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

7 Shadows across Europe

As the thirties progressed, so did the dictators and the lights began to go out all over Europe. Mr Tallontire had ministered for eight years, longer than any of his predecessors. He was succeeded by a Scot, the Rev. Alex Hay Sutherland, who came in July 1934. He is remembered as a quiet unassuming minister, educated and meticulous, who was anxious to break away from traditional approaches to church work. The Secretary, Mr H. Bancroft, wrote ‘his work in the pulpit is worthy of much larger congregations.’ The Church, at that time, was trying to fight the ‘ogres’ of its day. So we find it opposing both the ‘Licensing Bill’ and the ‘Pools’ Betting Bill.’ Positively, it was identified with the work of the ill-fated ‘League of Nations’ and tried to help the refugees from Nazi Germany and the victims of the Spanish Civil War. Its income in 1935 was £500.

The Sunday School was graded in the interests of efficiency, a long remembered pageant ‘Women of the Bible’ was presented and a Dramatic Society and Women’s Meeting were formed. Other organisations of the day included the ‘Young Worshippers’ Union,’ the ‘Girls’ Auxiliary,’ a Young People’s Fellowship, ‘Rope-Holders,’ choir, etc. Concern was expressed, however, at the smallest number of scholars in the Sunday School for many years. The membership in 1936 stood at 155. In the following year the church lost, quite suddenly, one of its ablest men, the secretary, Mr Hirst Bancroft. He was described as ‘one of God’s gifts to Lee Mount.’

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth was celebrated by the church in 1936 and in the following year Mr Sutherland intimated that he wished to resign the pastorate. By this time the financial basis of the church had changed. No longer did it depend upon the inappropriate ‘pew rents.’ Now offerings were taken at both services and members encouraged to give systematically, through the envelope scheme. ‘At Homes’ were still a means of supplementing the church finance, and it would be many years before these too would be superseded by something more realistic. Still, in the financial realm, 1939 saw the death of Mr T. Fearnley, the church Treasurer and a member since 1898. He was succeeded by Mr A.W. Culpan, who, happily, is with us still, aged 92!

In the summer of 1939 a ‘three day Mission’ had been planned, but the ominous minute of that August reads ‘cancelled owing to War.’ So it was that the church suffered the period of World War II without ministerial leadership. It had, however, been gratified that one of its members, Miss Amy Jagger, had, in 1938, been accepted for missionary services with the Baptist Missionary Society in China. From then on the records are full of references to war conditions — ‘local ARP Committee be allowed use of rooms,’ ‘removal of sand bags in Batley Street to be requested,’ ‘two tea urns lent to Illingworth Home Guard,’ and so on. Afternoon services replaced evening ones and a ‘Military Sunday’ was arranged for the local troops. The Sunday School was requisitioned by the War Department for the billeting of troops and the manse was damaged by an air-raid.

Nevertheless, as the Battle of Britain was fought out above us, two important events took place in the life of the church. One was the appointment of Mr Norman Thompson to the diaconate, a position he held with distinction for over thirty years, and the call of a new minister, the Rev. Arthur Dalton. The latter was inducted in October 1941, having come from London where it seems he and his family were ‘bombed out.’ Unfortunately we have lost touch with him and. it is not known whether he is still alive. He ministered for a year before moving to Gildersome, but in that time evangelical campaigns were held and the National Day of Prayer observed. Changes of personality included the death of Mr William Bradley, an office holder and member for 62 years, and the resignation of Mr A. Illingworth as Church Secretary. Mr Dalton is recalled as an ‘open-air’ preacher with a strong voice, strongly evangelical, who served the church faithfully.