Originally a chapelry in the parish of Batley, Morley was a borough until becoming part of Leeds in 1974. A centre of the cloth trade and coal mining, during the reign of Charles I the ancient chapel, perhaps of Saxon origin, passed into Dissenting hands, Presbyterian, Unitarian and then Independent. The present St. Mary’s-in-the-Wood URC (1878) is its successor. With no Anglican presence until the consecration of St. Peter’s in 1830, the town was a Nonconformist and Methodist stronghold.
John Wesley visited Morley six times between April 1747 and May 1788, referring on that last occasion to ‘the loving people’ there. From 1770 to 1782 Mary Bosanquet lived at Cross Hall, turning it into an orphanage which Wesley visited in 1780. In 1781 she married John Fletcher at Batley parish church. Fletcher Memorial WM church (1906) is now closed. The earliest WM meeting house may have been opened in 1769. Altered in 1800 and extended in 1840, it became school premises on the opening of the adjacent Queen Street WM chapel (1861), (now Central Methodist) designed by James Simpson II. An extension in 1970 replaced the school premises of 1884 adjacent to the site of the original chapel. Following a mission in 1879 by Thomas Langton, the Yorkshire evangelist (b.1836), an iron chapel opened at Banks Hill, replaced in 1893,
Primitive Methodism arrived in 1821. A chapel was built soon after, but was lost c.1826 through the secession caused by Ann Carr’s Female Revivalists. Re-established in 1830, Ebenezer was opened in 1835, succeeded by a school-chapel by Thomas Howdill in 1878 (also responsible for Brunswick, 1874). There were other PM chapels at Birks and Bruntcliffe.
The Wesleyan Reformers originally worshipped in the Town School, until opening their first Bethel UMFC in 1858, replaced on new a site c.1896. The Methodist New Connexion began holding cottage services at Bruntclffe in 1870, replaced by a tin tabernacle in 1873 and in turn by a gothic building c.1875; but the cause was short lived.
Of the eight Methodist chapels in the town at Methodist Union in I932, only one continues, along with Newlands, opened in 1963.
John Wesley's Journal:
July 1759: 'A flame suddenly broke out here, where it was least of all expected, and it spread wider and wider. When God will work, who is able to stay His hand?'
April 1774: 'I preached at Morley on "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" '
May 1788: 'About nine I preached to the loving people at Morley on 1 Pet. 1.3…'