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Mount Zion Chapel History

On the edge of Ogden Moor stands this historic chapel. John Wesley came to Halifax to preach on the 22nd August 1748 and in the crowd was a man from Bradshaw, near Halifax, named James Riley. Riley said 'Wesley disturbed my conscience and troubled my soul.' The following Sunday Riley went to Haworth to hear the Rev William Grimshaw. All this resulted in a house meeting being formed. Visitors to that were people like John Nelson of Birstall. Nelson had returned north in 1741 after hearing Wesley preach. The idea of building a meeting place for the Methodists dates back to 1772 when, during a snowstorm, the visiting preacher was stranded for a week at a house of one of the members of the Methodist society.


The Chapel and adjoining cottage was opened in 1773 and was known as Mount Zion, Bradshaw, it being in the Anglican Parish of Bradshaw.  Wesley came to visit and stayed in the cottage on the 22nd of April 1774.  He records in his journal, 'I rode to Bradshaw House, standing alone in a dreary waste.  But, although it was a cold and stormy day, the people flocked from all quarters.'  The house afforded hospitality and shelter for man and beast.

The Rev William Walker wrote a small book entitled 'Told by the Dial' and in that he tells of the happenings at Mount Zion as if by the sundial which was on the original building. In that volume he tells of diamond shaped windows in the cottage on which were etched, initials, texts etc. one of which said 'Time how short - eternity how long. C.W.'  Was that an indication of Charles Wesley also having visited?

In May, 1790 John Wesley paid his last visit to Halifax and preached at Mount Zion.  He was then a frail 87 years old and we are told that two friends assisted him and his memory failed.

After Wesley died there was growing dissent in his Church and this led to the breaking away by some people.  In 1797 a small group left the Wesleyans and became New Connexion under the leadership of Alexander Kilham.  At Mount Zion the Kilhamites were very strong and they ousted the Wesleyans who went to a barn across the road.  Mount Zion is the oldest Methodist New Connexion society which has constantly met, followed a year later by Shelley, Huddersfield.  In 1841 there was another split at Mount Zion when a small number of Barkerites left the society.


The 1773 church was demolished and the present building was put in its place in 1815.  The only remains of the 1773 building are the sundial on the front of the building and the foundation stone from the first building.  An impression of the original can be gained from the adjoining chapel keeper's cottage which was erected at the same time as the chapel and in the same architectural style.  

There have been a number of Sunday School buildings and the latest is still there but in private ownership.  The first Sunday School was built in 1816 and the lower storey was a day school.

The organ in the present building was built in 1892 by Charles Anneessens et fils, Grommont, Belgique.  There are still a few of these organs in use, probably about six.  Most of it is in working order. The original blower can be seen but it now has an electric blower.  The son of the maker visited during World War 1 and the grandson in July 1969.

The interior of the Chapel was done by Leeming and Leeming in 1881 and that firm became very well known.  They did the interior of the Admiralty Building in London.  The pews are pitch pine.  There are 170 ground floor and 180 gallery places.  The original pew rent board is in the vestry.


The building also houses the Hird Collection of Methodist Ceramics.  This was bequeathed by:-

Alderman Horace Hird of Bradford

He was a well known man in Bradford and one time Lord Mayor.  He was a Primitive Methodist and collected various ceramics which he displayed in large oak cases in his house.  The collection consists of busts, standing figures, pulpits, Gothic niches, plates, plaques, teapots, jugs, cups, Lovefeast Cups etc.  The collection is mainly Staffordshire but there are some Wedgwood and Sunderland pieces.  A large part of the collection is displayed permanently in the Chapel but there is a large reserve collection which is available for serious collectors and students to see.  The busts consist of John and Charles Wesley, Adam Clark, George Whitfield, Spurgeon and Sankey and Moody.

There is also a collection of pictures which are displayed in the chapel during open days.  These depict the life and times of Wesley.

In addition there is a collection of Mount Zion memorabilia and other pieces which are of interest locally and these are on display in the Chapel.



© Mount Zion Methodist Heritage Chapel
Page updated: September 30 2022
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