A Short History of the Congregational Church Martin Top Established in the Year 1816

A Short History
of the
Congregational Church
Martin Top
Established in the year 1816

Transcribed by Mrs Hilary Ashton, June 2024


Martin Top Congregational Church

Martin Top is the name of a farm situate in Rimington in the West Riding of Yorkshire and has become associated with the church from the fact that some of the services in connection with the early history of this Church were held in the house attached to the farm of Martin Top.

When the friends of the infant Church resolved to build a “House of God” they selected the site where the Church now stands and while the name of “Martin Top” still sticks to it, and is what it is mostly known by, yet the proper name of the place is “Newby Hills” and I believe is so specified in the deeds. Well, some might say, whats in a name; a name is not everything. Yet we learn from this little circumstance that a name may stick to a place for a long period, whether it is a good name or otherwise, for it is now about 90 years since this Church was first known by the name of Martin Top. Today it is mostly known by this name, for if the name of the Parish was used very few would know it, but fewer still if the name of the place (Newby Hills) was given it.

We are told that in the year 1810 the Rev. Geo Partington, then Minister of the Colne Congregational Church, was the first to come to preach at Newby. There were many came to hear him. After his first visit he came once now and then, but the interest in the services seemed to grow and the congregations to increase in numbers that he began to come every month and preached at the house of Mr William Hargreaves Newby; sometimes he preached in Newby schoolroom but these places soon became too small to hold all the people that came and he often preached in a barn belonging to Mr Henry [?] and afterwards occupied by Mr Jas Dean.

Sometimes the Rev. Mr Partington preached at Twiston, at Mr William Mulcocks the house more recently occupied by Mr James Yates and once or twice he went to Downham.

About this time Lay Preachers were engaged to preach on a Sunday afternoon. Henry Driver and William Hudson, preached sometimes at Newby and Twiston, then a room was taken at Martin Top and was for sometime supplied with Lay Preachers.

The Martin Top itineracy began about this time, and was supplied by some of the best Lay Preachers in Yorkshire. These came and stayed two Sabbaths, the first Sabbath they preached at Martin Top, on the Monday at Grindleton Tuesday night at Chipping, Wednesday night at Ribchester, Thursday night at Wiswell, Friday night at John Singleton’s Barley, and finished the labours of the week preaching again at Martin Top.

The room at Martin Top was now found to be too small, then the present Chapel begun to be talked about, but the building of a Chapel and the raising of the wherewithal, no one could tell how it had to be done – especially when they learnt that it would cost some five hundred pounds and this was a problem that no one was able to solve, not even the most sanguine, - as it was in the beginning is now, and perhaps always will be a most difficult thing to know, how to raise money, either in the country or town.

It is surprising after all how the most humble beginnings are sanctified to be a means to glorious and wonderful issues, the small seed dropped in good soil may bring forth in some instances thirty sixty or an hundredfold.

There was a small weaving shop with three weavers in it, and it was here where the subject of raising money for a new Chapel begun to be talked about, and became the theme of their daily conversation and one forenoon a thought came into the head of one of them, that if twenty Trustees could be got who were willing to lend twenty pounds each for three years, without interest. This loosed the guerdon knot[?], and it is said that this was done, and nobler still some of the Trustees at the end of the three years gave ten and some five pounds each out of their twenty, soon after this the Chapel was built.

In a little work published by R. Slate of Preston, called a Brief History of the rise and progress of the Lancashire Congregational Union, Martin Top is spoken of as near Colne and dates back to the year 1814, stating further that Mr Partington informed the Union that at Martin Top a place had been opened for preaching, which the people had fitted up at their own expense.

Of course, as many know, though some may not be aware, that Martin Top is not in Lancashire but just over the border, and is situate in the West Riding of Yorkshire though only about 7 miles from Colne the town of Mr Partington’s Pastorate. Notwithstanding this fact, that Martin Top is in Yorkshire, yet the Lancashire Union of the Congregational Churches often came to the help of this out of the way struggling interest by sending them contributions from their funds. The date where the Church was first formed is given as August 11th 1816 when the Rev. Geo. Partington accompanied with a few friends from Colne and assisted by the Rev. Adam Bray, Pastor of the Church at Horton in Craven, who transferred one of his members and this with four transfers from Colne was the beginning of our Church at Martin Top.

The year 1817 is understood to be the time when the present Chapel was built. We have no trace of any record of the struggles and self sacrifice which these pioneers of Nonconformity endured; the very fact that as the result of their labours we have an active Church and a pretty Country Chapel in which to worship is a standing testimony to the silent and unassuming worth of their character. One reason for surmising that the year 1817 was the time when the Chapel was either built or opened is found in that number being laid in pebbles in front of the gate at the entrance to the Chapel yard, and these pebbles were searched for in the brook and carried on the back of Mr Richard Dean of Gaysgill; Another incident of the interest and pleasure these devoted men took in the House of God. We are indebted to Mr Robert Watson of Twiston our Senior Deacon for the story of these pebbles.

We also learn that the transfer of the land on which the Chapel stands took place during the year 1817 and this we think is a proof that the Chapel would be built about the same time.

While looking over the Deeds of the Chapel (or a copy of them) one things struck me as very remarkable was the many notable Gentlemen from many parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire who were so much interested in the new cause as to allow their names to be entered on the Chapel deed as Trustees; and the list comprised 3 ministers, 3 cotton spinners, 1 Calico printer, 1 Banker, 3 Farmers, 3 Weavers, 4 Gentlemen or Yeomen, 1 Labourer, 1 Stonemason & 1 Worsted Manufacturer. This shows that Gentlemen in most parts are greatly interested in the development of Nonconformity in the rural districts.

The name given to the Chapel is that of Salem, while that of the Denomination or Church is Independent both of these names being clearly specified in the deeds of the Chapel which are deposited in the safe of the Denominational College Manchester. The following paragraph as extracted from the “deeds” not only shows the name of the Chapel but also justifies the assumption that the Chapel was built in the year 1817 as the deed of transfer is dated, the eighteenth and nineteenth days of the twelth (sic) month of the year one thousand eight hundred and seventeen.

Paragraph, “Have accordingly erected or caused to be erected, and are about completing a chapel or meeting house to be called Salem Chapel.”
The following specifies the Denomination
“In order to promote the Christian Religion as professed by Protestant dissenters of the denomination of Independents.” Another extract we give which is taken from an old Register of the Church and shews that they were at one time Calvinistic in their Creed.
“We trust that under the influence of pure motives, we the undersigned, having agreed to unite oursleves in Church Fellowship having we hope given ourselves to the Lord, who give ourselves to one another on Sunday the Eleventh day of August one thousand eight hundred and sixteen when we were formed into a Calvinistic Christian Church.”

For a time after the erection of the Chapel, there seems to be very little on record, save in the year 1818 we note an addition of three members, and again in the year 1823 there is a further addition of six members. For a number of years following that of 1823 there is no trace of any accounts, such as Church Meetings, Admissions or dismission of members, Finances etc.

In the year 1825 on the 10th day of June on a loose leaf of an old register we have the account of a baby being baptized of the name of Boothman, the Christian name not being readable owing to the torn state of the paper on which it was written, but the name of the Minister performing the Ceremony was Thomas Taylor of Colne. On the same torn sheet there are three other baptisms one in the year 1831 and the remaining two in 1832. With the exception of these four cases of Baptisms we have no record whatever till the year 1836.

During these years of silence owing to the absence of any record of events, we are far from surmising that the Church was dead or even inactive, for knowing as we do the attitude of the people in the villages and outlying districts to matters of the Church especially to those of registering of the business and especially of dealing with the list of Members, some of the very devout and good people look upon these things as treasures too sacred for them to handle. Then again, in those early years they might not have any one who would feel sufficiently educated or qualified to undertake such work, especially as we suppose that this was a period when the Church had no settled Minister or Pastoral oversight.

One of the signs of the activity of the Church at this time is that the Trust Deeds specify that the two Cottages at the east end of the Chapel had been built (dated the tenth & eleventh days of November 1836). A work of the foregoing Character represents no small amount of self sacrifice and hardship as well as a good share of determined perseverance. People in these days of progress can form little idea of what an undertaking of this nature would mean to those earnest and devout yet mostly poor men & women. There is one thing cited in the deeds which strikes us as very remarkable, but at the same time goes to shew the strange and difficult circumstances under which the Ministers house and the cottages behind it were built.

That to which we refer is that one Francis Holgate, built these two houses, and the the land on which they stand was sold to him by the Trustees at a ground rent charge of two and sixpence per annum, and further that the aforesaid Francis Holgate borrowed the sum of eighty five pounds from one William Tunstall. Added to the foregoing is a story told me the other day by one of our oldest members, and while I reproduce it very reluctantly because of the tragic nature of it, yet I do so because it proves that the times and conditions in and under which our forefathers had to labour were very hard. My friend told me that the wife of Francis Holgate took it very much to heart about having to borrow so much money, and it pressed very heavily upon her, that at times she could not see her way. One Sunday morning after breakfast she complained about not being well, so she went to lie down till nearer the time to go to chapel, and in order to avoid making any noise Francis put on his slippers to give her a better chance to rest, for my informant said he was always very good to his wife, and they had no children, when it had got ten o’clock he went upstairs to see if she was any better and if she felt like going to the chapel, as he entered the bedroom what should meet his gaze but the sad picture of his wife hanging by the bedpost. This must have been terrible for the dear man, and while I hesitated very much whether I ought to give this tragic story yet I felt that it was not for me to pick out the best and leave the rest, but to give this short history in its true colours as well as I could.

The deeds further state that the said eighty five pounds borrowed by Francis Holgate from William Tunstall and the buildings erected, were all paid for out of monies belonging to the Trustees, and his name was merely used in order to raise money for the said Trustees, and he doth hereby admit and acknowledge that no rent has ever been paid or demanded for the said plot of land.

This also illustrates the ways and means they had to adopt to raise the wherewithal.

There is no reason to suppose that any minister had (up to the year 1836) been settled at Salem but it is very likely that the two cottages were built with a view to having a stationed Minister as one of them is called the ministers house or Manse. We copy the following extract from an old register, viz.

            After two visits to the Church and Congregation called “independants” assembling in Salem Chapel, Newby Hills I received an invitation to become their Minister, which I accepted and came to reside amongst them October 26th 1837 and was ordained to the Pastorate on Tuesday the d3rd of July 1838. R. Abrams.

This being the first account having reference to a stationed minister and also the ministers house being so very recently built leads us to infer that the Rev. R. Abrams was the first Pastor of the Church at Martin Top.

There is very much which indicates that the ministry of Mr Abrams was attended with much success and Divine blessing. The Church register shews that 28 members were added and we gather from the statistics of the Rev R. Slate, that the returns for the year 1839 sent to the Lancashire Congregational Union, shew most encouraging results. The following is a copy. Viz. In the report for 1839 Mr Abram who is the Itinerant here, says the congregation at Martin Top continues good, amounting with the children in the Sunday School to about 300. The Church consists of 16 members. His labours extend to numerous places in the neighbourhood.

The places visited by Mr Abrams are found on another page of the same book and include the following Viz – Todber, Hardacre Gate, Gazegill, Twiston and Stockswood.
Mr Slate also gives the following in a summary of the Churches recieving aid from the Lancashire Union – Viz.
Martin Top, number of Congregation 100 Church members 7, Sunday School Scholars 40 and Teachers 4.

These two statements seem contradictory of course the 300 includes the school children as well as the congregation besides, it does not say fully but about 300, and it is very probably there would be times when there was a special attendance that so many would turn up.

Then the Church register shews that there were 16 members at that time, so that the latter statement must have been wrong, probably the report of a previous year repeated.

Some one might ask how are we to understand that during Mr Abrams’ Ministry there were 28 members received into fellowship and yet there are only 16 in the report; this is explained by saying htat the 28 members were not all received in one year but during the whole term of his Ministry, and as the people of the country are continually migrating to other places in order to find employment for their growing families, hence you will at once be able to see that while there may be fair increase by additions there is also decrease by migration and other causes so that a village church does well to hold its own, and exceedingly well if it can report increase. Mr Abrams remained at Martin Top about five and a half years, closing his ministry here in the month of May 1843.

Among many other testimonies to the useful and diligent labours of this good man, and also to the blessing of God upon him, there is one we would like to name, and that is, there are still in the neighbourhood consecrated Christian people, who are the descendants of some of those who were converted during the ministry of Mr Abrams at Martin Top.

The friends here must have felt the benefit in having a Minister settled on the spot for they were not (after Mr Abrams left them) very long before they lit [hit?] on one to succeed him; which the following will shew.

E.S. Heron

After having preached the first and second Sundays in May 1843 received an unanimous invitation from the Church and congregation assembling in Salem Chapel Martin Top, entered upon his labours the first Lord’s day in September 1843.

Stephen Dean, Deacon

Accompanying this is also the statement regarding his ordination which reads as follows,
E.S. Heron was ordained over the Church and Congregation assembling in Salem Chapel Martin Top on the 19th day of May 1844.

During Mr Heron’s Ministry, success seems to have attended his labours and the Church greatly strengthened, over 30 members being added to the Church. – His stay at Martin Top extended over 5 years, when we read that he resigned his pastorate and preached his farewell sermon on the 11th of November 1848.

I suppose that on leaving here Mr Heron removed to the Independent Church at Bingley undertaking the pastoral oversight of that place. The friendships and good feeling formed between Mr Heron and the people of Martin Top appears to have been very affectionate and lasting as the following extract will show, taken from an old Church register, where it seems to have been written and signed by Mr Heron himself.


            Though I left Martin Top in November 1848, I have visited my ever dear and valued friends many times up to the present date (April 1870) and preached to them with great pleasure, the Glorious Gospel of the Grace of God.

            This probably has been my last visit. May God give them grace, mercy and peace, greatly bless and prosper them all.
                        Rev. last Chapter, last verse. 
                                    E. S. Heron

Several years now elapses when the Church is without Pastor, the manse has no minister to occupy it, and the pulpit has to be supplied by laymen and other preachers, very likely from the neighbouring Churches in the surrounding districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

One of the persons taking a deep interest in the Church was Mr John Dean of Blackburn of whom we read the following interesting statement in the Church records. –

            Viz. Mr John Dean of Blackburn came to supply here in December 1848 and continued to do so about once a month until March 1853, when having received an unanimous invitation from the Church assembling in Salem Chapel he came to reside among us, and was ordained to the pastorate of the Church June 5th 1855.

The Church would thus be some four and a half years without resident minister. The first time since the manse was built that the Church had been so long without a pastor, and village Churches like all others suffer great loss when they are without a good man to care for their spiritual needs. They are as “a flock without a shepherd”. During these years however the Church seems to have held on fairly well for statistics shew an addition of six members. Mr Dean coming to live among and  with the people would give them new life and hope, for the induction of a good Christian Pastor must bring new interests and put a brighter aspect on things generally – and such we have reason to believe was the case with the settlement of the Rev. John Dean at Martin Top; but there is no situation in this earthly life that is perfect, however bright the prospect, there will be shadows however hopeful the outlook there will be the misgivings however successful the work there will be the drawbacks; perhaps it is better so, the poet seemed to think so when he said,

            We thank Thee more that all our joy,
                        Is touched with pain;
            That shadows fall on brighter hours,
                         That thorns remain;
            So that earth’s bliss may be our guide
                        And not our chain.

While Mr Dean entered hopefully upon his work here amid encouraging conditions yet it was not for long, for we find the following entry, that the Rev. John Dean died on the 9th day of January 1857, and was interred at the Independent Chapel at Holden on the 13th aged 36 years. The promising young life was cut off, the Church was robbed of its Pastor. The time that Mr Dean lived among them was rather short of four years, yes some very useful work was done, about 14 members were received into Church fellowship, many of them no doubt are in Heaven joining their respected Minister (whom God used as a means in bringing them to the Saviour) in the praise and worship of God and the Lamb. Though it is now nearly fifty years since Mr Dean died yet two of those whom he received into the Church are still with us, one our Senior Deacon Mr Robert Watson of Twiston who has rendered yeoman Christian service to the Church and Sunday School and would do so still only he is too feeble and weak. Mrs Jackson of Smithy Fold is the other. She also has done good and useful work in connection with the place, and often feels welling up in her heart pleasing and happy memories of the days and years spent at Salem. We feel a great loss in Mr Watson and Mrs Jackson’s absence from the Church but we are happy in the thought that, “They are Grain ripening for the Heavenly garner.” And though we never knew the Rev. John Dean yet his memory is Blessed and his works do follow him.

There is now an interval of about four years when the Church is again without a resident minister from January 1857 to September 1860 when we find that the Rev. W. Jowett is settled with them. During the interval there does not appear to have transpired anything out of the ordinary way, there were three members added which is an evidence that the Church was not only alive but growing. The first Church meeting during Mr Jowett’s ministry was held in the Chapel on the 21st of September 1860, when it was resolved that week night preachings be held at out stations, also that a Bible class be commenced, and other business – Mr Jowett does not seem to have stayed long at Martin Top from what we can learn he closed his ministry about June 1861. Notwithstanding his short stay, there was one good thing he helped in bringing about, and that was a new Trust deed, and this is no easy thing in a country place. Several members were also received into Church fellowship during his short ministry and another thing which may not seem of much importance, but it strikes me as very remarkable and that is he baptised a number of babies, three of whom it has been my pleasure to receive into the Church and are today some of its loyal and active members.

After the retirement of the Rev. W. Jowett in the year 1861 the pulpit is filled with supplies till the year 1872 when the Rev. Peter Howarth accepts a call to the pastorate.

During this long interval of no ministerial oversight, the Church kept plodding on, occasionally adding one to the membership. In looking over some minutes of Church meetings I found the following – February 27th 1870.

The first Church meeting held after receiving the letter of the Rev. Mr Davies saying that he was requested by the Committee Executive of the Lancashire Congregational Union, to write us saying that after careful consideration of the matter they had to advise us to apply for our next aid for the Church at Martin Top, to the West Riding of York Union, as the Church at Martin Top was in the West Riding District.

I can imagine that a letter like the foregoing would give rise to great concern and anxiety among the Deacons and members for more reasons than one. Viz.

They had for over 50 years been associated and affiliated with the Lancashire Congregational Union. Of course Martin Top is not in Lancashire so the executive thought it best for it to be identified with its own County. At the same time, the Church felt it to be a great wrench, a tearing away from old associations and dear friends.

The admirable way in which the Church met the difficulty is seen in the following resolution.

Resolved, that the Church, before applying for aid or seeking Union with the West Riding of York Congregational Union, to make an earnest and energetic appeal to members of the Church and Congregation of this place of worship for subscriptions or free will offerings on behalf and for the support of the ministry of the Gospel in this place of worship. Moved by Mr James Moorby and seconded by Mr John Dean and carried unanimously.

The Church Aid has done splendid service in promoting new interests and supporting weak village churches many of which would hardly exist and would probably die out were it not for the timely aid of this Home Missionary Association; and I think when a Church after being aided in times of need can rise to the position of supporting themselves, they ought to do so, and be thankful and glad that they are able. At the same time while they tried to be self supporting, they ought to have sought union with their sister churches, which I believe they did in after years and not only Union but help as well, for most Village Churches have periods of depression when it is almost impossible for them to be entirely self supporting. Such I suppose has been the experience of the Church at Martin Top, more than once or twice.

The Rev. Peter Haworth came to reside among them as we have said in the year 1872. At this time, I should suppose the neighbourhood was about at its best, for having many people and plenty of work for them. There were the lead mines at Ings End, the mill at Twiston also one at Howgill and one at Newby. Two of these are entirely gone and there is no trace of them save the empty water lodge at Twiston which is grown over with grass. The other mill and also the lead mines are still in ruins. However when Mr Haworth made his abode here he would have quite a fine and hopeful sphere for his varied talents, but I don’t suppose he had been here long when the sad calamity occurred and the mill at Twiston was burned down. This caused many families to have to leave the Country and some of those who remained will tell you that the neighbourhood has never looked the same since.

Mr Moorby and his family had to move away. This gentleman was the master of the mill and was a very generous supporter of the church also a member besides being a very active worker both in the Church and Sunday School. Losses like these are very serious for a struggling village Church, and our hearts go out in sympathy as we think of them in this out station doing their best under the circumstances in order to keep the place going. Mr Haworth laboured at Martin Top for about three years, closing his ministry here in Aug.1875.

We hear even now many kindly and pleasing references to Mr Haworth’s work while at Martin Top and also to his genial disposition and winsome manner, and further that his labours were owned of God in several being added to the Church, so that his coming among them was not in vain, especially as we think of the difficult circumstances through which he steered them and the work he did among them. Later on we learn that Mr Howarth [sic] moved to Morecambe for his health, as minister without charge, and on the 20th day of November 1896 he entered into his rest, and his remains were interred in Morecambe Cemetery on the 24th, Martin Top having been his last pastorate.

From the time of Mr Howarth’s [sic] leaving which as before stated was in August 1875 to the early part of the year 1882 they were again without Pastor, and had to resort to supplies, among whom these there was the Rev. D.A. Hamilton to whom an invitation was given to become their minister and was accepted. Mr. Hamilton entered upon his duties in or about January 1882 and continued his work about two years, resigning his charge about April 1884. Four names were added to the Church during his ministry, one of whom is a member with us at this time, viz Mrs Mary Grimshaw and her son Henry is the Secretary of our Sunday School. A little more than two years and the Church again has no settled minister.

After this in the summer of 1886 the Churches of Horton and Martin Top entered into arrangements with the Yorkshire Union for a student during a six months vacation to take the oversight of the two churches jointly when Mr J Loosemoor was sent and he took up his abode at the time at Gisburn, which is about midway between the two places, preaching at each Church on alternate Sundays at the close of the term he returned to the College for his winter studies. The same things was repeated in the year 1887 with one alteration, the same gentleman was not sent but another student viz Mr W. Mitchel who spent his summer vacation of that year like Mr Loosemoor with the two churches. This arrangement did not meet with the approval of all concerned so that Mr Mitchell was the last of the students to have the charge of the two churches together. While this place of working the two places under one pastor was not satisfactory to all yet it was not without its good results.

A little incident from my personal experience will illustrate this, asking for indulgence and pardon for thus referring to oneself = A few years ago, since I came to Martin Top, I was asked to give an address at a Tea meeting of a neighbouring Church, when the chairman on introducing me to the meeting as the Pastor of Martin Top Congregational Church, said he had some very grateful memories of that place, for he futhre said that he did not think that he would have been occupying that position that evening but for the influence brought to bear upon him by the two young men, who had the oversight of the Church some time ago, Viz Mr Loosemoor and Mr Mitchell and in addition we have on our Church Register a very devoted Christian lady as member who was received into fellowship during Mr Loosemoor’s Ministry here. For nine years the Church had no Pastor and it lapses into a very low and weak state, while it was with much difficulty they held together. However under these circumstances a new idea suggested itself, one of the lady members, Miss Jane Broughton, (who was received into Fellowship during the ministry of the late Rev. Peter Howarth) had been the companion of another member, the widow of the late Mr Thomas Dugdale. The sickness of Mrs Dugdale had been very trying and protracted but through it all she was an example of sweet Christian resignation and fortitude, and during this trying and painful suffering Miss Broughton proved herself a good nurse and faithful companion. After the decease of Mrs Dugdale Miss Broughton gave her spare time more fully to the interests of the Church and school, when as I have said before, a new idea suggested itself, and that was that a lady visitor might be very useful in the neighbourhood in visiting the homes of the people, caring for the sick and aged and also seeing to the needs of the poor; the person hit upon was Miss Broughton. This matter was submitted to the consideration of the Executive of the Yorkshire Congregational Home Missionary Society and received their approval and sanction with an increased grant towards her support. Miss Broughton accepted the appointment and entered upon her new duties, though somewhat nervous, yet trusting in God for daily strength and blessing, and also relying on the prayers and sympathies of the Church. She soon became a welcome visitor in the houses of the people and her message was comfort and help under God’s blessing to many of those whom she visited.

So far as I am able to learn this arrangement only continued for about one year and three months owing to Miss Broughton’s removal as the result of getting married. Her attachment to the place was such, that she wouldn’t hear of being transferred to another, so she is still a member with us and pays us an occasional visit, which is a great joy to her as well as her many friends.

After the removal of Miss Broughton whose name had been changed to Mrs Veevers, the church did not remain long without pastoral oversight, for during the spring when she left, which was in the year 1897, it became known that an old friend of the place, who had “supplied” about one Sunday a month for several years, had been recommended by his medical adviser to go and live in the country, and on hearing this, his name was mentioned to the Church, as being likely to take the oversight, and it was unanimously resolved that an invitation should be sent to W. H. Duerden of Colne to come and live among them. This caused him for some time very great anxiety of mind. At the first he acknowledged the letter by briefly saying that he should require their indulgence and prayers while he carefully and trustfully thought the matter over, so that we might learn God’s will in the matter and then in His name and strength the best thing would be done.

It is much easier for me to write the above words than to describe the anxiety and suspense of the coming weeks. Many things tended to make the thing very difficult. It meant giving up a successful and profitable business and also tearing away from a Church with which he had been connected from its commencement, his father and brothers being the founders, and he had grown with the place, passing through most of its offices, and for some time the Pastoral work of the Church was discharged by him, before it was able to pay a minister, so that you will be able to understand that it was no easy thing for him to go, but after praying and wrestling night and day for several weeks it came clearly to him one night as he lay in bed, as if a voice said to him, at Martin Top they have no one to do the work and here at Colne there were plenty ready to do your work. After this he hesitated no longer, but said he would go and wrote right away accepting the invitation. The matter was submitted to the executive of the Home Missionary Society for their approval, and Mr Duerden was summoned to appear before them after which they sanctioned the appointment and he entered upon the work the first Sunday in July 1897.

He thought before coming amongst them that he knew the people having preached so often to them in times past, but he found the old adage true. You have to live with people to know them, but after all he never once regretted the step he had taken. For a time he went about amongst them very warily, till they got to know each other better. On the last Sunday in July, Rev. Mr Whiteley of Bradford preached. Mr Bottomley came along with him, they came as visitors from the Home Missionary Society to see how the Church at Martin Top was getting on, so that they might be able to give their report at the next Home Missionary Society’s Meeting at Bradford.

As I have said Rev. A Whiteley preached and Mr Bottomley, who is a business man from Bradford, inspected the premises, and he said to Mr Duerden the place does need some improvements and suggested a series of alterations the cost of which he thought would amount to about £70 he further said that if they would take up the scheme he would give them £5 towards it.

Nothing was said or done till about two months after. A meeting was held in the month of September when many things were mentioned as needing attention, for the place had got into a bad state of repair. Mr Duerden also told about the scheme of Mr Bottomley’s when they said that was altogether beyond their reach, but he suggested that all the alterations were allowed to stand over till they tried to raise some money, but they did not think they could raise any money, if he could, it would be alright, however the Pastor wanted them all to try and see what they could do by Christmas. Some circulars were printed on the subject, and the members and congregation were supplied with them, in order to help them to solicit subscriptions, but when the Christmas meeting came there did not seem to be any who had collected anything save the minister and he had been successful in raising about forty pounds. This rather roused them and they began to think, and one good lady suggested that there was a subscription card printed with the name of the Church at the head and bearing an appeal for help signed by the minister, and any who would canvas could have one, with their name written as bearer – This proved most successful and by the spring of 1898 we were in a position to think about a restoration scheme.

After the school sermons of the same year in June the whole interior of the Chapel was taken out, the pews, pulpit, floor etc and refurnished with a new pitch pine interior throughout with the addition of two new vestibules and a Minister’s vestry. The Minister’s house was also renovated and the cottage behind which now serves as school and for tea parties.

We were very successful in getting subscriptions and by the coming of September the work was completed and the reopening sermons were preached by the Rev. W. Robinson of Burnley. The total cost of the scheme amounted to over £323 and when I tell you that at the close of the reopening services there was £5 left in the hands of the Treasurer after paying all expenses. There is one thing I should say here, and that is, there was £100 invested in the Nelson Corporation belonging to the Church which was put into the foregoing scheme and yet when we think that £228 had been raised, you will be as we were amazed, on the announcement of the result the audience rose to their feet and sang, Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Up to this time the pulpit had been served with supplies, Mr Duerden taking one and sometimes two Sundays a month, but now the Church appoints him to the regular supply of the pulpit upon which duties he entered the first Sunday in Oct 1898, and he sustained them up to this time. During the year 1901 we had a sale of work at Easter to raise the wherewithal for a new Trust Deed and concreting the Chapel Yard and the garden walks in the front of the Ministers house. This was very successful so that we were enabled to purchase timber and cotton to cover the Chapel yard, which can be fixed up and removed as required for special occasions etc.

There was still a surplus remaining with which we were in a position to pay for the cementing of the west end of the Chapel at a cost of over £13.

In the month of January, 1902, a ten days mission was held conducted by the Rev. John Jameson of Leeds, Evangelist of the Yorkshire Congregational Union, we had good meetings, times of great spiritual blessing, six were led to decide for Christ. Three of whom were Wesleyans and were duly handed over to the Wesleyan Church at Stopper Lane, the remaining three being added to our Church in due course.

In January of 1903 Mr Jameson paid us a second visit for ten days, and we were revived and blessed, several made an open testimony for Christ.

On April 20th, 1904 the first wedding ceremony took place in the Chapel, when Miss Hannah Perry (an old scholar) was united in matrimony to Mr Albert Lawson of Hey House Downham by the Pastor W.A. Duerden assisted by the Rev. A. Baxter of Clitheroe.

A Bible and Hymn Book were presented to the Bride and Bridegroom by Mrs Robert Watson on behalf of the Church.

There was not another marriage at the place till May 24th, 1906, when Miss Isabella (Bella) Parkinson was married to Mr William Anthony Jackson of Wytha by the Pastor.

I suppose that the chief reason for so few being married at the place are first, the population being very small there are not many to be married, and secondly, it has become the custom to go to the established Church to get married where their Mothers and Fathers were before them, but now the ice is broken and we have made a beginning, we will hope that our young people will come to their own place to be married.

The Church at present has under consideration another scheme, viz that of “A Burial Ground” On Feb 6th 1906 the following resolution was passed unanimously, viz that we try to raise the means with which to purchase and wall round a piece of ground attached to the Chapel for a Burial Ground. This resolution is waiting for further developments when further report will be given.

We at this time have reached nearly the end of the 9th year of Mr Duerdens Pastorate, during that period there has been many changes – in many ways, and yet we have much cause for thankfulness to Almighty God, for through all He has brought us and is still with us to help us. Those who sit down with us at the Lords table are nearly all fresh ones from those who were sitting there nine years ago, a good part of the Congregation is new, and the school is very much changed. There has more gone away than there were in the school at that time, and still our Sunday School has grown and also our congregation while the membership of the Church is nearly three times as large as then. To God be all the praise, and may the days to come bring greater glory to His name than those of the past, and we trust that many more will yet be led to rejoice that ever they heard the Gospel of Christ preached in Salem Chapel, Martin Top.

June 22nd 1906

(New handwriting)
In December of 1906 the first step was taken in an extension Scheme, Comprising Burial Ground new Sunday School and improvements to the Manse, and a Committee appointed consisting of the following persons, Viz. W. H. Duerden, J. Banks, R.W. Giddings, R. W. B????? as convenor to carry out arrangements for the Land Purchase.

In May 1907 land was purchased for this purpose from Mr John Parker of Colne = Title deed of same being deposited along with the Chapel deeds in the Lancashire Independent(?) College Manchester

On April 18th 1908 the New Burial Ground was opened by James Nutter, Esq, JP of Barnoldswick, to whom Mr J. Thornber of the Knoll, Clitheroe presents a Silver Key in the name of the Church. Mr J.H. Dickinson of Ormskirk, presiding.

In the Evening the Colne Congregational Choir gave a grand Entertainment, presided over by Mr H. Frankland of Rawtenstall. The Amount of the Proceeds was £20. 4s. 4d.

On September 18, 19 & 21, a Sale of Work was held in Newby Reading Room, realising £161. 5s. 7½d in aid of above schemes. The building of the New School commenced Aug. 1. 08.

First interment in Burial Ground being Mr. R. Watson Feb. 24. 1909.

During the Month of March 1909 we had the Acetylene Gas installed in both Chapel and School.

On April 10th 1909 the New Sunday School was opened by Mrs. ? Hough, the Mayoress of Burnley, the Mayor (Mr Hough) Presiding. Miss Landless of Brierfield presented the Mayoress with a Silver Key, in the name of the Church & Sunday School. Mr R. W. Bulcock the ???? read a Statement shewing that about 70£ was required to meet the entire debt. Rev. J.I. Dolphin of Brierfield gave an able address. During the afternoon public Tea was provided, and in the evening a public meeting was held presided over by Mr. R. Chippendale, and addressed by Rev. W. Christie, and Mrs Veevers.

Rev W. Christies Preached Sermons on the Sunday – in Continuation of the Opening. A Social Evening was held on the Monday when the total proceeds of the Opening of the New Sunday School Amounted to £31.0s.0d. We must thank God for all He has done for us, ad pray for sense to use our increased opportunities for usefulness, to the Glory of His Holy Name –

At our Annual Church Meeting it was unanimously resolved that we place on record our sense of the Great Loss the Church has sustained by the death of our beloved brother & deacon, the late Robert Watson, which took place on Feby 19.1909, and was the first to be interred in our New Burial Ground, February 24. 1909. He was a Member of the Church for over 53 years, and for the Greater part of that time was an honoured and faithful Office bearer, and secured for himself a warm place in the hears of his brethren and sisters, all of Whom could bear testimony, that he was a “Workman needing not to be ashamed” and that now, “He rests from his labours” and “His works do follow him.”

We also tender our deep Sympathy to His bereaved Widow and family, and Commend them to God’s Care and Keeping.W. H. Duerden, Chairman

On April 26 and 28th 1910 A Surplus Sale of Work was held for the purpose of Clearing off the debt still remaining on our New S. School, the Opener for the first day was Mr Nutter (Junior), of Barnoldswick, Chairman, Councillor Butler of Barrowford, and on the Second day Mr Stottard of Southport and Mr W. Emmott of Highergill. This Effort realised 55£ thus leaving us a few pounds to the good – We were all exceedingly thankful and delighted.


During the Spring of 1910 the Pastor felt that the time had come when his work was about finished at Martin Top, therefore tendered his resignation to take effect at the Close of next June, when he would have completed 13 years Service, but the Church Meeting called to consider the same could not see its way to accept it, so urgently and unanimously pressed him to reconsider it, which he did, and decided to stay for a short time longer –

During the same Spring God gave us three additional Deacons and Seven new Members. Praise God


W.H. Duerden’s Resignation

Annual Church Meeting held November 26th 1912 the Pastor (W.H.Dearden) tendered his resignation of the Pastorate, to take effect at the ed of his Sixteen years Ministry at Martin Top, in the month of June 1913, thus giving the Church ample time to look after a successor.


Church Meeting May 25th 1913. Mr. L. J. Malkinson’s Appointment
The following resolution was passed unanimously – Proposed by brother Charles Green and seconded by brother George Parker that Mr Louis J. Malkinson of Boston, Lincolnshire, be appointed Pastor in Succession to W. H. Duerden.


(New handwriting)
It seems to me to be a very great pity the history of the ministry of Mr Malkinson and Mr Vicars is not continued in this record. I take the liberty of placing on record the beginning of my ministry at Salem, Martin Top. I was requested by the Members of the Church to preach on the first Sunday in January 1928. I came up again on the third Sunday of the same month. During the following fortnight, I received a letter from Mr. Thos Ridehalgh in which there was a letter from Mrs Stott of Brown Law, asking me to consider a call from the Church at Martin Top. A fortnight after this letter and ?????? Mr Parkes, one of the deacons and secretary of the Church, came to my home in Colne. After conversation on various matters he informed me that a Meeting of the Members of the Church had decided to ask me to become their pastor. I was informed that the vote taken at their meeting was absolutely solid. After serious consideration I decided to accept their offer. After accepting this invitation to become their pastor I discovered that, according to the rules and regulations of the Congregational Union, that I should not be recognised by the said Union as the pastor of the Church. I decided to withdraw my coming, but the church insisted that I should take charge of its ministry. Accordingly, I left my ordinary daily work on March 30th and entered the Manse on April 15 1928. Having qualified by a six months membership of the Congregational Church and as the work during my six months service was satisfactory to the church and congregation I was recognised by the Union as the pastor of Martin Top Church. This took place at Leeds on September 15 1928. On the 28 of September I received a letter from the Rev. Mr McAdams Secretary of the Yorkshire Congregational Union, confirming such recognition. After this, both the Church and myself were more satisfied. I make no complaint against the authorities of the Yorkshire Union. Rules and regulations music operate otherwise order would cease. Had I have known these conditions existed before the call, things might have been different. However, all’s well that ends well. The first outstanding event after our settlement was a Grand RE-Union of old members, teachers, scholars and friends who passed thro the school and had been associated with the Church at Salem. This event took place on the first Saturday and Sunday in May, 1928. On the Saturday, a public meeting was held in the Church, three Addresses were delivered. By the Rev. Mr. Malkinson of Shipley, a former Minister of the Martin Top Church, Mr Scott of Barley, a former scholar in the Sunday School, His address was most interesting, assuring us of the good he had received at Salem Sunday School and Church. When he spoke of the past fifty years detailing many thrilling incidents we seemed to live the past over again. Mr Scott’s address was really fine and very much appreciated. After Mr Scott had spoken Mr James Clark of Burnley addressed the meeting. Mr Clark told us that he had preached at Martin Top for nearly 40 years. His visits were undertaken when the church had no settled Minister.

Then Mr Joseph Banks, a deacon and trustee spoke to us. His address was marked by a truly spiritual tone. His references to the past were of peculiar interest. Then came a few remembrances by Mr Thos Ridehalgh. His associations with Martin Top were of long standing. His interest in our church has been manifested again and again during the last fifty years.

On the following Sunday very large congregations gathered within our little Bethel. In the afternoon the Rev I Loosemoor of Bolton-le-Sands, who was minister of the church fifty years ago, preached in the afternoon. There were a few old people in the church who remembered his ministry, and were pleased to renew old friendships. In the evening the Church was full to the utmost capacity, when Mr Smith of Burnley occupied the pulpit. Mr Smith is eighty years old but not withstanding his years he preached a most powerful sermon. The people were greatly impressed by his fine and eloquent discourse. Altogether the whole of the services were greatly enjoyed, and created a new interest in the history of our church. The financial results were quite satisfactory realising a little over twenty pounds. The meeting of the Saturday was good in point of attendance as the morning was hopelessly wet, but at noon the rain ceased and the remaining part of the day was fine. Chairman: the Minister.

On September the 8th another historic meeting was held. The District Meeting of the Yorkshire Congregational Union took place on the above date. The was beautifully fine the sun shining all the day. We were honoured by the presence of the following gentlemen. Principal Griffiths Jones of the Bradford United College. The Moderator of the Northern Provences, the Rev N. I McAdam. Also Professor Price of the Bradford Collge, the Rev. B. C. Plowright of Bradford, also the Rev. A Merrewether, of Eccles Hill Bradford. Among the laymen who attended were Mr Thos Whitehead of Bradford, the author of the very interesting book the History of Dales Congregational Churches. Mr Whitehead is a gentleman whose interest in the Country Churches is well known through out the two counties of Yorkshire & Cumberland. There were several other lay men whose names we did not know. The executive members of the Union met for the discharge of their business in the sitting room of the Plowright preached. The attendance was good. After the service we had tea in the schoolroom. The tea was a most excellent one reflecting great credit upon the ladies who had made all the needful preparations. After the tea Dr Griffiths Jones was called upon to thank the friends at Martin Top for their magnificent Hospitality. The speech was full of bright humour setting everybody in a happy mood. After Dr Jones, a young gentleman, a delegate was called upon to support the vote. He did so in a little merry speech which we are not likely to forget. The evenings meeting was a great success, under the presidency of Mr Merreweather. The Rev. Mr. Booth the Minister of the Congregational Church at Saltair gave a most interesting address. After Mr Booth Professor Price was called upon, where he addressed us upon matters concerning the special effort the congregational churches of the country are making in a Spiritual Campaign. Mr Laver the minister of Horton Lane Church Bradford was also a splendid addition of those who visited Martin Top on this historic occasion. He sincerely believed that meetings of this kind are a very great help to our country churches.

Rev. D. Hartley


I, Edgar Townsley West having occupied the pulpit at Salem, Martin Top, on many occasions during the past 20 years & preaching by special request on July 23rd & Aug 6th have been called to the pastorate.

Believing it to be the will of God I have accepted the call & commenced my ministry on October 1st 1933.

I fully realize the succession into which I have entered & by the grace of God, hope to fullfill the task He has given to me & to prove worthy of the confidence reposed in me. I have been cradled in Congregationalism, my father being first Sunday School Secretary of Bolton Rd S.S. (Cong’l) Darwen a branch of Belgrave Cong’l Ch. My grandfather on my mothers side (Robert Townsley) was one of the Founders & for many years treasurer of Hope (now known as Manchester Rd) Cong’l Church Nelson. My mother at the time of her death was the eldest member (in years of membership) of that church.

I was admitted a member of that Church in October 1896 having been connected with Southfield St (later Brunswick St) branch of Manchester Rd Church since May 1895.

I have served the above church as teacher Superintendant & Deacon & for 14½ years church secretary. I commenced to serve the churches of our order as Lay Preacher in 1895 & since that time have regularly served in the churches of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire & Cumberland. (being for many years sec’ty of Blackburn Dist L.P. Assn)

Now having accepted the call to service in this church it is my earnest prayer that I may be able by Divine Inspiration to live up to the traditions of its past & if God grants it to lead many seeking souls into the Kingdom of God.

It has been my pleasure & privilege to serve on the Executive Committee of the Lancashire Cong’l Union for five years, during 1928 as chairman of the Blackburn District of the Lancs Union. I have during that period experience the blessings conferred upon our smaller churches by the bond of union with the larger churches & shall endeavour at all times to foster the spirit of fellowship between this church & other churches of the Yorkshire Union.

May Gods richest blessing rest upon the Church & all its members & lead us into paths of useful consecrated Service.

Press Cuttings

Induction of Mr. Edgar T. West.
    Tuesday last was a red-letter day for the friends at Martin Top Congregational Chapel, the occasion being the induction of Mr. E. T. West, a well-known Barrowford man, as pastor in succession to Mr. David Hartley, of Colne, who has been the pastor for over five years. The cause at Martin Top was started 116 years ago, when three men who were running their looms in a small weaving shed, were thinking over the problem of building a meeting house where men and women might gather to worship God. How well they remembered one day, about seven years earlier, when the Rev. George Partington, the minister of Colne Congregational Church, had first preached at Newby, in the house of Mr. William Hargreaves, and how the visit had been repeated each month. Occasionally Mr. Partington had preached at Twiston in the house of Mr. William Bulcock. So much had these services been appreciated that the attenders had joined forces and taken a room at Martin Top, where, every Sunday afternoon, they met for worship, lay preachers coming from various places in the district to conduct the services. The cause grew and on Sunday, August 11th, 1816, a Congregational Church was formed, the Rev. George Partington receiving the new members into fellowship, assisted by the Rev. Adam Bray, minister of the Congregational Church, Horton-in-Craven. The room at Martin Top soon became too small and twenty trustees were found to be responsible for a new building, the year of the erection and opening of which was 1817, and was recorded in a somewhat nevel way by Mr. Richard Dean, of Gazegill, who, after selecting suitable pebbles from a brook running through Gazegill, laid them in the causeway before the chapel in such a way as to form the desired figures. Since that time the work has been carried on amid many ups and downs, but always with an untiring zeal that commands admiration.____

Impressive Service
    The induction service was conducted by the Rev. L. J. Malkinson, Chairman of the Bradford District Congregational Union and a former pastor of the church. Mr. George Parker, secretary of the church and on behalf of the officials, gave a statement of the call of Mr. West to be pastor of the church, and Mr. West gave a moving address of his call to the ministry. A fine dedication prayer was given by the Rev. A. E. Hill of Nelson, the charge to the minister being given by the Rev. N. Johnston, secretary of the Bradford District Congregational Union, and the Rev. L. J. Malkinson, in a homely address, gave the charge to the church. A tea was served by the ladies of the church which was partaken of by a large number of friends from Nelson and Barrowford. In the evening a welcome meeting was held, over which Mr. David Hartley presided. Mr. Hartley kept the meeting in good humour by his bright and witty sayings of the various speakers and of his sojourn at Martin Top, and also read letters of apology from many friends who were unable to be present. He also, as secretary of the church, gave Mr. West a hearty welcome to the pastorate. Mrs. Stott, of Black Moss, spoke as the oldest member of the church, and voiced the opinions of the congregation and school; and Mr. Crowther from the Brunswick Street Church and Mr. Pemberton from the Manchester Road Church, eulogised the services of Mr. West to Brunswick Street and Manchester Road respectively. The Rev. H. Austin, of Blackpool, spoke of his visits to the churches in the district as a student minister, but it was his first visit to Martin Top, his address being much appreciated. Mr. R. Hargreaves of Barrowford, and Mr. Barrett, of Nelson spoke of the service which Mr. West had rendered to churches of various denominations both in Nelson and Barrowford.

From the Nelson Leader

Mr. E. T. West at Martin Top

   Mr. Edgar T. West was inducted into the pastorate of the Salem Church, Martin Top, on Tuesday afternoon. A number of his friends from Nelson and Barrowford attended the service, and at the evening meeting a party from the Brunswick Street Congregational Church went over in a charabanc. Mr. West has been intimately connected with the Brunswick Street Church since 1901, and his loss will be severely felt there, for he has occupied nearly every office open to a layman. He has, of course, in a wider sphere of Congregationalism been Chairman of the Blackburn District of the Union – an honour which was well deserved by reason of the work he had previously done. Mr. David Hartley, of Colne, has been the lay pastor at Martin Top until recently, when he retired owing to advancing years.

Mr. E. T. West
   I wish to extend to my friend Mr. E. T. West my best wishes on his new appointment as pastor of the Martin Top Congregational Church, which was consummated last week and reported in the “Jottings” column. For many years he has devoted his energies to the Brunswick Congregational Church, Nelson, and he has always been willing to give a helping hand in other schools and churches. In this appointment I believe Mr. West has attained one of the noblest ideals of his life – that of preaching by word and deed the Gospel. With others I trust that he will be spared for many years as pastor and teacher in a church which is some distance away from our crowded Lancashire towns. We shall not forget him, and I don’t think he will forget the friends he has left in Barrowford.

(Handwriting again, by Mr. West)
 An event of great importance was the Reunion and Coming Home party held on Sat & Sunday Sep. 22nd & 23rd  1934.

A report from the Clitheroe paper is attached. The meetings were full of enthusiasm & the presence of so many who in the past had lived & laboured amongst the Friends of the chapel, brought great encouragement to the present workers.

We record our thanks & high appreciation of the kind forethought shewn by our friend Mr. Ridehalgh.  


   The little Congregational Chapel at Martin Top, which has been in existence for nearly 120 years, received an impetus to its work by means of a re-union and “coming-home” party recently held.
   This took place through the kind generosity of Mr. Thos. Ridehalgh and family at Barrowford, who kindly offered tea, and also paid other expenses connected with the celebration.
   The re-union took place at Martin Top, and after a welcome extended to the friends by Mrs. Scott (treasurer), who has been associated with the church for sixty years, along with Mr. John Porter, another of the oldest members at Martin Top, tea was provided.
   Following tea, Mr. Thos. Ridehalgh presided over a good gathering. The people at Martin Top admired the courage and fortitude with which Mr. Ridehalgh performed his duty, following so soon upon the tragic death of his only son.
   Mr. Ridehalgh welcomed friends who had past association with the church, and also those who were at present engaged in the work.
   Mr. Robert Whipp Watson, another member who has been associated with Martin Top Church the whole of his life, presided at the organ, while Mrs. Haythornthwaite acted as deputy. Amongst those who took part in the re-union were Mr. Scott, of Barley; Miss Moorby, of Nelson; Miss Leach, of Rimington; Mr. W. Gidding (who in the past had close association with the chapel); Mr. David Hartley, of Colne (late pastor at Martin Top); Mr. T. Hargreaves of Burnley; Mr. Jesse Blakey, of Barrowford; Mr. James Moorhouse, of Wallasey, and Alderman Thornber, of Clitheroe.

The final entry in the book is of a press cutting taken from the “Christian World” Pulpit & Pew of Feb14/35

   One of the most devoted workers in Salem Congregational Church, Martin Top, is a lady who will shortly attain her 70th birthday. Beginning to attend at the age of four, Mrs. Stott (sic) has been in constant attendance ever since, and for well over fifty years has borne her fair share of the burden falling to a small country church. She was admitted into membership in 1886 and has never resided within one and a half miles of the church, and now walks regularly (weather permitting) over four miles and back. Recently, as treasurer of the church, she submitted her eighteenth annual report.

. . . . .