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Hogarth Mission, Dissenting Churches and Mount Pleasant

THE 18th century gentleman and linen manufacturer James Hogarth was one of Whitehaven’s early benefactors.
He built houses for his workers at Mount Pleasant and a place for them to worship, the Hogarth Mission on Rosemary Lane, taking care of both their physical and spiritual wellbeing.
He also opened a charity school for the children of his tenants and weavers, providing free books. In fact, so keen was he to ensure that they led a good life, that he would “suffer none of them to remain on his premises who do not bring their children up in habits of industry and virtue.’’
That was the deal: you got a job and a house providing you went to church and sent your children to school. And who in 18th and 19th century Whitehaven could turn down such an offer?
Hogarth, nicknamed the King of the Mount, also donated a house in Queen Street for use by the Whitehaven Dispensary, founded by Dr Joshua Dixon. It later moved to Howgill.
James Hogarth introduced a system to encourage the poor to earn money by being home-spinners for his weaving business. He even paid them over the going rate.
Each spinner, using one spinning wheel and spinning not less than three hanks per week, would be paid for four hanks, and someone using two wheels and spinning six hanks within a week would be paid at the usual rate for eight hanks.
But no-one would be admitted to this beneficial scheme without a certificate from the minister of the congregation to which they belonged, testifying to their moral character and suitability for participation.
Mr Hogarth was one-time agent for the Earl of Lonsdale and on his death he was buried beneath the tower of his church at Mount Pleasant, in a lead coffin. (His body was later exhumed and re-interred at Whitehaven cemetery).
But it seems the church itself was never consecrated. It was due to be, as an Anglican chapel (St Mary’s), by the Bishop of Chester on August 14, 1789, but although the Bishop duly arrived in Whitehaven the consecration did not take place. The Bishop had apparently been dissuaded from doing so by the Earl of Lonsdale. Just why we are unsure but it was reported that “ a caveat was entered against it by the impropriator of St Bees’’.
The Hogarth Mission was for a time used on a temporary basis by the Methodists while the Michael Street Chapel was being repaired (it had been affected by a subsidence incident behind Duke Street due to underground mine workings).
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had preached at the Michael Street meeting house in 1788 and was in Whitehaven on several other occasions.
The year 1789 was an eventful one for Mr Hogarth, as in June part of his new weaving shed collapsed caused by digging out for a reservoir too near the foundations. The looms in the ground floor prevented the upper storey from falling in.
Then in August the Bishop’s task of consecrating his church was postponed and in November he opened his free school on Mount Pleasant.
He used income from the sale of property freeholds to raise money for a master’s salary “equal to that of any public school in the county, St Bees excepted’’.
Hogarth’s niece, a Miss Johnson, had married the Rev J. Braithwaite in 1790, at St James’s Church, Whitehaven. Mr Braithwaite, younger son of an excise officer, came from Parton and in 1796 he and his wife took up residence with Mr and Mrs Hogarth at Mount Pleasant. Later that year Mr Hogarth died “after a painful and lingering indisposition’’, aged 71. From his obituary in the Cumberland Pacquet it seems Mr Hogarth had a painful ending to his life “suffering in the extreme, especially for the last seven weeks’’ but he bore them “with Christian fortitude and humble resignation’’.
The man was a remarkable person, said the Pacquet, and among his many amiable qualities was his “boundless and extensive’’ charity to the poor: “They always found him a father and a friend and his memory would remain to them forever dear.”
The Rev Braithwaite preached at Hogarth’s funeral and the following day, at 5am, his remains were interred in his vault at Mount Pleasant Church.
The Rev Braithwaite preached with the Methodist circuit in Whitehaven and district and was “much encouraged’’ by the Rev John Crosby, Methodist superintendent at Whitehaven at the time.
At Hogarth’s church (unsurprisingly as their jobs and homes depended on attendance) he got a good turnout and in August 1791 Mr Braithwaite wrote: “I have preached, first at Mount Pleasant, adjoining Whitehaven, at Mr Hogarth’s Church there, to multitudes therein.’’
The Primitive Methodist Chapel on Howgill Street was built in 1859, at a cost of £675, to take the place of the Hogarth Mission.

THE name Mount Pleasant had been taken from “a delightful mansion’’ that once stood on a site near the pumping station on West Strand. It had been occupied by the widow of Henry Addison in the early 1700s and its grounds stretched up the hill on the west, “so beautiful that it became known as Mount Pleasant.’’
The property was sold out of the family in 1773, passing to two gentlemen, Robert Fisher and Henry Bragg and thereafter, in 1781, to James Hogarth who “covered the beautiful gardens with buildings occupied by the poorest and most wretched classes, so that the name which formerly correctly described the site seems now only to be applied in mockery and derision.’’
By 1899 Hogarth’s church had been standing empty and in poor order for some time until the congregation of the West Strand Mission claimed it for their own, carrying out major restoration, including a new roof, window enlargement, new buttresses and re-plastering. Heat and light were also installed.
A report at the time maintained: “When these alterations are completed, this church will be the best adapted one in the town for carrying on aggressive mission work.
“The large and successful mission school will also obtain the much-needed accommodation for carrying on its important and growing work among the young and neglected population of that crowded neighbourhood.’’
The entire outlay, including purchase, restoration, and furnishing cost £1000. The premises had also been used as a tallow chandlery and candle factory (by G W Kenworthy) at one time. In 1957, having once more fallen into disrepair, it was demolished.
WHITEHAVEN was home to many Dissenting Churches. Apart from several Catholic churches there was the Primitive Methodists, the Society of Friends, the Presbyterians, the Wesleyans, the Baptists, the Plymouth Brethren, the Town Mission, the Congregational Chapel, the Christian Brethren, the Seamen’s Mission, the Kirk Mission and the Colliery Mission.
No wonder family tree researches can sometimes find it difficult to trace missing ancestors. Those who wished to worship in any of the alternative religions present their descendants with a problem when they try to push their research back before 1837 and the start of Civil registration.
Researchers should consult the relevant specialist publications if they suspect their relatives had moved away from the established Church of England. Many resources for these churches no longer exist or are only to be found in libraries specialising in the records for a particular religion.
In common with similar communities there was not a lot of dissention to the established church in Copeland’s rural areas, as revealed by the Protestation Returns of 1641 and the regular surveys made by the Bishop of his clergy. These revealed that there were small numbers of Catholic families in the district and there were Quaker communities centred on the Cockermouth/Pardshaw area.
There was also an early Quaker community in the upper Eskdale/Ulpha district at Woodend on Birker Moor that had its own walled burial ground nearby on the fell side.
There was a growing Methodist following in Whitehaven and district after John Wesley’s visit of 1749. The Baptists had supporters in the fell areas between Ulpha and Eskdale and there was a dissenting chapel in Bootle, opened in 1780.
As the larger towns such as Whitehaven developed the number of religions multiplied, often brought in by the migrant workers. Irish migrants had come to Whitehaven on the vessels used to carry coal to Ireland from the Whitehaven pits. Originally they came for the summer harvest season and then returned home, but when the potato famine occurred this changed to large-scale migration.
There was also a large increase in the Catholic community as Irish immigrants working in iron mining and manufacture in the Cleator district moved in.
Methodist and other Christian communities associated with the Cornwall and Devon miners moved into the Millom district to work in both the Eskdale and Hodbarrow Iron mines.

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