Today's Park Lane Unitarian Chapel in Netherend, Cradley traces its roots to a Presbyterian Meeting House built in Pensnett in 1704
Presbyterianism is a Protestant doctrine of church organization based on administration by a hierarchy of courts composed of clerical and lay presbyters (the word "presbyter" is derived from the Greek for elder).
In this regard, Presbyterianism differs from episcopacy (government by bishops) and Congregationalism (government by the local congregation). It has its roots in the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1604) and others during the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, became dominant in Scotland under the leadership of John Knox (1505-72), and was increasingly popular in England from about 1570.
The English Civil War (1642-48) between King Charles I and the Parliamentary forces briefly brought the prospect of Presbyterianism becoming the established Church of England when, under the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), Parliament pledged to establish Presbyterianism in England and Ireland in return for Scottish assistance against the King.
However, Independents in the English army blocked implementation of the Covenant, and the Scots therefore sided with Charles I; this support caused Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) to terminate the Presbyterian establishment.
Under the Commonwealth, Independent rather than Presbyterian doctrines triumphed, and it was a penal offence to use the Book of Common Prayer. Briefly re-established after Cromwell's death, Presbyterian seceded extensively to Unitarianism during the 18th century.
The Clarendon Code With the Restoration of Charles II (1660), the episcopacy was restored. A series of repressive laws known collectively as the Clarendon Code were enacted in 1661-65 against Dissenters.
The Corporation Act (1661) required all officers of incorporated municipalities to take communion according to the rites of the Church of England, to swear oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and nonresistance, and to reject the Solemn League and Covenant. It was not repealed until 1828.
The Act of Uniformity (1662) required all ministers in England and Wales to conform to the Church of England, and in particular to use and subscribe to the Book of Common Prayer, which it decreed it to be the only legal service book. Receiving Royal Assent on May 19, 1662, it required that every parson, vicar, or other minister make the following public declarations on or before St. Bartholomew's Day (August 24) 1662:
"I, ----, do here declare my unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the book entitled The Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches; and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons."
"I, ----, do declare that it is not lawful, upon any pretence whatsoever, to take arms against the king; and that I do abhor that traitorous position of taking arms by his authority against his person, or against those that are commissioned by him, and that I will conform to the liturgy of the Church of England as it is now by law established; and I do declare that I do hold there lies no obligation upon me, or any other person, from the oath commonly called 'The Solemn League and Covenant,' to endeavour any change or alteration of government either in church or state, and that the same was in itself an unlawful oath, and imposed upon the subjects of this realm against the known laws and liberties of this kingdom."
The Conventicle Act (1664) extended an earlier Act of the same name (1593) which had imposed penalties on those who declined to attend Church of England services and attended conventicles (a "conventicle" is a meeting for unauthorized worship).The 1664 Act only forbade conventicles of more than five people who were not members of the same household, but made it a penal offence, punishable on the third infraction by exile for life, to be present at any service, public or private, other than those set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. Expiring in 1668, it was renewed in 1670.
The Five-Mile Act (1665) forbade any nonconforming preacher or teacher to come within 5 miles of a city or corporate town where he had served as minister. The Five-Mile Act was repealed in 1812.
The Great Ejection of 1662 The Act of Uniformity (above), which was rigorously enforced, was anathema to many clergymen. Rather than comply, more than 2,000 resigned or were ejected on August 24, 1662, and many went on to form Dissenting congregations.
It was not until The Act of Toleration (1689) that a limited degree of freedom of worship, but not of doctrine, was granted to Dissenters (but not to Antitrinitarians or Roman Catholics). Congregations were permitted to gather in meeting houses behind unlocked doors, provided that the meeting place was registered with the diocesan bishop or Court of Quarter Sessions.
James Scott records1 twelve clergymen ejected in 1662
who resided in the town, or within four miles of Stourbridge, and who preached lectures at different places as opportunities occurred, during a period of thirty-six years
The Presbyterian Society in Cradley G. Eyre Evans records2 :
The two men principally instrumental in founding this society were, according to the Rev. Richard Witton, of West Bromwich (1735), the Rev. Henry Oasland who had been ejected from Bewdley, and the Rev. H. Hickman, who resided at Birmingham, the son of the Rev. Henry Hickman, B.D., one of the ejected ministers, who lived for some time privately in Worcestershire, and was afterwards minister of the English congregation at Leyden.
Pensnett Meeting House In 1704 the eponymous Rev. John Godley of Walsall paid £24 which had been raised by voluntary subscription, to John Mansel of Netherend for a field called Pensnett Meadow in the parish of Kingswinford, near Cradley Forge on the Staffordshire side of the Stour, for the purpose of erecting a place of worship.
A building which came to be called Pensnett Meeting House was completed in 1707, and is the direct precursor of today's Park Lane Unitarian Chapel.
The Trustees of 1707 On 14th October 1707 the Pensnett Meeting House building and land were conveyed to the trustees, who were3:
John Spilsbury, of Kidderminster; )
John Warren, of Coventry; ) Dissenting
George Flower, of Prestwood; ) Ministers
J. Basset, of Birmingham; )
J. Turton, of West Bromwich, ironmonger;
H. Hunt, of Cradley, yeoman;
N. Hancox, of Kingswinford, scythesmith;
J. Homer, of Cradley, ironmonger;
S. Forrest, of Cradley, ironmonger;
W. Deeley, of Cradley, carpenter
W. Parkes, of Kingswinford, yeoman;
J. Bague, of Kingswinford, glassmaker;
J. Pearsall, of Halesowen, yeoman;
W. Parkes, of Pedmore, ironmonger;
J. Coley, of Rowley Regis, ironmonger
The indenture specifies that that four dissenting ministers should constitute a part of the trust, that the choice of the pastor should be vested in the majority of the trustees, with the approbation of two of the ministers ; and if at any future time the building should not be permitted by the laws of the land to be used as a place of religious worship, the trustees shall dispose of the same to such charitable purposes as they may think most proper.
As Bradley and Blunt point out5, the provisions relating to charitable disposition of the property were intended to protect against the possibility of revocation of the 1689 Act of Toleration (see above).
Josiah Bassett, 1707 The first minister of Pensnett Meeting House was Josiah Bassett, born in 1683. He was the son of a minister (also named Josiah Bassett) who had left Exhall in Warwickshire, a victim of the Great Ejection of 1662, and who died in 1695 when his son was 12 years of age. A fellow victim, the Rev. H. Hickman, who as mentioned above was one of the two founders of the Presbyterian Society in Cradley, paid for the younger Bassett's education.
Josiah Bassett first began to preach in Cradley in 1704 at the age of 21. He was ordained at the rather young age of 24 by Rev. George Flower, Rev. John Spilsbury, Rev. John Godley, and other ministers in 1707. Shortly thereafter he married a Mrs. Allen, a lady "of excellent character and considerable property". Basset, who received no more than £20 per annum during his 30-year tenure, lived in Birmingham, and thus must have commuted over roads which Evans comments "were frequently impassable in winter".
Bassett died in 1735 and was buried on 16th October of that year in St. Martin's Church Yard, Birmingham. His name is honoured in Cradley today in the name of Bassett Road which runs off Park Lane, not far from the present-day Park Lane Unitarian Chapel.
The Sacheverell Riots In the late autumn of 1709, in two sermons delivered at St Paul's Cathedral, High Church preacher, Tory cleric and Chaplain at St. Saviour's, Southwark, Dr. Henry Sacheverell (1674-1724) launched a fierce attack on the incumbent Whig government, the Hanoverian succession and what he considered to be the unduly tolerant attitude of the Church of England towards Dissenters. The sermons resulted in his being charged with seditious libel and he was tried, convicted, and sentenced (1710) to a three-year suspension from preaching.
Despite the mild sentence, the gratuitous advertisement which the Whigs afforded Sacheverell by prosecuting him led to mob riots in 1710, with violence particularly directed at Dissenting churches. These riots flared up again on the return of the Whig government 1715.
The mob attacks Pensnett Meeting House In 1715 rioters destroyed 30 Dissenting Meeting Houses, 11 in Staffordshire. After only eight years of existence, Pensnett Meeting House was attacked and burned down on 17th July 1715.
Compensation and rebuilding, 1716 In 1715, in response to a petition from the House of Commons, George I appointed a commission to enquire into the damages sustained by Protestants as the result of riotous assemblies between the date of his accession and 1 August 1715.
In Stafford in 1716 the commission heard the following deposition:6
Chris. Hooke, of Birmingham, age 63, deposed that John Godley, of Walsall, clerk, by a deed of 14 Oct. 1707, gave to farm Pensnett Meadow with the meeting-house erected thereon in Kingswinford parish, to John Spilsbury, clerk, John Warren, clerk, Josiah Turton, ironmonger, Henry Hunt, yeoman, Nich. Hancox, SythSmith, John Homer, ironmonger, Sam. Forrest, ironmonger, Wm. Deeley, carpenter, Wm. Perkes, yeoman, Jer. Blagg, glassworker, John Pearsall, yeoman, Wm. Parkes, of Pedmore, ironmonger, and John Coley, ironmonger. Spilsbury and the rest were seised 17 July 1715. Deposition that the meeting-house was set on fire 17 July, 1715, and the next day pulled down. Depositions of two bricklayers and a carpenter that it would cost £119 13s. 6d. to rebuild.
It appears that the estimates of the two bricklayers and one carpenter may have been too low, for Evans records7 with a hint of regret that
a new building was erected on the site of that which was demolished, partly at the expense of Governement; £119 13s. 6d was the sum granted, and more might have been obtained if applied for.
Death of Bassett, 1735 Bassett died in 1735 one Sunday evening after his return from Cradley, and was buried in St. Martin's Churchyard, Birmingham. Evans pays tribute to him thus8:
Basset(t) whose meeting-house was well attended, and who was indefatigable in discharging the duties of his office, was highly respected and much beloved by his people.
and records that at the time of Bassett's death the list of seat-holders at the Meeting House listed 230 seat-holders.
Joseph Fownes, 1736 Following the death of Bassett there appears to have been a period of perhaps a year in which the Society was unable to find a suitable new minister. Evans records9 that during that time
The congregation was supplied by Mr. Witton, of West Bromwich ; Mr Hancox, of Dudley ; Mr Edge, of Stourbridge ; Mr Bussel, of Wolverhampton ; Mr Stokes, of Worcester ; Mr Cardale, of Evesham ; Mr Barret, probably a student, and Mr Fownes, then a student at Findern.
Joseph Fownes became minister on 20th June, 1736, although according to Evans he was not ordained until 20th April 1743. During his term - throughout which he continued to live at Stourbridge - the Meeting House saw the addition of a gallery, and, in 1746 a charity school was established at what is now known as Lyde Green.
After twelve years' service to the Cradley congregation, Fownes removed to Shrewsbury in 1748.
Noah Jones, 1748 Joseph Fownes was succeeded by the Rev. Noah Jones, who became the first resident minister.
Jones was born in 1725 in the parish of Bettws, Carmarthenshire, Wales, and like Josiah Bassett was young (only 23 years of age) when he took up his post in 1748. He was ordained at the Meeting House on September 12th, 1750, in the presence of more than 700 people. His certificate of ordination reads10:
Cradley, September 12th, 1750. - We, whose names are underwritten, Protestant Dissenting Ministers, having received full satisfaction with regard to the abilities and moral character of Mr. N. Jones, did on the year and day above specified, proceed to ordain him as Christian minister, by prayer and imposition of hands, and we recommend him to the blessing of God wherever he shall have opportunity of employing his labours. - S. Bourn, Jos. Carpenter, J. Reynolds, Jas. Hancox, S. Phillips, J. Winter, Jos. Fownes, J, Jenkins, Job Orton
A "convenient parsonage house and a commodious building for the accomodation of two schools"11 were built in 1753 in what Bradley and Blunt state12 is believed to be the current Parsonage Drive, Netherend, near the present location of Park Lane Unitarian Chapel. Jones suffered the tragedy of his wife's death in childbirth13:
In 1760 he married a worthy young person of piety and fine amiable temper in the neighbourhood. In this relation he was exceedingly happy. A mutual esteem and tenderness, a mutual deference and forebearance subsisted, which accompanied with lively cheerfulness, and ardent friendship, rendered the state very comfortable. But alas! it continued but 15 months! Mrs Jones died in childbed, and her infant also in Sept. 1761 ... This affliction well improved and sanctified, prepared his mind for the remaining trials of his life.
In 1796 his wife's gravestone was taken to the present Park Lane Chapel from the Meeting House, where she had been buried.
Jones removed to Walsall in September, 1762 where he died on 14 December, 1785.
Membership of the congregation increased to a record high during Jones' fourteen-year term of office, but began to decline in his last year due to the presence of a new Methodist society in the area.
Joseph Baker, 1762 Jones was replaced by Joseph Baker in 1762, who had previously served for twelve years as a minister in Somerset.
During his term, the level of attendance at the Meeting House was impacted adversely by the introduction into the area of other places of worship. Evans states14 that
An Episcopal Chapel was built at Brierley Hill in 1767, and several families, who resided in the parish of Kingswinford, were threatened with expulsion from their farms and cottages if they continued to worship with the dissenters.
To add to Baker's woes, in 1768 the Methodists built a church at Cradley, followed in 1784 by a society adhering to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion which later split into the groups which formed Cradley's Church of England and Baptist churches. Baker served for twenty-seven years, resigning his pulpit on 14th June 1789, at which time the congregation presented him with the sum of twenty-five guineas. Returning from time to time to preach at Cradley and other local societies, Baker died on 21st January, 1805. By his particular request he was buried at the present-day Park Lane (Unitarian) Chapel which was built during the tenure of his successor, the remarkable James Scott.
James Scott, 1789 On 2nd May, 1789, the Society wrote to 21-year old James Scott of Stourbridge, who was finishing his theological studies at Daventry, inviting him to succeed Baker at Cradley.
It was a remarkably good choice, for Scott was to become a leading church personality in the area, widely respected even by those who did not completely share his religious views. He also left a priceless legacy to posterity in his writings. As Evans recounts15,
Scott was a born antiquary and historian; he never seems to have let even the most trivial events in his congregations pass unrecorded, with the result that as time goes on his manuscripts and records become of the greatest value. Had all old and modern societies been so fortunate as to own great, heavy, substantial volumes such as are the priceless treasures of Cradley in its MS. History of Cradley Presbyterian Church, by James Scott ; of Stourbridge in its 3 MS. Vols. of Records of the Presbyterian Church, by James and William Scott ; [...] the task of historians would be far easier than it generally is.
The extremely valuable volume [...] is enriched with water colour drawings, engravings and portraits, as well as containing important notes by Scott on the histories of neighbouring societies.
We shall commence with an 1829 account of Scott's life16:
James Scott was born March 4th 1768 at Stourbridge in the County of Worcester and in the parish of Oldswinford his father John Scott was descended from religious ancestors.
In 1758 he married Elizabeth Kettle of Evesham, whose parents were members of the Presbyterian Congregation in that place and in conjunction with his elder brother William Scott who afterwards resided at Birmingham, he conducted a woollen cloth manufactory in his native town.
His father died in his 51st year 1788 of consumption, and his mother died 22nd July 1800 aged 64 years. They were both interred in the family vault at Oldswinford.
Mr Scott had three sons, William, John and James (besides one who died in infancy) to each he gave a liberal education. James was sent to the school of Rev John Edge of Stourbridge, a Protestant dissenter.
In the 13th year of his age he engaged in a solemn act of self dedication to God and about that time, found the desire of devoting himself to the Christian Ministry. He left school at Birmingham on 28th August 1784 and went to the academy at Daventry.
On the 4th May 1788 James preached his first sermon at Bedford.
On the 6th May 1789 he received a letter from the Presbyterians at Cradley to become their Minister. He finished his studies and returned to Stourbridge and soon after determined to comply with the invitation of the Society of Cradley.
The Presbyterian Congregation of Cradley is of considerable antiquity. 14th June 1789 he commenced his stated ministry at Cradley.
Scott preached at Cradley for the first time on 21st June, 1789 and was ordained at the Meeting House on 11th May, 1790 in the presence of the congregation, which at that time numbered about 70 families17.
Mr Griffiths, of Wolverhampton, introduced the service with a short prayer ; Mr Carpenter, of Stourbridge, proposed the questions ; Mr Cole, formerly of Wolverhampton, conducted the ordination prayer ; Mr Scholefield, of Birmingham, delivered the charge from Titus ii., 1 ; Mr Gentleman, of Kidderminster, preached from Romans xvi. 3 ; Mr Amner, of Coseley, concluded with prayer ; and Mr Proctor, of Oldbury, read the hymns. The other ministers present were Mr. Wood, of Dudley ; Mr. Naylor, of Sheffield; Mr Wood, of Rothwell, and Mr Best, of Cradley.
Interestingly the last person named is Thomas Best, who at that time was heading the Independent Congregational Society and was later to conform to the Church of England and found St Peter's church. On the following Sunday the newly ordained Rev. Scott introduced the new procedure of standing to sing which had just been introduced at Stourbridge Presbyterian Church. Formerly18
Sit to sing and stand to pray,
Was the true old Presbyterian Way
Building commences at Netherend, 1794 In the early spring of 1794 the congregation purchased a portion of a field in Netherend from Mr John Brecknal at a cost of £30, and in the ensuing summer commenced the task of making the bricks for a new place of worship on the spot. Brecknal died, and the society purchased the remainder of the field for an additional £100. On 24 April, 1795, Scott preached a sermon appropriately based on Nehemiah ii., 18:
Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Scott's accompanied his call to the congregation to "rise up and build" with a catalogue of the problems with the Pensnett building19:
In the course of his sermon he observed that the place in which they were assembled, though not of great antiquity, was very slightly constructed. The pews in their decayed state could not be repaired without much expense. The society was frequently incommoded, and sometime its worship disturbed by floods in the winter season, and convenient accommodation could not be obtained by all who wished to procure it.
The first stone of the new church was laid two days later, on Tuesday, 26 April, 1795. Mr Pargeter of Foxcote was responsible for the building work, which progressed over the next twelve months.
From Pensnett to Netherend, 1796 The final service at Pensnett Meeting House was held on May 8th, 1796 and on the following Sunday20
The congregation of dissenters, denominated Presbyterians, lately assembling at the chapel on Pensnet Chace, adjoining the hamlet of Cradley, opened their newly-erected place of worship, a structure in which elegant simplicity and convenience are judiciously united.
On that first day of services at the new chapel, the Lord's Supper was administered in the morning, and the afternoon service was introduced by six baptisms.
The old Meeting House was sold to a Methodist group for £160 and the proceeds applied to the costs incurred in building the new Park Lane Chapel. In total21,
the first subscription list in 1795 realised £311 0s. 6d. towards the building fund ; the second and final one in 1806 raised £247 15s. 6d, which, with £100 legacy of the late Mr. T. Pargeter, sen., of Foxcote, £100 saved from the income of Stalling's Estate, £160 purchase money of Pensnet and some few other items made a total of £1,020 3s. 6d. which liquidated the building debt, thanks to the active exertions of Mr. J. Pargeter and the liberal contributions of the members and friends of the society.
It is worth pausing to reflect that (although direct comparisons are difficult to make) in 1806 £1,000 had roughly the same purchasing power as £42,000 has in the year 2001; and this from a community which was no stranger to struggle and privation. Cradley's entire population in 1806 - of which the Presbyterian community was only one section, and by no means the largest - was a mere 1,500 souls.
Scott records22 that at the end of the seventeenth century
95 families and 411 individuals belonged to the society which continued united and harmonious, and which numbered amongst its members some very excellent persons
Benjamin Carpenter joins Scott, 1807 Benjamin Carpenter succeeded Herbert Jenkins as minister to the Stourbridge Presbyterian congregation in 1807, and so became co-pastor to Cradley with Scott, officiating alternately at Cradley and Stourbridge. In 1811 Scott declared in a return of the number of baptisms, marriages and burials furnished to the Bishop of the diocese that 132 baptisms and 1 burial (that of Scott's predecessor, the Rev. Joseph Baker) had taken place at Park Lane Chapel in the 10 years from 1801-1810.
Thomas Warren, 1817 Benjamin Carpenter died in November 1816, and Thomas Warren took Carpenter's place at Stourbridge and thus also as co-pastor at Cradley.
Alexander Paterson, 1822 Alexander Paterson replaced Thomas Warren in 1822 at Stourbridge, and became (like Carpenter and Warren before him) co-pastor with Scott at Cradley. Bradley and Blunt write23 of Paterson that
He and Scott had met the previous year when Scott undertook a tour of Scotland and Paterson was a student at Glasgow University. He was ordained at Stourbridge in July 1823, and the following year was married in London, to Louisa Sweet of Cradley who was the granddaughter of Rev. Dr. Toulmin, a renowned Dissenting Minister.
From Presbyterian to Unitarian Very broadly, the Unitarian philosophy traditionally prefers the concept of the "oneness" of God rather than subscribing to the doctrine of the trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Unitarian web site of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches at http://www.unitarian.org.uk sets out a number of the key tenets of today's Unitarian faith. These include the belief that "everyone has the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves" and "respect and toleration to those who follow different paths of faith".
By the middle of the eighteenth century, Unitarianism had begun to establish a foothold in the United Kingdom in large industrial cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.
Unitarianism had strong connections with political and social issues, with Unitarians prominent in the movements for factory reform, prison reform, the abolition of slavery, temperance, and the early struggle for women's rights. Notable Unitarians included Josiah Wedgwood, Charles Booth, Florence Nightingale and Joseph Priestley.
Joseph Priestley is of particular interest to us, for he has a connection to Cradley. It is occasionally written that Joseph Priestley was from Cradley, or lived in Cradley, but this is due to a confusion with his son (also named Joseph Priestley) who did indeed live in Cradley. The senior Joseph Priestley emigrated to the United States in 1794, where he died in 1804. There is a Priestley Close in Cradley today.
Peter Barnsley's essay Cradley's Forgotten Connections, reproduced on this site, has further details on Joseph Priestley.
At some time before 1833 - the precise date is unknown - the Park Lane chapel moved from adhering to the Presbyterian faith to embracing Unitarianism. Bradley and Blunt note24 that James Scott
never referred to himself as a Unitarian, nor to the chapel as anything other than Presbyterian. The earliest reference we have found is in the Educational Survey of 1833, which lists Park Lane Day and Sunday Schools as Unitarian.
Trust Deed renewed, 1820 By June 1820 many of the original trustees had died, and the original Trust Deed was renewed, consolidating the trusteeship of the church, parsonage house and school. The trustees appointed were25:
Thos. Pargeter Netherend Maltster
Jas. Pargeter Netherend Maltster
Thos. Pargeter Foxcote Nail ironmonger
Wm. Scott Stourbridge Gent.
Rev. Thos. Warren Stourbridge
John Scott Stourbridge Gent.
Jos. Hancox Kinfarm Nail ironmonger
Rev. J. Bransby Dudley
Wm. Hornblower Cradley Iron Master
Wm. Oliver Cradley Maltster
Ed. Brettel Cradley Draper
Isaac Marston Cradley Gent.
Henry Shaw Cradley Farmer
J.S. Paterson Carless Green Nail ironmonger
R. Edwards Cradley Nail ironmonger
T. Pargeter Delph Gent.
Francis Hornblower Brierley Hill Gent.
Jos. Pargeter Carless Green Nail ironmonger
Thos. Sidaway Rowley Nail ironmonger
Scott and the parish registers Evans pays tribute26 to the importance which Scott attached to the Pensnett and Park Lane parish registers:
The volumes containing the register of Cradley baptisms, 1789-1817, and the first portion of the register, 1818-1837, bear silent testimony likewise to Scott's minute care and exactness. From the first of his entries on 23 May, 1790, to his last on 12 December, 1827 - but one week before his death - he records the baptisms of some 1,930 infants at his hands.
Evans also gives us Scott's Remarks on Ancient Registers27, transcribed from the first page of the earlier of the two registers:
Registers were first ordered to be kept in Great Britain and Ireland in the year 1538, in the reign of Henry VIII. Their utility is manifest. They greatly assist at any time in ascertaining the population of the Kingdom, or of any particular district. They are in many cases appealed to as valuable evidence in courts of Judicature, and frequently contribute to the satisfaction of individuals. It must indeed be acknowledged that in some parishes and dissenting congregations these Records have not been uniformly kept with that regularity and exactness which their importance demands.
This remark is exemplified in the history of the Presbyterian Chapel in Cradley. Mr. Basset, the first stated minister, settled A.D. 1707, and died 1735. No Register during this period has yet been found. Mr. Fownes succeeded him, in 1736 : on his removal to Shrewsbury, Mr Jones settled at Cradley in 1748, who was succeeded by Mr Baker in 1762. During these ministrations most of the children belonging to the vicinity were baptized by the Dissenting Ministers of Stourbridge.
[Between 1736 and 1777 inclusive, 63 Cradley children, 37 m. and 26 f. are entered in the Stourbridge Register. G. E. E.]
It appears that the number registered is very inconsiderable, and that for several long intervals no baptisms are recorded. From the year 1777 to 1790 a chasm remains, which cannot yet be filled up. But it is also a fact that during the whole of the period under consideration the ministers of Cradley baptized many children, and inserted their names on detached papers. Should any of these be rescued from oblivion they will be transcribed in the following pages. - J. Scott
Scott's words that the registers "frequently contribute to the satisfaction of individuals", together with his obvious hope (alas, as yet unfulfilled) that the "detached papers" might still be found, surely show him to be very much a kindred spirit of the readers and creators of this web site.
Death of James Scott, 1827 Scott suffered a stroke in December 182728:
at the close of the afternoon service, he suddenly became inaudible. Some friends, hastening to his relief, found that an apoplectic seizure had taken place. Being conveyed to his house, medical assistance of two eminent surgeons was speedily obtained, but their efforts were not crowned with success ... The patient continued in an apparently unconscious state, till Wednesday morning, four o'clock, when he quietly departed this life
His body was conveyed to Stourbridge Presbyterian Chapel (today Unitarian), where he was buried on December 26th 1827. His monument there records29:
This monument, a tribute of brotherly affection, is inscribed to the memory of the Revd. James Scott, son of John and Elizabeth Scott of this town, born March 1st 1768. Aspiring at a very early age after the office of a Christian minister, to which in succeeding years he became most ardently devoted: He received an education suitable to that profession at the Academy of Daventry, his sphere of usefulness was widely extended; settling as pastor of a congregation of Protestant dissenters at Cradley A.D. 1789; Conducting a Lord's Day evening service in a chapel erected at the Lye-waste in 1806; and becoming co-pastor to the congregation assembling in this Chapel in 1807; All of which engagements he continued faithfully to fulfil till the time of his death, Decr. 19th 1827 at the age of 59. His sudden removal was the cause of inexpressible grief to his relatives, friends and the people of this charge, as also to the neighbourhood in which he resided, and to the community at large. Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
There is today a James Scott Road in Cradley.
After Scott According to Evans, there was a period following Scott's death during which duties at Park Lane were performed by three ministers.
Firstly, Alexander Paterson, with entries in the register from January 6th 1828 to September 14th 1828; then John Synclair Hyndman, from September 28th 1828 to 20th September 1829; and lastly Robert Kell from September 20th 1829 to December 27th, 1829.
William Bowen The period of temporary ministers which followed Scott's death ended with the appointment of William Bowen, who also ministered to the Lye Waste Chapel. Bowen, who was born on the 18th July, 1800 at Walsall, served at Cradley for 22 years, marrying Marianne Priestley, a grand-daughter of the famous Joseph Priestley (see above). He left Cradley in 1850 for Kingswood Chapel, and a few years later emigrated to Australia, where his son Aubrey (who died in 1893) became a noted opthalmic surgeon; there is an Aubrey Bowen Wing (1896) at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Morrison Place, East Melbourne.
The Bowen family built a house in Kew, Melbourne, which they named Cradley; there is now a Cradley Avenue in that suburb.
William Cochrane, 1850 Bowen was succeeded by William Cochrane, born in Rademon in Ireland's County Down in 1819. Cochrane held office for the remarkably long period of 35 years. At the time of Evans' Midland Churches (1899) from which we have quoted so extensively, he was still able to write30
The sweet memories of William Cochrane, and of his long, happy ministry, are still fresh in the place.
Cochrane died on October 18th, 1890, and is buried at Park Lane.
James Crossley, 1885 Cochrane was succeeded in 1885 by James Crossley from Hastings, who served until 1891 and then removed to Bolton.
Arthur Ellis O'Connor, 1891 O'Connor ministered at Park Lane until 1894. Like so many in Cradley during that period, he was a Liberal (see Peter Barnsley's Village Statesmen on this site) and actively supported the election to Parliament of Benjamin (later Sir Benjamin) Hingley as the member for North Worcestershire which, in 1889, included Halesowen. After leaving Cradley, he returned to Ireland to serve in Moira, County Down.
Edward Potter Hall, 1894 The last incumbent of the 19th century at Park Lane was Edward Potter Hall. Born at Wortley, Leeds, on September 17, 1855, he was educated in the United States at St. Louis and Memphis, married Alice Marian White in March, 1884, and served Cradley until 1902.
Park Lane Unitarian Chapel c. 1904 - our thanks to Mick Mearman for this image
Park Lane Unitarian Chapel c. 1904 - our thanks to Mick Mearman for this image
Ministers to 190031
1704-1735 Josiah Bassett
1735-1748 Joseph Fownes
1748-1762 Noah Jones
1762-1789 Joseph Baker
1789-1827 James Scott
1807-1816 Benjamin Carpenter Co-pastor
1817-1821 Thomas Warren Assistant
1822-1827 Alexander Paterson Assistant
1828-1859 William Bowen
1850-1885 William Cochrane
1883-1884 John James Wright Assistant
1885-1891 James Crossley
1891-1894 Arthur Ellis O'Connor
1894-1902 Edward Potter Hall
The principal sources for this article were:
G. Eyre Evans, Midland Churches (1899)
Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt, The History of Cradley Churches Part One: 1700-1800 The Formative Years (Windmill Hill Drop-in Centre, 1999) cited here as The Formative Years
Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt, The History of Cradley Churches Part Two: 1800-1900 Growing Apart (Windmill Hill Drop-in Centre, 1999) cited here as Growing Apart
William Scott, Stourbridge and its Vicinity (1829)
John Beach, Registers of Park Lane Presbyterian Church, Cradley, Worcs. (Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry, 1979)
Cradley Links wishes to record our gratitude to Jill Guest for supplying copies of the works by G. Eyre Evans and William Scott.
We would also like to thank Mick Mearman for permission to reproduce the 1904 photograph of the church and the protrait of Rev. Arrowsmith Hyde Shelley from his transcription of "An Illustrated Handbook of the Presbyterian, Unitarian and other Liberal Christian Churches in the Midlands, with a short life of Dr. Priestley" at http://www.hymnsinharmony.freeserve.co.uk/index2.htm .
1 James Scott Memoirs (1829) quoted in The Formative Years p. 1
2 Evans p. 89
3 Ibid., p. 90
4 Ibid., p. 90
5 The Formative Years, p. 2
6 Public Record Office. E. 179.6908 quoted in The Formative Years, p. 3
7 Evans p. 91
8 Ibid., p. 91
9 Ibid., p. 91
10 Ibid., p. 92
11 Ibid., p. 92
12 The Formative Years p. 4
13 Unitarian Historical Society Transactions XVIII 1984 - The Life and Ministry of Noah Jones - Retirement Denied (Alan Sell) cited in The Formative Years p. 5
14 Evans p. 93
15 Ibid., p. 96
16 James Scott, Memoirs (1829)
17 Evans p. 93
18 Ibid., p. 93
19 Ibid., p. 94
20 Protestant Dissenter's Magazine, 1796, quoted in Evans p. 94
21 Evans p. 94
22 James Scott Memoir p.12, quoted in The Formative Years, p. 8
23 Growing Apart, p. 4
24 Ibid., p. 2
25 James Scott Manuscript (1800-1826), quoted in Growing Apart p.3
26 Evans, p. 96
27 Ibid., p. 97
28 James Scott Memoir (1829) p. 31 quoted in Growing Apart, p. 4
29 Personal communication from Nigel Brown
30 Evans p. 98
31 Ibid., p. 89