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SHEFFIELD: Sheffield-Afterwards Upper Chapel Congregational Church History up to 1868.

Sheffield-Afterwards Upper Chapel Congregational Church History up to 1868.


The Rev. JAMES FISHER, vicar of Sheffield, a Congregationalist in principle, remained in the neighbourhood of Sheffield after his ejectment. A large number of the laity withdrew with him from the services of the Established Church, and Fisher continued to hold a pastoral relation to them. But he was an object of special suspicion and hostility, especially to James, Duke of York (afterwards James II.), and having been charged with complicity in the Farnley Wood Plot (see p. 77), was often committed to prison. The Five-mile Act at length finally separated the minister from his flock, and the little life which remained after such repeated imprisonments came to an end in the village of Hatfield, near Doncaster, where Capt. John Hatfield, Fisher's relative,* resided. As Sheffield was not then a corporate town, it was distinguished as a shelter for persecuted Nonconformists, among whom were Rev. Richard Taylor and Rev. Nathaniel Baxter. One of those thus drawn to it was ROBERT DURANT, already mentioned, ejected from Crowle, in Lincolnshire. He had been incarcerated for his religion, and whilst in prison had formed the acquaintance of Thomas Woolhouse, Esq., of Glapwell, 'near Mansfield, a fellow sufferer. By him he was recommended to Fisher's bereaved congregation, then assembling in the utmost secrecy; and after due trial, was invited to become their minister (1669). (In the same year John Barber was set apart to the office of ruling elder, and Richard Paramour to that of deacon.) His gentle and courteous manners, his edifying visits and his profitable preaching, endeared him to the suffering flock; and as soon as the times permitted he gained a considerable congregation, and a building was erected at Snig Hall for their worship. It was called the New Hall. A principal contributor to this erection was Thomas Hollis (Baptist), a merchant of London, who, during a visit to Sheffield, had been converted by Mr. Fisher's ministry, and whose name is well known in Sheffield as the founder of its hospital and the author of other generous benefactions. The Brights of Carbrook, of whom mention has been already made, were at that time conspicuous members of the congregation. Scarcely, however, was this meeting-house opened, when Durant died Feb. 12, 1678.*1 Though Fisher had been an Independent, the congregation subsequently adopted Presbyterian principles. The Rev. Edward Pryme and other Nonconformist ministers preached for them after Durant's death.

April 28, 1681. The Rev. TIMOTHY JOLLIE *2 succeeded to the pastorate. He was a Presbyterian, though very liberal, admitting Congregationalists to communion. This minister, whose education had been begun by Frankland, and completed in London, was ordained by Messrs. Heywood, T. Jollie, Hancock, and Bloome. The ordination was attended by many difficulties, arising from the objection taken by some of the Independents present to the Presbyterian form. It was one of the earliest which took place among the Nonconformists.

Timothy Jollie was much persecuted. Soon after his settlement he was compelled to seek shelter in privacy. Scarcely had he re-returned home, when another warrant was put in force under the Five-mile Act. Jollie was brought before Sir John Reresby (1682), and hurried off to prison without being allowed to take leave of his wife and newly-born child. Mrs. Jollie (a daughter of Fisher) was subjected to great indignity, and her goods being seized and sold to pay the £20 penalty, she was compelled, though recently confined, to take refuge in her brother's house. She was an exemplary woman, full of faith and patience, with a thankful disposition, which triumphed over all wrongs. Jollie's imprisonment was not at first severe. He was allowed to lodge in York city, and even to return to his family, on giving recognizances to appear at the assizes. But when, after trial, he refused to take the oath binding him to good behaviour (which in fact amounted to a promise not to preach), he underwent much reproach, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in the castle. Yet he was allowed regularly to address the prisoners and citizens. Mrs. Jollie soon joined her husband, taking lodgings in the city. Here she and her servant were seized with sickness,-a new sorrow for Jollie, but the occasion of much kindness from their religious friends. In consequence, Jollie remained in York a short time after his liberation. He there visited many nonconforming families, and narrowly escaped another imprisonment, and it was not till the year 1683 that he felt it safe to appear at Sheffield.

We have spoken elsewhere of Jollie's Academy, which was carried on in a retired situation at Attercliffe. The latter days of his ministry were passed in tranquility and harmony, and his labours were greatly blessed. In 1700, a large and commodious chapel was built. Mr. Hollis was a considerable contributor. He purchased the former building, which he endowed as a hospital Mr. Francis Barlow also subscribed largely. Mr. Field Sylvester laid the first stone, and Jollie preached the opening sermon. At this time he had the largest congregation in Yorkshire. Two years later, and when a separation had already taken place, Neale reports 1,163 hearers, seventy-five of whom had votes for the county. Jollie died of dropsy on Easter Sunday, May 28, 1714, æt. 55. He was buried in the chapel-yard, where an inscription may still be seen.

The Rev. JEREMIAH GILL (Jollie's Academy), afterwards of Hull, was Mr. Jollie's assistant. He was much beloved, and the congregation parted with him very reluctantly. After him Rev. John Wadsworth*3 took the post. He left for Rotherham. The Rev. John De la Rose succeeded, who preached Jollie's funeral sermon.

After Jollie's death, a period of great contention and confusion followed. The church desired Mr. De la Rose to occupy the pulpit till a successor was regularly chosen. The trustees and congregation, on the other hand, wished to appoint Mr. Wadsworth, then at Rotherham, who had been De la Rose's predecessor. The latter party proved the stronger, and being resolved to accomplish their purpose, discharged De la Rose, and locked the chapel against him and his friends. They then proposed Mr. Wadsworth as minister, and at a meeting from which the officers of the church and Mr. W. purposely absented themselves, carried their point. A number of church members holding that there had been "a deliberate, resolute setting aside the great rights and privileges that Christ had purchased with His own blood," withdrew and formed another congregation.

This affair excited an immense sensation. It was the first instance, probably, of a Nonconformist division, at least in the North. Both parties appealed to their respective friends. Mr. Wadsworth wrote to many ministers, among whom were Watts and Colton, promising to publish their reply, which he never did. Young Thomas Bradbury was his warm, not to say violent, adherent. On the other hand, the seceding party made known their grievance to the Congregational church at Leeds, and Mr. Moult and three members came to Sheffield to inquire into the affair. Their judgment was that the election of a pastor by trustees was an act of "unexampled baseness," and they exhorted the seceders to persevere. In this conclusion young Timothy Jollie (educated by his father), then in the north of Yorkshire, agreed, as a letter of his to Moult shows, though he afterwards became assistant to Mr. Wadsworth. In some private memoirs he assigns as the reason for afterwards leaving Sheffield "that he found an indolency of temper growing upon him in consequence of the way of living there." He was pastor of Miles Lane for thirty-seven years, died 1757. The next assistant was Rev. Daniel Clark. He resided at Attercliffe. He died 1724. He was succeeded by Rev. Benj Roberts, who died 174.o.

The Rev. JOHN WADSWORTH, late of Rotherham, accepted the pastoral office in 1714. He was married to a daughter of Mr. Field Sylvester. He continued Jollie's Academy, but with diminished reputation. He resigned the pastorate, owing to ill-health, in 1744., and lived only till the following May. He is buried in the meeting-house. The Rev. Field Sylvester Wadsworth, his son, from Kibworth, was his last assistant. He was a pupil of Doddridge, but was requested by that tutor to withdraw, owing to his non-appreciation of Trinitarian doctrine, and finished his education under Mr. Eames. He usually preached at Attercliffe, and continued till 1758.

  • 1745. Rev. THOMAS HAYNES, from Nantwich. Rev. F. S. Wadsworth continued his assistant, and was also pastor at Attercliffe. Mr. H. was an Arian, but his assistant went farther, and the congregation adopted the mote pronounced views. Mr. F. S. Wadsworth died in 1758. Mr. Haynes would have gladly introduced Rev. Joseph (afterwards Dr.) Priestley, now leaving Needham Market, as his assistant. But the congregation, though they might have borne his doctrine, disliked the impediment in his speech, and the Rev. John Dickinson was chosen in his stead, Mr. Haynes recommending Priestley to Nantwich, his former charge. The new doctrines now preached became so unpalateable to many of the hearers, that they withdrew to the Nether Chapel. Mr. Haynes died 1758. Attercliffe was then extinct, and Fulwood was taken into connexion with the congregation in its place.
  • 1758. Rev. JOHN DICKINSON and Rev. JOSEPH EVANS, co-pastors. Mr. D. (Kendal Acy.), had been minister of Diss. He died 1780.
  • 1780. Rev. JOSEPH EVANS and Rev. BENJ, NAYLOR (Warrington Acy.). Mr. E. resigned his pastorate 1798, and died 1803.
  • The connexion with Fulwood was at this time dissolved.
  • 1798. Rev. BENJ. NAYLOR. He left Sheffield 1805.
  • The congregation was now altogether Unitarian.

* Fisher was by marriage brother-in-law to Stephen Bright, Esq., of Carbrook, father of Sir J. Bright, and related to many chief Puritan families in the neighbourhood. This relationship brought him to Yorkshire. He became Vicar of Sheffield in 1646.
*1 Rev. Thomas Burbeck, ejected from Ackworth, is said by Calamy to have often preached in his own house at Sheffield, where he did much good. He died 1674.
*2 His father was the Rev. Thomas Jollie, a very pious man, and a sturdy Congregationalist, ejected from Altham. His grandfather, related by family connexion to Adam Martindale, held many important commands in the army of the Commonwealth.
*3 Mr. Wadsworth's father, of Attercliffe, had been imprisoned for Nonconformity.

Transcribed by Colin Hinson © 2014
from the Appendix to
Congregationalism in Yorkshire
by James C. Miall, 1868.