The History of Ickornshaw Methodist Church

The following is a copy of text from the booklet by June M. Hargreaves M.B.E, published in 1976.
The History of Ickornshaw Methodist Church
June M. Hargreaves M.B.E., Dip.T.P., M.R.T.P.I.
Published in May 1976 to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the opening of the present Chapel.

As Minister of the Ickornshaw Methodist Church during the past five years it gives me great pleasure to commend to all our friends this booklet compiled by June M. Hargreaves M.B.E, in celebration of the centenary of the present building.
Ickornshaw (meaning squirrel wood) has a long history and for the past 180 years Methodism has contributed greatly to the life and well-being of this small community.
This document will prove to be of permanent historical value. All who know Ickornshaw will be proud and privileged to have a copy. It is good to read history. It is better to make history. Let us set out to give the next hundred years a great start in the fervent hope that The best is yet to be.
BENJAMIN PARKIN Superintendent Minister (South Craven Circuit)
The history of a small village Chapel cannot be separated from the life of the people and the social context within which it was founded and there¬fore although this handbook is intended to celebrate the Centenary Anni¬versary of a building, it will only succeed if it conveys to its readers the sacrifice, loyalty and devotion of the people who have come within the influence of the Methodist Chapel at Ickornshaw and who have found its particular form of religion to be the medium that has brought them nearer to a fellowship with Christ.
In 1976 the centenary of the present Chapel building is celebrated, but Methodism at Ickornshaw had been practised since 1795 when Abram Binns introduced Wesleyan Methodism into the district by establishing a Sunday School and maintaining it at his own expense, until his death on the 13th February 1812. The first Methodist Society in the district had been formed in 1763 at Sutton in Craven, followed in 1784 by the estab¬lishment of a Methodist Society at Cowling Hill. John Wesley himself paid his first visit to Keighley in 1784, but Wesley’s work had already com¬manded support from a small group of clergymen, notably William Grim-shaw, the Vicar of Haworth (and a predecessor of Patrick Bronte) from 1742 until his death in 1763. Grimshaw had preached the Methodist message with passion and blunt speaking which must have appealed to the Yorkshire temperament, and which resulted in astonishing success in the number of conversions. He was subsequently appointed by Wesley to be superintendent of the Haworth Circuit, where he had built his Preaching House in 1758.
It is perhaps therefore not surprising that this part of Yorkshire should have witnessed the establishment of strong Wesleyan Methodist connections when the movement was as yet only in its infancy.

Abram Binns used a room at Ickornshaw as his Sunday School, but by 1812 (a year which coincided with his death) additional properties were secured by the purchase of two cottages and a smithy, so that the regular worshippers could be accommodated in a Chapel which held 300 people. It is reported that in 1808 a new Methodist Circuit was formed with Adding-ham as its head, and the Chapel at “Cornshaw” is recorded as having sent a contribution towards the revenues of the new circuit where it remained until 1869 when it was incorporated into the newly-formed Crosshills Circuit.
It was not until 1845 that an Anglican Church was built in the village, as prior to that date Cowling had formed part of the ecclesiastical parish of Kildwick. In about 1840 the parish of Kildwick was divided, giving Cowling its own independence as an ecclesiastical parish. Thus until this time the spiritual needs of the village had been supplied by the Nonconformist Chapels; the Baptist Chapel at Cowling Hill being the one, and the Wesleyan Chapel at Ickornshaw being the other. The former appears to have been founded about the beginning of the Eighteenth Century by David Crossley, who as a friend of John Bunyan and George Whitfield, was reputed to be one of the leading preachers of his day.
The old Wesleyan Chapel supplied the needs of the small community of Ickornshaw and Cowling for over half a century until it was said to be “too small and was much out of repair.” Efforts were made over a three-or four-year period to find a more suitable site for the building of a new Chapel, and in 1874 it was unanimously concluded that the old building would have to be demolished end a new chapel built in its place. Adjoining property was acquired from John W. Smith of Colne who offered it at a cost of £100, half of which he returned as a subscription towards the new Chapel. The extra land was legally handed over to the Trustees, and Mr Smith’s friend, Mr Cowgill, gave £50 to cover the total land acquisition costs.
On Saturday the 5th June 1875 the ceremony of laying the foundation stone was held in the presence of “a fair number of spectators.” In the period between the demolition of the old chapel and during the rebuilding of the new one the Foresters’ Hall, Cock Hall (now Colne Road) had been used for worship, and on the day of the laying of the foundation stone, the teachers and scholars “mustered” at the Foresters’ Hall and marched to the Chapel site in procession, led by the Evangelist, the Rev. Peter McKenzie, who shouted with arms outstretched, “Glory be to God.” On arriving at the site, the Minister, the Rev. Geo. Wood, announced a hymn and the Rev. J. H. Locksley read a portion of scripture after which the Rev. Peter McKenzie offered up a prayer. The day was fine, and the Rev. G. Wood, having introduced the distinguished guests, gave an account of the events leading up to the occasion of embarking upon the building of the new Chapel. Some four years previous to the event collections had been taken towards replacing the old building, and Mr Wood announced that together with subscriptions they had raised £1,200 towards a target figure of £2,000. Although the actual building costs were not expected to reach the £2,000 figure, it was hoped to install some heating apparatus. This innovation was to be an improvement on the old Chapel which had only a stove in the centre of the ground floor, and which afforded but slight warmth in the depths of winter.
Mr Wood described briefly the ideas of the Trustees for the new Chapel; it was to hold 500 people and to have in addition teaching accommodation for 300 scholars, with vestry accommodation for Society and other purposes. Mr James Lund of Malsis Hall had the honour of laying the foundation stone and was presented with a silver trowel for so doing which was inscribed thus:-
“Presented to James Lund Esq. J.P. on his laying the stone of the new Wesleyan Chapel at Ickornshaw (Crosshills Circuit) 5th June 1875.” Mr Lund was also presented with a walnut mallet, and after thanking the Trustees for these gifts he said he felt it to be “no mean honour to lay the foundation stone. No kind of building, however artistic in its architecture, was so grand as the one where God’s saving power was felt in the salvation of sinners.” Mr Lund concluded by hoping that God would crown the work which they had witnessed that day with His blessing. Donations from Mr and Mrs Lund, amounting to £100, were presented to the Trustees, and after addresses from the Chairman of the District (The Rev. Mr Hartley) and from the Rev. Peter McKenzie, the assembled company took tea in the Foresters’ Hall.

The specification for the new Chapel had been drawn up in February 1875 by the Architects, Messrs Hargreaves and Bailey of Victoria Chambers, Bank Street, Bradford. The builders appointed to carry out the work were Messrs Bancroft and Gott of Cowling, and the joiner’s work was carried out by Mr Robert Sugden of Keighley.
The building materials were specified to be new ashlar in the native sandstone (or Millstone Grit) taken from neighbouring quarries. The old footings of the former Chapel were to be used where possible. Other parts of the old building were incorporated in the new building, such as the steps leading to the former Gallery being re-used for the entrance to the new heating apparatus room, and the best of the flags were re-used in the heating room, back kitchen and coal shute. Old stones from the previous building were re-dressed and used for the plinth to the new Chapel. The new stone was mainly from Earls Crag quarry, the bricks came from Colne and the lime from Lothersdale.

Day books of the builders reveal the names of the masons engaged on the contract and contain familiar-sounding surnames still surviving in the village; for example, Isaac Bancroft, John Binns, John Whitaker, William Emmott, William Richmond, Smith Bancroft, Joseph Binns, Heaton Slater, Charles Benson, Joseph Teal, Joseph Gawthrop, James Emmott, Watson Nelson, Smith Snowden, James Wormwell, Samuel Gott, John Simpson, John Gott, John Bancroft, Holmes Gott, and Stephen Smith. The time-sheets show a charge of 4 shillings per person per day against the hours spent by most of these masons during the months from May 1875 to April 1876.
On the 8th July 1876 the new Wesleyan Chapel at Ickornshaw was opened and was described in the Keighley News as a “plain substantial building.” The interior of the building was said to be “very neat and well arranged, the entrance being from the side furthest from the road. There is a gallery all round approached by a staircase on each side of the corridor. It is seated for 500 worshippers, with open benches, and the pulpit stands in front of the organ and choir gallery. Underneath the Chapel is a school estimated to accommodate 300 Sunday School scholars, which is divided into three rooms, one large, and two classrooms.”
The total cost of the building was £2,276 15s 7d and by the time of the opening the amount raised had reached £1,300. The first sermon preached in the new Chapel, on the Saturday afternoon, was by the Rev. W. O. Simpson of Bradford, and on the following day two sermons were preached by the Rev. J. Clapham of Sheffield. As not all the painting had been completed in the Chapel, services were conducted in the schoolroom for a short time after the official opening.
The officers of the new Chapel in 1876 were as follows:- Secretary: John Cowgill Trustees: William Watson
John Binns
Jonas Laycock
Elias Redman
Joseph Riddiough
Thomas Smith Superintendents and Teachers: William Smith
Holmes Smith
William Dawson
Edward Smith
William Thompson

John Smith
William Chapman
John Gawthrop
Holmes Gott
William Hoyle
Mary Watson
Hannah Smith Local Preachers: William Smith )
John Smith ) Cowling
Holmes Smith )
Ishmael Clough – Sutton
David Longbottom – Silsden Caretaker: John Watson Choirmasters: John Smith
Simeon Redman Organists: Joseph Shuttleworth
Benjamin Gott
Thomas Gott
Fred Pickles

Memories of the latter years of the old Chapel and the early years of the new Chapel have been recorded, and reveal the significant role of the Sunday School in the life of this rural Pennine village, which was very different from its role in the present day. Scholars were sent regularly to Sunday School by devout parents and there received instruction in general education as well as in religious matters. Spelling tests formed a regular part of the curriculum and scholars were also taught to read, and rewards for proficiency were given. A penny was given to the best speller and the scholar who reached second position in the class was presented with a ticket; the collection of these tickets eventually entitled the scholar to the gift of a book. Competition amongst the children was keen, as was the discipline exercised by the teachers.
A record exists of the “Rules to be observed by Scholars” dated 30th October 1860 which serves to indicate the level of discipline exercised in those days:-
1. The scholars shall attend the school at 9 o’clock in the morning and
3 o’clock in the afternoon clean washed and their hair combed.
2. The scholars shall be commanded to kneel at prayer, none shall be
allowed to sit.
3. No scholar shall go to the fire without the consent of his teacher nor
to the door without the consent of the doorkeeper and no more than
one or two at a time.
4. The scholars shall be commanded to walk soberly to and from
school, be civil to strangers and yield proper obedience to their
5. The scholars are desired to attend the morning service with two of
their teachers.
6. The morning service to close at 11.30.
In the same record, the part relating to “Rules to be observed by Superintendents” contains the dictum that “The crimes of the scholars shall be made known to the superintendent by the teacher and they shall determine upon the punishment in which cruelty shall be avoided.”
The Library contained in the new Sunday School was impressive, with a recorded number of 432 volumes by 1880, most of which were said to be on theological topics. In that same year there were 256 scholars attending Ickornshaw Wesleyan Sunday School and the two sessions of the school were still held on Sunday at 9 am and 3 pm. There were also 57 teachers supporting the Sunday School.
These numbers need to be seen alongside the corresponding numbers of scholars and teachers at other Chapels which had by that time become established in the village for the same year, namely:-
The United Methodist Free Church (Bar Chapel)
144 boys, 133 girls and 60 teachers The Primitive Methodist Chapel (Middleton) 50 scholars and 8 teachers.
To complete the picture and to set these figures in context for this time, it should be noted that the population of the parish of Cowling in 1881 was 1,901 persons, thus nearly 40 per cent of the total population was closely connected with one or other of the three Methodist Sunday Schools in the village. These figures serve to indicate the tremendous influence upon the whole community that the Methodist Church in its various facets exercised over the life and social fabric of the village. It is further interesting to note that in spite of the limited support for the Parish Church in those days, the Vicar, the Rev. G. Bayldon, was both popular and respected by the Nonconformists of the village. The fact that he was a teetotaller and acted as Chairman of the United Temperance Society which met regularly at the Bar Chapel, may have partly accounted for this bond, as may his added advantage in the eyes of many Nonconformists of being a staunch Liberal.

A description of the village appearing in the Craven Almanack of 1888 refers to most of the inhabitants being engaged in the manufacture of worsted goods and to the village affording a striking example of progress during the previous 50 years. The village was, in 1888, seen as being almost a model of intelligence and thrift. The days of hand loom weaving in the early part of the Nineteenth Century had been ones of financial difficulties when weavers were paid fortnightly and there had been a tendency for the first week to be spent idling and indulging in horseplay. The population was slightly less than 2,000 people of whom about 400 were male adults, many of whom generously supported the two public houses and five beer shops in the village, and the people attending any place of worship were in a slender minority. By 1888 all this had changed, the number of licensed houses had dwindled and almost every household enjoyed comfort and dignity. The village boasted five or six weaving sheds employing most of its working population, and the villagers were keen investors in the Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank, and were mainly owner/ occupiers of their own houses.
These changes in attitudes and life-styles had been influenced to a great extent by the Nonconformist philosophies which affected most households in the village, and towards which the establishment of the Chapel in Ickornshaw had made a significant contribution.
Ickornshaw had formed a reputation for its religious revivals in the district and each winter had a week of special “Revival Services”. These were always well attended and usually culminated in many young people of the village going through the process of “conversion”. One such person was the Rev. John Gawthrop who was said to be a “typical product of the revivalist era” and whose unorthodox methods and powerful personality made him one of the most successful mission workers of his day. He gained a high place in the Wesleyan ministry, conducting several large missions in various cities and serving as pastor of important churches throughout the country.
No record of the early days of Methodism at Ickornshaw would be complete without reference to the “Charity Sunday”. This was the great event of the year and was the Sunday School Anniversary. Special music was performed and a stage was erected in the Chapel on which the girls from the Sunday School sat, proudly wearing their white frocks. The “Charity” (or Feast Sunday) attracted full congregations often to hear the powerful emotive preaching of men like the Rev. Peter McKenzie and the Rev. John Gawthrop, the latter of whom was a popular preacher in his native village.

The influence of the Chapel on the social and pastoral life of the village has already been discussed and was manifested in many and varying ways. As early as 1833 an Hereditary Society had been established and was carried on at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Ickornshaw. The object of this Society was “to raise by subscription or by voluntary contributions a fund for the relief of its members during sickness or lameness” and to furnish means “for the decent interment of deceased members.” Although membership of the Hereditary Society was not restricted to those persons connected with the Chapel but was open to “all persons between the ages of 18 and 35 years”, it was nevertheless a rule that no one would be admitted to membership “who will not fully promise never to vote for its removal to a Public House licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors, nor one who is a member of a Society of a like nature.” The Hereditary Society held its Anniversary Day on the day following the Sunday nearest the 11th July, when officers were required to meet at 7.00 am. The Society became a registered Friendly Society on the 17th April 1860 and the signatories to the Rules were John Laycock, Joseph Bailey, Christopher Snowden and John Fort (Secretary).
Many years later the Band of Hope was an active event in the weeknight calendar of Ickornshaw Chapel and by 1882 boasted 140 members. It is significant to note how strong the “teetotal” movement must have been in Cowling at that time when the United Temperance Society was also meeting regularly at the Bar Chapel with a membership of 150 and in addition to both the aforementioned Societies was a United Band of Hope – doubtless drawing its members from both Societies – which also met at the Bar Chapel and which had 250 members.
Another weeknight activity in those days was the Wesley Guild, which met for secular and devotional lectures on a variety of topics, and to which guest speakers were invited.
On the 1st June 1895 the centenary of the establishment of the Wesleyan Methodist cause was celebrated by over 800 invitations being sent to past and present scholars. In the afternoon of that day a procession was formed and a tour of the village ensued in the company of scholars from the United Methodist Free Church (the Bar Chapel) in accordance with the custom at the Whitsuntide festival. At the end of the procession the Wesleyan contingency is reported to have returned to Ickornshaw where tea was served to about 400 people. A public meeting followed in the Chapel with the Rev. W. J. Hutton presiding, and several old scholars appeared on the platform, including the aforementioned Rev. J. Gawthrop and Mr John Binns, the latter being a descendant of the founder, Abram Binns. The following day special services were held and collections were taken towards the Centenary Fund “for the raising of a mission place in another part of the township.”
The “mission place” referred to was the erection of a small chapel at Walton Street to cater for the growing population of that part of Cowling. The land for this chapel was given by Mr Jonas Laycock and Mr Joseph Hutchinson in 1895/96 and a Trust was formed in 1895 and was almost the same as the Ickornshaw Trust. The Mission was opened on the 9th April 1898 and remained in regular use until January 1965 when the building was demolished to provide the site of St. Andrew’s Methodist Church (the replacement for the Bar Chapel).
“Methodism was born in song” – so saith the opening words of the Methodist Hymn Book, and from 1780 Methodists have had a definitive hymn book, produced by John Wesley and containing large numbers of his brother’s hymns, entitled “Collection of Hymns for the Use of the people called Methodists”.
It is not therefore surprising that a combination of this encouragement to “sing praises to the Lord” from the founder of the movement, and the apparently natural inclination of the people of Yorkshire to “enjoy a good sing” should have resulted in a strong musical tradition at Ickornshaw.
The old Chapel contained an organ which was officially opened on the 20th February 1858, having been built by J. Laycock of West Closes. The event was marked by special services on the 20th and 27th February when Mr W. Pickles of Bingley gave organ recitals including a selection of sacred music from the works of Handel, Haydn and Mozart.
It seems probable that this organ was transferred to the new Chapel because there is no doubt that the new building contained two organs, one in the schoolroom (situated between the Library vestry and the steps leading to the back kitchen) and the other situated centrally in the choir gallery of the Chapel. The latter contained the inscription “Praise ye the Lord” and was manually blown.
On the 15th May 1907 the Wesleyan Chapel Committee from Manchester consented in a letter to the Minister (the Rev. R. G. Roberts, Crosshills), to the erection of an organ in the Wesleyan Chapel at Ickornshaw at an estimated cost of £400 on condition that “the entire expense was paid either before or in connection with its opening, so as to bring no debt upon the Trust.”
It would seem that that letter of consent arrived fortuitously in time for the official opening of the new organ on the 18th May 1907, when a special Dedication Service was held at which the Rev. H. Mudie Draper of Bradford was the preacher, and a public tea followed. The same evening an organ recital was given by Mr J. Armistead F.R.C.O., A.R.C.M., of Burnley. The cost of the new organ and associated works were as follows:-
£ s. d.
ORGAN 360 0 0
Hydraulic Blowing Apparatus 40 0 0
Necessary Alterations and Renovations 97 0 0
Total £497 0 0

Towards this expenditure the following income was raised by the time of the official opening:-
£ s. d.
Donation from Mr Andrew Carnegie 150 0 0
Subscriptions, etc 219 14 3
Sale of old organ 34 0 0
£403 14 3

The outstanding amount of approximately £93 was raised by March 1909, when the Trustees are reported as having a balance of £3 18s 0½d left from the performance of “Messiah” after clearing off the organ debt. The specially formed Organ Committee formally handed over the organ to the Trustees on the 24th February 1911 “free of debt” and the Committee was dissolved.
The alterations and renovations referred to in the account resulted from the changes in the choir stalls which had hitherto been approached by two flights of stairs, one on each side of the old organ. The new arrangement resulted in the organ being built in two sections, one half on each side of the gallery with a detached console in the centre of the choir stalls. The new two-manual, tubular pneumatic action organ was built by Messrs Laycock and Bannister of Crosshills, and the old organ was sold to the Chapel at Carleton, near Skipton, where it still survives in an adapted form.
Associated with these alterations was the introduction of the centrally placed stained-glass window on the south elevation above the choir stalls, dedicated to the memory of Elias Redman and John Binns.
The opening of the new organ must have been regarded as an important occasion for Ickornshaw because apart from the events described above, on Saturday 18th May 1907, special musical services were held on the following day and the next weekend saw another organ recital on the Saturday, this time by Mr R. Barrett Watson, Mus.Bac, F.R.C.O., followed on the Sunday by another two musical services.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Trustees held on the 6th March 1908 it was agreed to dispose of the old organ in the schoolroom, although no indication of its destination is given.
The new organ has been overhauled several times since its installation in 1907, the most recent time being in 1968/69 when the original builders – Laycock and Bannister – renovated it at a cost of £395.
The organist in the old Chapel had been John Smith and the choirmaster David Cowgill. Of the four organists appointed to the new Chapel, Thomas Gott was organist in 1884 and was superseded by Fred Pickles who retained the post until 1901 when J. W. Shackleton took over the appointment and held it until 1910. For a short time thereafter the post was held by James Jackson of Steeton, and then in September 1911 Mr Watson Dawson was appointed organist, a post he retained until his retirement in December 1955. Since that time Mrs Mary Robinson has been the organist and still occupies the position, and for a period of 15 years until July 1971 Mrs Gladys Gott was the co-organist.
Mr John Smith (known as John o’ Donny’s) took over the role of conductor in the early years of the new Chapel and was assisted by Albert Shuttleworth, James Stansfield and Alfred Benson, until 1897 when Mr Richard Hoyle was appointed to the post, and retained it until 1914. Mr Hoyle later served a further period in the same position from 1924 to 1930. Mr Robert Taylor served as choirmaster from January 1915 until 1924. In 1930 the post was held by Sam Dawes and Josiah Barker took it over in 1932. The latter continued to serve until 1942 when Mrs J. Fryer took over, a position which she held until 1945. Since that time the conductor has been Miss Alice Whittaker (later Mrs C. Smith).
This account of the principal leaders of the musical tradition which Ickornshaw has enjoyed over the last century demonstrates in no small measure their loyalty and the deep sense of service which they have given both in time and talent to enliven the services. Furthermore, the musical reputation of this Chapel – as indeed of many others – has brought a wider musical repertoire and a deeper love of serious music to both performers and listeners than many would otherwise have the opportunity to develop.
The use of the “Anthem” or “Chorus” as part of the service seems to have first appeared in the last decade of the Nineteenth century. Certainly hymn-sheets from the old Chapel do not reveal anything other than “revivalist” and sometimes rather fearsome hymns.

The popularity of the Oratorio seems to have come later, firstly by selected works from the Oratorios of Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn and later by special services at which a complete work was performed. Amongst the repertoire of oratorios which have been performed since the early part of the twentieth century are Messiah (Handel), Creation (Haydn), Elijah (Mendelssohn), Hymn of Praise (Mendelssohn), St. Paul (Mendelssohn), Samson (Handel), Judas Maccabeus (Handel), Crucifixion (Stainer). The annual Choir Festival is the occasion for the performance of one of these works, and with an augmented choir consisting of helpers from neighbouring villages, this event has retained its appeal as a stimulating event in the spiritual and cultural life of the Church.
In February 1925 a special Sub-Committee of the Trustees was formed (consisting of A. Teal, E. Gott, D. Binns, W. H. Stansfield, A. Cowgill and F. Redman) to make the necessary arrangements to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the present Chapel. The days chosen for these celebrations were the 8th and 9th May 1926. It was decided in 1925 to mark the event by redecorating the Chapel, and in view of the heavy expenditure involved “all interested in this place of worship” were asked to give a weekly contribution until sufficient money was raised. In January 1926 Stephen Duckworth was appointed Treasurer, and A. Cowgill and Francis Redman joint Secretaries of the Jubilee Fund. Tenders for the decoration were invited and the successful tender was granted to Mr Jas. Rushton of Cowling at the sum of £173 0s 0d.
It was at this time also that the Trustees considered the use of two cups only for the Communion Service, a discussion which subsequently led to the purchase of the tray of individual cups for use at the Communion Service which are still in regular use today.
The Jubilee celebrations coincided with the General Strike, but in spite of travelling difficulties, large congregations gathered at both afternoon and evening events. The afternoon service was conducted by the Rev. W. Wakin-shaw of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, assisted by the Rev. J. Naylor and the Rev. W. Rhodes. The former explained that a sum of £300 was required to meet the debt incurred resulting from the thorough renovation of the Chapel. By June 1926 the Treasurer of the Jubilee Fund reported to the Trustees that he had sufficient money to clear off the accounts, leaving a credit balance which enabled the Sub-Committee to purchase new carpet for the Preachers’ vestry and linoleum for the choir vestry.
The celebrations included an old scholars’ re-union and the Chapel was reported to be crowded. Various speakers recalled the changes that had occurred in the previous 50 years and some compared the “indescribably hard” benches in the old Chapel with the more comfortable conditions appertaining in the new building.
One speaker who had been invited but who was absent from these celebrations was unquestionably the most noteworthy former scholar of Ickornshaw Sunday School, the Rt. Hon. Philip Snowden, M.P. Philip Snowden had been born in Middleton in July 1864 and had attended the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School and Chapel with his parents whom he described as “closely associated with and devotedly attached to the local Chapel.” In his Autobiography (written in 1934) he recalls his “happiest recollections of years of constant attendance” at Ickornshaw, and notes that he still had prize books in his possession which showed that he was never absent from the Sunday School over a period of five years. Philip Snowden had advanced from learning to spell and receiving his early influence in religious education in the Sunday School to become a Member of Parliament for Blackburn in 1906. He later became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 and again from 1929 to 1931 when he was created a Viscount and took as his title Viscount Snowden of Ickornshaw. It is surely no coincidence that in the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for Philip Snowden he is reported to have been “a powerful advocate of temperance.”
The message sent to the Jubilee Celebrations of Ickornshaw by this most famous of its sons was as follows:- “I am very sorry not to be able to get to your Jubilee Celebrations in connection with our dear old Chapel at Ickornshaw. The place is hallowed by many sacred memories, and I with many others who were scholars in the Sunday School there, have felt through life the good influence of our association with it. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the laying of the foundation stone of the present Chapel, and also the closing services in the old Chapel. I am sure my dear Mother and Father who were deeply attached to Ickornshaw Chapel would have wished that I should show my affection for the place, and I do this in their memory and on my own behalf.”
His deep attachment to Ickornshaw was, in 1937, to be further demonstrated when the ashes of Philip Snowden were scattered on Ickornshaw Moor.

In any historical account it is frequently most difficult to recount the more recent events; this is partly because they have not yet fitted into their place and cannot be viewed in perspective; it is also due to the fact that these later events are within the scope of many living memories and therefore cannot be viewed as objectively as earlier events.
Perhaps most significant in the life at Ickornshaw has been the fact that since 1944, when the four local circuits were amalgamated to form the Crosshills, Silsden and Cowling Circuit, the Methodist Churches in Cowling have shared a resident Minister. Previously Ickornshaw received its Ministry from visiting clergymen from the Crosshills Circuit of which it had formed part since 1869.
The Ministers associated with the Methodist Churches in Cowling since 1944 are as follows:-
Eric Bilton, 1944-47
Joffre R. Smith, 1947-51
Frederick Blundred, 1951-57
Kenneth Tibbets, 1957-61
Frank Cope, 1961-64
E. W. Guthrie Burgess, 1964-71
Benjamin Parkin, 1971-
The Ministry of these men has been ably supplemented by the services of a team of Local Preachers from the Circuit whose loyalty over many years has provided a valued part of the spiritual life of the Chapel.
As family sizes have declined and diversification of employment has caused people to move away from the village, congregations and especially the number of Sunday School scholars have declined. Add these factors to the decline in church attendance generally and it is not surprising that the last 30 years have caused the Trustees to concentrate on maintaining the financial stability of the Chapel, whilst at the same time keeping the building in a good state of repair. The redecoration of the Chapel in 1959 (by L. Riddiough of Crosshills) at a tender figure of £246 was supplemented by the redecoration of the remainder of the interior of the building by voluntary labour, bringing the total cost to £345. The boiler was changed from being coke-fired to oil-fired in July 1966 (by Messrs Lambert and Green of Silsden) at a cost of £290.
Throughout the post-war years a band of loyal workers, most of whom have had life-long associations with Ickornshaw, have given of their time and their various skills to ensure that the flame of Christianity which has blazed for 181 years in this remote part of Yorkshire should continue to influence the lives of men and women.
There is a French saying: “In your efforts to go forward you must search back.” This brief account of the history of the Methodist Church at Ickornshaw will have fulfilled its intentions if it serves as an inspiration to the faithful congregation to go forward into the latter part of the twentieth century with renewed hope and with a willingness to adapt to the changes that this changing society will impose, and at the same time to maintain the best traditions of the noble heritage of the Methodist Church in its continuing search for the Grace of God.
‘The grace of God is the centrepiece of the whole Wesleyan theology.”
Rupert E. Davies (Methodism – 1963)
The Author wishes to acknowledge the assistance given by the following people who have supplied historical data and records: Holmes Gott, Alice Smith, Malcolm Smith, Kenneth Tibbets, and Clarence Wilkinson. The etching of Ickornshaw by Daniel Binns – a former superintendent of the Sunday School – is reproduced by kind permission of his widow, Mrs E. Binns. An especial thanks is due to Mrs Florence Fort whose personal recollections of the events at Ickornshaw extend to almost 80 years.