In search of a city: a history of Lee Mount Baptist Church, Halifax 1846–1977

Miss J M Crabtree BA and Rev. M V Jackson BA

8 Coupons, shortages and demob suits

The war was nearly at an end before a new minister was called. This was the Rev. Oscar L.F. Wade, B.A., who came from Redcar and was inducted in July 1944. He had the task of leading the church in the difficult post-war period of coupons, shortages and the growing ‘cold-war’ between Russia and the West. His great asset was his personal warmth and friendliness and ministry of encouragement, so valued at that time. Now retired, he still visits the church periodically. Quickly, the Church prepared for peace-time conditions. It purchased fifty copies of the Baptist Union booklet — ‘They’re coming Home,’ the church newsletter was re-started and in 1946 a B.B. company was formed under the captaincy of Mr Geoffrey Brooke, now senior deacon. A men’s meeting was also planned. Changes in personnel included the resignation of Mr W. Ingham, organist and choirmaster for 20 years, and Mr F. Pollard, deacon for 22 years. Of the 34 who went out to fight, 33 returned, commemorated on a plaque on the Memorial organ.

One of the most revealing features of the 1940s was the appointment of the first Lady Deacon. Strangely, Baptists often said ‘Yes’ to lady Ministers before lady Deacons. One of the first two appointed, Miss F. Thompson, is an active member yet, the other was Miss E. Moor. Miss G. Harris, also still active amongst us, quickly followed in 1948. At the present time, nearly half of the diaconate are women, including the Church Secretary.

‘Faithfulness’ has long been a mark of Lee Mount and to this day Mr N. Thompson still holds the post of Treasurer, one he first took up way back in 1948. In those days he was also assisting Mr Wade to do the secretarial work, there being no official church secretary for about eight years.

So the 1950s dawned, marked by the Festival of Britain, the climbing of Everest and the crowning of Elizabeth II. Many saw this as the beginning of a new ‘Golden Age’ for Britain, but this was not to be. As far as the church was concerned, it was trying valiantly to make same impression upon an increasingly secular society which was content to live its life without any reference to God. Mr Wade left Lee Mount at this time, but not before seeing the trusteeship pass from the church into the hands of the Yorkshire Association. He had ministered for six years and moved to North Evington, Leicester.

To meet the needs of the hour the church felt that a forthright, positive and evangelical emphasis was now needed. Billy Graham and his crusades had stimulated evangelical concern in Baptist churches and, in September 1952, the Rev. Walter Bailey, fresh from Rawdon College, became the new minister. ‘Challenge’ was the key word to describe him and, though not always appreciated, his strongly evangelical ministry led many to commitment to Christ and helped to deepen the spiritual life of the church. He was also in demand elsewhere as a campaign speaker and had a great burden for the working man being an industrial chaplain in local factories.

During these days organisations were started which remain with us still, including the ‘Girls’ Life Brigade’ (now Girls’ Brigade), and the ‘Life Boys’ (now Junior Section of the Boys’ Brigade). The first leaders were Miss J. Fickling and Mrs J. Brooke respectively. Miss F. Thompson also led the ‘Christian Endeavour.’ Youth work, from earliest days, has always been given priority at Lee Mount. A ‘team of witness’ was also formed, expressly for evangelical outreach.

By the late 1950’s, finance was becoming the increasing problem; income in 1955 was about £960. But undaunted the Church celebrated in 1958 its Golden Jubilee (of opening of present building 1908). Officers changed at that time also, Mr Gordon Smith succeeding Mr Kenneth Illingworth as Secretary and Mr Kenneth Culpan succeeding Mr Leslie Crabtree as organist.

Structurally, the Minister’s vestry had been converted into the first proper kitchen the church had ever had. Previously meals had been prepared in the cellar! November 1958 saw the conclusion of Mr Bailey’s ministry. He is now teaching in Rotherham and comes to see us from time to time.