A personal view.

 The Early Years

Barnoldswick claims the place of having the earliest continuing Baptist church within the Yorkshire Baptist Association.    Two cousins, William Mitchell and David Crosley were significant in the work of planting and reviving Baptist life travelling backwards and forwards across the Pennine hills Their work linked twenty small Baptist groups called the “Rossendale Round”.  By 1694 Barnoldswick was not only a preaching station but had a meeting place bought on the signature of Crosley.

Walmsgate Barnoldswick
Site of Original Barn & Cottage



Walmsgate Barnoldswick
The Old Chapel



Early Ministry

The work at Barnoldswick and throughout West Craven expanded, especially under the pastorates of the famous Alvery Jackson (1718-1763) and Nathan Smith (1790-1831).  In 1717 Jackson preached a long and detailed sermon to encourage the church to sing in worship, as up to that point it had not been allowed!


Lancashire and Yorkshire Association

Naturally there was close involvement with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Association (as it was then) and cottage meetings were held in nearby communities, from where many worshipers came.  Earby became a separate church in 1819 and Salterforth in 1861. The Barnoldswick church divided into two in 1868.

The Beginnings of a Baptist Church in Earby.

The most important date in the history of the Baptists in Earby was Good Friday 1819, as on this day the first communion as a separate Church was held in a cottage in the village by a group of twelve men and thirteen women. Before this date, many Earby Baptists had attended the Baptist Church in Barnoldswick, the oldest in Yorkshire; others went to Cowling Hill. 
They had to walk to these chapels in all weathers, so as their numbers increased it was felt that that the time had come to form a Church of their own. They thought it would be more convenient, and that they could be of more use and influence in the village as a separate Church than as part of the Church at Barnoldswick. However, the Barnoldswick friends thought otherwise and were strongly opposed to this step, the first page of the Minute Book of the new Church contains a copy of a letter from the Church at Barnoldswick: 
“It gives us great pain to say that in plain opposition to all our advice, and in plain violation of our Solemn Church Covenant, you have forcibly left us as a Church, with which we are very much dissatisfied. Yet we exercise forbearance, and give up your names, and leave you to the disposal of Him who doeth all things well.” 

The first pastor was William Wilkinson, a 32 year old, who worked as a teacher and handloom weaver to supplement the annual stipend of £10.
To raise the funds needed to build a chapel, William Wilkinson set off on a begging pilgrimage to London, seeking support from the Baptist Churches in the towns he passed through on the way.

As he walked the 500 mile journey, Wilkinson lectured, preached, and visited wealthy laymen, and wherever he went “his eloquence and zeal touched hearts and opened purses.” At last he reached the London and made his way to the Church House and Chapel in Southampton Row, and asked for an interview with the pastor on the Sunday morning before service. The minister of Bloomsbury Chapel, Dr. Brock, listened patiently to his story and when asked for a collection on behalf of the Earby church, promised one that very morning on the condition that William Wilkinson conducted the service, preached, and then made his own appeal to the worshippers.

 It is reported that Wilkinson was “appalled at the thought” as he thought his northern accent and unpolished manner would lead to ridicule. He asked the minister if there was another way, but was without success. He mounted the pulpit steps to face the largest congregation he had ever seen and rose to the occasion magnificently; in the words of the Bible, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him”. The result of this was a very generous collection and he returned to Earby with a grand total of one hundred pounds.

With the help of this money a chapel was built in Gravel Pit Road, ('Grelpit' as it was called), now Red Lion Street. Members of the Church dug the foundations and the chapel was opened on Good Friday in the year 1821. 
The pews of the chapel was not quite ready for the opening ceremony, and some of the congregation sat on bags of sawdust and shavings, and even logs of wood, but in spite of this the opening services were, as might be expected, crowded and enthusiastic.

At a later date, a minister’s house was added to the building.

 Map showing Chapel location 1821













In less than 40 years this building had become too small and in 1859, it was decided to look for a site on which to build a larger chapel.

A site was found, but the deacons were afraid that the site would not be for sale or that it would be too costly. When the owner, Mr Thomas Riley, was asked for his terms he asked for only 10 shillings!

A month later when the formal transfer was taking place, the money was laid on the table, and the document was signed. When one of the deacons reminded Mr Riley to take the money, he pushed it back across the table and said “This is my contribution to the building fund.”

 Mount Zion chapel was opened on Good Friday 1861.


Mount Zion Church and Sunday School

In 1875 work began on the Sunday school building, on the right of the picture. It was opened in 1876 and this is the building currently used for worship today.

The Baptist Church in Salterforth

The Church was founded in the early 1850's by the members of the Barnoldswick Baptist Church.   Some evidence points to 1852.  By the end of the 19th century plans were afoot to build a new church and this was completed in 1903.  Today the church worships in the original building.

Very few early records of the life of the church exists, so most of it's history is by hearsay and a few photographic records. 


The church building completed in 1903 now demolished.


Interior of the church circa 1920

The 19th and 20th Century

The four churches of the West Craven Fellowship erected larger buildings and played an important life in their communities and in the association.


Mount Zion Chapel Earby













Bethesda B'wick 1852 remodelled 1902



 The Baptist Church North Street 1879

 Salterforth Church


In 1959 the two Barnoldswick churches shared a pastor and in 1971 had reunited.

The three churches, which had worked harmoniously together in the 20 century, formed much

deeper ties in the West Craven Baptist Fellowship in 1988. Buildings erected in the 1800

were not appropriate for the worship and mission of the church and in the latter part of the

20 century each church began to look at adapting premises to meet the worship and

mission of a new age.


Barnoldswick built a new Church Centre in 1977

Redundant sites were all turned to good community use this is David Crosley House. Site of the old Bethesda Church  

Preston Beck and Wilkinson Mount were

built on the site of the old

Mount Zion Church.

Youth Leaders minutes from 1974!