Wakefield Family History Sharing
Walkers History of Wakefield
2nd edition 1939 (privately printed)
"It was in 1812 that a few Baptists made a determined effort to form a church of their own order in Wakefield. They were men of the sturdy Puritan type - men of faith and deep conviction. They declared themselves to be 'immersed believers acknowledging the Word of God as contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the only rule of raith and practice"
The present cause at Wakefield began in 1836, but a previous effort had been made by students from Horton College, who had held services in a schoolroom in Hardy Croft as early as the year 1812. In 1818 Dr Steadman baptised three converts in the river and meetings were afterwards held in the Old Assembly Room, twhere a baptistry was constructed. The effort was, however, relinquished, as was a second attempt in the year 1827.
In the yer 1829, Dr Cope led a secession from Rayson's Chapel in George Street to a building in Quebec Street, the services in which were only carried on for five years ; the chapel was then closed, and on Sunday, April 24th 1836, it was re-opened for the Baptists by the West Riding Baptist Itinerant Society. On this occasion the Venerable Dr Steadman, late President of Horton Baptist College, presided in the morning and afternoon, and on the following Sunday the service was conducted by the Rev. James Acworth, President of Horton College. The following six Sabbaths the pulpit was occupied by Mr John Girdwood, a student of the College. During these six weeks Mr Girdwood, with much zeal and earnestness, established a Sabbath School, a Tuesday evenign lecture, and a Bible class on Sunday evenings. For the remainder of the year the pulpit was supplied by students from the college, but it soon became evident that this mode of word would not ensure success to the new cuase, and in consquence of not having a stated minister and the severe opposition from other denominations, the congregation dwindled. At the end of the year, however, a few of the more energetic spirits among the little band called a meeting and decided to invite Mr Joseph Harvey, a student of Horton College, to become their minister. Mr Harvey, having decided to settle elsewhere, Mr Joseph Fox, another student of the same college was invited, and after some little delay he commenced his labours as minister in May 1837.
The first baptismal service was held at Ossett on January 9, 1838 - thee being no baptistry in the old Independent Chapel - and on February 1, 1838, the eight persons who were baptised, together with six others who were or who had been members of Baptist churches in other towns, agreed to unite themselves. It was the formation of this church of fourteen persons that led to te establishment of the Baptist denomination in Wakefield.
The members having increased to twenty-weven, the Church was formally constituted on March 15th 1839, and three deacons appointed. Mr Fox remained for fourt and a half years, adding seventy-three members to the Church. The necessity of a new chapel being imperative, land was secured and the present chapel opened on March 20, 1844, the Church then numbering ninety-nine members.
The first stone of the present building in George Street was laid on July 24, 1843, by the Rev Peter Scott, Pastor of the Baptist Church, Shipley. The church at this time numbered 99 members. The new chapel was opened on Wednesday, March 20, 1844. At the public breakfast next morning at West Parade Schoolroom the sum of £200 was promised towards the cost.
The building evidently tased the rescources of the people very severely, and th swift sucession of brief pastorates suggests the difficultythe Church had in supporting a settled ministry. The Church has had eighteen ministers :- Revs. J Fox, D Boyce, W Howieson, W Colcroft, A Perrey, MD., G C Catterall, H Hardin, W Turner, W Satchwell, J Ford, J Cottam, H J Martin, L Banner, 1910-16 ; Thomas William Hunterm 1917-22 ; Alftred Thomas Greenwood, 1922-25 ; H J Starling, 1925-35 ; John Herbert Jones, 1933-36 ; J E MacKean, 1938-. During Mr Turner's pastorate the chapel was considerably improved, additional rooms built, an organ installed, and a hundred members were added to the Church. During the pastorate of Mr Ford (1882-93) the interior of the building was modernised, and during more recent years the electric light was installed through the generosity of one of the members.
For some time it had been felt that the chapel was in unsuitable surroundings, the buildings were sold, and land was purchased at Belle Isle for the erection of a new chapel, the stone laying ceremony for which took place on June 10, 1939. In addition to a chapel the new buildings will provide a school and classrooms to be constructed ot brickwork with flat roofs at a cost of £4,300.
To read fully the events, read 'Wakefield its History and People' by J W Walker OBE FSA