Horbury Circuit, Yorkshire

Horbury Primitive Methodist chapel
Christian Messenger 1918/296
Middlestown Primitive Methodist chapel
Christian Messenger 1918/296

Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. F. Morgan Ridge

HORBURY has a history stretching back to the pre-Norman period which is evident from the references to it in Domesday Book. In the chronicles of over one hundred years ago it is described as “A populous clothing village,” which reputation it still retains. Horbury is a township three miles WSW. from Wakefield, with which it is connected by rail and electric trams, and has a population of about 7,000. It is renowned for its Worsted Mills, Athletic Goods, Iron and Railway Waggon Works, and its adjacent Coal Mines. It has been associated with great religious movements, and has responded to every religious awakening which has marked the past three hundred years. Oliver Heywood, one of the clergymen ejected by the Uniformity Act of 1662, frequently visited the neighbourhood, and the following note appears in a record of his life: “In the morning, when engaged in prayer in my study, R. I. came purposely from Horbury to tell me of two maids sent to the House of Correction because they refused to inform who were at the meeting, and to warn me to look to myself.”

In the 18th Century, John Wesley occasionally preached here, and John Nelson, one of Wesley’s converts and co-workers, records in his journals certain experiences he had at Horbury, and through the devoted labours of John Hansom and others, the Wesleyan Society flourished, and is now represented by two places of worship. The Established Church, Congregationalists, United Methodists, and Salvation Army have also places of worship.

Horbury is linked with the fame of the Rev. S. Baring Gould, who wrote three well-known hymns whilst Curate of Horbury Bridge Mission Church. One of these, the favourite processional hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” was first sung by the children of the Mission School in the streets of Horbury on their annual Festal day.

Mr. W. Taylor was the first Primitive Methodist Missionary to mission Horbury in the year 1820. He had been previously imprisoned at Wake?eld for preaching in the streets of Huddersfield. The divine blessing rested on his labours, and a Society was formed, which became the nucleus of our present church. It was first connected with the Barnsley Circuit, but in the early fifties was transferred to Wakefield, and in 1867 made the head of a Circuit. In 1887, the Circuit was divided, Ossett and adjacent societies forming a separate circuit. Several places were successfully missioned by the Horbury Circuit, and the ranks of the ministry recruited with John Day (who became Book Steward) John Quarmby, Eli lllingworth, W. R. Fallas and others.

Our people worshipped in a small building till 1840, when a new site was purchased in High Street and a Chapel was erected in the following year, which was afterwards enlarged to meet the demands of the increasing congregations, and a further demand made the erection of the present chapel a necessity, which was erected in the year 1875 at a cost of £3,310. Up to the year 1859, the Sunday-school was conducted in the chapel, when a school was erected, but this building became inadequate for the needs of the school, and so in the year 1907, the present school was built at a cost of £3,329, and is one of the finest buildings in the town. The present chapel has a seating capacity for 700, and the school for 600.

We have every cause to feel proud of our position in Horbury, and of the people who have helped to establish our cause in this industrial centre, and those who are now helping to carry forward the work, which lies so near their heart in spite of the difficulties that are confronting them.

If space permitted, one might furnish a long list of names (past and present) that stand for heroic and self-sacrificing efforts on behalf of this church, in its care and devotion in the training of the young people; in the intense interest and enthusiasm in the cause of Missionary work, and in every good and noble cause. Mr. George Stafford is one who, by his quiet, earnest devotion to every good work, exerts a gracious influence for good over others. In the many activities of our church life and work it would be difficult to find one that he was not interested in. His wife is the Secretary of the “Sisterhood,” which has a membership of about eighty. Both Mrs. Stafford and Mrs. Cave (Treasurer) have done much to maintain the interest in these meetings which were commenced about two-and-half years ago. Mr. D. Cave is the Circuit Secretary and a Local Preacher, and is well up in all Connexional matters, in which he takes a great interest, and he is a loyal supporter of his church. Our Society Stewards are Messrs. G. Stafford and Harold Hill, who find their greatest joy in service for their church. Since the building of the new school, Horbury Society has had to grapple with a heavy debt which now stands at £2,023, but with devoted and generous-hearted people the task is not a difficult one, for they willingly enter upon these efforts year after year, and we are now organising another effort for this year by which we are hoping to pay a good sum off the debt.

Thornhill Edge Chapel and School are the oldest in the circuit. The school was built in 1861, and the chapel in 1872, the total cost being £1,350, and the remaining debt is only £41. Several years ago the church suffered a very heavy loss by a colliery disaster which took place at Thornhill, when several of the leading workers lost their lives, but the church has bravely struggled on, and through the devoted labours of many noble women who have been connected with it and rendered splendid service, there are the signs of better days. One of these women is the President of the Christian Endeavour Society, which is doing a very good work, and several are on the Chapel Committee, and they are to the front in arranging the efforts for the Trust Funds. The Chapel and Pipe Organ has recently been renovated and beauti?ed at a considerable cost which has been generously borne by the Colliery Proprietor in the neighbourhood, and the outlook here is hopeful.

Our Society Stewards are Messrs. H. Wood and W. Croft, who are both loyal circuit men.

Middlestown is a prosperous mining village about two miles from Horbury. The present school-chapel was built in 1887, at a cost of about £650. An effort is now in progress to clear the remaining debt of £60, by the end of the year. Our one lack here is suitable accommodation for carrying on our work, but our hope is that with the spirit of enterprise now manifested, the time will not be far distant when efforts will be made for a new Building Fund. Some excellent fellowship meetings are held here, notably the Sunday evening prayer meeting, the weekly class-meeting, the Young People’s C.E. meeting, and a “Sisterhood” meeting which was commenced about two years ago, which is well attended not only by the women of our own church, but from all the churches in the village. The President and Secretary are gifted workers at our church, and their efforts have contributed much for the spiritual and social welfare of the whole of this village. In this church there is the true missionary spirit, and we always do well here for the Missionary Funds. Messrs. G. Brewer, and E. Cowley, the Society Stewards, are willing and loyal workers in the interests of the circuit.

The Overton Society was formed through the services that were conducted at Overton by some of the brethren belonging to the Middlestown Society in 1875, and the present chapel was erected in the following year, at a cost of about £600, and at the close of the year this chapel will also be free of debt. The Sunday-school is held in an old day-school adjoining, which has been used by us for various purposes for the past twenty years, and no one has ever questioned our right of appropriating the building for our own work, as we keep it in good repair, and put it to the best possible use. Mr. R.P. Leather is the Society Steward and looks well after the interests of our church, and is interested in all circuit efforts, he being the Secretary of the Circuit House Trust, as well as the Secretary of the Circuit Sunday-school Committee, and an enthusiastic Worker who has the right vision of things.

Netherton is a small village about one mile from Horbury, with a compact little chapel and school and a cottage occupied by the caretaker. It is many years ago since Mr. John Knutton of Netherton sent a request to the Rev. T. Mitchell (Superintendent Minister of Clayton West Circuit) to come and mission Netherton with a view to forming a Society, as previous attempts had been made through the instigation of Mr. Haley, whose daughter (Mrs. Ramsden) is the oldest member of our Society here. The services were continued in Mr. Knutton’s house up to the time of his death, and then his married son, largely through the influence of his wife, threw open their house for the services and for the Preachers to make their home there, but at their death the people were left without a spiritual home. Soon after, however, Mr. Seth Noble came from Middlestown to reside at Netherton, and he at once rented a cottage to hold the services in, and approached the Horbury Circuit to supply them with preachers, and also Sunday-school workers, which they gladly did. Some excellent times they had in the cottage, which, however, became too small for the congregations, and Mr. Noble and Mr. Simon Hall (who had been brought in at the cottage services) were requested to collect for a new chapel, which they undertook to do with their characteristic zeal, This made the project a success. They also secured one of the best sites in the village from a solicitor, who was in sympathy with their efforts, and rendered them every assistance as did the builder whom they secured to erect the chapel, which was built in 1890, the total cost being £776, the present debt is £192. Mr. Edwin Knutton (grandson of Mr. John Knutton) assisted in the building of the chapel, and is now an official of the Horbury Church. Mr. Harold Brooke’s father and mother joined the Society, and their influence and support greatly strengthened the cause, and their son Harold is now the Society Steward, and an acceptable Local Preacher in the circuit, and is a young man of promise who is greatly interested in the welfare of our Zion. His father-in-law (Mr. Teal) is also a faithful worker amongst the young.

In the circuit we have five chapels, five schools, a manse, and seven cottages. The total value of the property is estimated to be worth £11,358. The total debt on the property is £3,016. The membership is three hundred-and-fourteen; Local Preachers, twelve; Teachers, eighty-nine; Scholars, four hundred-and-ninety-eight.

During the past seven years there has been a steady increase in the Missionary Revenue, the total amount raised this year was £66 10s. 9d., which is a record. In all our churches we have excellent choirs who take more than the average interest in the musical part of the services, and in efforts for raising funds. Each contributed handsomely to the Kafue Training Institute. The future will see yet greater successes.


Christian Messenger 1918/296


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