The South Parade Church may properly be described as the mother of the Baptist Churches of the city. In 1743, John Wesley visited Leeds and recorded that "No man cared for the things of God." There were then about fifty Methodists, and they built St. Peter's Chapel. One of their preachers— John Edwards, a companion of Whitfield—seceded from the Methodist body and founded the first Congregational Church in Leeds. Among his people were some who occasionally walked to Bradford to hear the Rev. William Crabtree preach, and in 1760 eleven persons were baptised by William Crabtree and received into the Bradford Church. At length it was decided to begin a Baptist cause in the city, and, in 1779, a part of the Old Assembly Rooms, in Kirkgate, was opened for public worship, when Dr. Fawcett, of Hebden Bridge, preached the first sermon.
In May, 1779, sixteen persons were baptised in the River Aire at the Nether Mills, and formed into a Church. In June of the same year, Thomas Langdon, a student from Bristol College, being sent to preach, created such a favourable impression that it was decided to build a chapel, of which he should be the first minister. The old "Stone Chapel", St. Peter's Street, was opened in July, 1781. On June 27th, 1782, Thomas Langdon was ordained, when the Rev. Samuel Medley, of Liverpool, Dr. Caleb Evans, of Bristol, and the Rev. William Crabtree officiated. Mr. Langdon remained until his death in 1824, in the seventieth year of his age, having been minister for forty-two years. His health had been failing for some time, and, in 1823, the Rev. James Acworth, M.A., was appointed co-pastor.
It had been necessary to provide more room at the Stone Chapel, and, as the Church still increased and the neighbour-hood was rapidly changing, a site was purchased in the well-to-do residential district of South Parade. The first stone of the new building was laid on February 23rd, 1825, and on October 25th, 1826, the new chapel was opened, built at a cost of £5,217, and the first sermon was preached by Dr. Marshman, of Serampore. In 1834, a branch Sunday School was opened at Hunslet. In 1835, Dr. Acworth left South Parade to become President of the Northern Baptist Education Society at Horton, Bradford, now known as Rawdon College. In 1836, John Eustace Giles became minister, and remained in Leeds until 1845, the membership increasing from 256 to 511. In 1836, the chapel was enlarged to accommodate 1,400 worshippers. In 1837, twenty-six members were dismissed to form a new cause at Hunslet, and in 1838 a branch school was opened at Woodhouse Carr. In 1843, school work was begun at York Road.
In 1847, Jabez Tunnicliffe founded the Band of Hope Movement, and its first meeting was held in South Parade Schoolroom. Mr. Giles was followed by the Rev. Robert Brewer, who withdrew in 1848, taking with him seventy-two members, who formed the new interest which was to become known as Blenheim Baptist Church. Mr. Brewer was followed by Revs. A. M. Stalker, M.A. (1848-55), and Clement Bailhache (1855-9). In 1860, thirty-one members were dismissed to form the Church at York Road. The Rev. Wm. Best B.A., was pastor from 1863 to 1876, and during his ministry Baptist work was begun at Burley Road and Beeston Hill. He was succeeded by Rev. George Hill, M.A. (1877-91), and in the first year of his ministry 173 members were dismissed to form the Burley Road Church. The Rev. C. B. Sawday held the pastorate from 1894 to 1896, during which time 165 members were dismissed to form the Church at Beeston Hill. He was followed by Rev. R. C. Lemin (1898-1910).
The men who built South Parade were men of profound piety and wide charity, and the impress of their lives still remains in the deep spiritual life which has always characterised the Church. Their wide charity is seen in the fact that every Baptist Chapel in Leeds, with one exception, owes its existence to South Parade. The great changes which had overtaken the neighbourhood led the Church at South Parade to decide upon a removal, and on Sunday, June 20th, 1909, the Rev. R. C. Lemin preached the closing sermons to large congregations, who were very deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion.
One hundred and fifteen members were dismissed to form the new Church at Harehills Lane, and in the same year the Headingley School-chapel was opened. The buildings at Headingley were erected by the Leeds Extension Committee, but their work had been-made possible only by the generous action of the South Parade Church in procuring an Act of Parliament by which the trustees were empowered, on the sale of the present site, to devote the purchase money to the erection of three chapels in different parts of the city.
South Parade has accepted the work at Headingley with all liabilities, and the Church retains the honoured name of the "SOUTH PARADE BAPTIST CHURCH, HEADINGLEY." The buildings were opened by the Dowager Lady Barran, on Thursday, June 24th, 1909, after which a sermon was preached by the Rev. J. H. Shakespeare, M.A. Mr. Lemin removed to Moseley, Birmingham, in 1910. The Rev. A. R. George, B.A., B.D., has accepted the vacant pastorate. The past of the Church has been so full of consecrated enterprise, and her present efforts at extension are marked by such unselfishness of spirit, that we may rest assured her future will be one of enlargement and divine success.