LEEDS: Leeds Congregational Church History up to 1868.
The town of Leeds was early known as a centre of Evangelical Christianity and Independent opinion. After the death of Rev. W. Styles, the desire of the parishioners had been to have the Rev. E. Bowles as their vicar. But the events of the Restoration disappointed this desire, and Dr. Lake was appointed. Robert Todd and Christopher Nesse were successively Evangelical lecturers.
The Rev. Leonard Scurr was ejected from Beeston, Leeds. He was a man of property, some of which was at Pontefract, but is said by Calamy (a rare accusation in those times !) to have been of indifferent character. His house at Beeston was broken into by ruffians (1680), who murdered him, his aged mother, and the maid-servant, and then set fire to the place. One of the murderers was afterwards executed on Holbeck Moor.- (Thoresby's Diary, vol. i, p. 35). Boothroyd (" Hist. of Pontefract ") mistook the park at Beeston for the park at Pontefract, and half suspected that he had done so. Thoresby, in a MS. letter, says of Scurr : "He was somewhat contentious as to lawsuits, but otherwise no ill man that ever I could learn, though some, from the distinguishing calamity which befell him, have been led to suspect some enormous guilt."
St. John's Church was built in 1634, and Robert Todd was appointed incumbent, having James Sale for assistant. When the plague raged at Leeds, Todd was most earnest and constant in his labours. "But what the plague could not effect was accomplished by the Act of Uniformity, which drove the holy man from the post he had filled so successfully, and doomed him to silence, or to preach privately and with much peril in his own house to the few who had courage enough to attend him there."* During his last illness, being solicited to send for a physician, he said, "No; there is but one in England who can do me good, and that is King Charles, by giving me liberty to preach." He died in 1664, and was buried in the chancel of St. John's.
* Scales' MSS.
from the Appendix to
Congregationalism in Yorkshire
by James C. Miall, 1868.