The early history of the Nonconformist congregation in Pudsey is intimately associated with the name of Elkanah Wales, M.A., son of Rev. S. Wales, of Idle, born 1588. Educated at Cambridge, he accepted in 1611 or 1612 the appointment of Pudsey Chapel (now Establishment). Here his labours were unwearied and extensively useful, whilst he greatly excelled in pressing home practical truths on his hearers. His life was as unspotted as his doctrine. The country people flocked to hear him, and he obtained a wide celebrity. Joseph Lister relates a scene which took place during the Irish Rebellion, in 1641. "I remember one public fast day (for godly ministers appointed many, and kept them in their respective places : Mr. Wales kept many at Pudsey); it was two miles from. Bradford, and thither my pious mother and all the family went constantly in those days. I have known that holy man of God, Mr. Wales, spend six or seven hours in praying and preaching, and rarely go out of the pulpit; but sometimes he would intermit for one quarter of an hour, while a few verses of a psalm were sung, and then pray and preach again. And 0! what confession of sin did he make ! What prayers, tears, and wrestling with God was in that place on those days! What tears and groans were to be heard in that chapel ! I am sure it was a place of weepers. ,But that day, I say, which I am speaking of, I think about three o'clock in the afternoon, a certain man came and stood up in the chapel door, and cried out with a lamentable voice' Friends,' said he, we are all as good as dead men, for the Irish rebels are coming; they are come as far as Rochdale and Littleborough, and the Batings, and will be at Halifax and Bradford shortly. He came,' he said, out of pity and good will to give us this notice.' And having given this alarm, he ran towards Bradford again, where the same report was spread about; upon which, the congregation was all in confusion-some ran out, others wept, others fell to talking to friends, and the Irish massacre being but lately acted, and all circumstances put together, the people's hearts failed them with fear, so that Mr. Wales desired the congregation to compose themselves as well as they could, while he put himself and them into the hands of Almighty God by prayer. And so he did, and so dismissed us." This was doubtless a true picture of the scene, though the alarm proved to be a false one. Part of it has been elsewhere quoted.
During the civil wars, some of the military movements which took place in his immediate neighbourhood seem to have brought Wales into close connexion with Thomas, Lord Fairfax; for we find that General, and others, afterwards offering him places of considerable profit, all which he saw it right to decline. He remained at Pudsey till the year 1662, when he, like the rest of his brethren, became an outcast. Ezekiel Rogers, writing from New England, says: "I can assure you that I do not know of any brother in England that hath been more desired by me to be my fellow-labourer in the church and the work of the ministry, than yourself."
Dispossessed of his chapel, where he had laboured for fifty years, Wales still continued, however, to reside in the midst of his flock, to whom he preached privately. But the Five-mile Act rendered this no longer possible, and Wales suffered with the rest. They occasionally met each other at their several places of refuge, annd Heywood mentions his having met "old Elkanah Wales," and others, at the house of Mr. Waterhouse, who had been ejected from Bradford vicarage, though he was spared further molestation; and on a subsequent occasion he travelled with Wales, who, with his wife, was on his way to the North. This wife, by the way, added to the good man's sorrows, by her "harsh and severe temper." The loss of Wales's services was made up by the preaching of the Rev James Sales, his son-in-law, who, ejected from Leeds, preached privately in Pudsey, where he lived and had property.
At length Wales settled at Leeds, where, though he was eighty years old, he still engaged in public services. He died in that town in 1669, aet. nearly 80. He sometimes ventured again to Pudsey, where Heywood met him in 1668, being summoned to visit his dying wife, and a service was held, which passed off quietly, though a Morley bailiff was known to have been in the village. Mr. Wales's chosen motto, descriptive of his humility of mind was, "Less than the least of all saints." A memoir of Wales was written by Rev. J. Sales. Wales bequeathed two fields of ten acres to the chapel at Pudsey, besides bequests to the poor of Idle and Calverley. Thoresby commends the extraordinary management by which, out of small means, he contrived to accomplish this.
" In his old age," says Thoresby (MSS. Memoirs), "he was forced to travel into the North, through the unkind severity of his ill neighbours. When I come," he writes to his friends at Leeds, "my purpose is to keep at a distance from you, and not to be seen near your corporation or my own dwelling, unless I be informed of a fit time when I may draw near with safety and secrecy. We are in tolerable care for bodily health, save that this sharp piercing weather doth punish us and makes us shrink; but after a little the weather will grow warmer, and the air be more calm and favourable. Oh that our souls might now prosper, whatever becomes of our bodies!" He was now 79 years of age.
A barn, occupying the spot where the Free Wesleyan chapel, Low Town, now stands, is traditionally reported to have been fitted up for public worship, about this period. Certain it is, that in Oct., 1695, Heywood was preaching at the new chapel, Pudsey, and it is handed down that this was the opening service. It is also reported that Heywood said on this occasion, "Friends, you have a pair of brave church doors."
We are not sure, whether at this time, Pudsey had a settled Nonconformist minister. But the Northowram Register records the death, in 1699, of Rev. JOHN RAY, "preacher at Pudsey and Closes," (Cleckheaton). So that his name probably will supply the whole, or at least, part of the hiatus. After Mr. Ray's death we have another vacuum; but Thoresby's diary mentions the sum of £3 sent in 1707, and £6 in 1709, by Mr. Stretton. So that preaching was probably maintained with regularity.
In 1708, mention is made of the death of Rev. Richard Hutton, of Pudsey. His son married a daughter of the Rev. Richard Thorp, a man of property, then minister of Hopton. And in 1716 Pudsey is reported in Nears list as having a congregation of 250 persons, twenty-one of whom were free. holders.
In the year 1710, Richard Hutton, Esq., of Pudsey, a descendant of Sir Thomas Hutton, married Mary, the daughter of Rev. Richard Thorp, Hopton. She died 1724, and was buried at Calverley. Madam Thorp, of Hopton, mother of Mrs. Hutton, died at her son's-in-law, May 8, 1725, and was buried at Mirfield. Richard Hutton, Esq., of Pudsey, died at Mr. Markland's, Hunslet Lane, Leeds, July 20, 1729.
In 1715, Joseph Lefton left the sum of £3 annually for the benefit of "a dissenting minister, settled in Pudsey."
- 1727. Rev. JOHN WAINMAN, son of Rev. T. Wainman, of Bingley. He received aid from the Hewley Fund, and, after the death of his father, preached for a time alternately at Pudsey and Bingley. Died June 10, 1770, æt. 64. Buried in the old chapel.
- Oct. 28, 1770, Rev. MICHAEL MAURICE (from Eastwood). Died July I, 1773, aet. 49. Buried in the old chapel.
- Oct., 1773. Rev. -ARTHUR LLOYD, died at Leeds.
- In 1782, Rev. W. Turner was ordained here, though not as pastor of Pudsey. The ministers engaged in the service were distinctly Unitarian.
- 1792. Rev. THOMAS LAIRD, from Keighley, son-in-law to Rev. J. Toothill, Hopton. In the next year a new chapel was opened, Messrs. Moorhouse, Toothill, and Cockin being the preachers. Mr. Laird died 1831, æt. 70, after a ministry of nearly fifty years. In 1809, a Sunday-school was established.
- 1832. Rev. WILLIAM COLEFAX (of Airedale Coll.), from Hexham. His ministry lasted nearly fifteen years, during which the chapel debt was cleared, the final subscriptions for that purpose reaching nearly £400. An additional burial-ground was purchased 1846.
- 1848. Rev. THOMAS JOWETT (Airedale Coll.). He was minister nearly six years, and resigned April 2, 1854. In 1849, the first stone was laid of a new school-room, which was opened in 1850, when a tea-party was held, E. Baines, Esq , presiding.
- 1855. Rev. JOHN MARSDEN, B.A. (Airedale Coll.). In 1859 the school-room was freed from debt. Mr. M. removed to Kidderminster in 1861.
- 1862. Rev. J. W. TOZER, from Peniston. Mr. T. removed in 1864.
- 1864. Rev. J. ATKINSON, from the Free Church, the present minister (in 1868).
* By aid of Mr. Rogers and Rev. J. Atkinson.