Wakefield Family History Sharing
Walkers History of Wakefield
2nd edition 1939 (privately printed)
It was not until the last quarter of the eighteenth century that the Independents made any endeavour to form a Congregational Church in Wakefield, though for some years the Revs. Sugden, Gallon and Sutcliffe used to visit the town and preach at the house of John Thompson, next door to the Playhouse in Westgate, who with his nephew Samuel Thompson were the founders of Independency in Wakefield.
In 1778 the rev. Mr Ralph preached in this house; being threatened for preaching in an unlicensed house on the following Sunday he preached in the house of Thomas Wood at Flanshaw to a large assembly.
Three years later a meeting took place in this house at which it was decided to take the corn barn at the bottom of the Great Bull Yard as a meeting-house, were the Rev. William Tapp officiated. The Rev. Samuel Bruce was born near Heckmondwike in 154, and educated at the Academy there under the Rev. James Scott. His first call was to Grimsby, but when riding through the town on this way to Pontefract, where he had received a call, preached in the room in the Great Bull Yard and immediately was invited to the pastorate at Wakefieldm, which he accepted, October 13 1782, in preference to Pontefract. Under his forceful ministration the congreation greatly increased, the barn was soon found to be inadequare, and a plot of land was purchased on October 22nd 1782, fof the sum of £70, and the erection of Zion Chapel was at once proceeded with. The new building was opened on January 1 1783, being generally then known as "Bruce's Chapel". He remained at Wakefield for 44 years, but was disabled by a paralytic stroke in 1826 and died June 1st 1833, aged 78.
Lord Molesworth, under the influence of the Walkers of Rotherham, gave great encouragement to the Independents of Wakefield, and as the teaching at the Presbyterian Chapel in Westgate, having become Unitarian under the Rev. Thomas Johnstonem did not suit the tenets of many of the members the larger part of that congregation united with the Independents.
Bruce's chapel, being then too small, was pulled down in 142 and the present commodious and imposing Zion Chapel was erected on its site. The first stone was laid on July 1st 1843 by the Rev. J D Lorraine who succeeded Mr Bruce, and the Chapel was opened for service two years later.
Among the pastors who have ministered in this chapel may be mentioned the Revs. Samuel Bruce, J D Lorraine, J Stuckberry, H Sanders, J Wolstenholme, W H Dyson, J Byles, John Gascoigne, George Slack, E A Matheson.
In 1799 a second Independent congregation was formed, whose first meetings were held in a room in Old Crown Yard Northgate, under the ministration of the Rev. Benjamin Rayson. A Chapel was built in George Street and opened for worship in 1801. As Zio Chapel was commonly called Bruce's chapel so Salem Chapel was spoken of as Rayson's chapel. In January 1935 Salem Chapel was closed, the building and school were sold to the Wakefield Corporation for £1000. The Ministers who have serbed this chapel, Benjamin Rayson, 1800-1817 ; John Jefferson, 1819-22 ; Dr Cope, 1823-29 ; John Kelly, 1829-42 ; W Lumb, 1842-48 ; W Cread, 1848-52 ; W Eastmead, 1852-83 ; W Elstub, 1883-87 ; D D Waters, 1892-1911 ; W E Evans, 1915-20 ; F T Weekes, 1923-24 ; H Sharp, 1931-32 ; H Burn, 1933-35.
To read fully the events, read 'Wakefield its History and People' by J W Walker OBE FSA