St Mark's church was built in 1847 to serve the people of Cautley, which is a sparsely populated dale running north from Sedbergh towards Kirkby Stephen.
In rural areas, Methodist chapels tend to be small and plain mainly because of difficulty in obtaining land for building, and due to limited finance. This is why Methodist Chapels seldom have graveyards. However, in the western dales the often remote locations and availability of land made graveyards desirable and possible.
Cautley Wesleyan Chapel roadside site cost just £10 6s 8d and the graveyard has been extended on at least three occasions. Built in 1845 it was opened two years before St Mark’s, the Anglican church in Cautley.
For some 20 years prior the Methodist preachers had been active in this part of the Dales, and Roger Moister, later to become ‘the Patirarch of Wyoming’, reported that on 28 May 1820 he preached at three places and walked 21 miles to accomplish this. As Membership increased it became necessary to build a chapel capable of accommodating 60 or worshippers, and hold regular services.
The interior of the building is small yet spacious, with brightly painted tiered seats and walls hung with expression work.
Cautley chapel forms part of a trail of small chapels linked to the history of the railways and religion in the Western Dales. The Carlisle to Settle railway line was built between 1870-1876, by Midland Railway Company. It was one of the most difficult railways to construct in the UK. Its 73 miles include 20 viaducts and 14 tunnels cut by hand through steep, often boggy, isolated and exposed countryside. Over 6,000 'navvies' lived and worked in appalling conditions during its construction. The Methodists in this part of Cumbria were significant providers of welfare and spiritual help to the railway workers. Education and care of children and the elderly were a feature of their work.