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From Coffin Grease To Love Feasts

A Primitive Methodist Family In Westmorland

Tracey Messenger


At the turn of the twentieth century, in rural Westmorland, Tom Robinson walked into a Primitive Methodist chapel and emerged transformed. Previously a frequenter of the local pub, he renounced the ‘demon drink’ for good. From then, he would call beer ‘coffin grease’ and it would be replaced in his life by ‘love feasts’ (a Methodist term for a fellowship meal). His new faith became the focus of his life.

But why did so few of the next generation, including the author’s grandmother Nellie, not follow in his footsteps?

Based on her own family history, Tracey Messenger explores the decline of religious belief over the course of the twentieth century through the lens of one family’s story. She paints a portrait of a lost world of love feasts, Bands of Hope, temperance rallies and evangelical fervour, once such a key part of local culture in the village of Newbiggin-on-Lune and the surrounding area and now largely disappeared.







Publication Date:



Paperback; 210 x 148mm




Black & white photographs

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