The original chapel at Knaresborough, situated in Windsor Lane, was founded by Lady Hewley, who possessed from her husband, Sir J. Hewley, an estate in the vicinity, Hay Park, afterwards bequeathed as part of her munificent charity. She died 1710.
The first minister was Rev. Wm. BENSON, who married a daughter of Rev. R. Ward (York).
The chapel was shut up for many years. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, however, it was occasionally visited, in an uncertain manner, by Rev. -- Cunningham, of Ellenthorp.
- 1715. Rev. RALPH HILL. In 1716 he had sixty hearers. Died 1720. He was a pensioner on the Hewley fund. Succeeded by
- Circ. 1720. Rev. CAIUS THOMPSON. Named on the Hewley fund 1728 and 1729.
The revival of the congregation at Knaresborough is mainly due to the exertions of Mrs. Thornton, wife of John Thornton, Esq., of Clapham. She was accustomed annually to visit Harrogate, and being a firm Congregationalist, frequently went to the old chapel at Knaresborough. The preaching there was, however, so irregular, as greatly to excite her desire for a better adjustment of affairs, and a more commodious place for worship. She was at length induced to write to the Rev. Mr. Gentleman, who presided over a small dissenting academy at Shrewsbury, and to request him to send a student to Harrogate, with a view of preaching for a short time at Knaresborough. The student so sent was the Rev. William Howell (1778). So encouraging was the attention awakened in Knaresborough by his visit, that a new Chapel was at once resolved on, it being understood that Mr. Howell was willing to become for three years its minister.
A chapel was accordingly built (1779), capable of accommodating 260 hearers. But progress was difficult; the numbers were at first few, not more than twelve or thirteen having remained as adherents of the old congregation, and the seat rents did not exceed for several years the sum of £10 per annum. Mrs. Thornton added £5, and Lady Hewley's trustees £24, the total being about £50. A gradual improvement, however, took place in 1782, and Mr. Howell was ordained over a church of twelve members. The death of Mrs. Thornton, soon after, seemed calamitous, but the preaching of her funeral sermon drew many to hear it, and created a more favourable impression towards the new sanctuary. Soon after, Mr. Cunningham, of Ellenthorp, died, and Mr. Howell succeeded him, preaching there one sermon in a fortnight. By this means his resources were improved. A state of great spiritual prosperity followed. Three galleries were successively built. Mr. Howell was incessant in his exertions in the localities around, and saw before his death six chapels arise in the places where he had been accustomed to preach. In 1817, the Knaresborough chapel was considerably enlarged. At that time the church consisted of 110 members. Several considerations, added to the visitation of a nervous fever, at last led Mr. Howell to yield up Ellenthorp to the Rev. Mr. Norris, of Boroughbridge.
The following is from the pen of Mr. Howell's son, W. Howell, Esq., Starbeck : "My father was chosen by the London Missionary Society as the Superintendent of the Mission to the South Seas, in the second voyage of the 'Duff'. They sailed at the close of 1799.
The 'Duff' was captured by a French privateer, and all the missionaries were carried to Monte Video. After a delay of some months they bought a brig, and set sail for England. They were next captured by a Portuguese fleet, and taken to Lisbon. From thence they sailed for England, and arrived at Falmouth about the end of the year. My father at once resumed his charge of the church at Windsor Lane, after an absence of nearly a year. He continued to hold the pastorate till 1833, when he partially resigned his charge, but preached once every Sunday until 1835, when he resigned entirely."
- 1835. Rev. JOHN GLENDENNING. Died at Knaresborough, 1839.
- 1839. Rev. J. ROBERTSON, from Selby. Removed 1852 to Mevagissey.
- 1854. Rev. GEORGE GLADSTONE, from Hull. He left Knaresborough 1859.
- 1860. Rev. RICHARD REDMAN. Removed to Blackpool, 1864.
- 1864. Rev. E. CORBOLD (Cheshunt), from St. Petersburg, the present minister (in 1868).