History of Spiritualism in Dewsbury

The following was taken from Souvenir of the National Spiritualist Church, Wellington Road, Dewsbury 1926

As near as can be ascertained, it is about thirty-nine years since Spiritualism made its advent at Dewsbury in an organised form, though the writer has spoken to a gentleman who propagated our beloved cause in our town more than sixty years ago.  Mr and Mrs Stansfield opened the first Spiritualist rooms.

They were in the building now occupied by Popplewell’s Wholesale Confectioners, Vulcan Road.  We understand great success attended this first venture, but unfortunately the premises were sold and consequently the society had to leave.  The early Spiritualists at Dewsbury being without a home, greatly appreciated Miss Firth’s kind offer to put her bedroom at their disposal to continue holding their meetings, and readily accepted it.  This necessitate Miss Firth selling her bedroom furniture in order to give more room for the enquirers and members of our cause, but even then the meeting-place was far too small, and it was a common occurrence for the home of Miss Firth, who then resided in Tattesfield’s Buildings, to be crowded both upstairs and down when a meeting was held.  This arrangement carried for more than twelve months.

Like all other organisations the first Spiritualists in Dewsbury had obstacles put in their way which they bravely battled with.  They also had their troubles and it appears a trouble of some kind arose which necessitated finding a new home.  Their next meeting-place was at Mrs Kings home in Woodbine Street.  Again very successful meetings were held for more than twelve months.

At last, in the year 1982 Miss Firth and Mrs King opened what as prove to be a permanent home for thirty-three years for Spiritualism – the rooms in Bond Street.  On the first Sunday in September the first service was held in the newly acquired rooms.

A month later October 1892, the Lyceum was formed.  Miss Lizzie Mortimer, a Lyceumist at Batley Carr, conducted the morning session, and Mrs James (better known as Jim) Kitson, also a Batley Carr Lyceumist, and at the time District Visitor, conducted the afternoon session.  From that Sunday Mr Kitson threw in his lot at Dewsbury and never went back to Batley Carr.  It is now amusingly recalled that Dewsbury borrowed him, but never paid him back to Batley Carr.  There were about 30 scholars at the commencement.

Christmas Day of that year was a Sunday, and unfortunately the enthusiasm over the Lyceum was not as great as it was for the Society, for in so short a time the attendance had dwindled considerably until on this Christmas Day there were only seven persons present.  It was discussed whether it was worthwhile to carry on.  Mr Kitson admits he wanted to give it up and return to Batley Carr, but Mr J E Archer pleaded with him to try a little longer.  This he did, and so from then great headway was made.

It must be very gratifying to these stalwarts to see the result of their labours for now we can claim to have one of the finest Lyceums in Yorkshire.

In the year 1894 the Lyceum invited the British Spiritualists Lyceum Union to hold its Annual Conference at Dewsbury.  This event proved very successful and beneficial to the Lyceum, as soon after this visit their membership rose to above 60.

Soon after this the Lyceumists felt very much the need for a piano, so a meeting was called to discuss this. It was found however that they had only 6½d in hand, but in spite of this fact they decided to have one, and within two hours of making this decision the piano, which we still use, was in the rooms, and the Lyceum was £33 in debt.  This debt was cleared in about two years.

The next project which they undertook was a new banner.  This was bought for the Field Day held at Crown Flatt, Dewsbury in the year 1908.  It cost £22, and the money was raised in eight weeks.

This banner lasted until 1921, when unfortunately the centre was blow out at a field day held at Castleford.  A new banner was purchased in 1922 at a cost of twenty-four guineas.

A second field day was held in 1914, when tea was served in the Savile Town Football Field on this occasion.

Since the Silver Bell competition was commenced by the Leeds Lyceum District Council the Dewsbury Lyceum has won this trophy four times, and all being well the British Spiritualists Lyceum Union will hold their Annual Conference for a second time in Dewsbury this year 1926.  About ten years after commencing the rooms in Bond Street, it was decided to start a Building Fund Mrs Buckley, Mrs Garforth and Miss Firth gave £1 each to start this fund.  It was banked in the Yorkshire Penny Bank, but there are no detail records of how the money was raised.

For some reason or other, when this Building Fund reached about £50 there was no more money raised for several years.

It was at a Social Evening held about May, 1913, that Mrs Whitworth and Mr J Whittles approached several present to subscribe a penny a week for two years towards a new church.  This money was banked at the Dewsbury Permanent Building Society, so in this way a second Building Fund was commenced, which received hearty support from all.  About May, 1918, the money was drawn from the Penny Bank and put into the new Building Fund, thus all the moneys raised for a new church were together held in trust by Mesdames Whitworth and Kilburn and Messrs J Kitson, T H Collier and J Moore.

“The Mothers” have always been a great asset to the church.  The Monday after the opening of the Bond Street Rooms the Mothers held their first meeting, and from that day to the present there has always been “The Mothers” although the enthusiasm has ebbed and flowed until about the year 1917, when the members of this section became very active.  Their object was twofold- first to propagate our beloved cause, second to raise money for the Building Fund – and when one reads that since the influx of enthusiasm in 1917 “The Mothers”, through Sales of Work, Birthday Teas, and Weekly Meetings held on Tuesdays, have raised £730, one will readily see that they have worked hard and long, and although it is not possible to name all the workers individually, we are proud to record this fine achievement, which must have entailed hours of sacrifice, and also to tender our sincere thanks to all who have helped in any way to accomplish this outstanding success.

The New Church

Through the growth of the Lyceum and the great amount of enquirers attending our services, the rooms in Bond Street became far too small and inconvenient to spread our glorious truth as we should like.  The great amount of steps, too, kept a lot of our older people away, so that when the Building Fund had reached £1000 it was felt and voiced by many members that it was time to acquire a new church.

Mr J Whittles, who became the President of the Society in the year 1924, pledged himself at the April quarterly meeting of that year to do all in his power to either find a plot of land suitable for building on or a building suitable to be adapted.

Dewsbury unfortunately is so very compact that to find a plot of land anything like centrally situated was impossible, and our funds would not allow us to consider clearing a plot, as land is very expensive in a town.  Fortunately this building came into the market, so it was decided to try and purchase same.  The President was instructed to interview Messrs R S Balden and Son, the auctioneers who had the matter in hand.  Upon doing so he was informed that no price was put on the building, but offers were invited.  It was decided after receiving this information to instruct Messer’s Marriott, Son and Shaw, Architects and Estate Agents, to value the same for us.  The result of this valuation was that the building was worth £1200, so the members decided if it could be purchased for this amount it had to be.  When this offer was made to the auctioneers it was turned down.  Then the auctioneers decided to offer the building for sale at a public auction sale.  Messrs Marriott, Son and Shaw attended this sale upon the members’ instructions, but the property was withdrawn, £1500 being the highest bid.  However, about two months after the sale, the auctioneer enquired through the architects whether our offer still stood good, and upon the reply being given in the affirmative our offer was accepted, so in December 1924, the purchase of 19 Wellington Road was completed, the building being mortgaged for £600.

The next great task was deciding upon the alterations, but with the help of the Architects, Messer’s Marriott, Son and Shaw, this task was simplified somewhat, but work was not commenced until June 1925.  All the alterations were carried out according to the lowest tenders received, with the exception of the electrical work.  This was done by three of our own members, Messrs Clarence Phillips, Vyner Phillips and Ernest Whitworth (who gave there labour).  The Church is held under a joint trust deed there being three trustees representing the Spiritualist National Union Ltd, and three representing the Church – Mr E W Oaten (Manchester) Mrs Jessie Greenwood (Hebden Bridge) and Mr. F Sutcliffe (Sowerby Bridge) representing the former, and Mr. C Phillips, Mr E Wilson and Mr J Whittles, all of Dewsbury representing the latter.

In order to carry out the alterations as the members desired it was necessary to have a further mortgage of £700.  This made the Church £1300 in debt at the opening through £40 had been paid in interest and capital during the year 1925.

On January 9 1926 the Church was opened by Mr W G Gush (Huddersfield) Dipl NU, and President of the Yorkshire District Council Mr F W Oaten (Manchester), Dipl NU and Editor of the “Two Worlds”, dedicated it on the same day. Mr J Whittles presided.

Published on May 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm  Comments Off on History  
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