This was one of the earliest Congregational churches in the West Riding. It was gathered in 1645, by the Rev. Henry Root, who succeeded Nathaniel Rathband as incumbent of the now Episcopal chapel, and who continued to preach in it for half a year after Bartholomew Day, 1662. H. Root was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and had been a considerable traveller. He had at one time the prospect of the incumbency of Denton, Lancashire; but ultimately Angier, Heywood's father-in-law, received the appointment. Root was subsequently minister at Gorton, and took a prominent part in the controversies of the time. In 1643 he was assistant minister in the church at Manchester,. He wrote a "Just Apology for the Church at Duckinfield," 1646, which was a defence of Congregational principles. He afterwards settled in the chapel at Sowerby (see p. 50). Tillotson wrote to consult him respecting taking "the engagement" of allegiance to Cromwell, in 1649.
The father of Archbishop Tillotson was at one time a member of this church. He died Feb. 22, 1683, aet. 91, and was buried at Sowerby. Joshua Horton was now residing at Sowerby Hall. He was a Puritan, and a justice of the peace, and was involved in some suspicion of being concerned in the "Farnley Wood Plot." (See P. 79).
The pastors of the Congregational church at Sowerby since its origin have been-
"He was forcibly taken out of his own house (1663) by virtue of a mittimus upon a significavit. The three bailiffs who were employed on this occasion broke the inner door of the room where he was sitting, and hurried him away in a manner very unsuitable to his age and weakness. They would not suffer him so much as to take his coat, his staff, or even the little money he had with him to defray his expenses. They treated him in various other respects with rudeness and cruelty. He was prisoner in York Castle three months. Sometime after his release he was committed a second time for three months more; but the justices having declared the commitment to be illegal, he was discharged. Yet he was a third time sent to the same prison by Sir J. Armitage, without any cause being assigned. He was kept close prisoner in a small room for a considerable time. His wife was not permitted to visit him, nor even to come into the Castle." Henry Root died Oct. 20, 1669, æt. 80.
- 1645. Rev. HENRY ROOT (minister during the occupation of the original-now Episcopal-chapel).After 1662 he suffered severely.
"He was obliged to leave his habitation and his family with the farm he occupied, to his great loss. While he was in Lancashire among some relatives, he was invited to preach in a chapel there. In the time of Divine service a certain doctor came and disturbed him, exhibiting an indictment against him for preaching, but the doctor having made a mistake respecting his proper name, he was dismissed. Five months after he was invited to preach in the same chapel again, and it being vacant, he complied. For this he was indicted, and put to a great deal of trouble and expense. In August, 1670, he was invited to preach at Shadwell Chapel, near Leeds. Whilst he was singing a psalm, Lord S. (Saville ?) came with twenty-four troopers, and some bailiffs. Mr. R. was dragged out of the pulpit into the chapel yard, where his life was endangered by the trampling of the trooper's horses. Mr. R. desired them to keep off their horses, saying: "I am in your hands, and ye are in the hands, of God." Lord S. said: "In God's hands? No ! Thou art in the devil's hands." They searched his pockets, and finding a receipt in which his name was inserted, they made a mittimus and carried him to York gaol, where he was kept a close prisoner. The gaoler told him that except he would give him £20, he should be loaded with double irons and confined among the felons in the low gaol.
- 1669. Rev. TIMOTHY ROOT, son of the preceding. His sufferings even exceeded those of his father.
After fourteen days confinement in an upper room he was brought forth, and double irons were put upon him, heavier than those of the common thieves whose fellow-prisoner he was now to be. The gaoler locked the inner door in the day time, and would not permit him the liberty allowed to the felons, of taking air in the castle yard. Mr. R. procured a bed, but the gaoler would not suffer him to set it up, but compelled him to lie upon straw. On the Lord's day Mr. R. would have preached to the prisoners, but while he was at prayer an order was brought from the head-gaoler, requiring him to desist. When he had continued for some time in this confinement, two justices in the West sent a certificate for him, upon which he was released, though not without giving bond for his appearance at the next assizes. He accordingly appeared, but no indictment being found against him, he was finally discharged. These troubles were attended with great expense, and were afflictive, and even hazardous to his wife, who about this time lay in of her fourth child." On his release, Heywood kept with him a day of thanksgiving, Captain Hodgson accompanying him.
Calamy says of Timothy Root : "Just at the time when King James granted liberty of conscience, he conformed, but had little satisfaction afterwards. Mr. Trickett and others thought his complying, after such sufferings, so extraordinary, that they wanted to know whether he saw with clearer eyes than they, and desired he would give them an account of the reason of his proceedings; but this he declined. He brought up his son for the ministry, who was then about 19 years of age. He and his mother were greatly troubled at his father's conformity, and died soon after. His father did not long survive."Palmer's N. C. M. iii. 476. He died June 24., 1689.
In 1672, Heywood's church having been just formed, several members of the Congregational body at Sowerby sought alliance with the people at Northowram. Accordingly, they mutually agreed to unite, waiving minor differences. "On further debate and enumeration of our members," says Heywood, "they fully acquiesced in my fidelity as to the admission of our church members, and were willing to communicate with them as they stood." "We also owned them, and were willing to receive them to all ordinances." "This is the special work of God, for men's spirits are greatly altered. Captain Hodgson earnestly promoted this union." Joshua Horton and his wife, Mrs. Root, the widow of Henry Root, Captain Hodgson and his wife, were among these adherents.
Horton was accustomed usually to attend the parish chapel, but on Sacrament days he went to Northowram. He desired accommodadation for worship nearer at hand, and in 1673 a license was taken out by him for a new house, which he had erected on "Quarrel (Quarry) Hill." It received the regular services of Heywood, Timothy Root, Bentley, and Dawson. The erection excited the hostility of Dr. Hooke, then vicar of Halifax, who wrote an angry letter to Horton, requesting him to desist from what was "a sin, a scandal, a schism, a danger." He also inveighed bitterly from the pulpit against the undertaking. But Horton, who was a person of influence in his neighbourhood, being a rich man and a justice, was not daunted by these threats, but replied to the vicar in a manner at once firm and temperate.
What became of Mr. Horton's chapel is unknown. There was no minister from Sowerby at the meeting of West Riding ministers, 1691 (see p. 109), nor is the place mentioned in Evan's list, 1715. The next chapel did not occupy the same site. It was built in 1720.
"This chapel." says Mr. Bottomley, one of the subsequent ministers, "which has been recently taken down, was appropriately designated The Dissenting Meeting-place.' It seems to have consisted of walls, doors and windows of the commonest order,- literally a ground-floor. Primitive usages obtained, but worshippers, who were mindful of the luxuries of life, provided themselves with mats or rushes. What the order of benches was, we have never learned. In the memory of some yet living there was but one pew, which was occupied by a principal person-Mr. Lea, who was much respected and deservedly esteemed, a great help to the cause."*1 1721. REV. WILLIAM DODGE. He bears the reputation of having been a faithful minister. The Northowram Register calls him "a useful preacher and physician." His name is on the Hewley list, 1728. He was buried in the chapel.
- 1744. Rev. -- THORBURN. Rev. -- ANDREWS.
- 1752. Rev. DANIEL PHILLIPS, educated at Pulheli, Caernarvon; afterwards with Dr. Latham, from Eastwood. In Cockin's life he is styled "an Arian." After a long pastorate of more than forty years, he removed to Hapton, Norfolk, 1788. "The interest at Steep Lane," says Mr. Bottomley, "had originated before Mr. Phillips' settlement, and was probably a necessity arising out of the verging towards Unitarianism at the Dissenting meeting-place." At his death Mr. P. was 84 years old.
- 1788. Rev. EDMUND BUTCHER (Daventry Acy.). He was at Sowerby only six months. He removed to Leather Lane, London,
- 1788. Rev. JACOB HARWOOD. He was very popular for some years. Left for America, 1794.
- 1794. Rev. JOSEPH SOWDEN (Trevecca), from Booth. He was an Independent. He resigned, probably, from insufficient subsistence, though he on the day of his farewell sermon received an invitation to remain. He was very successful. Removed to Warrington 1800, and died at Bolton 1812.
- 1800. Rev. ELI HOLLINGWORTH (Northowram Acy.). An eccentric man. His stay was short. He resigned 1803.
- 1803. Rev. JAMES HATTON (Hoxton Acy). His ministry lasted above thirty-six years. During his pastorate a chapel-house was erected, and a Sunday-school established, for which a room at the back of the building was provided. Mr. H. was a man who lived in the esteem of his people and of the public, and his memory was long regarded with affection.
- 1840. Rev. JOSEPH BOTTOMLEY (Airedale Coll.), from Richmond. Many difficulties occurred during his ministry. The chapel was damp as well as inconvenient, and greater accommodation was required both for the congregation and the school. At length, encouraged by J. Crossley, Esq., a new chapel was resolved on, which was opened Sept. I I, 1861, by sermons from Revs. Dr. Raffles and J. (now Dr.) Parker. The style of the chapel is pointed Gothic, with schoolroom below. Mr. B. exerted himself greatly to remove the debt; which, however, was not entirely accomplished when he died. His congregation lost in him an efficient and valuable pastor. Ob. May 19, 1866.
- 1866. Rev. R. J. SARGENT (Western Coll.), from Bangalore, where he was agent of L. M. Society. He was afterwards at Billericay and Orsett, Essex. He is the present minister (in 1868).
* Greatly aided by Rev. B. Pale, M.A.
*1 "Cong. Register," viii , p. 84.