Many different ministers made attempts during the eighteenth century to form a congregation at Wakefield, but for a time without success. Among these were the Rev. John Edwards, of Leeds, and the Rev. Mr. Ralph. The latter preached in the playhouse-yard. The next morning his host, Mr. S. Thompson, received a written notice from the churchwardens that if he preached again he would be prosecuted.
In 1781, the Rev. James Wrath, of Bolton, then visiting Wakefield, preached during the week at his brother's house. He offered to preach again on the Sunday following, but his brother, being afraid of a disturbance, declined. Thomas Ward, however, of Flanshaw Hall, opened his doors to Wrath,*1 and a few inhabitants of Alverthorpe became interested in the Gospel Afterwards a room was taken in Wakefield, at the bottom of the Great Bull yard, the Rev. James Scott, of Heckmondwike, the Rev. S. Tapp, S. Cave (connected by family with Wakefield), and other ministers, conducting service there. The number of the people increased, though very gradually, and the congregation resolved to build a chapel. In 1782, the Rev. Samuel Bruce, Grimsby, passing through the town, on his way to Barnsley, gave an occasional service. He was requested to preach on the following Sunday, and ultimately received a call.
The order of ministers has been the following :-
Oct. 2, 1782. Rev. SAMUEL BRUCE (Heckmondwike Acy.), a native of Heckmondwike, previously settled at Great Grimsby. Mr. Bruce preached his first sermon as pastor, in the room then occupied by the congregation, on Sunday, Oct. 13, 1782, from Acts viii. 5, "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them."
Jan. 1, 1783, the new chapel at the bottom of Rodney Yard was opened by the Rev. John Cockin and Thomas Grove.
A church was formed in April, 1783, when the pastor and members signed "a solemn covenant," which still remains extant in the church records. The first sacrament was administered on the first Sunday in June, 1783, to eighteen members (including Mr. and Mrs. Bruce). 176 members were admitted during the pastorate of Mr. Bruce.
The congregation was at first small, but gradually increased in numbers till the chapel was filled with attentive hearers. In 1793 a minister's house adjoining the chapel was built, the salary raised by the congregation during the whole ministry of Mr. Bruce averaging only about ,C 105 per annum. In 1799, the chapel becoming too small was enlarged, and some differences arising as to the rearrangement and allotment of pews, a secession took place, and a new chapel (Salem) was built in George Street. Mr. Bruce preached his last sermon on Sunday, April 2, 1826, from John iii. 29, "This my joy therefore is fulfilled." During the succeeding week he was seized with illness, which permanently laid him aside; he died June 1, 1833, æt. 79. A memoir of Mr. Bruce, with some further particulars as to the early history of Zion Chapel, will be found in the "Evangelical Magazine" for August, 1833, p. 337, et seq.
- 1827. Rev. JOHN DOUGLAS LORRAINE (Rotherham Coll.), a native of Alnwick.
- In 1843 the then existing chapel and minister's house were pulled down, and a new chapel erected on their site. The latter was opened May 9, 1854, by Rev. Dr. Leifchild, of London.
- Mr. Lorraine was a pious, laborious, and useful minister, beloved of his people, and greatly esteemed in the West Riding. His health was latterly much shattered. He died May it, 1853, aet. 52.
- 1853. Rev. JOSEPH STUCHBERY, B.A. (Lond. Univ. and New Coll.). Ordained Jan., 1854. He resigned Jan., 1859, and was afterwards settled at Tiverton.
- 1859. Rev. H. SANDERS (Rotherham Coll.), from Whitehaven. He received a call during the spring, and commenced his pastoral labours Sept. 4, 1859. He is the present minister (in 1868).
* Aided by Rev. T. S. Eastmead.
*1 Thomas Ward, of Flanshaw Hall, the descendant of the above, was one of the first deacons of the church under Rev. S. Bruce.