The congregation at Hopton arose out of the labours of the Rev. Richd. Thorp, who, during the rule of Cromwell, resided at Hopton Hall, and was a man of considerable property. Heywood visited him very frequently. He refused to conform at the Restoration, but maintained Divine service in his own house till his death, which took place on the 6th of Jan., 1716, at Lees Hall, near Thornhill, which he had recently purchased. In 1716 the worshippers were sixty persons. Service was continued by his son, Rev. Daniel Thorp, after the death of his father. He died suddenly, March 11, 1719, and was buried at Mirfield. Mr. Winn and Mr. Holdsworth, two young ministers, preached for a short time at Hopton after his removal. They were succeeded by Rev. ELKANAH BERRY, who died 1721; then by Mr. White. A legacy of £s per annum had been left by Mrs. Hutton, daughter of Richard Thorp, and wife of Richard Hutton, Pudsey, to maintain the ministry at Hopton.
As this legacy required residence, and Mr. White was not able to comply with the condition, he removed. His place was supplied by Rev. Nathaniel Makeant, who preached for some time. But after the death of Rev. Richard Thorp, the Lord's Supper ceased to be administered, and there was no regular chapel.
In 1732, worship having been discontinued at Hopton, and notice having been given by the trustees that in default of its resumption Mrs. Hutton's *1 legacy would be forfeited, a Mr. Dawson, formerly a deacon at Heckmondwike, commenced a movement for a chapel, himself giving two guineas as a subscription. The case was laid before neighbouring congregations, and was afterwards sent to London. The petition represented that this ancient church had been reduced to great weakness; that the congregation worshipped in a house, and that, could a chapel be secured, there was a prospect of obtaining both a minister and a congregation. It was addressed to Christians of the Presbyterian and Congregational bodies, and was signed by Jonathan Firth, Samuel Hirst, Luke Sheard, William Dawson (afterwards deacon), Joseph Sheard (afterwards deacon), John Turton, John Simm, Edward Ledgard, Richard Lee, Isaac Farrer, and John Oxley. The wife of Richard Lee was extremely zealous in promoting this movement, which was attended by gratifying success. The Rev. Mr. Boyes, Presbyterian minister, of Leather Lane, son of a Yorkshireman, and who had been himself a student of Frankland's, was the first giver of four guineas. Dr. Watts, and his assistant, Mr. Price, a student of Jollie, followed, succeeded by Dr. Wright, Dr. Harris, Dr. Hatfield, Mr. Wood, and Dr. Guyse. The London contributions amounted to £52 8s. 6d. Collections were made in the neighbourhood, which realized the sum of £35 4s. 3½d, which, with £17 18s. 6d. at Hopton, made the total of £105 11s. 3½d. The expenses of the erection were £115 16s. 8d.
The chapel being now built (1733), the next movement was to form a church on Congregational principles, the old Presbyterian elements having died out. This was done on the 3rd October, the first pastor being-
- 1733. Rev. JOHN TOWERS, from Greenhowhill, near Pateley Bridge He had been previously ordained. At that time only Jonathan Firth and John Turton (afterwards deacon) survived of the original Presbyterian church. Wm. Dawson was the first deacon, having formerly sustained that office in the church at Heckmondwike.
- " Mr. Towers appears to have been a most worthy and devoted man, and his ministry was very useful and blessed." He died June 3, 1745, having been pastor nearly thirteen years. His remains were interred in the chapel.
- 1746. Rev. George NAGGERSTON, from Keighley. Mr. H. was a scholar, but held some views regarded as questionable, though he afterwards modified them. Mr. H.'s income was very small, and rendered it necessary for him to keep a school. Dr. Priestley was one of his pupils. Mr. H. removed to Ossett, 1765.
- The pulpit was now occupied by various ministers.
- 1766. Rev. LUKE PRATTMAN (Heckmondwike Acy.). He remained two years, and removed to Cotherstone, and afterwards to Barnard Castle, Durham. He died 1804.
- 1768. Rev. JONATHAN TOOTHILL (Heckmondwike). When Mr. T. accepted the invitation to Heckmondwike he took a step contrary to all his previous inclinations. "The chapel was cold and damp. The hearers were few. The yard was overgrown with grass. In fact, the whole aspect of the place was uninviting to a young man. But so acceptable did Mr. T.'s services prove, that his settlement was marked by a great revival of the spirits of the people, and his faithful and zealous labours for the space of fifty-seven years were largely followed by the Divine blessing." His manner of preaching was peculiar, and was frequently characterized by humorous and amusing illustrations. Many and various were the plans he adopted to attract and instruct, and many an amusing anecdote is still current of the way in which he adapted his discourses to the consciences and the circumstances of his people. By them he was greatly honoured and beloved. He had a happy, genial disposition, and in private as in public he won the good-will of all around him by his kind and cheerful manner.
- "The course of Mr. Toothill was tolerably even. The wife of his youth trode along with him the quiet walk of life, and was removed from him by death only one year before his own departure. They had been nursed at the same breast,*2 rocked in the same cradle, and at length they were laid in the same grave. They had only one child, who survived them-a daughter, who married Mr. Laird, of Pudsey, by whom she had several children. One of them married the Rev. Mr. Hutton, late of Allerton. As his end approached, Mr. Toothill, looking back on his life's work, said : I have never seen the place, or town, or country, I should prefer to Hopton. Indeed, it has been to me an earthly Paradise. I could adopt the language of Queen Mary respecting Calais : "If I be dissected, you will find its name written on my heart." Shortly before his death, he said : have no fear with regard to passing Jordan, but I long for more of the grapes of Eshcol.' And again, amidst his restlessness and pain, I can find no rest for my body, but I can for my soul, in the invitation : "Come unto me, and I will give you rest." Death, that brings terror to many, is to me the harbinger of liberty, of light, and of eternal life.'*3 Thus did he fall asleep in Jesus on the 1st of June, 1826, at the advanced age of 83 years, and in the fifty-eighth year of his pastorate at Hopton." His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. Benjamin Boothroyd.
- Rev. Charles Ely, minister of Bury, was sent out from this church during Mr. Toothill's pastorate. He had an excellent library,
- 1826. Rev. WILLIAM ECCLES, from Camden Chapel, London. (See White Chapel, Leeds.)
- "During his ministry the old chapel was felt to be inconveniently small; and as for some time past thoughts had been entertained of erecting another, the people resolved to perform the doing of it.'- Accordingly, the present commodious and substantial chapel was built at Mirfield, and dedicated to the service of God on the 18th Sept., 1829 It was opened entirely free from debt, no collection being made on the occasion. Various circumstances, over which he had no control, combined to weaken Mr. Eccles' hands, and cast down his spirits. At length, his health failing, he resigned his charge in 1844. He never sought another charge, but resided at various places until his decease, at Ilfracombe, on the 18th of July, 1861. In the words of his biographer, in the Evangelical Magazine :" He was a good, faithful, and very acceptable preacher, and maintained with great dignity the Christian and ministerial character."
- Feb., 1846. Rev. CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, from the Moravians. Removed to Reading, March, 1855.
- Oct., 1855. Re V. JAMES CAMERON (Glasgow Un.), from Colchester. Mr. C. is the present minister (in 1868).
* Aided by Rev. J. Cameron.
*1 Mrs. Hutton's bequests were made to Topcliffe, Heckmondwike, Bingley, Kipping, Sowerby, Idle, and Cleckheaton.
*2 Mrs. T.'s mother having been his foster-mother.
*3 Rev. J. Cameron. which by his will he directed to be divided between the colleges of Rotherham and Idle.