Dales Congregational Churches

Salem Chapel began in 1816 when a small group of men and women met together above the grooms' room at Martin Top Farm. A year later, a chapel was erected down the lane, in which we still meet. At the bottom of this page, you'll find a list of all our pastors.

The following is one chapter from The History of the Dales Congregational Churches by Thomas Whitehead, published in 1930. This gives the history of the church up to 1929.

O God, whose mighty works of old
Our fathers to their sons have told,
Be with us still from age to age,
Our children's children's heritage.

MARTIN TOP may be approached most conveniently by road from Gisburn, from which it is two miles distant. The Rimington Railway Station, on the Hellifield through Clitheroe line, is one and a halfmiles away.

Martin Top cannot be described even as a hamlet, as there is only one house and shop anywhere near it. A quarter of a mile below the Chapel is a group of six or seven houses, but that is called Newby; a mile distant is a similar group, with a Wesleyan Chapel built in 1816 – this is known as Stoppers Lane; half a mile further west is Rimington, from which the far-famed tune, "Rimington" is named, with a population of about 400, which includes the above smaller groupings. It has no connection with Marton, either East Marton or West Marton, which are many miles away. '"Martin Top'' was the name of a farm where the first meetings were held, and not the name of a district. Although the Chapel was built at Newby Hills, it was always known as the Martin Top Meeting-house, as before.


The origin of the Chapel was directly due to the missionary spirit and enterprise of the Rev. George Partington of Colne, in 1810. He is reported as preaching at the house of William Hargreaves, at Newby; at William Bulcock's house at Twiston; often in the barn belonging to Henry Dean; in a schoolroom at Newby; and also at Downham. A room was eventually taken at Martin Top Farm in Rimington, and the services were ''supplied'' by lay preachers, on Sunday afternoons.

The Martin Top Itinerary began about this time, and in it were engaged some of the best lay preachers in Yorkshire. They generally stayed two Sabbaths, the first Sabbath they preached at Martin Top Farm, On Monday at Grindleton, Tuesday at Chipping, Wednesday at Ribchester, Thursday at Winwell, Friday at John Singleton's at Barlick (Barnoldswick), and finished the labours of the week by preaching again at Martin Top Farm. As the years passed, this room became too small, and an estimate for a new Chapel was obtained, but the probable cost of £500 checked enthusiasm.


The problem of the Chapel was solved in a small weaving shop, where three weavers conceived the idea that, if twenty trustees could be found who would lend £20 each for three years without interest, the work could be commenced. At the end of three years, when the Chapel was nearly completed, some of the trustees were so glad, that they sacrificed half their loan.

On August 11th, 1816, the Rev. George Partington from Colne, who had started the cause, and the Rev. Adam Bray from Horton, participated in the formation of a church. For this purpose John Holgate, Mary Hargreaves and Elizabeth Bootham received their "dismission" (transfer) from Dockray Street, Colne (the minute states: "We wish the blessing of God to attend them.'') and a member from Horton was also transferred. These formed the first church in the farmhouse, and signed the following covenant, in the usual way:

"We trust that under the influence of pure motives, we, the undersigned, having agreed to unite ourselves in Church Fellowship, having, we hope, given ourselves to the Lord, now give ourselves to one another, on Sunday, August 11th, 1816, when we form ourselves into a Calvinistic Christian Church."

Then follow their signatures.

The building was completed in 1817, but there is no record, except the fact that the date of the completion of the transfer was in 1817, and that at the entrance to the Chapel yard the figures, 1817, are laid in pebbles. Robert Watson of Twiston, senior deacon, who passed into rest in 1909, used to say that Richard Dean of Gaysgill, searched for suitable pebbles, and carried them from the brook, when the Church was built.

The deed states that the name is "Salem Independent Chapel," and the site is Newby Hill.

The following inscription was placed above the pulpit, on the chapel wall:


These walls we to Thine honour raise,
Long may they echo to Thy praise
And Thou descending fill the place
With choicest tokens of Thy grace."



More than a century before this, holy men of God had gathered round the foot of Pendle Hill, reared altars in the homes of the people, and erected sanctuaries for their common worship. It was meet, therefore, that the new Chapel should be linked, through its first pastor, with Wymondhouses and Newton.

Benjamin Nightingale was ordained at Newton, on November 7th, 1820, as pastor over the three Churches. The Rev. H.  Townsend, of Darwen, gave the introductory discourse from Deuteronomy 1:38. Mr. Sowden, of Blackburn, offered the ordination prayer, and gave the charge from Colossians 4:17.

The first grant made by the newly-formed West Riding Church Aid and Home Missionary Society, was one of £10 to Martin Top, on May 11th, 1820.

After serving the three Churches for 6 years, Mr. Nightingale resigned his connection with Martin Top in 1826, and devoted himself to the other two Churches.

The first baptism recorded was on June 10th, 1825, when the Rev. Thomas Taylor of Colne, baptised a child, whose surname was Boothman. The rest is obliterated.


In November, 1836, two cottages were built by Francis Holgate at the east end of the Chapel, evidently anticipatory of a resident minister.

The Rev. Robert Abram accepted the pastorate in July, 1837. The minute reads:

''After two visits to the Church and congregation called Independents assembling in Salem Chapel, Newby Hill, I received an invitation to become their minister, and came amongst them October 26th, 1837, and was ordained on July 3rd, 1838. (signed) Robert Abram."

The report of Newby Hill, or as we know it, Martin Top, appears in the Lancashire Congregational Union minutes in 1839. From that, we learn that the congregation numbered 100, Church members 6, Sunday School scholars 40, and teachers 4. The preaching stations were Todber, the native place of Richard Hargreaves who built Horton Chapel, Hardacre Gate, Twiston, Gazegill and Stockwood. Mr. Abram's ministry was very fruitful.

He was succeeded in 1843 by the Rev. H. S. Heron, whose ordination took place on May 19th, 1844. Over 30 members were added to the Church during his 5 years' ministry. He accepted a call to Bingley, in November, 1848, but appears to have kept a friendly oversight over Martin Top. An extract from the minute book reads:

"Though I left Martin Top in 1848, I have ever visited my ever dear and valued friends many times up to the present (April, 1870) and preached to them the glorious gospel of the Grace of God. This is probably my last visit. May God give them grace, mercy and peace – greatly bless and prosper them all. Revelation, last chapter, last verse. – E. S. Heron."

This last visit was made between the pastorates of Mr. Jowett and Mr. Howard, when the Church had been without pastor for 9 years.

The Report for 1848, states that "no place connected with the Union has suffered more during the last two years. Not less than 80 young people connected with the Chapel have gone to seek a livelihood elsewhere."

For 5 years after Mr. Heron left, in 1848, the Church was "supplied" once a month by Mr. John Dean of Blackburn, until 1853, when he accepted a call to the regular ministry at Martin Top, and was ordained on June 5th, 1855. He died on January 9th, 1857, at the early age of 36 years, and was buried at Holden.

Fourteen members were added and enrolled by him; and among  them, some of those who were in active service for the next 60 years.

From the Year Book we note that in 1855, the deacons were John Dean and Stephen Dean. John Bootham was a lay preacher, and S. Dean delegate to the Union.

The Rev. W. Jowett became pastor in 1860, but he only stayed for a little over a year, when he removed to Southport.

The Lancashire Congregational Calendar for 1870 states that Martin Top should be attached to some Church in the West Riding if it is to be worked with advantage. It was accordingly transferred to the Yorkshire Union.

The Rev. Peter Howard took charge in 1872, and remained three years. It was during his ministry that the mill at Twiston was burnt down and was not rebuilt. This caused a serious migration from the district, and among those who moved were some of the chief workers in School and Church. Particularly disheartening, was the removal of Mr. Moorby and his family. In 1875, Mr. Howard returned to Morecambe for health reasons. He died there in 1896.

After a period of 7 years, the Rev. D. R. Hamilton succeeded Mr. Howard, in1882, but his ministry only covered two years.

A mural tablet was erected by the members and congregation, in 1884, thus inscribed:

"In memory of Stephen Dean, who died March 11th. 1883, aged 76 years.
In early life he became a member, and was for many years a deacon of the Church. His life was one of holy simplicity, sacred zeal, and entire consecration to the will of God

In the summer of 1886. the Churches of Horton and Martin Top entered into an arrangement with the Yorkshire Union for a student to take oversight of both Churches during the long vacation. Mr. J. Loosmore was sent, and preached alternately at the two stations. The following year, Mr. W. Mitchell officiated similarly, but the system was not popular. Miss Broughton was appointed  Lady Deaconess in 1895 with the approval of the Union, and for one and a half years she ministered to the needy, particularly the sick and aged.

On her marriage to Mr. Veevers, she removed from the district.

For several years, Mr. W. H. Duerdon of Colne, had preached once a month, and when, in 1897, his medical adviser recommended residence in the country, the Church at Martin Top invited him to come and live among them. He took full charge in 1898, and remained until 1913.


In 1898, the Church was renovated at a cost of over £323, without debt.

The first wedding in the Church was on April 20th, 1904, when Miss Hannah Perry and Albert Lawson were married. A Bible and Hymn Book were presented to the bride and bridegroom by Mrs. Robert Watson, on behalf of the Church.

In 1906, a committee consisting of the minister and Messrs. J. Banks, R. W. Giddings and R. W. Bulcock (convener), was appointed for an extension scheme; as a result, in 1908, the new Burial ground was laid out and opened on April 18th, by Jame. Nutter, J.P., Esq., of Barnoldswick. Mr. J. H. Dickinson, of Ormskirk, presided, and Mr. J. Thornber, of the "Knoll," Clitheroe, presented a silver key.

On August 1st, 1908, the building of the new Sunday School was commenced, and on April 10th, 1909, it was opened by Mrs. W. Hough, Mayoress of Burnley, the Mayor, Mr. Hough, presiding. Miss Landless of Brierfield, presented the Mayoress with a silver key in the name of the Church and School. Others taking part were Mr. R. W. Bulcock (Secretary), Rev. T. I. Dolphin, Rev. W. Christie, Mrs. Veevers (Miss Broughton), and Mr. Chippendale.

The following is extracted from the Yorkshire Congregational Year Book for 1910:

"The 'Extension Scheme' includes a burial ground, new Sunday School and improvements to the Manse, involving an outlay of over £462. The new Sunday School is built up to the Church, on the easterly side, both standing on the southerly side of the Burial Ground. These with the Manse (which has been properly restored) form a nice suite of buildings for Nonconformity in the extreme border of the West Riding of Yorkshire in the township of Rimington. Our people have worked hard in various ways and you will not wonder that a thrill of intense joy ran through the audience when the pastor (Rev. W. H. Duerdon) rose and announced that £55 had been raised to pay off the last £5 owing.''

The Church suffered a great loss in the ''passing'' of Mr. Robert Watson, on February 19th, 1909. He was the first to be interred in the new burial ground. As deacon and member of the Church for over 50 years, he bore an honoured name, and his memory is a benediction to all who knew him. Mr. Duerdon resigned after a faithful pastorate of 16 years, in June, 1913. On leaving Martin Top, Mr. Duerdon, although his sight was very defective, and his health seriously impaired, accepted a call to Barrowford as assistant to the aged Rev. E. Gough, where he soon won the hearts of the people. He died on April 9th, 1915, as the result of a motor accident. Whilst crossing the road at Barrowford he was knocked down by a car and sustained such severe injuries, that he ''passed away'' before reaching his home. Nine years afterwards, on April 25th, 1924, a brass tablet was unveiled at Martin Top by the Rev. L. H. Gaunt, M.A., of Wilmslow, late of Skipton, which bears the inscription:

"In grateful and honoured memory of W. H. Duerdon, who died April, 1915, aged 64 years for 16 years the faithful Pastor of this Church. 'Pure in Heart.' 'Faithful unto death.' "

Mr. Gaunt said "The three characteristics of his life were his pureheartedness, his openmindedness, and his childlikeness. He was a Christian, for there was something in his life that reminded you of Christ.''

The Rev. L.  J. Malkinson of Boston, Lincolnshire, succeeded Mr. Duerdon, on May 25th, 1913. Mrs. Malkinson organised a choir, which did excellent service for the Church, and both Mr. and Mrs. Malkinson took great interest in the Sunday School. They left in 1918, having accepted a call to Settle.

Of the ''visitors'' to Martin Top, perhaps the two manifesting the greatest interest have been Frederick W. Hill, J.P., Esq., and Joshua Francis Garnett, Esq., both of Bradford. "Ye that are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak." In that capacity Mr. Garnett suddenly "passed to rest" on January 16th, 1913, at the age of 75, while attending a meeting in the chapel there. He had been a deacon for over 40 years, a teacher and superintendent of the school; all his life he had been in loving touch with the work of his Church at Idle; yet he found time to visit the "outposts," and a "visit to the dales" was a very tonic to his spirit. Not only Martin Top, but Ravenstonedale, Dent, Sedbergh, Tosside and Kirkby Stephen, gladly welcomed his arrival.

His was ''A word of cheer and a hand to help."

The Dales' Conference was held at Martin Top from May 31st to June 2nd, 1916, when 34 delegates were present, representing 15 Churches.


The Celebration of the Centenary of this Church was held during Mr. Malkinson's ministry, on Whit Sunday and Monday, of 1917. The Rev. A. Duff, M.A., D.D., of the United College, was the preacher. On the Monday, the Rev. L. H. Gaunt, M.A., of Skipton, presided in place of Mr. George Garnett, of Eccleshill, who most regrettably, was unable to attend. Among others present were the Rev. J. Warwick Johnston, of Clitheroe; Rev. J. Loosmore, of Blackburn; Mrs. Watson; Mrs. Stott; and Mr. F. W. Hill, J.P., of Thornton, Bradford. The effort realised £130.

The Rev. G. H. Vickers, who had been on Y.M.C.A. Army work in France from 1916 to 1918, became minister in 1918. He had previously held pastorates at Leyburn (1906-1912), Streethouses (1912-1916). His recognition services were held on August 19th, 1918, when the Rev. H. Partington, B.A. of Burnley, preached in the afternoon. Fred W. Hill, Esq., J.P, presided at the evening meeting, and among others present were the Revs. L. H. Gaunt, G. S. Dakin, C. E. Eades, L. J. Malkinson, and Messrs. G. Parker, R. W. Bulcock and ,T. Thornber.


John Parkinson. James Braithwaite. John Carr. John Atkinson.

Martin Top was particularly honoured, as others of our Dales Churches, by a visit from the Rev. Dr. J. D. Jones, of Bournemouth, and the Rev. Dr. Sidney Berry, Secretary of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, on Tuesday, June 5th, 1923.The little Chapel was crowded to overflowing – Clitheroe, Barrowford, Horton and the wide area of Craven were all represented.

Mr. Vickers removed to Thornaby-on-Tees in 1925. The Rev. James Brown from Newton, succeeded him in 1920. Mr. and Mrs. Brown's enthusiastic ministry came suddenly to an end in 1921, when Mr. Brown was called to "the higher service.''

The Rev. David Hartley became pastor in 1928.

The last report of the "visitors'' to this Church reads:

''In nine months the minister has made 140 visits. Some of the homes are miles apart. An increase in the afternoon and evening congregations is reported, especially in the evening. A good number of young people are associated with the Church."

"God is with us, God is with us,"
So our brave forefathers sang,
Far across the field of battle,
Loud their holy war-cry rang;
Never once they feared nor faltered,
Never once they ceased to sing-
"God is with us, God is with us,
Christ our Lord shall reign as King!"

Great the heritage they left us,
Great the conquests to be won,
Armed hosts to meet and scatter,
Larger duties to be done.
Raise the song they nobly taught us,
Round the wide world let it ring,
"God is with as, God is with us,
Christ our Lord shall reign as King!

FORMER OFFICERS. In 1856 the deacons were John Dean and Stephen Dean. John Boothman was Lay Preacher, and Stephen Dean, Delegate to the Union, for several years. Other delegates to 1903 were R. Watson, J. Porter, and Rev. W. H. Duerdon.

THE CHURCH SECRETARIES from 1903: Mrs. Stott, 1 year; R. W. Bulcock, 9 years; and G. Parker,16 years.

Accommodation, 240. Church Members, 26. Scholars, 37. Teachers, 7.
Time of Service: 2 and 7 p.m. School: 11 a.m. & 1.30 p.m.
Minister: Rev. David Hartley, The Manse.
Secretary of Church: George Parker, Middup Farm.
Assistant Secretary: David Hartley, The Manse.
Church Treasurer: Mrs. Stott, Brownlow, Twiston.
Sunday School Secretary: Miss Nellie Briggs, Rimington.
Sunday School Superintendent: Mrs. Watson, Twiston.
Organist: Miss Ruth Watson, Twiston.
Caretakers: Misses Nellie and Sallie Briggs, Rimington.
The Deacons are Joseph Banks, Rimington; George Parker, Middup; Robert Whipp Bulcock, Newby Hill Farm; and W. R. Gibbings.