The inhabitants of Sowerby, in 1668, gave towards the purchase of a close of land by the Halifax Vicarage House, £7. 10s. for doctor Hooke's consent to their having a license to bury and baptise in Sowerby. The register of baptisms in Sowerby Church commences on the 13th of December in that year, and five baptisms are recorded in that month. The following are the earliest entries in 1669;-
|January||3||John sonne of James Bawme, bapt|
|3||Mary, daughter of Michael Ogden, bapt|
|10||Mary, daughter of John Chootham, bapt.|
|Feb||7||John, sonn of Michael Earnshaw, bapt.|
|7||Deborah, daughter of Heron Ramsbotham, bapt|
|Mar||28||Sarah, daughter of Richard Ogden|
|April||28||George, sonn of Abraham Riley, of ye Holme, bapt.|
|May||2||Joziah, sonn of Israel Tillotson, bapt.|
Sowerby people will recognise the names of several families still represented in the district. Israel Tillotson was the youngest brother of Archbishop Tillotson. He married Mary, daughter of Samuel Mawd, of Sowerby, by whom he had Joshua(* Joshua is crossed out by hand and Joziah written in) whose baptism is recorded above and John. Joziah married Martha, daughter of James Stansfeld, of Sowerby, and thus the families of Tillotson ad Stansfeld became connected by marriage. Robert Tillotson, father of the archbishop, died in February, 1683. Oliver Heywood was invited to the funeral, but he did not attend.
Mr Boville succeeded Mr Jackson in the curacy of Sowerby, and he was minister from May 6th, 1668, to 1670. His successor, James Bowker, was appointed in May 1672. Probably he reason that no minister held the living for a long period after Mr Root, had been ejected, was that several of the principal families left the church, and the endowment was not of itself sufficient to maintain a minister. On the 18th of June, only a month after Mr Bowker was appointed, several members of Sowerby Church went to the house of Mr Heywood, in Northowram, and expressed their desire to join in communion with Mr Heywood's Church. The principal person from Sowerby who then joined the church at Northowram was Joshua Horton, Esq. J.P. of Sowerby Hall. He had already opened a house for preaching in Sowerby, and in the following year he erected a Nonconformist chapel at Quarry Hill, and through Mr Heywood obtained a license for it. It was opened on Tuesday May 6th, and Mr Horton intended that a Tuesday lecture should be preached in it. It was his practice to attend the services at the church, except on one Sunday in the month, when he went to hear Mr Heywood at Northowram. He contributed £8 per annum towards Mr Bowker's stipend, and gave 10s. to the minister for each service in his own meeting house.
It was in 1673, that a Quaker named Joshua Smith, living in Sowerby, was served with a writ, apprehended and sent to York for refusing to take the churchwardens' oath, there being two wardens for each of the out- townships at that time. Oliver Heywood records the event in his diary as follows:-
"Monday morning, November 10, 1673, there came an apparitor from York, and another from Halifax and apprehended James Brooksbank and Robert Ramsden, two of our members upon a writ de Excomminicato capiendo; the occasion whereof was their refusing to take the churchwardens' oath; though they faithfully served the office. When they were excommunicated, as they call it, they consulted with us what to do, fearing this capias. We desired them to send to York and get it off, if a little money would do it; but Dr Hooke hath put a bar to that so that it could not be done, so that it ran up to this; and this day, November 11, they are gone towards York Castle, together with one Joshua Smith, of Sowerby, a Quaker, upon the same account; which they must do, unless they would have given £8 a piece for their release. God Almighty go with them. We had a solemn day of prayer at William Clay's the same day they were taken, and so sent them away with prayer."
On their arrival at York, they consented to pay £6 each, and were released. This Joshua Smith is evidently the same person who erected the old hall near the bottom of the Sowerby old road (Sowerby street), and which was afterwards used as the Quakers' chapel, though it is now used a cottagers; dwellings. The following letters are carved over the entrance:-
At the early part of 1675, Daniel Greenwood, D. D., bequeathed 40s. a year for the minister of Sowerby church, and 40s. a year to be distributed amongst the poor of the chapelry.
In this year only five baptisms are recorded in the Sowerby registers. Three are in one handwriting and two in another. The Rev. James Bowker was banished form Sowerby for immoral conduct.
Mr Christopher Etherington was inducted in May, 1676. He died suddenly January 4th, 1679, and was buried at Sowerby. On the 7th of April, the same year, Joshua Horton, Esq., of Sowerby Hall, died at that age of 60 and was interred at Sowerby. Dr Hooke, the vicar of Halifax, preached on the occasion, and Oliver Heywood attended the funeral. The ancient family of the Hortons is still represented in this parish by Captain Horton of Howroyd, Barkisland.
In May, 1679, John Witter commenced his pastoral duties at Sowerby, which he continued for three years. He was buried at Sowerby, in 1679, as shown by the following entry;-
Dec. 27 - Mr John Witter, minster at Sowerby Chappell.
Then followed Mr Baron, and in 1701, William Midgley. The latter died of palsy in May, 1706, and he was buried at Halifax Parish Church, he being only 30 years of age. Archibald Young was appointed in 1708, and was compelled to leave early the following year. He was succeeded by Richard Marsden, who left Sowerby in 1710
A gallery for the use of the choir was erected about this time, at the cost of the young men of Sowerby, and the fact was deservedly recorded.
"Memorand; Anno Dom., 1710 - The gallery over the loft at ye West End of Sowerby Chappell was erected as well with ye knowledge and approbation of his Grace Jno. Ld. Arch Bp. Of York (Registrar) as with ye comfort of ye Curate of Sowerby and Parishioners of ye said Chappelry. At the proper costs and charges of some young persons in ye said Town. Fore ye possession and only use of such as understand ye singing of Psalms according to Art. A possession may be fully seen in a deed and Register kept for that purpose in ye Chief Proprietor's hands."
In 1711, Nicholas Jackson commenced his ministerial duties at the Church, and marriages were first solemnized at Sowerby. It was in this year that Paul Bairstow, clerk, of Rochester, died, leaving an estate in Kent to his sister in law, but making provision for the property to be sold at her death, and the proceeds invested in freehold property near Halifax, for the purpose of paying £16 a year for the education of twelve poor children in Sowerby; 20s. a year to the minister at Sowerby, for preaching a sermon on the feast day of St Michel the Archangel; and the rest to be given to the poor. The Nether Headley estate, at Thornton, was subsequently purchased for £660, and has since become valuable property.
In 1722, Elkanah Horton, Esq. of Grays Inn, son of Joshua Horton, of Sowerby, in consideration of £200 from the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, and £100 left by Edward Colston Esq., of Surrey, made over to the Rev. Nicholas Jackson, the curate of Sowerby, and his successors, Lower Langley Farm, in Norland; Birch Farm, in Sowerby and Lane Ends, Mr Horton himself allowing another £100 in the purchase. Elkana, who lived at Thornton, was buried at Sowerby, January 28th 1729. By his will he provided six almshouses for three poor men and three poor women of Sowerby, who are to be over the age of 60.
After eighteen years service amonsgst his parishioners at Sowerby, the Rev. Nicholas Jackson died, and was interred at Sowerby on the 11th of February, 1729.
The Rev. John Sheffield succeeded Mr Jackson, and he, too, finished his days at Sowerby, where he was interred November 23rd 1735.
The trade of Sowerby increased rapidly about this time. A large number of small manufactures lived in the district, and found employment for many combers and weavers. Watson give a list of mills in the parish of Halifax in 1758. Several of these are fulling mills in the Sowerby district, some being on the banks of the Calder, some on the Ryburn and some on the Turvin Brook, where water could be conveniently used. Crabtree says that a very considerable manufactory of kerseys ad half thicks, also of bockings and baize, was principally in the hands of merchants of property in the neighbourhood of Sowerby, and made in the valley of Sowerby Bridge to Ripponden. The whole of the British navy was clothed from this source. The shalloon trade was introduced at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and the manufacture of drawboys or "Amens" some time afterwards. On Saturday, the market day, the handloom weavers were stirring early, for the market at the Piece Hall opened at six o'clock, and if their piece were ready, it must be taken in before that time. In fact we are told that the butchers' shambles were often filled with cloth, which was disposed of before the regular cloth market commenced. The merchants attended these markets, and purchased for the Continental and American markets. The goods at the beginning of the century were generally sold to the merchants in an unfinished state. In the registers at Sowerby for the year 1732, nearly every other name is that of a clothier, comber or weaver. The following description of a "clothier" who united in equal proportions agricultural pursuits with manufacturing labour, and who regularly did business in the Piece Hall on Saturdays for many years, may be taken as a type of his class;-
"He is a fine specimen of the domestic manufacturer, clad in a drab coat and breeches of the olden cut, and with a waistcoat which would make two for our degenerate population. Add to this a face ruddy, round and smiling enough never to have known bad times, and never to have had to reduce the wages of his workmen and readers may fancy the sensation created in these bad times on beholding him standing by a large pile of his favourite pieces, all placed ready for delivery. These are narrow figured goods, commonly known as "amens" and the venerable manufacturer is, from them, often called "Old Amen" whilst the corner in which his room is situate is styled "Amen Corner."
On the 2nd of January, 1736, John Coggan was interred, but his ashes did not rest in peace, for at that time the sexton was in league with some resurrectionists, and "Coggan was stolen out of his grave by the sexton and some others, and was anatomised and made a skeleton."