructing books.’
Writing to one of his preachers in 1760 Wesley had said “You can never be a deep preacher without it (reading), any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises…..read and pray daily ”
At the same time it was said of the lead mining population,
“The nature of their Occupations as Miners, leads them to enquiries, which greatly quicken their under-standings and urges them to seek from Books such facts of practical Philosophy as are applicable to their profession.”
The first forty books were mainly Wesley’s own works but as the Society grew the range of books widened to include Encyclopaedia Britannica, classics, poetry, histories, science and geography.
Our story of the library, its members, the rules and the books that members read give a fascinating insight into the lives of Weardale Methodists and lead miners at the end of the eighteenth century.
A publication about the Subscription Library is in preparation.
Lead mining Methodists and their penchant for reading.