The congregation at Holmfirth was one of the consequences of the seed sown by Rev. H. Venn. Many hearers from the neighbourhood attended his ministry; but the distance was inconvenient, and there was a natural desire to have the preaching of the gospel within an easier reach.
As the Calvinists were, however, few in number, and the Methodists in the neighbourhood were the same, an union was formed between them, and a place for worship was opened at Netherthong, at which each party preached on alternate Sundays. But this arrangement proved unsatisfactory. The diversities of doctrine led to unpleasant conflicts; and at length the Independents relinquished their position, and held worship in a cottage, until, after many difficulties, a chapel was erected in Holmfirth in 1778, and a Congregational Church formed.
The following have been the pastors:-
- 1779. Rev. ROBERT GALLAND (of Heckmondwike Acy.), from Ilkeston. He was pastor upwards of twenty years, and was compelled at length to retire from failing health. He died Jan. 12, 1801, æt. 62.
- 1800. Rev. THOMAS BURTON (Rotherham Acy.). He was warmly received, but his course was brief. He died Jan. 26, 1801, on the day that Rev. Mr. Toothill preached the funeral sermon of his predecessor.
- 1802. Rev. JOHN HAMMOND (Rotherham Acy.). As the call was not unanimous, his settlement was unpropitious. After three years he removed to Handsworth, where he still lives.
- 1806. Rev. JOHN COCKIN (Idle Acy.). He was minister during forty-three years, and was well known in the Riding as an active and Evangelical expounder of truth. He was frequently employed on public occasions, and was an energetic itinerant in the district. During his ministry the chapel was twice enlarged, the chapel-house improved, two school-rooms were built, and additional burial-ground bought, the whole at a cost of £1500. Mr. Cockin's defective person rendered him unable to walk much, or even to sit steadily on horseback; he is said to have fallen 200 times from his horse, yet he never sustained serious injury. During some years he was a preacher annually at Hoxton Chapel, London, where his services were much esteemed. He had a great love for literature, in some branches of which he was well read. He published a life of his father, Joseph Cockin, and a work entitled, "Reflections after Reading," which has considerable merit. He died at Halifax, being then a retired minister, Oct. 17, 1861, æt. 78.
- 1849. Rev. JAMES MACFARLANE (Glasgow Univ.), from Whitehaven. During his pastorate the chapel-house was rebuilt, and a school-room erected at Burnlee, at a cost of about £600. He removed in February, 1855, to Windsor.
- 1856. Rev. ROBERT WILLAN. Many improvements in the premises were made during his ministry, costing £500. In 1861 he became pastor of the church at Egham, Surrey, where he still remains.
- 1862. Rev. JAMES MACFARLANE. Having through ill-health resigned his ministry at Windsor, he was invited to resume his pastorate at Holmfirth. In 1865, however, his health again failed, and in 1866 he resigned, and soon after died at Blackness, Scotland.
- 1866. Rev. JOHN COLVILLE (Lancashire Coll.), the present minister (in 1868).
* Aided by Rev. J. Colville.