Decorated initial B

y about 1814, the Committee at the Congregationalist Jubbergate Chapel became dissatisfied with their minister as numbers had declined: they felt an obligation to declare God’s glory more actively. “Conscious that more efficient methods should be adopted, a few friends in York, on the resignation of the late minister of the congregation in Jubbergate” convened a meeting to devise “some plan which may be for the furtherance of the Gospel among them… considering they are under obligation to their Saviour to attempt to declare his glory in a City containing 20,000 inhabitants where they have previously done little.” Their aim was “restoring wandering souls to God, and the edification of all who may voluntarily choose to worship with them” and to make changes that would be “a lasting blessing to many of the inhabitants of York and its environs” (Ellerby 31). This led directly to the move to a new, bigger chapel on a plot in Lendal, one of the principal streets of York (Inventory, building 29; Pevsner and Neave 222).

The Lendal Chapel.

The architect James Pigott Pritchett (1789-1868) was a member of the Jubbergate Chapel, and a founder-member as well as the architect of the Lendal Chapel (Ellerby 5). He was a deacon there from 1816. When, in 1839, the even larger Salem chapel was built, again Pritchett was the architect. Its classical façade closed the view at the head of St Saviourgate, though the chapel was actually on St Saviour’s Place. This building seated nearly 1700; it was demolished in 1964 (Murray, 20-1; Inventory, building 31, pls. 66, 67, fig. 32). Pritchett himself stayed with the remnant at the Lendal chapel. He resigned as a deacon, for the second time, in 1851, and died in 1868 at his house in St Mary’s, Bootham.

An account of Nonconformist activity in York, probably begun by another member at Lendal, William Ellerby, was taken up by Pritchett after Ellerby moved to Rochdale in 1821, and the account continues to about 1850 concentrating on the Lendal chapel, its members, officials, accounts, and its struggles and successes. Latterly Pritchett had disagreements with Richard Soper, minister 1845-47, but he completed the History before retiring as a deacon.

The congregation grew at the Lendal Chapel - even when the novelty had worn off, the writer remarks - for by the end of 1822, even with 950 seats, 90 more had to be added in the aisles; other areas were enlarged. Initially, it was visiting ministers, and laymen including Pritchett, that had experienced the growth in numbers: the first regular minister, James Parsons, was invited in 1822; numbers still increased. In 1824 gas-lighting was installed, it was the first chapel in York to be so lit, and this “greatly contributed to the comfort and cleanliness of the Chapel” (Murray 15). The site slopes steeply down to the river, and a basement had originally been included on that side; it was used chiefly for the Sabbath School, of which Pritchett was the superintendent. The apse was part of an extension to this area in 1827.

The maximum attendance, at the three services on a Sunday, was in winter evenings. In 1837 James Riddall Wood of the Manchester Statistical Society arranged a count of all congregations worshipping in York (Ellerby 87, note). At Lendal Chapel there were 980 at morning service, 520 in the afternoon and 1150 in the evening: this surpassed the 1000 at the Wesleyan New Street Chapel. Lendal Chapel also ran a weekly prayer meeting which 80 attended; while the Sabbath School had 270 scholars and 30 voluntary teachers. An outreach hall in Walmgate had been reclaimed from secular use and had a further 175 children and 40 teachers (Ellerby 85-7). Lendal Chapel at various times also ran outreach meetings in the Groves, Acomb, Clifton, Stockton, Water Lane and Heslington; a few became more or less permanent meetings. Tracts were taken round homes in the city by 120 visitors, and 1700 families were thereby visited: many of the 408 members of the chapel would have been actively involved in all this; many rented their pews, which encouraged stability. The initial appeal for support had gone out to minsters and congregations throughout Yorkshire; business meetings and church occasions always list a large number of visiting ministers, while lay members have responsibilities, and opportunities to speak.

The Salem Chapel.

The choice to move or not to the new Salem chapel was given to all members, who were expected to return a printed slip marked with their decision (Ellerby 91). A prospective pastor would be engaged for a trial period, but was not always invited to take on the care of the church and congregation (Ellerby 27, 95-6). These features, with the emphasis on each individual’s responsibility for the whole, are characteristic of the Congregationalist organisation, and clearly chimed with the age.

Edward Royle’s edition of the History includes photographs of the exterior and interior of Lendal Chapel (opp. 119, 125), also architectural drawings by Pritchett of several Nonconformist chapels in York (153-169). The Lendal Chapel, of which Pritchett was such a devoted member, closed in 1929.

Links to related material


Ellerby, William, and James Piggott Pritchett. A History of the Nonconformist Churches of York. Edited and with an introduction by Edward Royle. Borthwick Texts and Calendars, 1993. The original manuscript is in the Borthwick Institute, University of York, ref. Staff Library 016 YOR/BOR Google Books (full view). Web. 6 June 2022.

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York. Volume 5, Central. HMSO: London, 1981.

Murray, Hugh. Nathaniel Whittock’s Birds Eye View of the City of York in the 1850s. York: Friends of City Art Gallery, 1988.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, and David Neave. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.

Created 6 June 2022