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son by her former husband, of which child she was pregnant when her husband died, though it was not then known; and as no provision was made for such an event in Mr. Heywood's will, the son was deprived of his father's estate. This son, named James, was educated for the ministry and settled at Chesterfield. The congregation at Dukinfield, thinking his case hard, when a vacancy occurred, invited him to be their minister; but he was so comfortably settled at Chesterfield, that he declined accepting the invitation. Mr. Heywood preached and published a sermon, in 1756, occasioned by the recovery of George II. from an illness. His text was, “ O King, live for ever!” and the sermon is remarkable for its courtly style and strong loyalty. He and his halfbrother, Mr. Hartley, kept up a close intimacy, frequently paying each other visits, and, though the places were distant from each other, occasionally exchanging pulpits.
Mr. Hartley was educated at Findern, under Dr. Latham. Among his fellow-students were Mr. Bond, forty years minister at Stand; Mr. Ward, of Yeovil, afterwards of Taunton; Mr. Fownes, forty-one years minister at Shrewsbury, author of an excellent treatise on Toleration, which went through three editions; and Mr. Moore, who succeeded his father at Abingdon, and who was brother of Mr. Moore, the author of “ Fables for the Female Sex,” some Plays, and a publication called “ The World;" and who was so great a favourite with Lord Chesterfield, that he undertook, at his death, the maintenance and education of his son at his own expense.
Mr. Hartley was ordained at Knutsford, Sept. 5, 1732, along with Mr. Herbert, of Kingsley. The thesis given Mr. Hartley was, “ An S. Scripturæ sint Divinæ Auctoritatis ?” that to Mr. Herbert, “An Creatio mundi lumine Naturæ probari potest?" The ministers who officiated at the ordination were Messrs. Hardy, Culcheth, Worthington, Gardner, and Dr. Charles Owen, who gave the charge. It is remarkable that among the various subjects given to candidates at the numerous ordinations at Knutsford, there is scarcely one of a polemic character, which shews how much the old orthodoxy had given way at that early period; and the same may be said of the texts selected by the preachers, few of which had any bearing on Calvinistic opinions. Arminianism and Arianism had taken root among the ministers, though rather tacitly embraced than openly professed. It is certain that Mr. Hartley was an Arian,* as was the case with nearly all the students educated at
I have been informed by an aged gentleman, formerly one of the Hyde congregation, who lived to the age of 94 years and could well remember Mr. Hartley, that he was called a “New Light,” a name given to Arians at that time. The doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, has not been preached in Hyde chapel for nearly 120 years. He also described the person of Mr. Hartley: he was low in stature and not lusty, and he usually wore a small round hat and a blue coat. He married a widow, the mother of Mr. Joseph Bruckshaw, well known as a celebrated schoolmaster in the neighbourhood. Another aged person, who died in 1834, in her 95th year, and who had attended Hyde chapel from her childhood, often spoke of Mr. Hartley and the times in which he lived. She said the chapel was crowded every Sunday, though the country was so thinly peopled; and as the congregation lay widely scattered, many brought their dinners, and at the close of the morning's service, some would retire to a croft at the end of the village, called the Acorn croft on account of the number of oaks that grew in it, and, sitting under the trees, would eat their homely meal. Others met to eat their dinners in a room in a thatched inn near the chapel, Mr. Hartley, who
Findern about that time. Mr. Hartley, like his predecessor, kept a list of communicants; but he appears not to have been so strict in the admission of members. He subjoins no remarks. Between Mr. Cooper's death and Mr. Hartley's ordination, the number of communicants had been reduced from 46 to 33. It is said four had died and nine had withdrawn. Did they withdraw through a disagreement in the choice of a minister? No reason is assigned. It is not stated how many Mr. Hartley left at his death, which happened in 1755. He was buried in Hyde chapel, at the front of the pulpit, under the pew used for the communion-table.
Mr. Hartley was succeeded by the Rev. John Houghton, who had been a student at Dr. Doddridge's Academy, having entered it in 1747. Not having completed his education at the death of Dr. Doddridge, he removed, with Messrs. Urwick, Clayton and Newcome Cappe, to Glasgow, where he was a student on Dr. Williams's foundation. His first settlement was at Platt; he then removed to Hyde, in 1756, where he stayed only five years, and subsequently removed to Nantwich,* Elland, Wem, and lastly, having given up the ministry, to the house of his son at Norwich, where he died. The parsonage-bouse at Hyde was built for him, and in this house his son, the Rev. Pendlebury Houghton, was born, who received the name Pendlebury from his being descended, through his mother, from the Rev. Henry Pendlebury, an eminent minister, ejected from Holcombe, near Bury, and who was afterwards the means of founding some Dissenting congregations by his zealous labours in that neighbourhood. Mr. Pendlebury Houghton was educated at Warrington Academy. He was minister at Norwich many years, and afterwards co-pastor with the Rev. Mr. Yates, of Liverpool. He was distinguished as a preacher for a neat elegant style, as well as for beautiful elocution. Two volumes of his sermons were printed after his death.
Mr. Houghton, while at Hyde, continued the list of communicants, but few were added during his ministry.
The Rev. Samuel Mercer succeeded Mr. Houghton. He had entered the Academy of Dr. Doddridge in 1749; he and his predecessor at Hyde had therefore been fellow-students. On the death of Dr. Doddridge, he went with other students to finish his education at Daventry. There he had for an associate Mr. Joseph Priestley (afterwards Dr. Priestley), who entered that Academy 1752. Mr. Mercer came to Hyde from Charlesworth, near Mottram. He was a tall, muscular man. He
lived at a distance from the chapel, meeting with them. The landlord usually furnished each with a mess of broth, and she remarked that each had a brown porringer, except Mr. Hartley, who had always a white one. This trifling mark of distinction shewed the respect paid to the office of the minister. The white porringer would be looked upon in the same light as decorations of honour in higher life.
An anecdote is related of him, that previous to leaving Hyde he had much mental anxiety, owing to his unwillingness to distress the feelings of the good people by mentioning it to them. At last he summoned courage and said to one of his hearers, “ Jonathan, I am sorry to tell you that I am leaving you.” The reply was, “Well, Sir, then I reckon we must get another.” Calling afterward on another of his hearers, he said, “If I thought all the congregation were as indifferent about me as Jonathan Butterworth, I would not preach at Hyde another Sunday."
continued at Hyde four years, and then removed to a flourishing congregation at Chowbent. A cordial affection subsisted between himself and the congregation at Hyde, both while he was with them and after his removal.* I have heard the late Mr. Harrop, of Hale, say, that Mr. Mercer was so nervous and timid, that he could never be prevailed upon to preach before the Provincial Meeting. The communicants during his ministry were about twenty-five. While at Hyde, Mr. Mercer was an Arian; but Mr. Henry Toulmin states, in his Life of John Mort, that afterwards he was led, by the perusal of “ The Two Schemes of the Trinity considered, and the Divine Unity asserted,” to adopt the Humanitarian view of our Lord's person, and he commends Mr. Mercer's late adoption of new opinions as an instance of ingenuousness and love of truth, at a period when most men are becoming more and more confirmed in their old habits of thinking. During Mr. Mercer's ministry at Charlesworth, he married Miss Whitle, of Hollingworth, in that neighbourhood, who survived him. He left several children. His daughter Catharine, who survived the rest, died at Gee Cross, aged 70 years. She was never married, and for several years before her death she kept a school at Gee Cross for young children.
Mr. Mercer's successor was the Rev. George Checkley, who came to Hyde a young man. He commenced his academic education at Da. ventry, 1760, one year before the late Mr. Harrop, of Hale. He went to Shrewsbury for a short time previous to his coming to Hyde, as an assistant to the Rev. Job Orton. The congregation at Hyde at that time was large. Soon after he came, the chapel was taken down and rebuilt, with the exception of the back wall and the west end, which were only raised to admit of a rising gallery. The original chapel was a low stone building, with a small flat gallery at the east end, the ascent to which was by stone steps at the outside. It had no pews with doors, but benches with backs to them. Mr. Checkley was considered a good scholar and a good practical preacher. He did not continue the list of communicants; and probably about that time, the former discipline among Presbyterians, which led the communicants to consider themselves a distinct church, bound more especially to consult together for the prosperity of the congregation, and which had been gradually relaxing, totally ceased. How far this change has influenced the state of our congregations, is matter of opinion. Some friends of religious equality have thought, that though no doctrinal test ought to be proposed, yet it would be well to have some closer bond of union than subsists amongst seat-holders; that there should be a kind of membership; and that those whose names are enrolled, should consider themselves as pledged to closer fellowship, and should occasionally meet together to consult respecting the prosperity of the place, and whatever might tend to Christian edification.
Mr. Checkley was much respected at Hyde, both by his congregation and others, and he had much influence in the neighbourhood. When differences arose amongst neighbours, they often agreed to refer the matter to him, and he was the means of preventing many law-suits.
At that time the singers at Hyde chapel were celebrated as an excellent country choir, and they occasionally paid a visit to Chowbent, partly to hear their former minister, and partly to lend their assistance in the singers' gallery. He continued at Hyde about fifteen years, and it is said he often looked back to those years as some of the happiest of his life. He removed from Hyde to Ormskirk to succeed the Rev. Henry Holland. He married Miss Holland, who kept a respectable boarding-school for young ladies, and by her he had a daughter, now living. At Ormskirk he lived fourteen years, and then resigned the situation and removed to an estate of his own at Ashley, near Altringham, and lived there for a time in retirement. About 1797, he undertook the duties of Platt chapel, near Manchester, and continued to perform them till his death in 1807. He was then 63 years of age. He preached till the Sunday but one before his death. He was married a second time to a sister of the late Mr. Touchet, of Broom House, near Manchester, who survived him. Mr. Checkley was very gentlemanly in his appearance and manners. He assumed much of professional dignity. He wore a hat looped up at the sides when young, and a clerical hat to the close of life.
On the removal of Mr. Checkley from Hyde, there were several candidates for the situation, but chiefly the Rev. Bristowe Cooper and the Rev. Mr. Meanley. It caused, however, no breach in the congregation; for though Mr. Meanley had his zealous supporters, Mr. Cooper, who was chosen, was received and greatly esteemed by all. He kept a boarding-school at the parsonage-house, which for many years was very flourishing. The late Frank Astley, Esq., of Dukinfield, and Thomas Thornely, Esq., M.P. for Wolverhampton, were among his pupils. He came from Congleton to Hyde in 1781. He had been married, but had no children, and was then a widower. While at Hyde, he married a second wife, one of his he ers, Miss Abigail Cheetha by whom he had three sons, two of whom died in London; the oldest is living at Gee Cross.
During the first years of Mr. Cooper's ministry at Hyde, the congre. gation increased so much, that, in 1789, they had the intention of enlarging the chapel by taking down the north side and removing the wall farther back, so as to make the chapel a square building, and an estimate was made of the cost, which amounted to £280. 68. 3d.; but the disturbances which broke out in France so absorbed the attention of the people, and unsettled the minds of many, that the plan was not executed. Mr. Cooper had two brothers educated for the ministry, William* and Thomas. They were all educated at Hackney, near London.
Mr. Bristowe Cooper was portly and good-looking. He was much respected by his congregation. He was of an ancient, respectable family residing for many generations at Bosden, near Stockport. He
* William succeeded Mr. Bond at Stand; he afterwards removed to Gorton, where he died.
+ Thomas, who never entered on the ministry, became a clerk in the Equitable Insurance Office; and after filling that situation with great credit forty years, he retired with an ample competency, and lived many years in ease and affectionate intercourse with relatives and friends. He had been twice married, but left no children, and he bequeathed a handsome property to his relations. He was an excellent scholar, a good Christian, and a warm friend to civil and religious liberty. He died at Bolton, aged 85 years, and, at his own request, was buried at Hyde chapel, October 21, 1837; where his brother Bristowe and his sister, Mrs. Leah, are also interred.
was very exact in his habits, and his registers were kept with great neatness. He was the first minister at Hyde that began a register of burials. It is much to be regretted that it had been delayed so long, for burials had occasionally taken place from the time when the chapel was built. The burial register begins in October 1785, when an Act of Parliament which had been passed a short time before, imposing a tax on burials and baptisms in the Church, was extended also to the Dissenters. The health of Mr. Cooper in his latter years was very infirm, nor was he without his troubles from the spirit of the times. He felt the effects of that stormy period, occasioned by the French Revolution, when party-spirit ran high, and often disturbed the peace and harmony of social life, and when infidelity was making sad inroads into many religious societies. He was strongly attached to liberal opinions both in religion and politics, and not afraid to express them. He died Feb. 1, 1805, aged 55 years, and was buried in the aisle of the chapel.
I accepted an invitation to succeed Mr. Cooper, and entered on the pastoral charge at Hyde chapel, Jan. 6, 1806; and during the fortytwo years of my ministry at Hyde, I have witnessed a very great change in the appearance and population of the neighbourhood, through the expansion of commerce. When I came, Hyde chapel was the only place of worship in the neighbourhood, and the population was in proportion thin. With the exception of a few houses near the chapel, it consisted of a few scattered and mostly humble buildings. The pews in the chapel had only a clay floor, except a few which had been boarded by the families that occupied them. The cotton manufacture was comparatively in its infancy both at Hyde and elsewhere. Many of the improvements now in use for perfecting the manufacture and facilitating labour were then unknown, nor could the future great expansion of the trade have been then anticipated. But perhaps in few countries has the cotton manufacture been more extended in the same period, nor produced greater changes, than at Hyde. The increased wealth and altered habits of the people rendered a more suitable place of worship desirable ; for though the old chapel had undergone many repairs and had been much improved, it was still attended with many inconveniences. To the newly-erected House of Prayer the congregation will soon remove; but they will not take their leave of the old building without many tender and affecting reminiscences connected with the place in which they and their fathers have worshiped for many generations.