The 19th century saw the large Non-conformist chapels being built in Dewsbury. There were six Wesley and Methodist, and a Friends' Meeting House, but no Congregational chapel before 1815. A Congregational Sunday School was, however, started a year before this in Solomon Hindle's Chamber, which was an upper room in a building on the corner of Church Street. It has not been possible to find out if Solomon Hindle was the name of the man who started the Sunday School or if he owned the building. One can assume he was the owner as there is no mention of his name in the records of the first chapel.
Solomon Hindle's Chamber.
The Congregationalists, or Independents as they were known, had to walk to Hopton on Sundays. They took their dinner with them and stayed for morning and afternoon services, and so a number of friends got together and started canvassing for subscriptions. When they had collected £300 they started to plan their chapel.
They purchased the land in Longcauseway for £225 from Mr. Halliley, and in the spring on 1814 the foundation stone was laid by Mr John Hemingway of Earlsheaton. The architect was Mr Thomas Marriot of Dewsbury. The building would accommodate 700 people, pews would be fitted in the gallery but the ground floor would only have loose benches. The cost was estimated at £900. The next year, on Thursday, 29th June 1815 the first Congregational chapel was opened, and was called Ebenezer. The final cost doubled the estimate, it was £1800, mainly due to changing the plans and furnishing the whole of the chapel with pews.
Three services were held that day: morning worship at 10.30 was led by Rev. Parsons of Leeds, afternoon worship at 2.30 by Rev. Cochin of Halifax and evening worship at 6.00 by Rev. Toothill of Hopton. There was a collection at each service, the total raised being £46. The original deed was dated 16th August 1815, and the chapel was freed from debt in 1829.
The name 'Ebenezer' was given to the chapel as a devout and heartfelt recognition of the goodness of God, by whose providence the people had so far prospered in the undertaking.
The first Ebenezer chapel.
For nearly two years after the opening of the chapel the pulpit was supplied by neighbouring ministers and students from Rotherham and the Heckmondwike Academy. The first minister, Rev. G Waterhouse, came from Rotherham and for some years his salary was small and obtained with difficulty, so he started teaching at a school near the wells on the way to Earlsheaton. In 1823 a resolution was passed asking all persons having a pew or sitting, to make quarterly payments in addition to their pew cent, as the present income was insufficient to pay the minister's salary.
In 1822 the Sunday School had grown too large for Solomon Hindle's Chamber, so a plot of ground behind the chapel was purchased from Mr. Mathews. Plans for the new school were prepared by Mr Thomas Marriot and would hold 250 persons. The trust deed was dated 29th May 1822.
Land at the side of the chapel was bought from Mr. Thomas Eastwood to provide additional burial space. The deed was dated 14th February 1835.
By 1838 the congregation and Sunday School had steadily increased, and the decision to enlarge the chapel was taken on 13th April 1838. Mr. Jeremiah Marriot prepared the plans. The side walls remained and a new front was erected and 150 more sittings were made available. The second Ebenezer was opened on 11th July 1839. Rev. T Raffles of Liverpool preached at the morning service, and Rev. R Hamilton of Leeds in the evening. On the first Sunday, 14th July, Rev. J Lorraine of Wakefield preached at the morning service, Rev. G Waterhouse in the afternoon and the Rev. J Ely of Leeds in the evening. The collection at the two days totaled £246.
The alterations had cost £750 and the debt was cleared in April 1846. The large oval title stone inscribed 'Ebenezer 1814' was built into the wall of the side graveyard. The organ, built by Mr. F. Booth of Wakefield and costing £200 was opened on 29th September 1839. The organ was enlarged and improved in 1853.
The second Ebenezer chapel.
At a meeting on the 27th March 1848 it was decided to enlarge the school rooms. Mr. J Marriot prepared the plans. The land was purchased from Mr. Daniel Lee for £140, and new classrooms and a ministers' vestry was built, at a cost of £800. The deed is dated 7th February 1850, and cleared of debt 27th October 1850.
In 1855, it was decided to build a new chapel in Halifax Road, as all the sittings in Ebenezer were then taken. 137 members withdrew. While waiting for the chapel to be built, they held services on Sundays and weekdays in the old Cloth Hall. It has not been possible to find out exactly where this was, but quite likely it was in Cloth Hall Street. The new chapel was called Springfield and opened on 20th November 1856, the foundation stone having been laid the previous year by Mr. Edward Bains of Leeds. Springfield could seat 1000 people and classrooms in the school could take 500 children. The total cost was £3300.
In February 1856 land was bought in Leeds Road from Messrs W. Tolson and W. Harwood to build a house for the minister. Plans were drawn by J. Marriot and Sons, and the house was completed by the Autumn of 1856. The house was called 'Woodville' and cost £860.
As the number of Congregationalists in Dewsbury increased, another chapel was needed. The large numbers of people who walked down from Earlsheaton felt they had first claim to a new building, so once again the subscription lists were opened and plans were made.
On 21st January 1861 Mr. J Hogg of Halifax, the architect, invited scaled tenders for the building of the new chapel and school. The foundation stone was laid on 1st April 1861 by Mr. John Crossley of Halifax who was a friend of Mr. Hogg, and who had recommended him as architect. He was well known in the district for his Christian sympathy and liberality.
For the stone laying, a procession formed at 2.00pm outside Ebenezer and marched up the hill for the ceremony, after which they returned, and between 400 and 500 people sat down to tea.
The estimated cost was £3500 for the chapel and school rooms. The final cost was £6425.15.5d. The chapel would seat 740 people, and the school rooms would take 400 children. It was opened on 24th September 1862 and was called 'Highfield'.
Still the congregations at Ebenezer and Springfield grew, and the decision was taken to build a new chapel in the town centre. This was to be Trinity Chapel, and in the meantime services were held in the old Public Hall, which had previously been a theatre and had been repaired, renovated and suitably furnished. The foundation stone of Trinity Chapel was laid by Mr. T Firth, J.P., of Heckmondwike. The site was on the corner of Halifax Road and Wellington Road. The chapel was opened in January 1864 and could seat 1000 people and had large class rooms for Sunday School scholars. The cost was over £7000 and the debt was cleared in 1882.
In 1866 a great demonstration was held to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Sunday School. On Sunday June 10th 1866, two sermons were preached, morning and evening, and in the afternoon a Jubilee address was given. A collection was taken at each service.
On Monday June 11th a tea meeting was held at 5 o'clock, 1000 persons sat down. The food was supplied by Mr Thornton of the Market Place. We believe this to be the largest number of persons to sit down at one celebration in Dewsbury. (Another report says the tea was taken in three sittings). At 7 o'clock a public meeting was held in the Chapel. To serve as an enduring memorial a medal was struck bearing the inscription "1866 Jubilee Ebenezer Independent School, Dewsbury, established 1815. Suffer little children to come unto me." Some of the medals were of white metal and others of bronze, a medal was given to each of the scholars They had 400 scholars on the books and 50 teachers.
In 1867 the Rev. Henry Sturt, who was minister at Ebenezer, was concerned that areas of densely populated residential districts had no pastoral cover. He founded an Evangelical Mission. House to house visiting was carried out, and on 11th August 1870 the first Mission Hall was opened in Boothroyd Lane, followed on 17th January 1875 by the Mission Hall in Batley Carr. Both of these had large numbers of children in the Sunday schools. There was a book published called 'Dewsbury's Evangelical Mission', but I have not been able to find a copy.
Mission Hall, Boothroyd Lane
Mission Hall, Batley Carr
In 1882 they were again making plans for a new chapel. A subscription list was opened and donations of £1000 came from Mr. J. Walker, J.P., and Mr. J. Blakeley. The ladies committee passed a resolution to raise money.
Mr. W. Hanstock of Batley was appointed as the architect and Mr J. Hall_Thorpe of Leeds was the builder. The closing service in the old building took place on Sunday 11th June 1882.
The cornerstone of the new building was laid on 26th September 1882 by Mr. Crossley, J.P., of Halifax. Three memorial stones were laid by Miss F. Walker, Miss A. Blakeley and Miss A. Day, all of whom were members of the church. They were presented with mallets made from the roof timbers of the old chapel. A bottle containing newspapers and other documents was buried beneath the corner stone. The title stone from the second chapel was also built into the graveyard wall. Lunch was served in the school room at 1 o'clock and the ceremony started at 2 o'clock.
The third Ebenezer Chapel was opened on 15th January 1884. It cost £8891 and could seat 800 people. It was cleared of debt in April 1890, it is the building in use today (2003).
The third Ebenezer chapel.
The Ladies sewing society was formed in January 1843, to make articles for sale at the bazaar. The Dorcas society was established in October 18.43 to make clothing for the poor.
After the Rev. M Anstey was inducted in May 1896, the local paper reported: 'The chapel is a fine Gothic structure with all modern improvements and seats 800 people, whilst the exterior has a grand and imposing appearance, the interior is exceedingly comfortable. The congregation comprises some of the leading men of the town and the elite of Dewsbury Nonconformity".
The Nonconformist chapels were all solidly square or rectangular, with two aisles and galleries on three sides. All the seating faced the pulpit, most of which could accommodate several persons. The pulpit was made of wood and built high to give the preacher a commanding view of the congregation and vice versa. One exception to the rectangular building is the Methodist Chapel in Gomersal built in 1827: It is octagonal and is known locally as the 'Pork Pie Chapel'.
Often a double-decker pulpit was built, the upper deck for the preacher and the lower deck for the presenter who read out one or two lines which the congregation then sang. This was necessary as most of the people could not read. It is still usual for the first verse to be read out when the number of the hymn is announced.
The decoration of the chapels relied on the money available, and the views of the members. Some had beautifully carved woodwork on the pew ends, choir stalls and pulpit, or ornamental wrought iron work and polished brass. Others were unadorned and austere. The organ became a status symbol and a dominant visual feature, centrally placed and great emphasis was placed on singing.
Many chapels were two storied buildings, with school rooms below the chapel, which made economical use of a small site. Chapels then started to be called churches, perhaps they thought it gave them greater social acceptability. Nonconformists exerted quite an influence in the town. Many of the prosperous businessmen and mill owners belonged to the chapels and also to the Liberal Party, they were councilors and aldermen, and some became mayor. They also did much to encourage education (the prime purpose of the early Sunday Schools) and social welfare.
Many of the men whose names were on the old subscription lists, who opened bazaars or laid foundation stones, had names that are still familiar in the town today. Mr. George Day and Mr. Mark Oldroyd who were mill owners, Mr. Crawshaw who owned the leather works, Mr. Joseph Ward who was a printer, Mr. Thomas Burnley of Cleckheaton and the Firth family of Heckmondwike. Attendance at chapel on Sunday was often obligatory for employment.
The Poor Children's Breakfast was started at Ebenezer in 1906 and as many as 450 children would come at 9 o'clock on Christmas morning for breakfast served by the ladies of the church. It consisted of sandwiches and cake, and the children were given an apple, orange and a newpenny to take home The last breakfast was served in 1953.
With the twentieth century began the decline of the chapels. On 26th November 1907 an offer of amalgamation was made to Trinity Chapel, the offer was accepted on 5th December 1907. The first service of the United Congregational Church (Ebenezer) was held on 5th January 1909. The Rev. A Hogg became the first minister of the United Church. Trinity Chapel was sold and for many years it was a cinema, later it became a bingo hall, and was demolished in 1985 to make way for the ring road.
New school rooms were built at Ebenezer in 1914. Foundation stones were laid by Sir Mark Oldroyd and the Mayor, Alderman P J Walker, LP., on 18th April 1914. Two large halls could each hold 200 people, and there were ten smaller rooms and two kitchens. Some of the rooms had beautiful wood paneling and large fireplaces. The church parlour had a large mahogany fireplace with a mirrored overmantle and ornamental surround.
In 1940 the church allowed the Y.M.C.A. to have the large ground floor hall for a canteen for the forces. The War Department later took over the rest of the building for army billets. During the war the Sunday School was held in the church, the second Sunday service, normally held in the evening, was held in the afternoon, until the blackout restrictions were relaxed in 1944. The Y.M.C.A. let the ladies of the church use the hall once a year, for the children's Christmas breakfast. The building was returned to the church in December 1945.
In 1961 the church was informed by Batley Corporation of the effect of redevelopment on the Batley Carr Mission Hall in King Street, and a new site was offered. The dedication of the new building took place on Saturday 27th June 1964. The name was then changed to Batley Carr Congregational Church.
In 1961 Springfield closed, the building had become unsafe and was demolished, and the members joined with Ebenezer to become the United Congregational Church. The name Ebenezer was then dropped. The following year Boothroyd Mission closed, and the members returned to the United Church.
In 1950 the grave stones in front and at the side of the church were removed and gardens laid out. In 1970 the caretaker's house was demolished. The two title stones from the first and second chapels were used to form the sides of a compost heap and finally disappeared during the redevelopment of 1982.
On 5th October 1972 most of the Congregational churches in England and Wales united with the Presbyterian Church of England to form the United Reformed Church, the first ever coming together of denominations in England. Dewsbury United Congregational Church was among them, and so became Dewsbury United United Reformed Church! This was so clumsy that in 1989 It changed its name to become Longcauseway United Reformed Church.
Highfield Chapel was demolished in 1978 and a modern sanctuary, was developed within the old school rooms.
In 1964 Dewsbury Borough Council published plans for the redevelopment of part of the town centre, including Longcauseway. The whole area would be razed and the church re-housed in a prominent position on Longcauseway.
In 1970 different plans were published by a new development company. The row of cottages, including the caretakers house at the church gates, had already been demolished. The Masonic Lodge, on the other side of the church, stood empty and the bus station would soon move to its new site on Aldems Road. In September 1973 the developers applied for a compulsory purchase order for the church. In August 1977 a preservation order was placed on the church by The National Heritage. It is now a Grade II listed building.
On Easter Sunday 1981, the United Church building closed. The stained glass windows were boarded up, the surrounding area was demolished and a new shopping centre built. The congregation worshipped in the Parish Church of All Saints, until the reopening service on 18th December 1983. The outside stonework had been cleaned, the interior painted and a new carpet laid. The church hall and meeting rooms are now above the adjacent shops.
The opening service in July 1983 was conducted by Rev. Alasdair J Walker, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Yorkshire Province. This service was held in the hall, and the first one in the church being the Harvest Thanksgiving on 18th September, conducted by Rev. B Moss.
A service of thanksgiving for the reopening of the church was held on Sunday 18th December 1983 at 2.30pm in the presence of the Mayor of Kirklees, Councillor A Ramsden. It was conducted by Rev. J Norman Beard, our Interim Moderator, and the act of dedication was led by Rev. Alasdair J Walker.
In March 1976 the ladies of the church opened the school room to shoppers for them to sit and rest and enjoy a cup of tea and home made scone. This service to the town has continued in the new building.
During the redevelopment of 1982, the gardens at the front of the church were replaced by a paved area, which gives the building a most impressive appearance. It is prominent on most of the 'official' picture postcards of the town, and it is the obvious focal point for ecumenical Christian activities in the town,
Current view of the church.
Batley Carr Church closed on Saturday 11th November 1995. The closing service on Sunday 5th November was conducted by Rev. Michael Heard who had been their Oversight Minister for 22 years.
In November 1997 plans were made to modernise the vestibule and ministers vestry. Mr Neville Brooksbank, an architectural designer, was engaged to carry out the initial costing and planning, and later to oversee the redevelopment of the premises. In March 1999 the tender offered by Walter West Ltd. was accepted work started in April.
Four rows of pews were removed from the back of the Church and the vestibule enlarged. The dividing wall has large glass panels, the wooden frames match the original woodwork in the Sanctuary. The heavy swing doors have been replaced with light wooden doors with glass panels.
Two small rooms lead off the vestibule, available for private prayer or just to sit and talk, someone will always be there to listen. The old wooden partition with coloured glass has been utilised in the sides of these rooms.
Sliding glass doors at the main entrance can be closed, giving a clear view into the Sanctuary when the Church is closed.
There is now a large, bright welcoming area, with a Traid Craft stall and a book stall and the opportunity to mount displays to inform visitors about the church and its history. These stands can be wheeled, away if necessary and will not intrude at weddings or funerals.
The official opening on October 16th 1999 was performed by Baroness Lockwood, also present the Rev. Arnold Harrison, the Provincial Moderator, the Mayor of Kirklees, Councilor Harry Fox, Mr Neville Brooksbank, the architect, and Mr Ian Spedding, managing director of Walter West.
In July 2005 we received a letter from the Central Methodist Church asking if we would consider forming a joint Church. After a long period of discussion, a covenant was agreed. A service of Inauguration and Celebration took place on Sunday 1st April 2007, in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees, Councillor Donald Firth and Mrs Firth. The presiding ministers were Rev. John Jenkinson, Minister of the United Reformed Church , and Rev Ray Trezise, a retired Methodist Minister.
We are now Longcauseway Church, United Reformed and Methodist.
The members of the church today are proud of its history, and humbly yet confidently accept the challenge of using our heritage, the wonderful building and impressive site, to tell others the Good News of Jesus Christ.