Mount Zion, Halifax

On 22 August 1748 James Riley heard John Wesley preach at Halifax, saying 'Wesley disturbed my conscience and troubled my soul.' The following Sunday he heard William Grimshaw, with the result that a class was soon formed at the house of John Bates, with Riley as leader, and about five years later other classes at Riley's home and at Holdsworth with Luke Shaw as leader. Preachers such as John Nelson from Birstall were invited. The impetus to build a chapel came from John Atlay being forced to stay with Riley for several days and nights in 1772 because of heavy snow. The building of the chapel (and an adjoining cottage, where John Wesley stayed) was begun in the winter of 1772 'for the benefit of the numerous congregation which now regularly assembled at James Riley's'. This Holdsworth preaching house, at Illingworth, about three miles north of Halifax, in the parish of Bradshaw and on the edge of Ogden Moor, became known as 'Mount Zion'.

On 22 April 1774 John Wesley recorded that he 'rode and walked to Bradshaw House [i.e. the Holdsworth chapel], standing alone in a dreary waste. But although it was a cold and stormy day, the people flocked from all quarters.' His last visit, recorded in his Diary, was on 19 April 1790. Seven years later the MNC was inaugurated by Alexander Kilham and other preachers at Ebenezer Chapel, Leeds. At Mount Zion Kilham's supporters were strong and they ousted the Wesleyans, who went to worship in a barn across the road from the chapel. Mount Zion is the oldest former MNC church still in use. It was rebuilt in 1815. On the fa├žade is the original sundial from the first building and the original foundation stone can be seen in the vestry. The chapel is now a centre for Methodist heritage, housing the Hird collection of ceramics.

  • J.U. Walker, A History of Wesleyan Methodism in Halifax (Halifax, 1836) pp.123f, 216ff
  • William Walker, Told by the Dial (Halifax, 1901) pp.4f, 87ff, 34ff