AIRE STREET | FERRYBRIDGE
HENGE | PONTEFRACT CASTLE |
| 1863 OPENING OF THE TUMULUS |
ROPEWALK METHODIST CHURCH
have been fortunate to have located a copy of the souvenir handbook,
published as part of the Ropewalk Methodist Church centenary celebrations
of 1945. The following extracts are taken from the handbook which
was kindly submitted to us by Mr. Stone of Kellington to whom we are most
ROPEWALK METHODIST CHURCH, KNOTTINGLEY
CELEBRATION OF THE CENTENARY
APRIL and MAY, 1945
"When we look
at the place of worship planned and erected by that society of long ago,
we are conscious of their mighty faith."
Centenary Handbook has been prepared amid the difficulties inevitable in a
time of unparalleled upheaval. It has not been possible to do all we
desired. But it is our hope that the booklet will be not too
inadequate a reminder to the Church of the heritage into which it has
these pages have been compiled with the greatest possible care there will
be some disappointment that certain people and events are not
mentioned. The fact of our Centenary falling in the sixth year of
war has compelled a brevity which accounts for some omissions.
Further, the absence of Minute Books for the years under review has
thank most heartily the Rev. R. E. Parker, the custodian of the circuit
safe, Mr. T. P. Brindley for the use of books and papers of historical
value, some of the older members of the Knottingley Society for their
help, and the Ministers who have kindly sent us their greetings.
Sydney W. Chapman
A SKETCH OF METHODISM IN KNOTTINGLEY
On the evening of Sunday, March 6th, 1791, a small company of people who had
gathered for worship in the cottage of Dame Gawthorpe in Knottingley,
heard the news that John Wesley had died on the Wednesday previous.
They thought of all they knew of their beloved father in God, and even
those who had never seen his noble face experienced a sense of loss.
The passing of this great man was mourned most of all by the people called
Methodists. He had been their own revered leader. The
influence of his saintly life and apostolic labours extended to the
remotest of the societies scattered over the country. And throughout
England on that Sunday night, companies of Methodist people remembered
with gratitude what God had wrought through His faithful servant.
Perhaps they thought of Wesley's last words : "The best of all is,
God is with us," and prayed that God would indeed be with them to
maintain His work. So it was on that winter's night in Knottingley
as they gathered about Dame Gawthorpe's fire.
Methodist preachers had come to Knottingley in the year 1784. They
were pelted with mud, and ill treated but in spite of this rude welcome
Methodism gained a foothold in the town. Little information exists
about the early progress of the society until 1788 when it is known that
there were three members besides Mrs. Gawthorpe. The others were -
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Senior and Mr. Mathew Tunningley. These four
members met in a class at Ferrybridge with others from Beal and Brotherton.
cottage of "Old Dame Gawthorpe" situated at the low end of town
was the first meeting place of the Knottingley Methodists, and it was used
as a chapel for about fourteen years. Mrs. Gawthorpe was long
remembered with affection as a spirited and hearty Methodist.
Many of the
facts that now follow are derived from the Pontefract and Castleford
Wesleyan Methodist Circuit Record published over sixty years ago, and
may, therefore, be regarded as authentic. According to this Record,
"the Rev. Mr. Heath is said to have been the first Methodist
Minister who visited this town." He preached in Knottingley
in the year 1796. By this time the society had grown
considerably. There were thirty-three members at the end of the
chapel was built in 1799, it contained 150 sittings and was situated at
the top of Gaggs's yard ; it was erected at the joint expense of Messrs.
William Gaggs, Henry Gaggs, Joseph Senior, James Tupman and Richard Frear,
and cost them £31. 8s. each. The celebrated Dr. Coke, who had
worked with John Wesley, preached here in 1808. It was in this
chapel, according to the History and Antiquities of Knottingley,
Hick, the village Blacksmith, after one of his addresses took occasion to
inform his hearers that there would be a love-feast at Micklefield on a
certain day ; and that he had two loads of corn (his only stock) which
should be ground for the occasion. As the day drew near, Sammy, in
the midst of a dead calm, took his corn to the mill to be ground,
requesting the miller to unfurl the sails. To this he objected as
there was no wind, but Sammy strong in faith continued to urge his request
adding, "I will go and pray while you spread the cloths."
More to gratify the applicant than from any other faith on his part, he
stretched the canvas ; which was no sooner done than to his astonishment a
fine breeze sprung up, the corn was ground, and Sammy returned home
rejoicing. A neighbour who had seen the sails in motion also took
his corn to be ground ; but the wind had dropped, and the miller told him
he might send to Sammy Hick to pray for the wind again."
or seventeen years the chapel in Gaggs's Yard proved too small for the
growing congregation, and in the year 1816 a new chapel was built.
The Rev. Robert Pilter, who was then travelling in the Pontefract Circuit,
interested himself in the work of obtaining a new place of worship, and
for this and his affectionate pastoral care his name lived many years in
the minds of the Knottingley people. This chapel was opened on the
22nd September, 1816 by the Rev. Robert Newton, who preached morning and
evening, and Mr. William Dawson who took a service in the afternoon.
The seating capacity, including front and rear galleries, was 380 ; and
the building cost £747. When the chapel was opened for public
worship the old building on the Croft was used as a Sunday School.
As the years
went by the society continued to grow. Regularly increasing
attendance made it necessary to enlarge the space for worshippers.
During the summer of 1834 the end of the chapel was taken down and fifteen
feet were added, making additional room for 120 persons. The cost of
this enlargement amounted to £321, and the chapel was re-opened by the
Rev. Mr. Dunn. Anyone who walks along Primrose Hill to-day may
easily see the 1816 chapel and the 1834 addition, the whole structure
having been converted into dwelling houses.
There is in
the Circuit safe at Pontefract a complete list of the members of the
Knottingley Society for the June Quarter in the year 1834. A list of
the class leaders who shepherded the 234 members is as follows :- William
Hall, T.Locker, G.Burton, William Dawson, G.Metcalfe, M.Tunningley,
J.Smith, J.Wilson, J.White.
In 1839, the
Primrose Hill chapel was again extended and altered at a cost of
£100. Also in that year, says the Record, "these
enterprising and vigorous people built a minister's house, on which they
spent £642, and in the year following they erected the Sunday School at a
cost of £515."
development from that tiny society of four members in John Wesley's
lifetime to a society of 234 members in less than fifty years stirs our
imagination with the thought of evangelical fervor of the Methodist in
those times. From a cottage to a chapel seating 500 in half a
century! When we remember that then Knottingley was smaller than it
is to-day, this story of growth and development is all the more
surprising. But this is far from ending the tale. Alas! that
the records are so few. What stories might be told of men and women
being brought to Christ and added to His Church. As we look back
across more than a hundred years to those who toiled and dreamed that
God's Kingdom might be extended here, we are thankful for every
remembrance of them.
At this point
in our history it seems suitable to insert a cutting from the local
newspaper of March 21st, 1908. It is an account of "the
early efforts of Knottingley Wesleyans written by John Johnson, tailor. of
Island Court there, two years before his decease (some fifteen years ago)"
The account is reproduced "in its native style and forcefulness."
Mr. Johnson wrote,
the year 1814, I entered the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School, the Pottery
Hill School being then five years old. From the best information I
could get in my day Grandmother Nancy Newton commenced the Sunday School
about the year 1799. That was fifteen years before I went to
school. She was living in one of the Jail Houses. When she
failed the Sunday School was taken to the day school of John Drake.
When he died Mr. Isaac Smith from Halifax come to the school to preach,
teach and live righteousness. About the year 1815 Billy Dawson of
Barnbow preached in the open air at the end of the school for the benefit
of the Sunday School. At that day we went every other Sunday to
Fryston Church. Mr. Ward of Ferrybridge, timber merchant, was the
leading man in the Pottery Hill Sunday School at that day. We had
two Sunday Schools in Knottingley. When the second chapel was opened
in 1816 the old chapel was made into a Sunday School. When the
present schools were made in 1839 then both the schools met in them.
The Pottery Hill school was well supplied with teachers from Knottingley
and Ferrybridge. The low school was not well supplied.
Dawson complained to Mrs. Gaggs and Mrs. Billbrough that they wanted
teachers for the low school. They recommended at once a public tea
and then invite teachers for the low school. It was made known that
a public tea was to be held in the old Wesleyan Chapel. The women in
Gaggs's Yard entered into the tea question with all their might, and the
women made it a great success. It surpassed all expectations.
This was the first public tea held in Knottingley. It was about 57
or 58 years since I have been at the tea ; place small and filled to
extreme. Names of the superintendents: G.Sefton, W.Brears, J.Burnett,
Wm.Nicholson, T.Shay, Wm.Dawson, J.F.Cawthorn, G.Bramham, R.Garlick,
J.F.Wilson, J.Ballance, Jos.Rainsforth. I learnt to write at the
Pottery Hill Sunday School on Calais Sand.
the Wesleyan Methodist Catechism, we had to commit it to memory. It
is one of the best works we have in our society. When I was 23 years
old I was examined by the Superintendent of the Pontefract Circuit on
Gospel Doctrine, but for the catechism I should have been lost. This
catechism is now neglected, schools hours shortened, scholars rule.
This is a clear sign of a growing democracy in school or town."
quaint historical fragment, it is time to say something of the present
chapel whose centenary we are now celebrating. Delving in the
Circuit Safe, we found a Deed dated 20th December, 1844, relating to the
release of a piece of ground situate at Knottingley. This piece of
ground in Tenter Balk Road is the site of the present chapel and
graveyard. The old name has, of course, been replaced by the one in
use to-day - Ropewalk. The land passed from the ownership of John
Senior, Lime Burner, of Knottingley to the trustees of the Methodist
Chapel at Knottingley for the sum of £200. The names of the
trustees at that time will be of interest. They are as follows :-
|Joseph Barr Cawthorne
The Superintendent Minister, whose name also appears on the Deed, was Richard
A very old
envelope in the possession of Mrs. Arthur Link states that "Mr.
Carter laid the first stone for a new Methodist Chapel on the 20th of
March, 1845." No further details of the stone laying
ceremony are known to us. A complete account of the building, now in
the Circuit Safe, gives us the names of all the subscribers and all the
contractors. The architect was Mr. Simpson.
in charge of Knottingley when the Foundation Stone was laid was the Rev.
William Jackson, and according to the Record, it was chiefly through his
instrumentality that the present beautiful and commodious Chapel came to
be built. Mr. Jackson left while the building was in progress, and
was succeeded in September 1845 by the Rev. Richard Brown. Mr. Brown
would therefore, have the thrill of watching the progress of the building,
and it would be his happy duty to prepare for the opening services.
A special minutes in the Building Account, records the gratitude of the
Trustees for the very active and efficient part Mr. Brown took in
superintending the various duties connected with the building of the
11th, 1846 must have been a wonderful day for the Methodists of
Knottingley. It was on that day that this fine structure was opened
and dedicated to the glory of God. The preacher was the Rev. Dr.
Robert Newton and the collections amounted to more than £88. On
June 20th, the Rev. James Carr conducted the services and the collections
were £108. A Ladies Bazaar raised £300, and public subscriptions
£1,058. The cost of the chapel was £2,388.
When we look
back across the hundred years and think of this project, we are bound to
conclude that Methodism in Knottingley was flourishing. When we look
at the place of worship planned and erected by that society of long ago,
we are conscious of their mighty faith. When we look from within
upon those four walls, we know well that the work of God must have
prospered greatly in those days. The seating capacity of the chapel
in its original form must have been over 1,000, and there is good reason
to believe that the people of Knottingley attended in something like that
number. Mrs. Tasker, who passed on in 1944 at the age of 86 years,
could look back seventy-five years, and her earliest memories were of
flourishing congregations. There are yet members living who can
remember when the pews at the top of the gallery were 'rented' and
occupied. One of these pews, which holds sixteen persons, was used
by a family of fourteen.
There is not
the slightest doubt that the society was very strong in the earliest days
of the present chapel. Under the blessing of God the little band
which began in John Wesley's day had been the seed of a society of between
two and three hundred members when this building was erected. In
those days the tests of membership were very severe, so we can form some
idea of the powerful church that had grown up in the town. Members
were those who attended the class meetings regularly and as a matter of
course were unfailingly in their pews on Sundays. Besides the
members a century ago, there would be some hundreds of adherents.
possession of the Knottingley Trustees there is a Wesleyan Preachers' Plan
of appointments in the Pontefract Circuit for 1845-6.; The head of
the Circuit in those days, as now, was Pontefract. The Circuit had
thirty-four preaching places, including Castleford and Methley as well as
the area covered by the Horsefair Circuit of to-day. It is
significant that the second place in the Circuit was Knottingley.
At that time
and, there is good reason to believe, since then to the present day, the
Knottingley Society was well represented in the Local Preachers'
Meeting. The names of the local preachers living in Knottingley a
hundred years ago are as follows:- (No initials are given on the plan so
we can only give surnames) Messrs. Smith, Cheesebrough, Gooderidge,
Maidment, Longstaff, Arnold, and 'on trial' Mr. Coward. Knottingley
supplied one sixth of the staff of local preachers for the whole
Circuit. Later in the nineteenth century there was a time when out
of a total number of 32 local preachers, no less than 8 were members of
the Knottingley Church.
Once again we
have to refer to the Record to see the events of the years. In 1855
and organ was put into the chapel at a cost of £219, and paid for by
subscriptions of £136, and collections taken when the Rev. W. M. Punshon
preached (£32), the Rev. David Hay (£36), also by a Bazaar at which £15
was raised. The next movement was in 1858 when £226 was spent in
the erection of a clock and the plastering of the outside of the
chapel. Most of the cost amounting to £226 was covered by
subscriptions. Some six years later it was said that the chapel must
be painted, cleaned and repaired. This scheme cost £350, and the
amount was paid off the following year by subscriptions £225, a bazaar
£50 and sermons by the Revs. John Gostick, John Baker and John Rattenbury,
In those days
the society must have been at the height of its powers. Complete
records are, unfortunately, not available, but it is known that in 1861
there were 339 members. What an influence for good they must have
been in the town! And what services of praise and prayer they must
have enjoyed in the very sanctuary where we worship to-day! The
thought of the heritage and tradition into which we have entered should be
a source of pride and inspiration to us. A glance at some of the
memorial tablets should stir up in us a zeal for God's house. Look,
for instance, at the wall on the right behind the pulpit, and you have a
direct reminder of the very brginning of the Methodist cause in
Knottingley, a reference to one of the first four members. It
of Mathew Tunningley, who died March 28th, 1844, aged 81, and is interred
near this Tablet. He was 57 years a member and 53 years a class
leader in the Wesleyan Society. A man of good character and deep
Or look on the
west wall, and you will see these words:-
affectionate remembrance of William Shaw, who died December 5th, 1860,
aged 69 years. He assisted liberally in the erection of this
sanctuary and was a constant worshipper within its walls. His piety
was more expressed in deeds than words, and in him the church lost a
valuable helper, and the poor, a never-failing friend.
In 1878, the
chapel was thoroughly renovated at a cost of £515. A Grand Bazaar
held in the Town Hall more than covered the expense. Still quoting
from the Record - "The last scheme inaugurated by this wonderful
people was the building of a handsome minister's house in 1879 at a cost
of £1,291." And on this triumphant note the Old Circuit
Record which has done us so much service ends.
years later the work of renovation was once again deemed necessary.
The original pews and pulpit were removed, the vestibule was made, and the
present pulpit and pews were fitted. Few people can now remember the
old 'double-decker' pulpit, and unfortunately the information we have
concerning the re-seating of the chapel is very meagre. The total
cost of this scheme, for which the Rev. John S. Fordham worked hard, was
£866. When the chapel was re-opened the preachers were the Revs.
T.T. Lambert, Frederick Green and A. Bishop. A bazaar held in 1897
raised £291, and one in 1898 £236. Subscriptions amounted to
£191. The Chapel Stewards at this time were Mr. C.E.Maude and Mr. J.F.White.
Early in the
present century the Sunday School was built on a piece of ground adjoining
the chapel. This land had been acquired for the Methodist people by
the foresight of the Rev. Henry L. Barton whose ministry in Knottingley
began in 1887. The foundation stones of the Sunday School were laid
on June 20th, 1907, and the fine and useful building which rose up was
opened on March 12th, 1908. A grand luncheon was held that day in
the Town Hall presided over by Ald. S. Thrippleton (Mayor of Pontefract)
and the visiting minister was the Rev. Robert Culley who had formerly been
a minister in the Circuit. The Rev. J. Albert Dixon was in charge of
Knottingley at this time. Some of our present day members had a
share in this project and can tell of the sacrifices and labours that lie
behind the erection of the Sunday School. The principal subscribers
were:- Mr. and Mrs. J.F.White, Mr. W.Bagley, Mr. and Mrs. Hives, Mr. and
Mrs. Marshall, the Misses Peckitt, Mr. and Mrs. Wetherall, Mr. E.L.Poulson,
Mr. and Mrs. C.E.Maude, many friends who are still living also
subscribed. The total cost raised by subscription was £1,055.
A bazaar realised £638. The complete cost of the scheme was
£2,966. Thus it is clear that the members of forty years ago were
following in the steps of their enterprising fore-runners and showing a
lively zeal for the work of God. The Sunday School is worthy to
stand beside the old sanctuary, and perhaps no higher praise can be given.
was renovated again in 1924, and by this time the original windows needed
to be replaced. A scheme was commenced under the energetic
leadership of the Rev. Philip H. Taylor, and through the initiative of the
Chapel Stewards and Trustees a splendid piece of work was done.
Those who have been inside the chapel in the last twenty years are
familiar with the result. Friends were invited to give memorial
windows to replace the old windows of 1846, and the fine hand-painted
glass screen at the back of the chapel was added. The screen was the
gift of Mr. William Bagley in memory of his wife. The windows which
were the gift of good friends of the church bear the names Birdsall,
Bramham, Brook, Brown, Burton, Coward, Hollingworth, Martinson, Masterman,
Morrell, Morris, Poulson, Schofield, tate, Taylor, Wilson and White.
When the chapel was re-opened on April 3rd, 1924, the pulpit Bible was
given by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Link, and the font by the Booth family.
A Roll of
Honour with the names of those belonging to the Church who gave their
lives in the last war is affixed to the wall on the left of the pulpit.
In 1929 the
electric fittings were installed in the chapel by Mr. Charles Braim and
family "to the glory of God and in loving memory of Agnes Ann
memorial clock "was dedicated to the glory of God on the 23rd of
April, 1936, and is the gift of Mrs. John Mollett, of London, and Mrs.
Elizabeth White, of Harrogate, in loving memory of their parents, John F.
White and his wife Elizabeth whose generous and fruitful service in
association with this Church and Sunday School is gratefully remembered."
there will be many things of interest to friends of Ropewalk Methodist
Church which find no place in this sketch history. Nothing that we
have in our records has been deliberately omitted save details that would
have been burdensome. If anything worthy of note occurred during the
century which is not mentioned the reason is that no authentic record of
it exists or is available.
from The Ropewalk Methodist Church, Knottingley
Centenary Souvenir Handbook, 1945
Souvenir Handbook Submitted by Mr. Roy Stone, Kellington