In writing a brief history of each District, we find Leeds taking the premier position, with thirty-five Churches and a membership of 4,736. We will mention first, in the order of their seniority, those Churches which lie within the present city boundary. The first to claim our attention is the Zion Church, Bramley, which was formed in 1777, with Mr. Joseph Askwith as its first pastor. When young, he had entered the Army, but after twenty years' service returned to Bramley, his native village, to reside with his father. Here he was brought to a knowledge of the truth, and, being deeply affected with the spiritual destitution of his neighbours, commenced preaching in private houses or wherever he could be accommodated. For nine years he preached in a barn, which was hired for the purpose, where his labours were attended with considerable success. At this time Mr. Askwith was a Paedobaptist, but becoming convinced of Believers' Baptism was immersed at Gildersome. The Gildersome Church book records the event :—" Joseph Askwith was baptised January 2nd, 1777, and received to full communion the 5th inst. He preaches to a Congregation which he has gathered at Bramley, but intends remaining with us till they settle in a Church state."
In the same month Mr. Askwith baptised ten persons, an d eleven more on the 24th March. They were then formed into a Church, and chose two of their number to act as Deacons. Mr. Askwith continued in the pastorate until his death in 1795. During his ministry he had admitted 120 members into Church fellowship. His successor was Mr. Rigby, who remained about three years, and was followed by Mr. Thomas Furney, who occupied the pulpit for two years. A period of destitution followed, when for want of proper pulpit supplies the congregation was almost lost.
In 1803, Mr. John Trickett, of Bacup, was invited to preach. His ministry proved acceptable, and, the cause beginning to revive, he was ordained pastor in 1804. God abundantly blessed his work, and the congregation became so large that it was decided, in 18o6, to erect a new place of worship.
We are told that the men of the congregation assisted in the building operations, and even the women toiled as labourers in fetching the stone. The building was opened for worship in March, 18o8,* and Mr. Trickett continued his ministry with great acceptance until his death, in June, 1825. In 1818, Christopher Kitching, who had been a scholar in the school, left for missionary work in Jamaica. Mr. William Colcroft became pastor in 1826, and remained until 1837. At this period of the Church's history, the Sunday School numbered more than four hundred scholars. After an interval of two years, Mr. Colcroft was succeeded by Mr. Charles New (1840), and Mr. Rees (1841-3).
In the following year Mr. J. Macpherson became pastor. During his ministry a new chapel was built, the opening services being held in June, 1846. In 1850, Mr. J. Walcot undertook the oversight of the Church, and continued until 1855. He was succeeded in 1857 by Mr. J. Compston, who left in 1861. In 1863 Mr. Abraham Ashworth accepted the invitation of the Church, and remained until 1878, when he formed the sister Church at Salem. During his pastorate (1877) an organ was placed in the chapel. In 1879, an invitation was extended to the Rev. M. G. Coker, and, at the close of his ministry, the Rev. James Wilkinson entered on the pastorate on July 3rd, 1887. Mr. Wilkinson was one of the first students of Manchester College. He served the Church faithfully for eight years. In December, 1889, the new School movement was inaugurated, and on January 16th, 1897, the premises were opened by Sir John Barran, Bart.
Zion had been without a pastor for two years, when her choice fell on Rev. J. C. Taylor, A.T.S. He commenced his ministry on April 4th, 1897. Last year the Church celebrated the Centenary of its Sunday School, and at the close of the year Mr. Taylor accepted a call to the Church at Catford Hill.
* The Association record says 1807.