The Chimney Corner: Secret Books from the Secret Library #5

The fifth in a newly-regular series exploring books and other items selected from our vast collections. In this entry Librarian Antony Ramm showcases a wonderful collection of photographs showing Unitarian Churches across Yorkshire in the late 19th-century…

This is a really nice volume, a collection of images and historical notes about Unitarian Chapels across Yorkshire. According to a note at the front of the book – which was printed by H. Graham Glen of Wortley – the volume was intended as a souvenir of the Yorkshire County Bazaar and also as a fund-raising effort for the Yorkshire Unitarian Union, a district association formed in 1815.

The book, published in 1903 and described in a handwritten note at the back of our edition as being “very scarce,” starts with some general historical information about non-conformism in Yorkshire, but the main point of interest in the volume is undoubtedly the photographs. It’s possible these photographs were taken by Graham Glen himself, as he is cited as the author of an image on our Leodis archive showing St. Margaret’s Church in Horsforth.

1904 postcard showing St. Margaret’s Church, Horsforth. The church was built in 1883 and the photograph also shows the vicarage on the right. Photographed by H. Graham Glen, Wortley, Leeds, postmarked 1904. (c) Leeds Museums Service, (ID: 20220705_134988)

Graham Glen acknowledges the contribution of the Reverend Charles Hargrove in his own short introductory note, praising the Reverend “for the subject matter of this work, which he has been good enough to supply and edit.” Perhaps Hargrove – who had been Minister at Mill Hill Chapel in the centre of Leeds since 1876 – researched and wrote the historical notes about each Chapel, with Graham Glen supplying the images. A photograph of Hargrove himself can be seen towards the end of the book.

Reverend Charles Hargrove

Speaking of Mill Hill Chapel, the book in fact begins there with two wonderfully evocative images showing the exterior and interior of the Chapel as it was in the first decade of the 20th-century.

The reader is also treated to two marvellous sketches showing the outside and inside of the Old Mill Hill Chapel – demolished in 1847 to make way for the current building on that site.

Sketches of other old Chapels are included, such as that of Rotherham “about the year 1700”.

The book moves across Yorkshire, highlighting other Unitarian Chapels, in – it seems – the chronological order that each congregation was founded, in the same sequence of historical notes followed by an image.

What is particularly interesting are the sheer range of different types of Chapels, which range from the rather grand and stately –

Park Street Unitarian Church, Hull

– to particularly unpretentious, homely and plain sites, such as that at Whitby.

Specific Leeds Chapels shown (other than Mill Hill) include those at Holbeck, Pudsey and Hunslet.

While similar images of the Leeds Chapels to those captured in this book can be seen on our Leodis archive, there is a definite value in seeing these Chapels in their denominational context and, of course, the book is now a historical artefact in its own right – a physical reminder of the importance of the Dissenting faith to the people of Leeds specifically, and Yorkshire more widely.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert Thomas says:

    An interesting article. It is so good to see the Unitarian Chapel in City Square, Leeds is exactly the same as it was over a hundred years ago.

    1. Thanks Robert, We’re really glad you enjoyed it.
      Regards, Lou

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