YORK: York Baptist Church History up to 1912.



There have been Baptists in the City of York from an early period, for Theophilus Browning obtained an Indulgence in 1672, to preach as a Baptist in the house of William Wombwell, of York. Nor can we forget that William Mitchel was twice imprisoned under the Conventicle Act, at York Castle; he writes to "my friends in York who visited me in the time of my imprisonment." It was probably seven years after this that Mitchel became a Baptist, but his imprisonment in the Castle is certainly a matter of Baptist interest. Our first clear trace of a Baptist congregation in the city is at the close of the 18th century. Hargrove's "History of York" records that "the first members of the Baptist Church were immersed in the Bathing House, New Walk, in October, 1799." In the published life of Dr. Mason we read that his grandfather, Francis Mason, who died in 1801, was described as "founder of the Baptist Society in York." He recalls the meetings of this Society in a large upper room in his father's house, on Peaseholm Green. Its members were not Calvinistic but Unitarian in doctrine.

This Society, after some wanderings, eventually became merged in the congregation at St. Saviour-gate Chapel. Andrew Fuller visited York in 1802, and is surprised at learning that, in addition to a few Socinian Baptists a little Baptist Church had lately been formed there. This must be the congregation to which Hargrove refers—" The Baptists assembled for worship, in July, 1802, in a large room in College Street." In 1806, they purchased a chapel from the Methodists, but in 1818 the cause was broken up by internal dissensions. There is no further record until the formation of the present Church in 1862. The Baptist Home Missionary Society then hired a lecture hall, and on January 19th, it was opened for worship. On December 28th, a Church of thirty members was formed, which next year was placed under the care of the Itinerant Society. The first four candidates were baptised on March 27th, 1864. In 1865, Mr. G. E. Foster, of Cambridge, when visiting the city, was grieved at the absence of a Baptist chapel. He was led to offer £1,000 towards the erection of a building worthy of the denomination. The challenge was accepted, and the building of the present stately structure was commenced.

The Rev. T. Pottinger held the pastorate for three months, and was succeeded by Rev. J. F. Smythe, in January, 1867. In the same month the foundation stone of the chapel was laid, and the building occupied on June 17th, 1868. The arduous work of collecting funds mainly devolved upon Rev. John Barker, of Lockwood. Upon Mr. Smythe's retirement, in 1871, the Church called the Rev. F. B. Meyer, B.A., during whose ministry of two years classrooms and a caretaker's house were added to the premises.. This period is memorable in the Church's history by the fact that Messrs. Moody and Sankey commenced their great English campaign in the York chapel. Mr. Meyer was followed by Rev. T. E. Cooke, who remained until 1881. Faithful service has since been rendered by Revs. W. Turner (1882-8); E. E. Fisk (1889-94); C. Pates (1895-1905), and M. Cumming (1905-6). Various influences have operated against the prosperity of the Church in recent years, and in 1907 the assistance of the County Association was sought. By counsel and financial help, an attempt was made to secure the return of better conditions, and in March, 1909, Rev. D. R. Smith accepted the call of the Church and the Association to the pastorate. His work has been accompanied with encouraging signs, a spirit of harmony prevails, and the future gives promise of an enlarged life.

Transcribed by Colin Hinson © 2014
from the "Present Churches" section of
The Baptists of Yorkshire
by Rev. J. Brown Morgan
and Rev. C.E. Shipley