Visitors to Hebden Bridge often find their way to the older hilltop town of Heptonstall, but few find their way to the other hilltop settlement on the opposite side of the valley of the Hebden Water – Old Town.
Up the hill above Old Town stands the Wainsgate Baptist Church, founded by the Particular Baptists c1750.
The second minister, Rev John Fawcett (1740-1817), had packed up ready to move to a better-placed ministry in London, when the distress of his Yorkshire congregation at losing him made him change his mind and remain in Hebden Bridge for the rest of his life. He used this experience when he wrote the great nonconformist hymn, ‘Blest be the tie that binds’.
The present church dates from 1859-60, a typically robust, elegant classical, galleried chapel, expensively embellished at the end of the nineteenth century.
It’s hard to imagine how the houses scattered along the hillside could fill the chapel and the Sunday school – and the graveyard – year in, year out, but they did.
This fine Grade II* listed building was taken over by the Historic Chapels Trust after it closed in 2001 [http://www.hct.org.uk/chapels/yorkshire/wainsgate-baptist-church/21], and it’s now used as a venue for musical events.
To see what’s on, go to http://wainsgate.co.uk. It’s worth turning up in good time to be sure of a parking place.
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.