SKIPTON: Skipton Congregational Church History up to 1868.



Skipton was nearly destitute of any evangelical ministrations, until nearly the middle of the last century, though Oliver Heywood and a few others preached occasionally. Before any place of worship existed in Skipton, James Harrison opened his house to Congregationalists, and in the year 1774 the Court House, the site of of which is now occupied by the Devonshire hotel, was engaged for public services, and among those invited to preach were Rev. Joseph Cockin, of Kipping, and Rev. Mr. Galbear, of Holden. At length the Rev. Samuel Phillips, of Keighley, came and preached in a gown, and this circumstance seems first to have favourably impressed the inhabitants. Whenever Mr. P. preached the Court House was filled with hearers. A chapel was therefore resolved upon. Mr. P. purchased (1777) a plot of ground on the site of the present chapel. Sermons were preached at the opening by Revs. G. Burder (Lancaster), and J. Cockin (Halifax). At first there were neither boards nor flags at the bottom of the pews. Between two and three years elapsed before the appointment of another regular minister, aid being obtained from Heckmondwike Academy.
  • 1779. Rev. -- Philips preached for a time. He was brother of Rev. S. Philips, of Keighley. He died soon after his coming.
  • 1780. Rev. -- WILLIAMS, from Wales, became the first pastor, under whom the congregation did not greatly increase. He removed to Swanland in 1785. At this time there was little concern respecting religion in the town. Trade and amusements were carried on without check on the Lord's day, and the minister had not unfrequently to stop in his sermon and send out the members of his congregation to quiet the disturbers. Some of these at length became persecutors, and, by breaking the chapel windows, laid themselves open to legal proceedings. But they were allowed to apologize, and quiet ensued.
  • 1785. Rev. -- RICHARDSON. His fondness for dwelling on doctrinal points diminished the congregation, and in 1788 he removed to Whitworth, and Joined Lady Huntingdon's connexion.
  • 1789. Rev. -- HARRISON, from Saffron Walden, a candid and laborious minister. He underwent some petty persecution, over which his Christian temper ultimately triumphed. He was chiefly instrumental in the building of the chapels of Bury, Lancashire, and Allerton, Yorkshire. To the latter place he removed in 1793, and there he died. His brother James was the deacon of his church at Skipton.
  • 1794. Rev. -- HANDFORTH, from Lancashire. He had been originally a soldier in the Spanish wars. He was not a man of education, but of great earnestness, and he left Skipton 1797, much regretted.
  • 1799. Rev. -- SUGDEN, from Lancashire. His ministry was not successful, and the congregation gradually declined. He removed to Shelley Nov. 19, 1809.
  • The chapel then became closed, and the cause of Congregationalism fell very low. At length application was made to Idle Academy for aid on alternate Sundays. This was soon followed by more regular services, and the chapel soon enclosed a full congregation, till the erection of galleries became a necessity.
  • 1813. Rev. T. SHARP (of Idle Academy). He continued at Skipton till 1833, when he was laid aside by sickness, of which he died, April 24, 1843, æt. 70, and was interred in the chapel ground. During his ministry a Sunday-school was commenced, which, though feeble at first, was conducted with indefatigable energy by Messrs. Harrison and Herd, and speedily became very prosperous. At Mr. Sharp's retirement the church numbered eighty-four members.
  • 1834. Rev. RICHARD GIBBS, from Darlington. During his laborious and active ministry 129 members were added to the church, the Sunday-school was increased, and much prosperity was enjoyed. Mr. G. was the apostle of the surrounding district, where his exertions and judgment commanded great respect. He resigned his charge in 1862, and died in 1867, greatly beloved.
  • A new chapel was erected in Newmarket Street, and opened July 10, 1839. After its erection the congregation greatly increased, and was prosperous.
  • 1862. Rev. THOMAS WINDSOR (Lancashire Coll.), who is the present minister (in 1868).

* By aid of the late Rev. R. Gibbs.

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