The History of the Township of Meltham, Near Huddersfield (1866) - Chapter 3

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The History of the Township of Meltham, Near Huddersfield (1866) by Rev. Joseph Hughes

  • Chapter 1 : Introduction
  • Chapter 2 : The Village of Meltham in 1649 — The Building of the Chapel in 1650 — Its Consecration by Bishop Tilson in 1651
  • Chapter 3 : Notice of Bishop Tilson — The Curates of Meltham from the Year 1651 to 1770
  • Chapter 4 : The Rev. Abraham Woodhead and His Connection with Meltham
  • Chapter 5 : The Rev. Abraham Woodhead's Alleged Change of Faith — His Will and Letters
  • Chapter 6 : The Authorship of "The Whole Duty of Man" — The Various Claims to it Impartially Weighed
  • Chapter 7 : Bishop Fell's Portraiture of the Author of "The Whole Duty of Man" — The Work Claimed for the Rev. Abraham Woodhead — The List of Works Attributed to Him
  • Chapter 8 : The Rev. Abraham Woodhead's Pupils and Literary Associates
  • Chapter 9 : Parish Registers — Extracts from the Registers of Meltham Chapel, and from Those of the Parish Church of Almondbury
  • Chapter 10 : The Building of the Chapel of 1786 — The Various Additions and Improvements Connected with It
  • Chapter 11 : Meltham Mills — Helme and Wilshaw — Their Churches and Schools
  • Chapter 12 : Early Physical Aspect of Meltham — Its Natural Resources — Introduction of Woollen Cloth Manufacture Into the District
  • Chapter 13 : The Radcliffe Family — Its Connection by Marriage with the Beaumonts of Meltham
  • Chapter 14 : The Manor of Meltham and the De Laci Family — Copy of the Court Roll of Meltham
  • Appendix

Chapter III.

As we have in the preceding chapter given an account of the building, consecration, and endowment of the first chapel in Meltham ; we proceed now to furnish some information respecting the venerable prelate who conducted the service by which that simple building was set apart for the worship of Almighty God, and also to speak of the several curates who, in succession, occupied its pulpit during a period of 135 years, that is, from 1651 to 1786.

The details of Bishop Tilson’s chequered life preserved to us in the few historical notices that remain of him, are deeply affecting. They portray the character of one upon whom fell misfortunes and trials of every kind, and who maintained, not only his integrity, but his cheerfulness and dignity, under them all. His true greatness of mind shone forth perhaps more conspicuously when travelling on foot, without a murmur, to minister to a wild and rude people dwelling among the hills in Yorkshire, than when officiating as Dean of Christ Church, in Dublin, and Vice-Chancellor of the University. Thus has it ever been with the godly. Gold is tried in the fire, and becomes brighter in the testing. The bush on Sinai had remained unnoticed but for the fire that burned within it. The church and her godliest members oftentimes send forth most light when the flames of persecution are kindled in their midst.

It is much to be regretted that the records handed down to us of Bishop Tilson’s long and eventful life are so exceedingly meagre. Scanty, however, as they are, we gladly subjoin them, in the hope that they may give interest to the chapter upon which we have just entered.

Henry Tilson, born in the parish of Halifax in 1575, was entered a student of Balliol Coll. Oxon, in 1593, became B.A. in 1596, M.A. in 1599, and was elected Fellow of University Coll. In October 1615, he succeeded, in the Vicarage of Rochdale, Mr. Rd. Kenyon, who had become Rector of Stockport. He resided there for some years, and on the 4th day of June, 1620, was married by license at Milnrow, to Grace, daughter of — Chadwick, probably a branch of the Chadwicks of Healey, though unnoticed in the elaborate pedigree of that family in the College of Arms.

Richard Linney, of Rochdale, yeoman, by will dated March 12th, 1618-9, gives a legacy to his brother-in-law, Jordan Chadwick, of Heley, gent: and "To Mr. Henrie Tilson, Clerke, Vicar of Rachdale, my best cloake, and one Greek lexicon," and appoints his uncle, John Chadwick, D.D., executor.

The children baptised at Rochdale were

Dorothy Tilson, baptised July 1,1621.
Henry Tilson, baptised March 14, 1623-4.
Margaret Tilson, baptised May 7, 1626.
John Tilson, baptised Nov. 16, 1628.
Nathan Tilson, baptised Jany. 30,1630-1.
Thomas Tilson, baptised May 15,1636.

He became Chaplain to Thomas, the great Earl of Strafford, about 1630, and accompanied him to Ireland when appointed Lord Lieutenant. There is little doubt that Tilson is referred to by Bishop Bridgeman in the following paragraph of a letter addressed to Strafford on June 29th, 1634 :—

"I cannot let this bearer depart out of my diocese without a blessing on you for preferring of him, whom I have found a learned, painful, honest, peaceable, and religious minister, and such a one as — if you had commanded me to chuse you a chaplain — I could not have named one in my diocese whom I could sooner have recommended to you than this man. Long and long may you rule that kingdom with honour and happiness to it, and by promoting such as he [him], ever may you give scholars occasion to pray for you whilst you live, and to bless your memory when you are dead."— Strafford's Letters, Vol. I., p. 271.

To this distinguished nobleman he was indebted for his unhappy promotion. He became Dean of Christ Church, Dublin, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University there, and lastly was consecrated Bishop of Elphin on the 23rd September, 1639. On April 3rd, 1635 — not in November, according to Whitaker’s "History of Whalley," p. 443 — whilst residing in Castle-street, Dublin, he resigned the Vicarage of Rochdale, and, in the letters of resignation, he styles himself "Henry Tilson, Clerk, M.A., Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in Dublin."

His prosperity was of short duration. The miserable Irish rebellion broke out with awful fury, and on the 16th August, 1645, his palace was attacked and pillaged, his library burnt, his goods destroyed, and, what added to the Bishop’s troubles more than all, his son, Captain Henry Tilson, the Parliamentarian Governor of Elphin, joined with Sir Charles Coote in urging on the rebels. The Bishop fled from the scene of devastation to England, and found an asylum through the liberality of Sir William Wentworth, of Wentworth Wood-house, and Sir William Saville, the relatives of the Earl of Strafford, at Soothill Hall, in the parish of Dewsbury. Here he performed all the functions of his apostolic office, and it is somewhat remarkable that he privately ordained in the "Bishop’s Parlour," at Soothill, candidates for holy orders during the suspension of Episcopacy.

"I have seen his letters of priests’ orders to one of his successors in the Vicarage of Rochdale, for by this persecuted prelate, Henry Pigot, of Lincoln Coll: Oxon, was ordained Presbyter, according to the rites of the Anglican Church, on Thursday, the 27th September, 1654, at Soothill. His lordship’s circumstances were poor and precarious, and he eked out his scanty income by officiating at a small chapel at Cumberworth for several years, and even, when more than a septuagenarian, travelling weekly upwards of twelve miles, to perform the duty for less than £16 a year. The Bishop was buried in Dewsbury Church, on the 2nd of April, 1655,[1] in his 80th year, when a mean monument, with his lordship’s arms, and which has been designed for an effigy, still remains. ... Bishop Tilson does not appear to have published anything, although one of his letters may be found in Whitaker’s ‘ Whalley,’ and a high estimate of his abilities by his contemporaries, and especially by Strafford, only confirm the remark of Mr. Hallam, that there is no greater fallacy than that of estimating genius by printed books. Here we have an instance of a man whose moral and intellectual attainments were great, who possessed an enlightened mind, and stood forth in his day honourably distinguished amongst the clergy as an example of zeal without bigotry, and of piety without asceticism, who stated that all his promotion came ‘without his seeking and suit,’ and who is nevertheless chiefly remembered by posterity on account of his misfortunes."[2]

To this account may be added the following interesting note from Whitaker’s "History of Whalley," p. 443 :—

In the time of the Commonwealth, this little Chapel of Cumberworth, had a very eminent person for its Incumbent, Henry Tilson, Bishop of Elphin, who had been driven from his diocese by the troubles in Ireland, and had found shelter at Soothill Hall, near Dewsbury. Writing to an intimate friend — probably Sir George Radcliffe — and dated 1651, he says, "But you shall knowe that I am not altogether idle, for I pray — after the Directorie[3] of the Church of England — and preach every Sunday at a place in the mountaines, called Cumberworth, two myles beyond Emley — where I have by the way, Lawrence[4] my Gains or hoste. It was proffered me by a gentleman, Mr. Wentworth, of Bretton, whom I never saw savinge once, before he sent unto me; and because it came — as all my ecclesiastical livings and preferments have done — without my seeking and suite; and because it is a lay donative, and in his power to give or detaine, and the engag (engagement) was past in that parish, I took it to be pointed out for me by God, as a little Zoar, to preserve my life, and did accept it: though it will not reach to forty marks per ann: Besides, I trust to do God service in the exercise of my ministrie amongste that Moorish and late rebellious[5] plundering people. When I first went to Rochdale, you may remember what the old ostler at the Baytinges willed me to do. "Take with you" (said he) "a great box full of tarre, for you shall find a great companie of scabbed sheep." The first Sunday I preached in the forenoone, and read service in the afternoone: and when I perceived by their murmurings that they must have two fodderings, I have made good use thereof; and whereas I might have given them two sixpences, they are well pleased if I give them two groates for a shilling, which I intend to pay them, so childish are they in the right valninge of God’s coyne.[6]

At the east end of the south aisle of Dewsbury Church is a tablet to the memory of Bishop Tilson, which bears the following inscription in Latin :—

P. M.
Reverendi in Christo Patris
Henrici Tilson,
Hen. F.
Episcopi Elphinensis
In Hibernia,
Nati Ao. 1576, Juxta Halifax,
In Agro Eboracensi,
Denati 31 die Martii, A. 1655,
In eodem Agro.
Viri ob Eruditionem, et Pietatem
Parentis charissimi
Nathan Tilson,
Hen. F. Hen N.


In pious memory
of the Rev. Father in Christ
Henry Tilson
(the son of Henry)
Bishop of Elphin,
In Ireland,
Born in the year 1576, near Halifax,
in the County of York ;
Died the 31st day of March in the year 1655,
In the same County :
A man distinguished for his learning
and piety :
A most beloved parent :
Nathan Tilson,
Son of Henry, grandson of Henry,
(This monument.)

The initial capitals in the above inscription stand for the following words :— line 1, Pia Memoria ; 4, Henrici Filii ; 14, Posuit ; 16, Henrici Filins, Henrici Nepos.

The Curates.

Christian Binns, the first Curate of the first chapel or church in Meltham, was the only son of the Rev. John Binns, who was for about eighteen years Minister of Honley Chapel, and, for ten, of Holmfirth, where he remained until his death in 1646.

Christian Binns was bom at Over Brockholes, and after receiving his elementary education, was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. His residence there was during the exciting period of the great national struggle of the civil war. He took his B.A. degree in 1646. How soon he entered on the ministry after he left College does not appear. It is probable he took up his residence at his paternal estate at Over Brockholes (Bank End) ; from which he never removed. He had been ordained a Deacon, but does not seem to have taken a church: perhaps the very unsettled state of the National Church at that time contributed to make him undecided in his course. He had applied for ordination to Dr. Tilson, Bishop of Elphin, who then resided at Suthill Hall, near Dewsbury, from whom many persons who were then candidates for holy orders in the West Riding, sought ordination; but it had been delayed in consequence of his having to take the oath of the King’s supremacy, respecting which he appears to have had scruples. He, however, on the 3rd of October, 1650, was ordained Presbyter by the Bishop of Elphin, at Emley Church, and was the following year appointed to the Curacy of Meltham Chapel (Church), which had recently been erected, and which was consecrated on the 24th of August, 1651, by the same Bishop.[7] The Rev. Christian Binns continued Curate of Meltham until his death, which took place at Bank End. He was interred at Kirkburton, the 27th of June, 1669.
Elizabeth Binns, sister of the Rev. Christian Binns, Curate of Meltham, married Anthony Armitage, of Thickhollins. The Court of St. John’s of Jerusalem possessed the right of issuing Probate of Wills within its jurisdiction, being what is termed a "Peculiar." The will of the Rev. Christian Binns, B.A., the last of the name at Bank End, was proved in this Court, and probate granted in the 23rd of Charles II. (1670.) He devised his estate to the children of his sister Elizabeth, the wife of Mr. Anthony Armitage, of Thickhollins. She was buried January 23rd, 1657, and her husband September 8th, 1674.[8]
The Rev. George Crosland.

It appears from an entry in the old Register of Baptisms and Burials at Meltham, that the Rev. Christian Binns was succeeded in the Curacy by the Rev. George Crosland, B.A. The notification of this is in Latin, and may be translated thus :— "George Crosland, of the Holy and Undivided Trinity College, in the University of Cambridge, B.A., received the cure of souls at Meltham, the 2nd of May, 1669." Of this gentleman and the character of his ministrations, no tradition now exists. It is probable that he was related to the Croslands of Castle House, or Castle Hill, of which family two members, George Crosland, and his nephew, John, were successively Vicars of Almondbury. The Almond-bury Register records the name of another clerical member of the same family, baptised there "June 17th, 1610, Master of Arts." The Curate of Meltham, the Rev. George Crosland, married a lady of the name of Martha Bannister, July 20th, 1674, by whom he had two daughters, Francisca, baptised June 8th, 1675, and Elizabeth, baptised December 2nd, 1680. It is supposed that he was interred at Almond-bury, the burial place of his ancestors, as no tombstone or memorial of any description marks the place of his sepulture at Meltham. A curious receipt of money, in his handwriting, to Mr. John Armytage, of Thickhollins, is still in existence, and is thus worded :—

August 25th 1676.
Reed then of John Armytage yeoman, term shillings being ye 20/2 for tenn pounds which was to be paid to the Curate of Meltham Chappell upon ye feast of Bartholomew, I sa, received by me ye said summ
George Crosland
The Rev. Timothy Ellison.

The name of the Rev. Timothy Ellison, as exhibiting his license in 1674, occurs in the list of Curates, and also that of the Rev. Dennis Hayford in 1683; but their term of service must have been very short, as we have seen that the Rev. George Crosland held the Curacy in August, 1676, and how much longer we know not; while from another document we learn that the Rev. Randoll Broom, Curate of Meltham, officiated at a marriage — that of the Rev. Cams Philipson, Vicar of Almondbury, in 1683, December 17th. Of Ellison and Hayford no record remains. "Their memorial is perished with them." They are not alluded to in the Register.[9]

The Rev. Randoll Broom.

The Rev. Randoll Broom exhibited his license in 1683, and held the Curacy of Meltham twenty-two years, but during that period resided at Linthwaite Hall, near Slaithwaite. He died the 17th of December, 1705, in the 63rd year of his age, and was buried in Meltham Church yard, where his tombstone, with the following inscription, may still be seen :—

Here lies the body of Mr. Randoll Broom, Curate of this place, who Departed ye 17th of Decembr 1705 in ye 63rd year atat e|3 fuæ.

All that we can now learn respecting him is to be gathered from the diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke, Incumbent of Slaithwaite, between whom and Mr. Broom a great intimacy existed, which seems to have led to frequent intercourse and occasional exchange of clerical duties. Mr. Meeke was a faithful and conscientious pastor, greatly beloved by his people, and a friendship with him gives us a favourable impression of Mr. Broom’s character.

The portion of Mr. Meeke’s diary in which his brother clergyman is named, extends over a period of about five years, beginning in 1689 and ending in 1694. The first two entries run thus, and relate only to the village of Meltham :[10]

1689. — Octr 14th. — I went to day to Meltham, dined at Yeoman Armitage’s, Dame Shaw and her sister Mortimer being with me.
Novembr 17th. — In the forenoon preach’t at home, in ye aftern: at Meltham for Mr. Broom, where there were many people.

It is satisfactory to learn from this last remark that even at that early period, and the season of the year — winter — the inhabitants of the village of Meltham did not "forsake the assembling of themselves together on the Sabbath Day.

Decem. 25. — Preach’t at home from 1 Timothy i. 15th middle part. It was a thaw after ye snow; the way was very wet. Mr. Broom went not to Meltham, but came hither. I desired his pains, but he was not prepared, so that I was frustrate of my hope.

The next entry, February 19th, 1690, refers to a journey from Slaithwaite to York, undertaken by the two worthy divines, to enable them to record their votes as freeholders on the election of members for the county. At that time, indeed, such a journey was a somewhat serious affair. On this occasion, from leaving Slaithwaite to returning, it occupied above three days.

1690. — February 19. — Arose about two o’clock this morning and went with Mr. Broom towards York. About ten we came to Leeds, and refreshed ourselves, and then to Tadcaster — about 5 o’clock to York.[11]
20th. — Blessed be God, arose in a measure of health, though I was somewhat wearied. About 9 we went into the Castle yard to shout for the knights of the shire, viz. — Lord Fairfax[12] and Sr. John Kay, they were both chosen, none opposed them. About 11 returned back, called at Tadcaster, and then to Leeds.
21st. — Arose in health again praised be God, tho’ yesterday through company I stay’d too late up, about 11 we came to Brighouse and so homeward.
April 28th. — Went twice to see a neighbour, being sick and weak — (29th) and to day Mr. Br: went with me, and he pray’d with her, and we returned back.
Aug. 6th. — Many people went to meet Sr. John Kay’s son, being lately manied, who brought his wife to Woodsome to day. I went with Mr. Broom and my landlord.
1691. — February 22. — It was such a snow during the day that Mr. Broom could not go to Meltham, but came to the chappel and preached for me both ends of the day from Matth. 5. 16. The congregation was very small, but half a dozen women in the forenoon.
Augst. 30. — I preached at home, there was a slender congregation. Many went to Meltham, Marsden, and Ripponden, being the first Sunday after Rushbearing.
1692. — April 5th. — Snow so deep on the moor, that Mr. Broom could not go to Meltham. He preached for me in the afternoon from 1st Cor: 6. 4.
July 10th. — Rode to Meltham. It was a wet day, by times showers. Preached both ends, by God’s assistance, and returned home safe. Dined at James Oldfield’s, who had a child baptized.
1693. — Octr. 30. — Dined at Abr : Beamond’s at Meltham with a new married couple, viz. — Mr. Radcliff and his wife. After dinner we went into the town to drink a shot as custom is. We stay’d too long — that it was very late before I came home — Mr. Br : being with me.
July, 1694. — My neighbour Mr. Broom being ill all this week, I promised to preach for him to morrow in the afternoon. God fitt me for sickness, suffering, and death.
15. — Preached this forenoon upon a text something suitable to what happen’d — one to do publique penance. I preached from 1 Tim: 5. 20,[13] which I prepared yesterday. In the afternoon preach’t at Meltham."
The Rev. John Kaye.

As the Rev. Randoll Broom died in 1705, and the Rev. John Kaye does not appear to have taken the Curacy of Meltham before 1710, the cure must have been held in the mean time by some other individual, whose name has been lost, and of whom no record can be found.

The Rev. John Kaye was a member of an old and respectable family residing in Netherthong,[14] and from the circumstance of there being no tradition as to any house he occupied or lodged in at Meltham, it is supposed that he also lived at Thong. A flat stone in the Church yard of Almondbury points out his last resting place. It bears the following inscription:—

Here lyeth the Body of the Reverend Mr. John Kaye, late Curate of Meltham, who died December the 24th, in the 45th year of his age. Ano Dno 1723.

A few rather interesting fragments of Mr. Kaye’s sermons, now nearly obliterated by time, have been deciphered by the help of a powerful magnifying-glass, and are here given as specimens of the doctrine he taught and the style of his composition. The following sentences are from one :— "For Kirk August Feast[15] 1710." Discourses delivered about 150 years ago are of course somewhat different in their style from those to which we are accustomed to listen in the present day. The text of the discourse above alluded to is from 2 Timothy iii 12 — "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

Though evil men plot, God hath a plot, above their plots he sits in heaven, and laughs them to scorn. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth; God comes between the plot and the execution, and mars all. He snares the wicked in their own devices. This is a matter worthy of our chiefest meditation. God will punish all wicked men, but persecutors of his people especially. As the martyrs shall have the highest joys — so for their persecutors God has prepared the deepest sorrows. There is a near union between Christ and his church. He is the head, they are his members; He the vine, they the branches ; He the husband, and they his spouse; ergo, He must be sensible of the wrongs done to ym ... Christ and his people have common foes. Tho’ wicked men may forget their wickedness, yet God will not. He can tell Amalek 400 years after what he did against Israel, and punish him for it ... If Jeroboam stretch forth his hand against the prophet, that hand shall wither ; if Herod vex the church, worms shall vex him ... Now, many live longest, who deserve not to live at all. Here, the Israelites make bricks, whilst the Egyptians dwell at ease — David is in want, whilst Nabal abounds. Here Zion ofttimes is Babylon’s captive, and they that deserve nothing are lords of all. Yet this is oar comfort, the day of the Lord will come, when we shall be above, and our enemies shall be beneath. Now, they may cite ns to their Bar, bat we cite them, as Jerome of Prague did his adversaries, to God’s Bar, and summon you all to answer me shortly before the great and just Judge of all the world.

Again, elsewhere, he says,

I have read of a woman in the time of Yalens, the Roman Emperor, who ran with her hair loose about her shoulders, and her child in her arms, to the place where the martyrs were being slain — and being asked whither she ran, she replied, Crowns are being given to day, and I will be partaker with them. This joy and comfort was peculiar to the spirits of those times — but we cannot expect the like now.
The Rev. Mr. Sunderland.

A gentleman of the name of Sunderland, was, after the death of the Rev. Mr. Kaye, nominated to the Curacy of Meltham, but did not retain it long. Whether he resigned it, or was removed by death, is not known. Nothing beyond the fact of his having once held it, can be ascertained respecting him.

The Rev. John Stainton.

The Rev. John Stainton, A.B., took the cure of souls at Meltham in the year 1724, being nominated by the Rev. R. Slater, Vicar of Almondbury. His name occurs in the bond concerning the building of Mean Bridge in 1724. It is most probable that this gentleman was a descendant of the venerable Robert Stainton, Vicar of Almondbury, who died in 1598, and whose pious and affecting prayer on the occasion of interring Henry Beaumont, of Lockwood, who died of the plague in 1563, is given elsewhere. The Rev. Robert Stainton, as Vicar of Almondbury, was also called upon to commit to the grave in the year 1558 five members of the Scammonden family, of Woodsome Mill, all victims to that awful pestilence. The first death occurred on the 16th of July, 1558 — the last on the 10th of August, the following month in the same year. The Vicar’s son, Henry Stainton, was Curate of Marsden during his father’s life-time. It is most probable that the Rev. John Stainton, the Curate of Meltham, was interred with his family at Almondbury. He only held the Curacy four years. Mr. Littlewood, of whom no record remains save the name, was the immediate successor of Mr. Stainton, and was followed by Mr. Sagar.

The Rev. Robert Sagar.

This gentleman was nominated to the Curacy of Meltham July, 1728, by the Rev. Edward Rishton, Vicar of Almondbury, and had previously held the Curacy there, and frequently preached in the Parish Church. He seems to have occasioned much annoyance to the Vicar by his negligence respecting the Registers when at Almondbury, and to have been equally careless and dilatory at Meltham. For in the Almondbury Churchwarden’s accounts in 1752, we find the following item :—

1752, April 5th, Paid three men for going to Meltham to afright Mr. Sagar, to make him send his Register, Mr. Rishton being fast for going forward with his, Pd 3/.

And six years after, in 1758, the alarm that these three men may be supposed to have produced in Mr. Sagar’s mind seems to have been forgotten, for we again find another entry :—

Paid three men 3/ for going to Meltham about the Register."[16]

Mr. Sagar married Widow Broadbent, of Cradin Holes, by whom he had several children. He was found dead in his bed on Wednesday morning, April the 25th, 1770, after holding the Curacy of Meltham forty-two years. As to the performance of his pastoral duties, tradition is silent, but we find occasional mention of him in the diary of a neighbouring clergyman — with whom he appears to have been intimate — the Rev. John Murgatroyd, Master of Slaithwaite School. This gentleman, in his diary, thus writes :— "April 22, 1770, Vesp : Mr. Sagar preached in the morning and I read prayers, and did all for him in the afternoon, he being not very well ; gratis." And on Wednesday morning following, viz. — April 25, 1770, this entry occurs :— "From sudden death, good Lord deliver us" (Mr. Sagar was found dead in his bed). Again we read in the diary :— "At Meltham, 29th April, at the end of the sermon said something on Mr. Sagar's death."

In another entry in the January previous to this, Mr. Murgatroyd writes :— "25 Jany, 1770, Mr. Sagar gave me half a guinea, without requesting it, for duty" — and again :— "The Rev. Mr. Sagar departed this life April 26, 1770 ; went to bed in his usual health, and was found dead in bed in ye morning about 8. He was Curate of Meltham."

It would be a want of justice to the memory of that worthy and truly indefatigable man, Mr. Murgatroyd — himself scantily supplied with this world's goods — were we to pass unnoticed his frequent services rendered to Mr. Sagar in the chapel at Meltham, gratis. Persons not long deceased, remember how this good man used to toil on the road from Slaithwaite to Meltham, book in hand, preparing his sermon, regardless alike of the heat of summer and the storms of winter.

Three curious receipts of money in the Rev. Robert Sagar’s[17] handwriting are still extant, and are thus worded :—

Meltham Novbr 29, 1738. There and then, received of Mary Woodhead, the sum of two pounds, being in full for one half-year’s rent, due at Martinmas last, I say, received by me, Robert Sagar, Curate of Meltham.

And again,

Meltham, November the 11th 1748. There and then, Received of John Woodhead, the sum of forty shillings, being half-a-year’s Rent arising from lands lying in Meltham, now become due, I say Received by me Robert Sagar, Curate.


Meltham, June the 28th, 1755. There, then, and at another time before received of James Woodhead the sum of two Pounds; being half-a-year’s Rent due at Whitsuntide last. I say, received by me, Robert Sagar, Curate of Meltham.

On a table-tomb, in Meltham Church yard, on the south side of the church, and about six yards therefrom, the east end of the tomb being nearly parallel with the east end of the church, is the following inscription :—

Here Lyeth interred ye Body of the Revd. Mr. Robert Sagar, late Curate of this place, who Departed this Life ye 26th Day of April, 1770, in the 73rd year of his age.

He was buried April the 30th, 1770.

Mr. Sagar came originally from Colne, in Lancashire, and was, at the same time as a Mr. Littlewood, an applicant for the Curacy after the death of the Rev. John Stainton. Mr. Littlewood, it appears, was the person appointed, but whether from ill health or some other unknown cause, he speedily gave up his charge, and Mr. Sagar was appointed to the vacant Curacy. His grandson, Mr. William Sykes — alias William of the School, his father being the schoolmaster at Crosland — now[18] in his 85th year — a vigorous old man with all his faculties unimpaired, states, that his grandfather greatly desired the appointment, but having been previously rejected by those who now made application to him, was resolved to give them a gentle reminder of their former treatment, and wrote them the following caustic and humorous lines in reply to their request :—

Littlewood is gone,
Greatwood you have none,
What need can you have of a Sagar?

"Sagar," in the dialect of Meltham, means Sawyer.

In Archbishop Sharpe's Book, a copy of which was in the possession of the late Archdeacon Markham, two names occur, namely, those of Samuel Brooke, in 1730, and Jonathan Leatherbarrow, in 1733, as having been nominated to the Curacy of Meltham by the Rev. Edward Bishton, Vicar of Almondbury; but as Mr. Sagar[19] was unquestionably the Curate of Meltham from 1728 to 1770, when his decease occurred, these gentlemen must have been assistant Curates in the parish.

The Rev. Edmund Armistead.

The last Curate[20] who officiated in the old chapel, was nominated by the Rev. Robert Smith, Vicar of Almondbury, in the year 1770, to whom a further allusion is made elsewhere. In this place we record merely his appointment and the time during which he occupied the pulpit in the first chapel, namely sixteen years. Mr. Murgatroyd’s Diary has one or two entries bearing on this period, and on a later one. They relate to Mr. Armitstead, with whom he seems to have been on friendly clerical terms.

1782, November 24th. At Meltham but no service. Rev. Armitstead gone to see his relations. Rev. Harrop[21] wo’d be at Meltham Vespers, so, calling no where, I returned home. Again 1789, October 13th at Meltham, no service there M. — I went and dined with Mr. Mellor, at Helm, and we went together to the chapel. I churched a woman and did all the afternoon duty at Meltham, though Mr. Armitstead was returned from Honley, where he had done the morning duty. 1802, June 25th at Meltham, but did no duty, Revd. Armitstead did it all. I came home to my dinner, and went to Slaithwaite Chapel Vesp :

End Note to Chapter

The following is an additional note :—

Directory. — A kind of regulation for the performance of religious worship, drawn up by an assembly of religious teachers in England, at the instance of the Parliament, in 1645. It was intended to supply the use of the Liturgy, or Book of Common Prayer, the use of which had been abolished. It prescribed no form of prayer, or circumstances of external worship, and did not oblige the people to any responses except "Amen." — Dr. Hook's Church Dictionary.
Directory, the Church. — The book so called was published in England at the period of the civil war. It was drawn up at the instance of Parliament, by an assembly of Divines at Westminster, with the object that the ministers might not be wholly at a loss in their devotions after the suppression of the Book of Common Prayer. There were some general hints given, which were to be managed with discretion; for the Directory prescribed no form of prayer, nor manner of external worship, nor enjoined the people to make any responses, except "Amen." The Directory was established by an ordinance of the Parliament in 1644. — Bishop Taylor. — From Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, Vincent's Edition.

Continue to Chapter 4...


  1. From the above date it would appear that the venerable Bishop Tilson was more than seventy-four years of age when he consecrated the chapel at Meltham.
  2. Note on Bishop Tilson by the Rev. F. Raines, M.A., F.S.A., Rural Dean of Rochdale and Incumbent of Milnrow, Rochdale. See "Assheton’s Journal," Chet. Soc. Pub., Yol. XIV., 1848.
  3. "Directory for Public Worship." During the civil war, the Puritans supplied the place of the Book of Common Prayer, by a volume bearing the above title. It was prepared by a committee appointed October 17th, 1643, and was established by Parliament, January 3rd, 1645. — Townsend's Manual of Dates. For further information, see Note at the end of this chapter.
  4. Lawrence Farrington, Rector of Emley.
  5. These wild mountaineers had taken a somewhat discreditable part in the civil war against Charles I., from 1642 to '49, and had become greatly demoralised in consequence of it, their mode of warfare being marked by plunder and lawless violence.
  6. Dr. Whitaker remarks upon this last sentence, "The Puritans required two sermons every Sunday ; and the Bishop, who seems to have been an economist of his doctrine, probably meant by this whimsical figure that the people of Cumberworth were better pleased with two discourses of twenty minutes each, than with one of an hour."
  7. "The erection and consecration of an Episcopal Chapel, under the then existing state of the Anglican Church, is perhaps unparalleled in the ecclesiastical history of Yorkshire."
  8. Morehouse’s "History of Kirkburton," pp. 127—8.
  9. The old Register now in existence belonging to Meltham, dates from the 2nd of May, 1669, on which day the first three lines in it certify that the Rev. George Crosland took the cure of souls at Meltham. At the foot of one column of entries for the year 1711, July 5th, these words are added:—"And thus far was contained in the old Register book, and here it was a wanting" — 1715. By this we gather that there was a former, and probably the first Register, from which this has been copied. From 1669 to 1727 the same clear excellent handwriting is found. Leaves are wanting from 1705 to 1711, and again from 1711 to 1715.
  10. The extracts from Meeke’s diary have been kindly furnished by the Rev. C. A. Hulbert, Incumbent of Slaithwaite.
  11. That is, the journey between Slaithwaite and York occupied fifteen hours!
  12. This was Henry Lord Fairfax, paternal uncle to Thomas Lord Fairfax, the Parliamentarian General, who died without male issue.
  13. "Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear."
  14. The following entry in the Register occurs :— "1679. Johan : fil : Abra : Kaye de Netherthongue bapt Aug. primo die fuitqe" — and some years after — "Curat de Meltham" added.
  15. St. Bartholomew's Day.
  16. The Rev. Edward Rishton was a most conscientious and methodical man, as we gather from a note in his handwriting at the beginning of Vol. 4 of the Parish Register. He says :— "As I have always looked upon the due keeping of a Parish Register of the utmost consequence, so I have been exactly careful, in the several laborious employments I have been called to in the church, to avoid mistakes. But as my care alone is not sufficient to keep this Parish Register with ye exactness I could wish, I desire this justice from posterity; that if any mistakes arise, and the consequences of ’em, they may not be charged upon my memory; but entirely (as in reason they ought to be) upon the negligence of the respective curates. — 1726. Edward Rishton, Vicar." A note at the foot of this entry runs thus :— "N.B. Edward Rishton, Vicar of Almondbury, deserves the thanks of all men for his care in the good order of ye Register since 1727." To this there is no signature. Charles and Thomas Broadbent were the last persons whom Mr. Sagar christened.
  17. The Rev. Robert Sagar resided in the house afterwards occupied by Mr. Isaac Woodhead, and in which the Local Board now hold their meetings.
  18. April, 1865.
  19. The inhabitants of Meltham appear to have entertained a most kindly feeling towards their pastor, the Rev. Robert Sagar, for about the year 1760, they enclosed from the waste a certain portion of land from which they dug out the stones, and put it into a state capable of cultivation. This they gave to the church for the improvement of the living : it was called "Parson’s Close," and it was from this field that a portion was taken in 1850 for the New Cemetery.
  20. The Rev. Edmund Armitstead resided at Netherton during the whole of the time that he was Curate of Meltham — a period of 58 years.
  21. Curate of Holmfirth.