Riddlesden Wesleyan Methodists – originally Morton Banks Wesleyan Chapel
Morton Banks was the first society in the Keighley circuit to have its own preaching place, after
The Room in Temple Street which was built in 1754.
The site for our first chapel, at Barley Cote, was acquired in 1770, one year before the death of John Wesley. The stone was quarried and the building done by the members themselves. Originally it was only two cottages, the upper floor of both being the church, and the lower floors let as two small cottages. The entrance was on the west side facing the road and approached by a flight of steps.
Before 1820 it became necessary to extend the accommodation and a third adjoining cottage was built. The ground floor of the new cottage became the chapel-keeper's cottage. The chapel now had a sloping gallery to the level of the new Sunday School room. The chapel was divided from the school room by sliding doors and the entrance was moved to the back to make room for a stable for the use of travelling preachers.
Originally the chapel was lit by candles one on each side of the pulpit. These were later replaced by oil lamps. This means of lighting was quite a new thing and the chapel-keeper took great pride in trimming them so that Morton Banks became known in the circuit for the brilliance of its lights.
The singing was led by fiddles but it was felt that a stronger lead was necessary and Mr Jackson of Bank House, Mr Asquith of Holden Gate and Wm. Heaps of Elam Grange each gave one sovereign and so the first organ fund was started. A Harmonium was bought and served at both Barley Cote and the ‘new’ site at Ilkley Road until the American organ was purchased. It was then transferred to the Sunday School where it continued to do valuable service and each year was hoisted on to Mr William Oldfield’s coal cart and led the Whit singing round the village.
In 1784 John Wesley wrote in his journal that he was much impressed by the Sunday School he was shown at Bingley and remarked ‘These schools may well become nurseries for Christians.' Six years later in 1790 we had our own Sunday school at Morton Banks which was attended by children coming from as far as Micklethwaite and Morton. In the early days the Sunday School was supported by public subscription. On 21 June 1831 the first Sunday School Anniversary was celebrated outdoors in the field opposite the old Barley Cote Chapel and from then on collections taken at these services were used to support the school. Sometime in the late 1840s it overflowed its building in Barley Cote and a loft belonging to the inn a little lower down was used.
We often complain about the weather and having to turn out from our warm beds on Sunday mornings
but the members of Morton Bank came from as far afield as Holden Gate, on the borders with Silsden, West Morton, Brown Hill and Elam Grange over unmade roads and muddy field paths, often in bad
weather, wearing clogs or pattens. In daily life they expressed their Christian experience in a simple way, often in a word of prayer after a social visit.
Because of crowded conditions in most cottages it was a practice for a man to have his own quiet space in the fields were he would go to read the bible or pray often early in the morning before going to work.
Chapels are so called because Wesley originally regarded them as ‘Preaching Places’ and subsidiary to the established church, of which he was a minister to the end of his life, and for all of this 'Methodist enthusiasm' they still felt as though they belonged to the established church and so Methodist services were held on a Sunday at a time which would not clash with Matins and one of our class leaders regularly attended morning worship at St Mary’s Church in the village, and even held office there.
The Methodist cause continued to expand and the Barley Cote building became too small. In 1874 the present site was purchased. See Ilkley Road Methodist Chapel.
Ilkly Road Methodist Church has been on its present site since 1853 and combines the worship communitees of the Primitive Methodist Church at Barleycote Lane and the Wesleyan Methodists of Ilkley Road.