Nathaniel Rathband, M A, who was known to have been a Presbyterian, was succeeded in 1645, by Henry Root, and the latter formed the first Congregational Church in Yorkshire, and that was at Sowerby Church. Roote was previously lecturer at the Halifax Parish Church. Brearcliffe's MS has the following:-
"Henry Root came to Halifax, to be our minister, and went from us into Sowerby to dwell, 28th March, 1645. He is their minister unto this day."
The period of Mr Root's appointment to the ministry at Sowerby was one of the most turbulent in the annals of the country, the kingdom being almost overwhelmed by civil and religious strife. It was only about nine months before his appointment when the Royalists sustained a terrible defeat at Marston Moor. Halifax itself was occupied by some of the Parliamentary forces, and Heptonstall by the Royalists about this time. At the beginning of the year (1645), a portion of the Scotch army were besieging Pontefract. A religious warfare was also being waged all over the country. On the 26th of the previous November, a new form of public worship, terms "The Directory" had been established by Parliament. This Directory for Public Religious Service, and for the Sacraments, allowed all the latitude in respect of ceremonies, gestures, and vestments, which the Puritans claimed. The Presbyterians denounced the Episcopalians, and threatened to extirpate Congregationalism.
It seems that Mr Root was born about 1590, and educated in Magdalene College, Oxford. In 1632, there was a design of placing him in the chapel of Denton in the parish of Manchester, where, however, Mr Angier was chosen, and Root was appointed to Gorton. In 1634, he baptised the daughter of Mr Angier, who afterwards became the wife of Oliver Haywood, the minister at Coley. Miall's "Congregationalism in Yorkshire," speaking of Sowerby, says "Congregationalism was established here in 1645 by Henry Root. This minister, who had travelled much in his younger years, had been for a time settled at Gorton, which place he left to become assistant minister at Halifax Parish Church. He afterwards removed to Sowerby. A controversy respecting Independency subsequently arose at Manchester. Samuel Eaton, just arrived from New England had learned there the principles of Independency, and became active in disseminating them at Duckinfield, his then residence. Root published, in 1646, "A Just Apologie for the Church at Duckinfield, which appears to have been intended to rebut some attacks made on Independency in Edwards" 'Gangraena Roots' 'gathered church' was formed whilst he was holding the (now Episcopal) incumbency at Sowerby. It represented not a building, but a spiritual society. The formation of this society was, however, extremely distasteful to the Presbyterians. They not only remonstrated against Root's view of church order and discipline, but when his society advanced to the election of deacons, they instigated some of the inhabitants to close the church doors on Sunday, that the proceedings might not take place. And, when, on the following Lord's Day, the pastor exhorted the people to stand by each other in defence of their rights, as Abraham did by Lot, and Moses by the Hebrew captives, they tortured his meaning into an argument for armed resistance."
Amongst other important and influential members of Mr Root's Church, were Joshua Horton, Esq. J. P. of Sowerby Hall; Mr Josiah Stansfield, Mr Richard Bentley, father of the Rev. Eli Bentley, minister at the Halifax Parish Church; Mr Robert Tillotson, father of Archbishop Tillotson, and others.
Turning to the registers for this period the following occur, amongst others:-
|1650||Jany 27||Sarah Tilson buryed at Hallifax|
|1651||Jan 3||Wife of Mark Stansfield|
|1652||Oct 26||Elizabeth daughter of Mr Henry Root, Minister|
|Oct 27||John Farrar buried|
|1654||July 15||Richard Tillitson buried|
|July 20||Abraham Rawson the older|
|1656?||June 25||John the son of John Mitchell of Fieldhouse|
Sowerby seems to have been not at all unfavourable to the labours of the Nonconforming ministers in the churchh, at this time, for we are told that Oliver Heywood, who was a great friend of Mr Root, held a lecture every Thursday, for several years, at the house of one Samuel Hopkinson, at the Stubbing, in Sowerby, for which he had a consideration. At a later portion of his life, Heywood wrote to Mrs Hannah Stansfeld, in Sowerby. "I have now been above fifty years labouring in the Lord's vineyard, studying, praying, and preaching, at home and abroad, travelling where Providence hath called, and have arrived well towards two years beyond the age of man; now, at last, I am incapacitated for travel, not only with age, but a very shortness of breathing called the asthma, so that I am confined much to mine own house, only can study, preach in my chapel, and exercise myself in writing books and sermons for those that desire them."
In 1649, Mr John Tillotson (who subsequently became Archbishop of Canterbury) wrote from his college at Cambridge, to Mr Root, as follows:-
To excuse the slownes and infrequency of writeing, is growne a thing soe complementall and common in the frontispeece of every letter, that I have made choice rather to put myselfe upon your candor to frame an excuse for mee then goe about my selfe to doe it. I cannot but thankefully acknowledge my engagements to you for your kindness showne to mee, both when I was in the country, and at other times; I shall not here let my pen run out into complementall lines, gratitude (and that as much as may bee) being all that I desire to expresse. As for University affayres, things as they was before I came into the country, only wee have lesse hopes of procuring Mr. Tho. Goodwin for our Master then wee then had. Wee are in expectation of the Visitors every day, but what will beedone at their comming wee cannot guesse. The Engagement is either comming downe hither, or (as I heare) already come, to which how soone wee shall bee called upon to subscribe, wee knowe not; as for myselfe, I do not (for present) at all scruple the taking of it, yet, because I dare not confide too much to my owne judgement or apprehension of things, and because matters of such serious consequence require no little caution and consideration, therefore I shall desire you (as soone as with convenience you can) to returne mee your opinion of it in two or three limes. Mr Rich. Holbrooke desired me to present his respects to you and your wife, to whom also I desire you to present my best respects, as also to your son Joh. Hopkinson, and his wife, Noe more, but your prayers for him who remaines,
What was the answer given by Mr Root is not known, but as Mr Root was one of the Puritans, it is probable that he would not dissuade Mr Tillotson from complying with that Engagement, which was an act substituted in the room of the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and was ordered to be taken by every one who held either office or benifice.
The Act of Uniformity came in 1662, but Henry root continued to preach for half a year after St. Bartholomew's Day, when he was dragged out of his chapel and sent to York Castle, where he continued for three months.
Mr Root's son, Timothy Root, was the minister at Sowerby Bridge. He, too, was ejected from Sowerby Bridge. It is said "he was dragged out of the chapel, taken to York, kept close prisoner, put into the low gaol with twelve thieves, and had double irons on him four days and nights. He was twice a prisoner, and the whole of his confinement was near twelve months." But the "chapel" here mentioned was not Sowerby Bridge Church, for in Oliver Heywood's diary, under date August 28th, 1678, it is stated that "the younger Mr Root preached at Shadwell, when Lord Savile, Mr Copley, Mr Hammond, and forty of Lord Freschvile's troopers from York came, took Mr Root, carried him to York, and put him in the Castle. Timothy Root continued a Nonconformist for many years, partaking largely of the hardships of the times, but in 1685, he conformed and had the rectory of Howden. He died June 24, 1688, of dropsy, along with a wasting away, being some time not able to preach.
Mr Henry Root continued to preach, itinerating with his friends Heywood and Dawson. In 1663, what was called the Farnley Wood Plot, took place. Miall, in the work previously referred to, says that "Joshua Horton, of Sowerby, a man of no small influence in the parish of Halifax, was suspected, as was old Elkanah Wales. Henry Root, Dr Maud and others in the parish of Halifax were, with Captain Hodgson arrested, and carried to York, where, after an imprisonment of some duration, they were released without trial." The Rev. B. Dale, of Halifax, in a work called "Jubilee Memorial of Sion Chapel," speaking of Henry Root, says :- "At the Restoration he was marked out by the Royal party as a special object of suspicion and animosity. In this he was associated with Joshua Horton, J. P. of Sowerby, Captain Hodgson, Captain Pickeringe, John Greenwood of Redbrinke, John Lume of Westrcroft, Josias Stansfeld and Mr Marshall (of Whitkirk) Mr Smallwood (of Idle) Mr Jolly, Mr Marsden, Mr Briscoe, and Mr Eaton, "all phanatique ministers," of whom the Government received information that "it was very much to be feared that they have designed to make a sudden insurrection if some speedy course be not taken to prevent it." * The only danger from these good men, however, lay in the imagination of the informers. After enduring much, Henry Root died in 1669; and the members of his church united for a time in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, with the Church at Northowram. In 1673 license was taken out 'for a Presbyterian meeting in a new built meeting house of Joshua Horton's at Quarry hill, in Sowerby; and the Congregation which assembled there has continued to be present time."
Oliver Heywood speaks of "being at the good old man's" (Henry Root's) funeral. The following brief entry in the register book at Sowerby records Mr Root's death in 1669:-