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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 16 Mar 2019, 06:08


In 1860 trade was slack in the town and several of Mr Bennett's church members left the town, some, like the entire Pickles family, migrated to America on the promise of land, a cow and a job in the New England textile mills. ( The Pickles family found that the promises weren't kept and returned to found a business in Barlick) We are told that Mr Bennett was prevailed on by his church elders to go into business at Clough Mill as a manufacturer to provide work for those in his flock who were considering moving. This looked like an altruistic and successful initiative at first and Bennett is recorded in the 1861 census as Baptist Minister and Manufacturer at Clough Mill with 43 employees. In 1861 the American Civil War broke out, cotton exports from the Deep South stopped and what we know as the Cotton Famine started. Some manufacturers like the Slaters at Clough had experience of using other fibres, for example they had an interest in a silk mill at Galgate near Lancaster, and they moved over to wool and linen and managed to survive the hard times. We don't know exactly what Bennett did, all we know for certain is that by 1868 he was made bankrupt when the Slater Brothers who owned the mill, foreclosed on him and the enterprise foundered.
This is where things started to get ugly and a series of events in 1868 led to a schism in the Baptist congregation which led to them splitting into two factions, one supporting Thomas Bennett and the other opposing him. By the end of 1868 the new Bethesda Chapel was closed and deserted.
Over the years, from many separate sources I think I have gathered enough hard evidence to detail most of what happened. The initial trigger for the break seems to have been when Clayton Slater 'brought charges' against Bennett and tried to get him dismissed as pastor. This failed and Bennett gathered his followers together and they worshipped in Old Coates Mill which was empty at the time. The other faction moved back into the original chapel in Walmsgate and appointed James Wilkinson to be their pastor. The Baptist Association tried to arbitrate and eventually found in favour of the Walmsgate faction but Bennett, armed with the trust deeds and the continuing administration of part of the old chapel, reneged on his promise to accept arbitration and took over both chapels. Under Wilkinson's administration the Walmsgate faction made one more attempt at reconciliation in 1870 by calling a meeting in the Old Chapel but this never took place as Bennett took physical possession of the building and turned Wilkinson and his followers away.
Left homeless they started to worship in New Laithe, a barn on Rainhall Road on the site of the modern telephone exchange. They had 72 members and 220 scholars and other adherents.
There is much more to come and that seems like a good place to stop. I shall be back, there is more to tell!


The Old Chapel in 1979 when it was a furniture store.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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