Turning now to the wide field beyond the city, which is covered by the Leeds District, we find that the Church at Gildersome holds a first and an honoured place. The story of its life during the 18th century has been related in this volume by Principal Blomfield.* The opening years of the 19th century found the cause in a feeble condition, as it was without a pastor, and lacking the spirit of unity. But, in 1807, Rev. William Scarlett came to its ministry, to find a home amongst its people for thirty-four years, and a last resting-place in the chapel graveyard. The ancient chapel then seated 250 people; it had no baptistry, the ordinance being administered in a walled-in bath which had been constructed in a neighbouring plantation. In 1810, a Sunday School was established and conducted for twenty-five years as the united effort of the three denominations in the village, after which time it was continued by the Baptists alone, until, in 1866, they removed to their school next the chapel. After the death of Mr. Scarlett, the ministry was sustained by Rev. R. S. Frearson (1843-6), and Rev. J. Sargent (1850-6). After an interval of some years, Mr. John Haslam, of Rawdon College, received a unanimous call in August, 1862, and began a ministry destined to continue for thirty-five years, during which period the Gildersome pastor became one of the best known of our Yorkshire ministers.
In 1863, the increased accommodation required led to a proposed enlargement of the chapel, but the work had not proceeded far before it was discovered that the insecurity of the ancient building necessitated its abandonment, and the Church faced the greater responsibility of erecting an entirely new Sanctuary. The task was success-fully accomplished, the chapel opened on May 2nd, 1866, and the debt defrayed within the following ten years. In 1868, an organ was presented to the Church, and in 1871 the building of a new Manse was undertaken. In 1867, a day school was commenced, and maintained' until 1871, when a School Board was formed for the village, the Baptist minister being for many years a member and for some time its Chairman. In his first year of ministry, the Sunday afternoon service was replaced by evening worship, and, in 1864, the Church adopted an "open communion."
In 1872, twenty-four members were dismissed to form the Church at Morley. In 1874 and 1875, a gracious revival was experienced, and in 1879, the pastor, who contemplated his resignation, was urged to continue amongst his people. In 1882, new class-rooms were erected, and, in 1886, the Church undertook the completion of its scheme of school premises by building a Hall as a Memorial of the faithful generations of worshippers who had for nearly two centuries sustained the service of the Church, which should also be an expression of thankfulness for the twenty-five years' ministry of its pastor. The Hall was opened in July, 1887, having cost £1,200. In 1897, Dr. Haslam retired from the pastorate to devote himself to the educational work of New College, Harrogate, a school which had been first established by Mr. Sargent at Turton Hall, Gildersome, and of which Dr. Haslam had become the Principal. He was succeeded at Gildersome, in 1898, by Rev. G. M. Rice, who removed, in 1904, to a pastorate in Brisbane, and was followed by Mr. Harold Spooner, a student of Rawdon, who continues in the ministry at Gildersome.
* The Gildersome deed, of which a photograph is given in this volume, records a grant of land for a "Chappell or Meeting-house for Divine Worshipp. Thomas Hardcastle granted this land for the sum of £3 15s. od., "divers other good causes" moving him to do so. His father had been ejected from the Vicarage of Bramham in 1662, and was afterwards imprisoned at York and Chester, and at London. In 1671 he become pastor of Broadmead, Bristol, in which city he twice suffered imprisonment, "still preaching as soon as ever he came forth, and so continued till his death. He was seven times imprisoned for Christ and a good conscience after he left off conformity."