The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter IX

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The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger


CHAPTER IX.

(Honley Chapels. — Congregational Church. — Wesleyan Chapel. — Primitive Methodist Chapel. — Wood Royd Chapel. — Berry Croft Chapel. — Reformer’s Chapel).

HONLEY CHAPELS.

Previous to the Evangelical awakening which followed Wesley’s preaching, there were no Chapels in Honley; so that I cannot go as far back in their histories as that of the Church. The building of each Chapel in turn was due to the religious revival of that period when it was said, that no person could pass through Honley or its neighbouring townships without hearing the sound of prayer and hymn-singing. Mention has been made of the early Missionaries of Methodism, whose religious activity no persecution could quench, and also reference to their converts who walked long distances each Sunday to hear the Rev. Hy. Venn, Vicar of Huddersfield, the friend of Wesley, preach. The great feature of the religious revival of that period was not only the strong convictions of the converts, but their zeal to convert others. With wonderful ardour they travelled long distances to address cottage-meetings, helped to educate the ignorant on the Sabbath Day, and by their personal example of religious piety and zeal, exercised strong influence upon all around.

In the foundation and building up of all religious sects, the fiery furnace of persecution and hatred had invariably to be passed through. When early strenuous combat for freedom of worship is merged in its attainment, then spiritual zeal is apt to encourage a spirit of bigotry towards those who differ in religious views. The beginnings and sowings of the seed of dissent in Honley were due to intense spiritual conviction and belief. There is more formality now in the services of the Chapels than in the rousing times of early Methodism. The remorse of the sinner is of a more sober and circumspect character than in the days of earlier converts, who perhaps were too lavish in their religious renunciations. But the followers of these good men, if they have not altogether kept to the original mode of primitive dissenting worship, have kept to its spirit. Amongst our dissenting families are to be found the most orderly, useful, and unselfish members of the community in which the earnest piety of earlier Methodism still lives on.

It is not my province to criticise the different modes of worship adapted by each sect after “breakings away.” John Wesley himself said “that the English language did not contain a more ambiguous word than that of Church.” Religion has as many meanings as its sects are numerous, and differences have agitated the minds of each generation in turn. The tenets of each Chapel are, I believe, identical, but separation has been solely due to different ideas upon Church policy and government.

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.

Previous to the preaching of Wesley, there was a rise of an older dissent against Ecclesiastical privileges which was embodied in such men as the Rev. Oliver Heywood, Rev. David Dury, of Honley, and later, Rev. Hy. Venn, of Huddersfield. These men were typical of the thousands of Ministers of the Church of England who were ejected from its pulpits beginning in 1640, and following on for refusing to sign the Act of Uniformity. As a rule, they were the most God-fearing, as well as the most intellectual men amongst the ordained Clergy of that day. Ruling powers had not then discovered (nor have they yet found out), that persecution never quenched freedom of thought; but as a rule helps to establish the struggles for freedom upon a firm basis. The punishment of these ejected Ministers therefore only led to greater popularity amongst their devoted followers, who gladly welcomed them in each town and village they visited. The diaries of the Rev. Oliver Heywood testify to the hard strenuous lives lived, and the persecutions endured by those pioneers of Noncomformity. The early beginnings, therefore, of the religious sect known as Independents were not at first far removed from the Evangelical doctrine of the Church of England. Later, Independence developed to Calvinism, and afterwards, there were many changes regarding the religious points of Calvinistic belief. Suffice to say, that Honley Independent Chapel has its ordained Ministers, Deacons, Sacraments, etc. Many good and notable men of the past have been members of the Chapel, and its present members still identify themselves with all good works. As in the past, the Chapel is a source of great influence, and its members zealously help forward the moral and religious progress of Honley.

Mention has before been made that persons from Honley attended the services of the Rev. Henry Venn. Amongst those who journeyed to Huddersfield would be a shy boy named Joseph Cockin, whose influence was great upon the earlier history of Moorbottom Chapel as it is still named, on account of its situation at the bottom of Honley Moor. He was the son of John Cockin, a Honley Clothier of local standing, whose name will be found in this history acting as Chapelwarden and Constable for Honley from 1747 to 1748. The Cockins are an old Honley family, and have still descendants living in the place. Like unto other children of that period, Joseph Cockin would not have much schooling. But he would be reared in the time of the great Evangelical revival which evidently influenced his youthful mind. When about fourteen years of age, a Mr. John Bottomley, a student training for the Independent Ministry, came to Honley to preach at the house of his cousin. Perhaps young Cockin would listen to the discourse, and be a witness also to the rough usage meted out to Mr. Bottomley, who, when mud was thrown in his face refused to wipe it off. The boy began to read the Bible, attend the scanty means of religious worship available at that time; and preferred the friendship of the seriously inclined to indulging in sports and pastimes common at that period. In consequence, he had to suffer for acting differently to his neighbours. His father, as a Churchman, was indignant that a son of his should join in the worship of the then obnoxious Methodists. When parental commands for him to desist were unheeded, the boy was turned adrift. We must remember, however, that parental authority had to be obeyed at that time. Young Cockin found shelter with a friend at Lockwood, who introduced him to the Rev. Hy. Venn to the great joy of the youth, who had longed to speak to the great preacher. The latter proved a wise counsellor, and but for the removal of Mr. Venn from Huddersfield, probably Joseph Cockin would have been a Church of England Minster, in place of one of the great pioneers of Noncomformity in the West Riding of Yorkshire. When Mr. Venn left Huddersfield, a Clergyman different to his predecessor was appointed, who soon alienated the most devoted members of his congregation. These seceded from the Church, and erected a place of worship known as Highfield Chapel, in 1772, in which they could worship God according to their conscience. From my study of the history of Independent Noncomformity in this neighbourhood, I can only conclude that Highfield Chapel was not built in a spirit of dissent. Its erection was due to the prevailing intense religious enthusiasm, and from a desire for the old spiritual food which had been so abundant and satisfying under the guidance of Mr. Venn.

When Highfield Chapel was erected many people from Honley attended regularly for years, amongst them being Joseph Cockin, who had returned to his home. With other young men who had become converts to the new religious spirit, they held cottage prayer-meetings, and in other ways worked zealously for the spread of the gospel in their own village. Joseph Cockin, however, had again to leave home on account of work, and also had to serve in the Militia being chosen by ballot. During the time that he was in barracks, he publicly prayed and preached, though only 19 years of age. When his term of military service had expired, he was placed in Heckmondwike Independent College for the training of Ministers, kind friends supplying necessary funds during his stay there. The College was under the charge of the Rev. James Stocks, a famous clerical divine of that time. In the memoirs of Joseph Cockin, he writes in most eloquent terms of his old tutor. In “ Yorkshire Notes and Queries,” published by J. Horsfall Turner, is a picture of the old Heckmondwike Academy, in which Joseph Cockin was trained for his great work. During vacations of his student’s years, he took every opportunity of preaching and speaking out of doors when it was perilous to do so; youthful persecutions fitting him for the position of pioneer. Once at Almondbury his earnest preaching in the street held a tumultuous crowd as one man for a little time. Knowing from experience, that a mob can easily be swayed one way or another, he ran for his life directly he had finished his discourse.

The first pastorate of Joseph Cockin was at Kippin Chapel, Thornton, near Bradford. In “Yorkshire Notes and Queries,” is published a letter which the Rev. J. Scott wrote at that time to the congregation regarding the call given to Joseph Cockin to be their pastor. In this letter, Mr. Scott appeals for generous support of the salary of their new pastor. The Rev. Joseph Cockin remained 14 years at Kippin, and during that time he preached throughout the West Riding in Chapels, houses, barns, fields, or anywhere when opportunity offered. So effective were his efforts, that Chapel after Chapel was erected where he had preached. His next sphere of labour was at Halifax, where he was continually engaged in all kinds of religious activities, not only in that town, but further afield. In the meantime, the Rev. Joseph Cockin had not forgotten “the nest where he was born.” It was his dearest wish that an Independent Chapel should be built at Honley. He worked zealously to arouse the desire for a new Chapel, and collected in London £156 0s. 0d. towards a building fund. The devoted followers of Venn, who still attended Highfield Chapel, also had a strong desire for their neighbours to enjoy the same privileges at home. From the time when Mr. John Bottomley, the young student, had preached at Honley, there had been cottage services held at the house of a Mr. Benjamin Littlewood as often as preachers could be obtained. In 1795, the Rev. G. Richardson, of Penistone, was invited to Honley and preached his first sermon on the Feast Sunday in the house of Mr. Benjamin Littlewood. Afterwards he preached regularly until his little congregation, which met at the same house, began building their first Chapel in 1796. The land was given by Mr. John Littlewood, the originator of the once well-known woollen firm of Messrs. John Littlewood & Sons. The Chapel had a burial ground attached, and was opened for Divine service on July 31st, 1797, on which occasion the Rev. J. Cockin preached one of the opening sermons. To me it seems a pity, that the sermon of this noteworthy man upon such an eventful occasion could not have been preserved. As the popular and gifted preacher, then in the zenith of his fame and usefulness, stood in the pulpit, what a flood of memories from earlier years would pass across his mind! He would, perhaps, recall past days when self-absorbed he sat by the home-fireside, or walked in field-paths around Honley, working out in silence in the firelight’s glow, or under the stars, the religious problems agitating a youthful mind. I must, however, now refrain from following further the interesting history of this “Honley lad,” who died in 1828, aged 73 years. Suffice to say, that at his death funeral sermons were preached in all Chapels though-out the West Riding of Yorkshire, for he had always been ready to preach for other religious denominations which differed from his own, and plead for their Institutions. His son, the Rev. John Cockin, a man of religious zeal and intellectual ability, though a cripple, was pastor for 46 years at Holmfirth Chapel.

(I am indebted to Mr. Jas. Sykes, LL.B., Chapel Secretary, for supplying me with following particulars).

When the first Moorbottom Chapel was built no particular creed was defined, but in 1809, “The same covenant and Confession of faith” was adopted which prevailed amongst the Independents of that date. There remained a debt of £240 0s. 0d. upon the original building. As time went on the number of worshippers increased, and a gallery was added in 1809, at a cost of £350 0s. 0d. This sum, along with the debt remaining upon the Chapel was gradually paid off. In 1819 a resident Minister’s house was erected in Cuckoo Lane, at a cost of about £800 0s. 0d. In 1830, a plot of land was added to the burial ground, and the whole enclosed. In 1838 considerable repairs to the outside structure and decorations inside cost nearly £300 0s. 0d. In 1864, the Chapel was closed for five months, during which time extensive alterations were carried out at a cost of over £300 0s. 0d. The re-opening services took place on February 28th, 1865. This outlay was met by voluntary subscriptions and collections.

In the year 1899, the congregation began to discuss the advisability of erecting a new Chapel, and a scheme was inaugurated to raise money for the purpose. A site was purchased near the existing schools, and efforts to form a building fund went steadily forward. In 1905, Mr. Arthur Drake, one of the Senior Deacons of the Chapel, offered £200 0s. 0d. towards £1,000 0s. 0d. to commence building on condition that the remaining £800 0s. 0d. was raised by the congregation. The latter responded generously, and also a further sum of £500 0s. 0d. was raised. A legacy of £20 0s. 0d. had been left to each place of worship in Honley by Mrs. Anne Whinfrey, nee Miss Ann Roberts, a well-known member of a Mag-dale family. The legacy left to Moorbottom Chapel was added to the building fund. The late Mr. Josiah France, of Parkton Grove, who had life-long and old family associations with Moorbottom Chapel, also added £250 0s. 0d. The ladies of the Congregation, with their usual self-denying industry, raised large sums by Bazaars and other means. There were also additional subscriptions from all the members, a few contributing large sums, whilst others followed with smaller contributions according to their means. The first sod for the erection of the new Chapel was cut on February 26th, 1910, by Mrs. Charles Roberts, one of the oldest workers at the Chapel. The stone-laying ceremony took place on April 30th. This must always be a red-letter day in the annals of any religious sect or secular society. It is also of interest to note if the names of those who laboured so long in the interests of the old Chapel in the past, are still represented in the new. When such is the case, it proves that the work of the Chapel has proved a blessing.

Twelve memorial stones for the new Chapel were laid by the following: Mr. Alfred Sykes, of Huddersfield, treasurer to the Yorkshire Congregational Union, — Mr. F. B. Booth, Huddersfield, treasurer of the District Congregational Council, — Mr. Clarkson Booth, Bourneville, a past member of the Chapel, — Mr. Fred Moseley, Knighton, a past member, — Miss M. R. Steel, Edinbro’, — Mrs. Joe Robinson, on behalf of Ladies’ Sewing Society, — Miss Ward, on behalf of the Sunday School, — Mr. Arthur Drake, — Mr. Thomas Heaton, — Mr. James Sykes, LL.B., Church Secretary, — Mr. Albert Robinson, — and Mr. T. A. Thornton. There was also an interesting tree-planting ceremony by Sunday School Scholars. Before describing the new Chapel, we must give a final good-bye to the old. It had been decided to pull down the building and to make use of the material in helping to erect the new Chapel. The closing services were held on March 6th, 1910. There would be many present who had known the burden and heat of the day since the time when in the dawn of life they had been Sunday School Scholars, and youthful members. We may be sure that the destruction of the old Chapel would leave its empty ache of memories in many hearts. It is interesting to record that from its building in 1796 to the year 1865, over 1,200 children were baptized by the respective Ministers, and over 300 persons received in membership. The vacant site has been enclosed, and will serve to remind future generations where the first Independent Chapel built in Honley originally stood. The burial ground is also closed.

The new Congregational Church, as it is now named, is erected in the Gothic style, and has a lofty spire of 85 feet in height. In the interior is a chancel, Choir Stalls, Rostrum, Minister and Choir Vestries, Lecture Room, an end gallery, and a beautiful Organ placed in an arched recess. The woodwork is of pine. Leaded tinted lights fill the tracery windows. A memorial window to the memory of the late Mrs. Arthur Drake is placed in the Chancel by her husband and children. There is seating room for about 417 people, and in the gallery about 63. The whole of the interior is very beautiful and of chaste design, whilst the outside appearance from an architectural point of view is very striking. According to a balance sheet, published by the Secretaries and Treasurers of the Building Fund, the cost of the new Chapel was £4,578 12s. 4d. It speaks well, not only for the practical knowledge of those who formed the building committee, but also for their oversight, that such a beautiful edifice and its surroundings only cost that sum which was raised beforehand with the exception of £400 0s. 0d. The dedication service took place on May 15th, 1911. The Rev. J. D. Jones, M.A., B.D., Ex-Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, preached a powerful and practical sermon on “Individualism”; and special services were continued for a few Sundays.

The names of the Ministers who have been called to the spiritual oversight of the Independent body of worshippers in Honley and their dates of service, are:— Rev. George Richardson, 1795-99, — Rev. John Hampshire, 1800-7, — Rev. Robinson Pool, 1808-1817, — Rev. James Potter, 1818-1852, — Rev. George Eustace, 1853-1857, — Rev. Edward Potter, 1858-1860, — Rev. Henry Hustwicke, 1862-1867, — Rev. Joseph Henderson, 1870-74, — Rev. Christopher Thompson, 1878-9,— Rev. John Croft, 1880-6, — Rev. Reuben Briggs, M.A., 1887-98, — Rev. Robert Henry Morgan, 1898-1906, — and present pastor, the Rev. George Wm. Gervis, B.A., appointed 1907.

WESLEYAN CHAPEL.

The followers of Wesley in Honley first worshipped in Green Cliffe Chapel to which was attached a burial ground. It was a plain erection with seating for about 250 people. I have no records further back than 1806, in which year it was built. Such was the religious fervour of the period, that its worshippers came long distances to attend the services in the Chapel. In the year 1820, there was a second great religious awakening in the neighbourhood, which again had its most numerous converts at Deanhouse. This revival spread to Honley, and was known as the “Reins revival.” It was during this time that Mr. Edward Brooke, of Northgate House, familiarly known as Squire Brooke, was converted to Methodism. When following his sport upon Honley Moor, he had met Mr. Thomas Holliday, a noted Primitive Methodist preacher, who questioned the wisdom of the young squire’s mode of finding happiness. The few simple words changed the whole course of a life.

Love-feasts and class-meetings were a great feature of early Methodism in Honley. At one of these love-feasts, held in Green Cliffe Chapel, the conversion of Squire Brooke was announced. There were great rejoicings amongst its members at the joyful news, many being in the employment of “Th’ Young Maister.” In 1823, Edward Brooke was made a class-leader. In 1824, he preached his first sermon in the chamber of the house of Joseph Donkersley which is opposite the present Chapel. As years passed, Green Cliffe Chapel proved too small and inconvenient for its large number of worshippers. Edward Brooke, full of religious enthusiasm, and with all the energy characteristic of his race, agitated for a new Chapel. The building was erected on its present central site, at a cost of £2,500 0s. 0d. Attached was a School, Vestries, etc., and the building was able to seat 600 people. Mr. Edward Brooke, full of expectations of coming good, could not wait patiently until the building was properly finished. Mr. William Dawson, a popular revivalist preacher, who resided near Leeds, preached at the opening service. There were no pews for the vast crowds of people who came, and they sat on the floor, unfinished frameworks or any place where a seat could be obtained. I have heard old people recall the wonderful preaching, fervent singing, and religious exaltation which distinguished the opening of the new Chapel; and the day was long remembered in Honley. When the Chapel was properly completed, it was opened and dedicated on November 26th, Mr. Edward Brooke himself being the preacher. The collection at this service amounted to £700 0s. 0d., and largely by his help, the Chapel was eventually free from debt. The old building at Green Cliffe was converted into cottages, and the burial ground was closed.

Space forbids me to more fully extend the life of Squire Brooke, but the history of his life has been written by the Rev. J. H. Lord. As one who often heard Mr. Brooke preach at Honley when younger, who also was acquainted with many who were once the gay companions of his youth, and knew others closely connected with his religious work in after life; I think that the life of Squire Brooke has been written with truth and fidelity by Mr. Lord. Probably the book has been read by nearly all the followers of Wesleyanism, not only in Great Britain, but in distant parts of the world.

The history of a building like that of a human life has to experience times of darkness. It was not all revival, conversion and building up days in the Wesleyan Chapel such as have been described. The closing of Shaw’s factory in 1845, previously named, was a great blow, not only to the industrial life, but also the religious life of Honley. Many of the most staunch members of the Chapel had to leave the place, and seek employment elsewhere. Inwardly, the Chapel also was passing through what was known as the “Reform agitation.” During this time of stress, a large number separated themselves from its worship. Dark days however passed. In 1893 a great work was again accomplished. This was renovating and decorating Chapel, restoring organ, and other alterations at a cost of £1,800 0s. 0d. I am unable to give particulars of these improvements, but the debt was paid off by gifts, sales of work, and the self-sacrifice of its members. It is one of the most beautiful Chapels in the neighbourhood, and a shining centre of devoted worship and useful work. In the roll of its members are to be found many of the good old family names of Honley. Many of their descendants who have remained on the soil, worthily walk in their footsteps. Along with others who have adopted Honley as their home, they are an influence for good upon those around them.

PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHAPEL.

This earnest and hard-working body of worshippers seceded from the parent Wesleyan body on account of differences held regarding a few points of minor doctrine. Amongst the more humble followers of Wesley during the earlier and middle part of last century were many unable to read or write; and often those who preached had not much more learning behind them. But if unlettered, they were well read in scripture. If their language was homely, their intense fervour appealed strongly to hearers. This rousing method of preaching the gospel did not meet with the approval of the more restrained and educated members of the Wesleyan body. A great camp-meeting was held out of doors at Mow-Cop, in Staffordshire, when intense religious enthusiasm prevailed, which was again condemned. In 1810, those who clung to the old form of religious expression without restrictions separated themselves from the parent body. They named themselves Primitive Methodists, the word primitive being more in harmony as they thought with their original mode of worship.

Honley Primitive Methodists first met and rented a room in Oldfield Buildings, which had previously been used as a meeting-place by the Methodist New Connexion body. Their numbers grew, and it was decided to erect their own Bethel, which was built in Southgate or Far End Lane, as it was then named in 1842. A Sunday School was built under the Chapel and there was also a burial ground attached, which is now closed. The estimated cost of Chapel and School was about £700 0s. 0d. Experience proves that these calculations are generally exceeded and such proved the case. It was only religious real which dared have attempted such an undertaking at that time. Its members were nearly all persons occupying a humble position in life, and work was scarce on account of the closing of Shaw’s mill. Members of the Primitive Methodist body, however, had always friends in Honley, both amongst Church people and otherwise. These did not enter into questions of their religious doctrines, but respected them for their earnest and genuine mode of worship. With great sacrifice also on the part of the members, who perambulated far and wide after their day’s work was over in search of subscriptions, the debt upon the Chapel was paid off.

As time passed, the Primitive Methodists, like other religious bodies, had to move with the times in satisfying modern requirements. The Chapel was enlarged in 1899 at a cost of about £1,400 0s. 0d. These various alterations were of a very extensive character, and a fine organ, built by Conachers, of Huddersfield, was also added. The four foundation stones for the enlargement of Chapel front were laid on April 20th, 1899, by J. Jenkinson, Esq., Sheffield, Alderman James Smith, Bradford, Henry Adams, Esq., Sheffield, and Mr. Allen Boothroyd, Honley. The latter, as one of the oldest scholars, laid the fourth stone on behalf of the Sunday School.

Like all who seek the good of others rather than their own, the earlier efforts of Primitive Methodists in other neighbourhoods had to encounter much scorn and often rough usage. Their joyous form of worship when holding revivalist services, camp-meetings, love-feasts, etc., earned for them the title of “Ranters” The Primitive Methodists of Honley, however, have not had to suffer from such persecution to my knowledge. Since the time that they raised their Chapel, the band of worshippers has always been a religious feature in the place; even rough and uncultivated characters having a sneaking regard for their primitive form of worship. In the past, the members have held camp-meetings and services in the open-air, singing hymns dear to their rugged hearts as they marched through the streets; for an old-time Honley Primitive Methodist has never been ashamed of his religion. In stirring revivalist times, they would sally forth each evening to seek the lost sheep of Honley. When holding their love-feasts, they would plead earnestly for the conversion of the sinner, dwell upon their many blessings, and turn their daily hardships into spiritual joys; for when the religious zeal of an old-time Primitive Methodist was aroused, it was bad to stifle.

I can recall to mind many of the old-time members, both men and women, with their expressive modes of worship, prayer, and characteristic exclamations generally uttered in the strong local vernacular. A younger generation of worshippers may perhaps feel that more decorous worship is preferable. But they have not lived in days when religious expression was the Alpha and Omega of lives whose lot was so hard.

The modern Chapel now takes rank with other religious buildings. Though its walls may not again resound to the old-time services and homely language, yet the Chapel and School are centres of active service and worship. These perhaps are more adapted to the modern ideas of its younger members than past modes of worship.

A feature of the Primitive Methodist body was its encouragement of women to also publicly give expression to their religious convictions. Whilst upon the subject of the Chapel, the name of Miss Sarah Ann Castle should not be allowed to fade from the memories of an older generation of worshippers who remembered her; and as worthy of more than a passing thought from the younger. Born May 4th, 1839, Sarah Ann Castle was the daughter of Jonathan and Mary Castle, of Scholes, near Holmfirth. Her parents were Wesleyans, and class-meetings were regularly held at her home. When the Primitive Methodist formed a body at Scholes, her parents joined; and their daughter was converted at the age of eleven years. At the age of 14 years she was chosen to preach, and put upon the plan.

Perhaps the greatest things in life have been accomplished when what is thought ordinary judgment has been thrown to the winds. It must naturally strike us that all common sense had fled, when a girl of 14 years is solemnly chosen to preach. Yet the confidence placed in this young girl reared in a limited sphere was justified. She became a mighty Evangalist, and before she was 20 years of age, had conducted services, missions, etc. in all parts of the neighbourhood. She often preached at Honley Primitive Methodist Chapel. Like as when vast crowds flocked to hear Squire Brooke, when he preached in his native place, so the preaching of Miss Sarah Ann Castle held the same attraction to the multitude. The writer, when a child, was always taken by her mother to hear this once celebrated female preacher, and can vividly recall her personality. Comparing the expressive individuality of Miss Sarah Ann Castle with cultured women of a later date whom I have heard speak upon many subjects, the former stands out in my memory as their equal. To go back to the days of seventy years ago in the isolated village of Scholes. What kind of education would fall to the lot of a humble child in a cottage home, especially a girl? Knowing this, I can only think of her mental gifts as inspiration, or as Tennyson writes: “Here and there a cottar’s babe is royal born by ‘right Divine.’”

George Eliot, in her novel of “Adam Bede,” gives a pen picture of Dinah Morris the female preacher. In later life I have often wondered if the great novelist, whose book was written at the time when the preaching of Miss Castle was at its zenith, saw or heard her? George Eliot’s description of Dinah Morris answers in each detail to the personality of Miss Sarah Ann Castle with one exception. The latter had dark hair. Otherwise the beautiful face, quaker-like style of dress, clear and graceful style of preaching, free from all sensationalism, the softly-modulated voice with its plaintive wail of Miss Castle, are all re-produced in the description of Dinah Morris.

WOOD ROYD CHAPEL.

This Chapel is named Bethel, and has a Sunday School and Burial Ground attached. With its dark yew tree overshadowing the small “God’s acre” the Chapel is situated amidst picturesque scenery, and old world surroundings. Its building was also the outcome of the great religious revival which swept over the country after Wesley’s preaching. Mention is made of the Haighs in Hall Ing history. One, Thomas Haigh, born in 1749, was the founder of the Methodist cause in this corner of Honley township. A young man of wealth and standing, he indulged in sports and pastimes common at that period amongst his class. His mother was a pious and God-fearing woman regularly attending the Ministry of the Rev. H. Venn, at Huddersfield. One of the numerous converts of Whitefield and Wesley was a stone-mason of the name of John Nelson, residing at Birstall, who became one of the most celebrated of the revivalist preachers of that time. At the age of 23, Thomas Haigh heard this far-famed man preach in 1770. It was the turning-point in the life of Thomas Haigh. A convert to religion, he at once desired to convert others. A class of earnest men and women was formed, and led by him, prayer-meetings were held in his own house at Gynn, to which reference is made under the head of “Old Houses.” Afterwards meetings were held at Hall Ing, and in a cottage at Wood Royd Mill, which was the property of the Haigh family at the time. It is mentioned also that he preached at Farnley Tyas upon Easter Sunday in 1780 to a large assembly of people. He had a fervent co-worker in his son, Joseph Haigh, who purchased the Hall Ing property in 1851.

The Methodist New Connexion body was formed in 1797, having seceded from the parent Wesleyan body. Thomas Haigh and his son Joseph at once joined the new society, both having taken a foremost part in its institution. When Thomas Haigh was called to his rest, the good work begun by him was carried on by his son Joseph. The latter set apart ground at Wood Royd, for the purpose of building a Chapel. The foundation stone for the building was laid in April, 1840, and the Chapel was opened for service on September 23rd, 1840. Joseph Haigh defrayed the cost of erection, with the exception of subscriptions from his sons. When the foundation stone was laid, Henry Martin Haigh, a grandson of the founder, was baptized upon the stone. The first person to be interred in the peaceful burial ground was a child belonging to a member of the family. The second person was Joseph Haigh himself, whose memorial stone will keep in memory one of the old worthies of Honley.

The original doctrine of the New Connexion body underwent 1907 a change in 1907. The Union of three Methodists’ Societies took place at that time, and are named “The United Methodist Church.” The members of Wood Royd Chapel are now joined to this Union. The Jubilee of the Chapel was celebrated on October 11th, 12th and 13th, 1890, when a three days’ festival, both of a religious and social character, marked the interesting event. The name of Mr. and Mrs. Henderson and family have long been closely and honourably connected with this Chapel and its good work. I am indebted to Mr. and Mrs, Henderson for supplying me with particulars regarding both Chapel and Sunday School. Mrs. Henderson is a granddaughter of the late Mr. Joseph Haigh, and still resides near the old homestead.

BERRY CROFT CHAPEL.

This Chapel was one of the many little Bethels raised by men who had been so strongly influenced by the prevailing religious fervour of that time. Mr. Jonathan Roebuck, of Thirstin, a well-to-do Clothier, and a member of one of Honley’s oldest families, was a devoted member of the Methodist New Con-nexion body which had been formed at Hall Ing in 1797. Like unto others who had become converts, he was anxious for the conversion of others. Employing a number of workpeople in his trade as Clothier, he gathered them together as well as friends and tenants, and formed a small band of worshippers in Honley. Renting two cottages in Oldfield Buildings, they were adapted for a meeting-house. Here the small band continued to hold services until about 1856, when Mr. Jonathan Roebuck built a Chapel at Berry Croft, near his home, familiarly known as “Jonathan’s Chapel.” Mr. Roebuck gave it over to the Methodist New Connexion body, who supplied its Ministers. The small meeting-room in Oldfield Buildings, which he had rented, was afterwards used by the Primitive Methodists’ Society until able to erect their own Chapel, in 1842. When they vacated the building, it was in turn occupied by another “breaking away” body, who named themselves “Reformers.” During the life-time of Mr. Jonathan Roebuck, there was no lack of religious zeal or active work in connection with Berry Croft Chapel. There was a flourishing Sunday School which held its annual Anniversary and School-feast. After the death of its donor, who had been the life and soul of the little Chapel, its once active influence waned. Old attached members still supported both Chapel and School, but as these passed away, a younger generation went else-where. About 1887, Berry Croft Chapel had to close its doors for lack of worshippers, and the building is now rented for secular purposes.

REFORMER’S CHAPEL.

There was a secession from the parent Wesleyan body about 1836 by many members. The new sect was named “The United Methodist Free Church.” It was not however until 1849 that Honley members were able to form a body naming themselves “Reformers.” They met in the building before mentioned, which had been rented by Mr. Jonathan Roebuck, and afterwards by the Primitive Methodists body. They also formed a Sunday School, which held its annual Whitsuntide festival, prize distributions and anniversary. The latter was held out of doors, and generally attracted large crowds. The small but devoted band of God-fearing men and women who worshipped in the Reformer’s Chapel however gradually grew less. As death removed its early staunch supporters, their places were not taken by younger members. Towards the end of 1900, Reformer’s Chapel was closed for lack of support and membership. The building is now used for the teaching of wood-carving to week-day scholars attending the National School.


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The History of Honley (1914) - Chapter IX

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