DEWSBURY: Dewsbury-Ebenezer Chapel Congregational Church History up to 1868.
No Congregational chapel existed in Dewsbury before 1814. Till then, those who were attached to the Independent modes of worship (and there were several, at Earlsheaton, Thornhill, and Thornhill Lees) walked either to Ossett or to Hopton. The Rev. T. Taylor preached, however, whilst minister at Ossett, on a week day, monthly, at Earlsheaton, and this service was continued after his removal. In 1814, steps were taken for the erection of an Independent chapel. The foundation-stone was laid, and an address delivered, by Rev. E. Parsons (Leeds). The undertaking encountered much opposition from the vicar and his congregation. "An incident occurred, however, at the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone which did much to disarm opposition and allay anger. One of the hymns sung on that occasion was the 118th Psalm, third part, in Dr. Watts' hymnbook, beginning, 'Behold the sure foundation-stone,' &c. The third verse runs thus :-
"The foolish builders, scribe, and priest, Reject it with disdain;
Yet on this Rock the Church shall rest, And envy rage in vain."
The Rev. E. Parsons, who gave out the hymn, omitted this verse, and that omission had the effect of conciliating many members of the Establishment, some of whom subscribed towards the building of the chapel and school." The chapel was opened June 29, 1815, by the Revs. E. Parsons, Jos. Cockin, and Toothill. Rev. T. Taylor preached and administered the Lord's Supper on the first Sunday. The building was called "Ebenezer Chapel."
After two years' aid from ministers and students, the church elected as pastor-
- 1817. Rev. GEORGE WATERHOUSE. At the time of his settlement there was already a good congregation, but a heavy debt. The church then consisted of thirty-six members. A Sunday-school had been originated soon after the opening of the chapel. In 1822, the chapel ground was enlarged, and a school-room erected. The people struggled long and heavily with financial difficulties, and great sacrifices were made and much patience exercised before the debt could be cleared off. This, however, was accomplished about the year 1829. The graveyard was much extended by a purchase of land in 1835.
- An enlargement of the chapel took place in 1839, according to the plans of Mr. Jeremiah Marriott. (" The debt occasioned by this enlargement, interest, &c., was entirely cleared off by private subscription in 1846.") Mr. Waterhouse, after a generally successful ministry, resigned his office, Aug. 542, and removed to Attercliffe, where he soon after died.
- 1843. Rev. EDWARD HENRY WEEKS (of Cheshunt Coll.). Ordained May 29, 1844.
- In 1848, a new school-room, costing upwards of '800, was erected, and the entire debt was cleared off (" the second during Mr. Weeks' ministry") in 1850. The chapel was then filled, and great need existed for extension. An unexpected and apparently providential call to Manchester being given, Mr. Weeks accepted it, with the hope (afterwards abundantly realized) that the friends at Ebenezer would at his departure spread themselves abroad." On his removal, the friends presented him with £100, and an address expressive of their esteem and regret. During his ministry, upwards of 260 members were received into the church.
- 1856. Rev. JOSEPH SHILLITO (of Lancashire Coll.). He was ordained Sept. I. He laboured, with the approbation and esteem of his flock, till he accepted an invitation to Norwood Chapel, Liverpool, 1864.
- 1865. Rev. HENRY STURT (from Market Drayton). He is the present pastor.
* Communicated by Rev. E. H. Weeks.
from the Appendix to
Congregationalism in Yorkshire
by James C. Miall, 1868.