History of Westcliffe Road Chapel


It was decided to build a Town Mission in Shipley for a place of worship and a 'Ragged Sunday School'. The site was opposite the Oddfellows in Otley Road next to the railway. The size was to be 20 by 10 yds. The cost of this wooden building with a slate roof would be £150  - it was built in a style popular in America, (a).

The opening was held on the weekend Sat/Sunday 4th & 5th April 1868. There was a tea which fed 300 and in the evening (Sat) there were entertainments. These were recitals and music both vocal and instrumental. Sun April 5th There were two sermons preached and collections taken which amounted to £26. The speakers were W. Umpleby (Prim. Methodist) in the morning and Mr Lang of the mission in the evening, (b).

The mission were presented with 40 'handsome' and useful seats by Sir Titus Salt. He gave them from the 'Dining Hall' down Victoria Road. (c).

Laying of Foundations of Westcliffe Chapel
. March 29th 1875

The railway company wanted to buy the land on which the 'Mission' was sited so after obtaining the piece of land from Lady Rosse in West Cliff Road, there was a ceremony when a 'corner stone' was laid on the foundations. This took place on Easter Monday March 29th. The total length of the building was to be 75 ft including the cottages which were built later. The cost of the site was £371 and the contract to build was £1675. (d).

The masons were Pitt and Crabtree
The joiners were D. Hainsworth and Son.
The plasterers were Joseph Wilks and Son
The plumbers were S. Rushworth and Son.
The slater was R. Thornton
The architects were Crabtree and Son
(These were all Shipley firms).

At 2 O'clock the scholars, teachers and friends (several hundreds) assembled at the old Town Mission and marched to the site of the new building. A hymn was sung, then the Rev. D.R.Cowan (Congregational) offered a prayer. The Rev. Mr. Featherstone (Wesleyan) read the scriptures and Mr. T. Forster, a member of the Town Mission, placed beneath the stone, about to be laid, a number of coins of the realm, copies of the Bradford Observer and the Budget and other documents. He then presented to Mr. Mark Stainsby a silver trowel from the members of the mission. Mr. Stainsby after laying the corner stone briefly addressed the assembly. Another hymn was then sung followed by a short address given by Rev. J. Mayland (Primitive Methodist). The Rev. M Cossey (Baptist) offered the concluding prayer and benediction.

Tea was then provided in the old chapel (Mission), after tea a public meeting was held, Mr. Stainsby presided.

In 1902 there were 50 members. 220 Sunday School Scholars, 21 S. School teachers (male and female) and 2 superintendents.

Land Enclosure

On November 14th 1814 a petition was presented to the House of Commons by 'several owners of estates in the manor and township of Shipley1 setting forth that there were in the township of Shipley "several commmons and parcels of waste ground which might be improved by being enclosed'.

The bill received the Royal assent on 12th May 1815. The moorland was surveyed and was found to measure 277 acres. Certain tracks were set out as roads. A small amount of money and ground was allotted to the surveyors of highways as quarries for building the roads. The Lord of the Manor at that time was John Wilmer Field of Heaton. He was the grandfather of the Lord Rosse of telescope fame; and the great-grandfather of the present holder of the titles and estates, who lives in Birr Castle, Ireland, (e).

John Wilmer Field took one sixteenth in value of the whole moor for 'manorial right'. Thus he secured 65 acres at the corner of Moorhead Lane and Bradford Road. He also had an additional 65 acres on Stoney Ridge overlooking Cottingley.

Beside his capacity as Lord of the Manor, he also had private land which was not less than 69^ acres including some of the best land and it joined up with his existing estates. He also had the greater part of the land between Church Street Shipley and Saltaire. A Small part of his land he was "encouraged to present" to Shipley for the site of the Parish Church, St. Pauls 1826.

Most of the high moor between Cottingley and Heaton was divided between J.W. Field, William Wainman and Samuel Cunliffe Lister.

The land which was left was divided amongst the farmers and cottagers. This land was often in tiny strips scattered here and there. The cottagers promptly sold these plots of land, and ended up with no land at all and no common for their animals to feed on.

The plot of land which Westcliffe Chaple was built on was called 'PEASELAND' at this time and was in the possession of J.W. Field.                                                                 ,

Shipley Town Mission Institute

In 1867 a band of men were meeting together in a hired room and they decided to secure a piece of land and errect a small wooden chapel. They secured a site which was at a corner in Shipley where Briggate joined Westgate. There they built their wooden building and called it the 'Town Mission Institute'.

It was big enough to hold 250 persons, a pastor was not selected by the congregation but lay preachers were asked to preach there from the local Methodists, Baptists etc. This chapel was next to the railway. The Midland Railway Company wanted the land for improvements to the railway (goodsyard) and in 1874 bought the chapel and site, to be pulled down as soon as they could find suitable accommodation elsewhere.

The elders and deacons of the 'Institute' approached the Countess of Rosse, who was the daughter of J.W. Field and who now owned the land. She had been married to Lord Oxmantown in 1836 and he died in 1867. After much discussion on the matter, the Countess agreed to donate the land - which was then valued at £68. The chapel was to house 2 adjoining cottages and the frontage in West Cliff Road.

The foundations were laid in March and the building was finished by December of the same year.

The deeds were drawn up 18 months later on May 9th 1877, and they stipulate that should a sale of the church ever become necessary the proceeds should go to one or more of the religious denominations in Shipley. Also that it should never be sold to be used as a 'place of vain amusement, e.g. Singing saloon, theatre, public house or brewery'.(f)

The undertaking of this project must have seemed a very big thing for these men at that time. Shipley consisted of a community of only 700 dwellings, which had a total assessment value of £9,000. There were also at this time established Baptist and Congregational churches as well as the Anglican Church.

In the deeds it also says 'upon trust that the said Chapel upon the said plot of land, West Cliff Road Christian Church, and under trust the said Chapel and all other buildings to be used for the purpose of Protestant Worship of Almighty God and upon trust that Sunday School shall be established in connection with the said Chapel'.

The founders names in the deeds are still names that can be found in Shipley today.
They were :-

William Mosley.......Warp Dresser            Samuel Weatherhead.....Woolsorter
Jonas Dean............Warp Dresser            John Green...................Quarryman
Thomas Lord..........Warp Dresser            Samuel Dawson............Dyer
James Wooler.........Warp Dresser           Ezra Midgley..............Grocer
Jonathan Alderson..Overlooker                 Eli Midgley.................Joiner
Thomas Foster.......Blacksmith                George Gill.................Cordwainer
Thomas Slingsby.....Quarrryman              DavidNunn.................Cordwainer
Cuthbert Shields.....Cordwainer*              John Coulton                  Woolsorter

John Coulton was from the parish of Manningham, Bradford, all the rest were from Shipley. When the Chapel was opened   there were 26 Sunday School teachers, both male and female and 2 superintendents.

*Old name for shoemaker.

Bradford Observer Tuesday Dec. 28th 1875

Page 3. An account of the opening of West Cliff Road Chapel, Shipley.

The opening services in connection with the completion of West Cliff Road Chapel Shipley were held on Christmas Day and Sunday, and will be continuing on Sunday next. Under their old name of Shipley Town Mission the congregation met in a wooden chapel near the Oddfellows hall, which the Midland Railway Company cleared away for the extension of their goods yard. The purchase money mutually agreed upon in this transaction was £1,580, which, after paying off a mortgage of £500 upon the building, left the congregation with about £1000 towards another edifice. They have much cause for congratulations on having through the circumstances aquired a substantial and commodious building in place of the wooden erection. The new chapel has a frontage of simple Italian design to West Cliff Road, a thoroughfare recently made upon a portion of Lady Rosse's estate, communicating from Hall Lane to Bingley Road. It is admirably arranged for the purpose required by the congregation,and consists of a preaching-room with entrance from West Cliff Road, and lofty well-lighted school-room beneath, having two entrances on a level with the side streets. The chapel, which is also lofty and well-lighted, has accomodation for about 450 persons. The seats are of a comfortable pattern, stained and varnished, and there is an ample platform, with projecting pulpit, which is reached from the vestry in the school-room. In the rear of the building the architect has arranged for two dwellings, which may be added to the chapel, should such a course be necessary at any time. The architects were Messrs. Crabtree and Son, of Shipley. The cost inclusive of the land, has been about £2300. Towards this the committee have the £1000 mentioned above, and they have recieved since in subscriptions £360. It is hoped that with the receipts of the opening services this sum will be increased to above £400, leaving a deficit of between £800 and £900. As the congregation have been generously supported in their endeavours thus far, they do not doubt their ability to grapple with the above debt. Among other helps received toward the furnishing of the new chapel, Mr. H.Vernon has contributed a very handsome Bible and velvet cushion for the pulpit. Since their removal to the new chapel, although no alterations have taken place in other respects, the congregation have adopted the name of the West Cliff Road Christian Church. All the pulpit ministrations are by lay preachers, assisted by services rendered by ministers of the neighbourhood. They have a good Sunday School and an increasing congregation. Although preachings have been held for several months in the school-room, the first services in the chapel were conducted on Christmas Day morning by Rev. D.R.Cowan of Saltaire. On the evening of the same day, a public tea and meeting were held, when the chair was taken by Mr. T.Upton of Idle, and addresses were given by several ministers and others.

The services held at this time used to be at 10.30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday schools at 9.30 a.m. and 1.45 p.m.

The chapel keeper lived at 17 Castle Street. His name was Sam Dawson. He was a founder member. His trade was dyer.

Ivy Rennard remembers Sam Dawson in 1919/20, 45 years later....

Westcliffe Chapel   1915/16 - 1919/20  The Memories of Miss Ivy Rennard later Sunderland.

After the turn of the century to combat the attractions of the 'world' e.g. bicycle riding,   a new freedom in thought now that Darwin's theory made people question God's explanation of how the world was made, churches and chapels became more social to try and keep up the numbers. So, clubs classes and other interests began under the chapel roofs.

During this time Westcliffe developed some of these new interests. The first was the orchestra. The choir had already been in existence for some time.

The orchestra consisted of:-
4 first violins
4 second violins
1 'cello
1 flute
1 oboe and a double bass.

Violins - Bert and Gladys Ryall; Mr. A. Slingsby; Miss I Rennard.
Violin and 'cello - George and Alfred Guilds
Oboe - Herbert Parker.

Also in the orchestra were Harold Halton and  Joe Sutcliffe. Sometimes Arthur Sunderland played double bass when the normal double bass player wasn't there. Mr. Lightfoot played the organ and also Mr. Sutcliffe.

There was also a concert party called the Comedy Eight. This included Ivy Rennard and May Ogden who sang as "Bobbie and Billie". Other players included Harold Home, Fred Ives and Arthur Sunderland.

Miss Ivy Rennard taught in the Sunday School, sang in the choir as well as performing in the orchestra and the concert party. The choir often joined choirs from other chapels to perform the Messiah; often at Windhill Mission.

The orchestra used to visit Baildon Green Chapel and Wrose Hill Chapel to play at "Stand-ups". These were often anniversaries and were nearly always followed by a ham tea.

The services at thistime were Sunday School, 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.,followed by a service at 3 p.m. at which the orchestra played and then a service in the evening.

The "Comedy 8' was under the control of Mr. Jennings (he was the Co-op manager at Thackley) and they had rehersals every Wednesday. It was a light hearted group who went round performing at the chuches and chapels in the area. Such things as '"Paddy Maginty's  goat" and "If you were the only girl in the world" were hot favourites, and often an encore was called for.

Among the congregation was Mrs. Emmott (g) who collected "doctors money" as a kind of insurance to pay for the doctor when you were ill. Mr. Dawson who was fond of shouting "Praise the Lord" and "Amen" and requesting the last verse of a hymn to be played again and Laud Midgley who for some reason we will probably never know, always sat seperately to his wife. Another person in the congregation was Annie Gerrard (sister of Ivy Rennard) who lived in the cottages at the back of the chapel with her husband and three year old daughter. She was the caretaker of the chapel.

During the four years of this period when Ivy Rennard attended Westcliffe chapel -Annie sent for the chimney sweep to clear out the soot in the cottages. There was a sootbox in the attic and the chimney sweep showed this to Annie. Unfortunately he dropped the
sootbox causing it to fall on her and the soot went into her lungs. Within three weeks she had died leaving her small child motherless.

At this time there was no minister or pastor but speakers came from different churches and chapels in the district. There were no marriages performed there either.

Westcliffe Chapel 1941-1954 (The memories of Connie Pitchforth)

Quite a group of people came from Rosse Street Baptist Chapel (Rosse Street Rebels) after a mis-understanding.

Westcliffe was struggling to keep going at this time, although the orchestra and choir were still there. When the War broke out the school room downstairs was used as a barracks and also used as a postal sorting office, so the Sunday School was held upstairs
during this time.

Three ladies led the Sunday School.
Miss Edith Copley     -         Speaking parts.
Miss Nellie Riddiough  -     Played the piano.
Mrs. Clair Beaton      -        In charge of the singing.

These produced the Sunday School Anniversaries "Cantatas"; they were very professionally done, rehearsed twice weekly from the first week in March to the dress rehearsal in May. Every child in the Sunday School took part, from the babies to the senior scholars (3-16 years).

A special platform was erected during the war but after the war performances were held downstairs.

These cantatas took the form of a story, e.g.

The Lighthouse - an actual cardboard lighthouse was built in the pulpit and the finale brought the switching on of a light at the top, depicting the light of the World.

God's Word a Picture - a large flannelgraph and each child adding their piece of the picture after singing a solo or recitation.

The Crown - large crown built up with different jewels added.

A new pastor came to the Chapel, Mr. Stanley Meridith. This pastor was extremely popular and took a great interest in teenagers. He started a group called "The Concert Party". He produced this and often took part in the sketches. This concert party went round many of the chapels in the Shipley and Bradford area, to raise funds for each chapel.

The group consisted of:-
Producer                      Stanley Meredith   (Pastor)
Stage Manager              Charles Beaton
Choreographer              Claire Beaton
Pianist                          Joyce Partington
Harold Giles (S.S Secretary)
Jack Cockerham (father of Robert)
Arthur Simpson  (Assistant Pastor)
Dorothy Smith
Connie Pitchforth.

The Sunday school also did a Pantomime every year, which involved everyone; fathers helped with the scenery, mothers made the costumes, the ladies of the chapelcprovided refreshments.

In 1951 Stanley Meredith left Westcliffe Chapel. Arthur Simpson took over but he was never as popular as Meredith. He introduced the young people to a similar group at Eccleshill Baptist Church. During this time Westcliffe Road was a typical thriving Chapel. There was a Parents Association, Sunday School trips, Choir trips, Saturday afternoon Jumble Sales and Bazzaars.

Monday evening          S.S teacher preparation classes
Tuesday                      Bible class
Wednesday                 Choir practice
Thursday                     Gang Show rehearsal
Friday                          Youth club
Saturday                      Social Evening

Concerts and garden parties were often held.

The Memories of Mr. & Mrs. Bray.

1946/47     Meredith asisted by Simpson
1951          Mr. Simpson
Mr. Brookes
Mr. Brown
Arthur Simpson came back in 1959.

Full time pastors were only at Westcliffe for a short time; spanning about 26 years.

Westcliffe had always remained non-conformist but at this time used the Methodist Hymn Book and often had preachers from Methodist churches;   e.g.   Archie Vickerman - Windhill Methodist Mission, A. Unwin and Rev. S. Wilson.

Whitsuntide  was quite a festival. New clothes were worn and the "church" went round the streets and to hospitals singing. After this, back to Westcliffe Chapel for "long bun" and tea, followed by games.

Sunday School - The Secretary was Jack Cockerham and the assistant was Mr. Bray, (who also pumped the organ). The organ was
motorised in 1956.

It was a very large Sunday School at this period. Morning from  9.30 - 10.15 Afternoons from 2.00 - 3.00

When Pastor Simpson left Westcliffe, members began to dwindle and continued to do so until the "Brethren" from Salem chapel came. The church was shared for a time until the last few handed over the deeds to the 'Brethren'.

At the beginning of Westcliffe Chapel's history Christianity was a very serious affair for the founders. There were serious services, Bible studies and large Sunday School. As the Darwin theory progressed, the bicycle improved, Women's freedom was gained and excursion trains multiplied, Westcliffe Chapel's Non-comformity became a more social thing, with large Sunday Schools still, anniversary concerts, pantomimes, concert parties, bazaars, choirs etc. During these years no pastor had been appointed until the second World War when Pastor Meredith, a very popular gentleman came to the chapel. Up to this time babies had been christened, but in 1951 when Pastor Simpson took over he introduced a Baptist influence by linking the chapel with Eccleshill Baptist Church. Children were then "dedicated" instead of christened, but the social occasions carried on in much the same way until the Brethren came in 1961. Adult baptism is now carried on and the Christianity is once more a serious thing. A lot of different activities for children and teeenagers, Bible studies, but no entertainments, bazaars or jumble sales exist any more.

In 1961 a group of Brethren who had been meeting at Salem Chapel, Otley Road, Shipley, which was originally a Congregational chapel, joined themselves to the very small group of people still attending Westcliffe Chapel. The deeds were later handed over to the now thriving membership. When the Chapel was first built it was almost hidden by rows of streets and back-to-back terrace houses. These were demolished in the 1960's and a tax computer centre was going to be built. This plan was altered so for quite a time the Chapel stood on its own surrrounded by beautiful parkland.

During the late 1960's plans were made to pull down Westcliffe Chapel and build a modern building at the back of the swimming baths. Fortunately Bradford Council took over Shipley Council (Bradford Metropolitan Council) and they cancelled the building of a new chapel. Since then extensive alterations have taken place inside the Chapel and the organ has been re-built to a cost of approximately £20,480. This was completed and re-opened on March 1st. 1980.

On 30th April 1982 Westcliffe Chapel has become a listed building and so it is protected from demolition; it is also still being used for the purpose which it was built 109 years ago.

In 1983 a large Asda supermarket was planned to be built to one side of the chapel and also a car park. This was completed and opened the following summer in 1984.

Sheltered homes were then planned at each side of the chapel and also a senior citizens activity building. In 1986 these were built and the chapel now stands as it did in the 1950's, surrounded by homes once more.

a) The Bradford Observer March 28th. 1868
b) The Bradford Observer April 6th. 1868
c) The Bradford Observer 9th. July 1868
d) Bradford Observer 30th. March 1875
e) W. Parsons 3rd Earl of Rosse 1800 - 1867 He built the largest telescope at that time at Birr castle (Spiral Nebulae).
f) This is the exact wording in the deeds.
g) Re 'doctors money'. This was still collected until 1947 when the N.H.S. came into being. The 1911 Insurance Act did not fundamentaly alter the need for patients to pay for medical care and the necessity for doctors to collect their fees.

The historical information up to this point was researched and collated by Mrs C Elsworth in 1984, a member of the Church.

Originally the Church Hall (upstairs) had pews and choir stalls either side of the pipe organ. In November 1978 renovation took place with the pews coming out, the plaster taken off the walls, and the organ dismantled. The organ was re-built, new plaster on the walls, a new floor covering and new chairs. This was finished in March 1980 when an opening service was held. The three photos below show the hall before and after the renovation. The chairs were plastic ones and it wasn't too long before they were replaced by more comfortable ones. During 2013 all the window frames, glazing and most doors were replaced. Also some masonry repair work was carried out. This was at a cost in excess of £48,000 all funded by the Church members and existing funds. The design of the window frames chosen were in keeping with the original window frames.

An application to the Charity Commission for charitable status was submitted in 2013 and was granted at the beginning of January 2014 with the registered charity number 1155190.

Early 2017 work began refurbishing the foyer and main (upstairs) hall. Previously in 2016 repairs had been made to the roof and guttering. Now that this was complete, internal plaster had dried out, and it was certain that rainwater was no longer affecting the internal décor, the work of refurbishment could be commenced. By mid February 2017 the foyer had been re-plastered and painted, and also plaster repair work completed in the main hall upstairs. After that, the old pipe organ (that had not been working since 2013 when dust from the replacement windows had got into the works) was removed, the platform at the front removed, a prayer room created in the space where the organ pipes had resided, and the isles brought up to the same level as the areas where pews had once resided (prior to the internal renovation work in 1978). Carpet tiles were laid, new chairs, lectern, communion table , and cabinets were purchased to bring a brand new fresh look to the hall (see pictures in the About Us page).

The main reason for the hall remains ... to worship our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Community Web Kit provided free by BT