Northgate End Chapel, Halifax

Northgate End Chapel was also known as Northgate Unitarian Church


The Chapel of 1696

In 1696/7, a Presbyterian chapel was built here – on an area known as Bell Croft. Nathanael Priestley gave the land at Bell Croft, and he was the first minister – Oliver Heywood having declined.

The Chapel was built at a cost of £200.

On 11th November 1696, Oliver Heywood – a friend of the Priestley family – preached the first sermon to a full congregation

Psalm 87, 3rd

and there was a memorial plaque to him with the words

Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel

The clock was built by Thomas Ogden in 1720.

The Chapel gradually moved towards Unitarianism.

In 1744, Samuel Threlkeld came to Halifax to become minister.

The first baptism took place in 1747.

The first burial – that of Edward Ferguson [1736] – was under the floor of the Chapel.

Rev John Ralph founded the Library at the Chapel.

The gallery was entered from street level, and steps gave access to the lower floor. This gave the Chapel its popular name of

T' cellar hole chapel

In 1762, the height of the Chapel was increased by 5 ft.

The first record of a burial, after the Register Act came into force, was on 26th October 1783.

In the 18th century, it was said that more people attended the Chapel than attended Halifax Parish Church

The south front was rebuilt [1817] and the west front was rebuilt [1847].

In 1822, an organ was installed in the gallery.

The first marriage was that of Ann and Henry Allison [3rd October 1837].

In 1870, the remaining part of the original building was declared unsafe.

On Sunday, 5th March 1871, the last service was held before the Chapel was pulled down and replaced by a new building

The Chapel of 1872

On 29th May 1871, the corner-stone of the new Chapel was laid by James Stansfeld.

The building was built in the Gothic Revival style, and became a landmark at the bottom of Broad Street. It opened on 2nd October 1872 when Rev Russell Lant Carpenter was the preacher. The total cost of the building was £4,000.

It incorporated the oaken gallery fronts and other elements from the 1762 building.

In 1890, Sir James Stansfeld, filled 2 windows at the west side of the Chapel with cathedral glass in memory of his friend Joseph Foreman.

For some time, this and Halifax Parish Church were the only churches in Halifax town.

The Halifax Orchestral Society was founded here.

The Graveyard stood immediately to the south of the Chapel.

In the 1970s, the Chapel fell into disrepair, the congregation fell to about a dozen members, and the Chapel closed in 1979. The Chapel contents – statues, seats, windows, books, paintings and musical instruments – were sold at an auction which attracted nationwide interest.

A figure from the Chapel – The Angel of Sacrifice – was carved by Harry Percy Jackson and is now privately-owned.

In 1980, the building was bought by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. Despite protests, the Department of the Environment refused to list the building and the Chapel was demolished in 1982 to make way for new developments, including the most recent Bus Station.

During the demolition, a workman discovered a glass storage jar with copies of the Halifax Guardian and the Leeds Mercury dated 27th May 1871 inside. He gave the time capsule to a friend, and it was lost until 2003, when Mrs Jessie Ennis of Hipperholme rediscovered the jar

Incumbents at the Chapel

Incumbents and Curates at the Chapel have included



See Abel Wadsworth Dean, Elocution Society, Halifax, Fearnley Charity, Rev William Graham, Northgate End Chapel: Bicentenary Memorial [1896], Northgate End Chapel Memorial, The organ at Northgate End Chapel, John Shillito, Rev Matthew Smith, Alexander Stradling and Thomas Wadsworth

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 09:45 / 27th May 2021 / 12166

Page Ref: KK_32

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