The congregation at Northowram owes its existence to the Rev. OLIVER HEYWOOD, B.A. In 1650 he received an invitation to the chapel at Coley, and having been ordained at Bury, according to the Presbyterian form, he came hither as the minister. The proceeds of his chapelry were small, never exceeding £36 per annum. But Heywood's heart was large, and his motives nobly disinterested. Larger spheres were open to him, which he refused, resolving not to quit his humble station, where God had greatly blessed him.
Heywood's persecutions began from the Restoration (1660). He was cited for not reading the Book of Common Prayer, and suspended in June, 1662, before the passing of the Act of Uniformity. After that Act, Nov. 2, he was excommunicated. Upon the Five-mile Act he retired into Lancashire, though sometimes secretly visiting his home. At length he ventured to preach more freely. He was imprisoned in 1669, but soon released. In the same year his goods were seized, and would have been sold, but that no purchaser could be found. In 1680 he was again excommunicated, for not taking the sacrament. But the bailiffs in charge of the warrants against him gave him warning of their coming, and he thus escaped imprisonment. A fine of £50 was imposed upon him in 1685, for convening a riotous assembly, and, in default of payment he was sent to York Castle, where he was confined for a year. After his ejection he lived at Coley Hall, being joint tenant with Captain Hodgson, of the Horton family. On 8th May, 1672, he removed into his own house at Northowram, which he opened for preaching. In 1672 he gathered a congregation at Northowram. He afterwards built a chapel (opened July 8th, 1688), principally at his own expense.
His labours were unwearied and most extensive. "It was asserted," says Calamy, "by those who had the best means of information, that some thousands were indebted to his ministry for deep and abiding impressions of divine things." Most of the Nonconformist congregations, in a very wide district (of which Northowram was a central point), owed their origin or their continuance to his apostolical exertions. See his Life, by Rev. Dr. Fawcett, by Rev. Richard Slate, and by Rev. J. Hunter.
The pastors of Northowram have been the following :-
- 1672. Rev. OLIVER HEY WOOD, B.A., of Trin. Coll., Cambridge. Several valuable practical treatises proceeded from his pen. Among them are "Heart - Treasure," "Closet-Prayer," "Sure Mercies of David," "Life in God's Favour," "Israel's Lamentation," "Life of Angier," "Baptismal Bonds," "Meetness for Heaven," "Family Altar," "The best Entail," &c.
- A church was formed at Northowram by Heywood, with some deviation from strict Presbyterian principles. After the death of Rev. Henry Root many members of the society at Sowerby united themselves to it (June 18, 1672), among whom were Mr. Joshua Horton and his wife, Mr. Root's widow, Josiah Stanfield and his wife, and Capt. Hodgson and his wife. Some of the members of this church resided at Halifax, some at Warley, some at Allerton, and some at Little Horton, Bradford.
- Mr. Heywood, after a life of almost unparalleled usefulness, died, May 4, 1702, æt. 73.
- 1702. Rev. THOMAS DICKINSON, (Frankland's Academy.) He was ordained at Gorton Chapel 24th May, 1694, according to the Presbyterian forms. Mr. Dickinson was a valuable and devoted minister, thoroughly orthodox and evangelical.
- 1710. A New Trust Deed, between Jon. Priestley, of Wintredge, and Nath. Priestley, of Ovenden, clerk, T. Dickenson, clerk, and others, describes the chapel as a "meeting-place for religious worship for Protestant Dissenters."
- Mr. Dickinson married Hannah Foster, of Ossett, by whom he had twelve children, four of whom died before himself. One of his sons had been in two battles, but escaped unhurt. He was seized with fever on his passage from Carthagena, and died 1741.
- Mr. Dickinson died 26th December, 1743, having been minister forty-one years, æt. 74. His tombstone is still at Northowram.
- 1744. Rev. ROBERT HESKETH, Glasgow, from Eastwood, "an aged and valuable man; orthodox and peaceable." Removed to Bolton-le-Moors.
- Mr. H. died Jan. 19, 1774, aged 77, and was interred in the chapel yard, where there is a tombstone with Latin inscription. The house for the minister was built in his time.
- 1774 or 1775. Rev. SAMUEL WALKER. There were thirty-three members of church on the Congregational plan, 1783. Mr. W. was popular at first. A new gallery was erected; but the cause afterwards declined; people were divided. Resigned in 1792. Mr. W. succeeded for a time to the tutorship of Scott's Academy, (see p. 164). He died in 1796.
- 1793. JOHN BATES, of Mixenden, came here, but returned to Mixenden 1799. He does not appear, however, to have resided at Northowram. No dates in church books, &c.
- 1801. Rev. ROBERT HARPER, minister at Northowram seventeen years. Succeeded in March 5, and before long the congregation fell into disorder, divided, and built another chapel. At length, in Sept., 1818, he consented to leave, having been minister about seventeen years.
- 1820. Rev. JOHN WHITE (from Idle Acy.). The two congregations united, the new chapel being formed into a dwelling and sold.
- Another chapel was erected in 1837, and was opened June 28. It bears the name of "Heywood Chapel."
- Mr. White died, having been minister at Northowram twenty-nine years, March 10, 1849. There is a small tablet to his memory.
- 1849. Rev. GILES HOYLE, from Ancoats, Manchester.
- During his ministry the church increased from thirty-seven members to one hundred. He died 1861, much lamented.
- 1862. Rev. J. H. DEEX, the present minister (in 1868).
* Aided by Rev. B. Dale, M.A.