A single Congregational pastorate has rendered the name of Albion Chapel distinguished, not only in Leeds, but throughout the denomination.
About the year 1814, the chapel fell into the hands of a private individual, who invited Rev. RICHARD WINTER HAMILTON, then a student at Hoxton, to become its minister. His first services were attended by an extraordinary excitement, under the influence of which Mr. Hamilton, though he had been previously reluctant to form such an engagement, consented to become the pastor, after a church had been formed and the chapel placed in trust. Overflowing congregations evinced the popularity of the young preacher, who speedily attained a foremost place among pulpit orators. But this first impression, however strong, was evanescent. "Just then," says Mr. Scales, "a sermon on a public occasion, which he was persuaded to publish, and had committed hastily to the press, exposed him to the most severe and disparaging criticism, which exerted the most disastrous influence on his popularity, and greatly diminished the numbers of his admirers and followers. There is no doubt that in many respects the remarks of his critics were unduly severe, and their spirit culpably cruel. The effect for a while was very discouraging, but the ardent spirit and vigorous powers of the youthful pastor enabled him to brave this untoward opposition, and gradually to overcome its influence, and to establish a still higher reputation on a firmer basis."
Albion Chapel soon became too small for its numerous and increasing congregation, and it was resolved in 1835 to erect a more commodious sanctuary. Accordingly measures were taken with the utmost energy and liberality, and Belgrave Chapel arose. It was opened Jan. 6, 1836, by sermons from the Rev. R. S. McAll, LL.D. (afterwards published), Rev. Dr. Newton, LL.D., and Rev. T. Raffles, D.D., LLD.
In 1841, "Nugæ Literariæ" was published; a volume which displayed the excursiveness and power of Mr. H.'s highly gifted mind. Not long after he received from the University of Glasgow the diploma of LL.D., and from the Council of the University of New York that of D.D.
Dr. Hamilton's publications were very numerous; too numerous to be catalogued here. Among them his work on "Missions;" the Essay on Education, which in 1844 obtained the Manchester prize; the Congregational Lecture on "Rewards and Punishments," the treatise on the Sabbath, and that on Prayer, besides two volumes of miscellaneous sermons, may be mentioned as illustrating the industry and power with which he upheld the great principles of Christian truth.
He had scarcely completed the almost perfect biographical sketch of his friend Ely, introductory to a volume of posthumous sermons, when he was called to follow him. A t the age of fifty-four an attack of erysipelas supervening on a state of exhaustion from excessive labour, terminated his course. He died July 19, 1848, and was interred close to the remains of his beloved coadjutor, leaving a memory which will be long cherished by his brethren and the inhabitants of the town in which he lived. (See p. 179, et seq.)
- 1848. Rev. GEORGE WILLIAM CONDER (of Highbury Coll.), from Ryde, Isle of Wight. Mr. C. left Leeds for Manchester, 1864.
- 1865. Rev. ROBERT MCALL (of Rotherham Coll.), from Hanley, the present minister (in 1868).