The Chapel

Houghton Chapel


The baptism and burial records for Houghton Chapel have been transcribed from their commencement in 1769 to 1851. The latter date was chosen so as to provide overlap with civil registration, which commenced in July 1837, and the census of 1851, which was the first to give places of birth and accurate ages. No marriages were conducted at the chapel in this period. Copies of the transcript have been deposited at Clitheroe Library, The Borthwick Institute of Historical Research in York, The Lancashire and North Yorkshire County Record Offices and the Society of Genealogists.

History of the Chapel

Tosside lies four miles north east of Slaidburn on the road to Long Preston, and six miles north west of Gisburn. Until the local government reorganisation of 1974, Tosside was in Yorkshire. The boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire now runs through the centre of the village so that the chapel is in Lancashire. Tossett is the older form of the place name and is thought to be derived from “tod” meaning fox and “saetr” meaning a summer or hill pasture. Tosside was originally the area by Tosside Beck; Houghton Chapel was the part of Gisburn Forest around the present church.  [1]

The Chapel at Tosside, from the evidence of its own registers, has been known as Houghton Chapel and Tosside (or Tossett) Chapel. The former name is often used to distinguish the chapel from the nearby Mount Sion Chapel at Sandy Syke, Tosside. The baptism registers for the chapel from 1769 to 1776 were indexed by the International Genealogical Index [2] under the name of Houghton by Settle. The Chapel was originally a chapel of ease to the church of St. Mary’s at Gisburn. It is now known as St. Bartholomew’s Church, Tosside. It is in the Deanery of Bowland, Archdeaconry of Craven and Diocese of Bradford. The parish was formed in 1870 from the adjacent townships of Gisburn Forest and Knotts 1.

The early history of the chapel is obscure. According to Thomas Whitehead [3], a parliamentary survey in the time of the Commonwealth in 1652 stated that Houghton Chapel in the Forest of Gisburn was about four miles from the parish church. The report recommended that it become a parish church and have some maintenance as it was dependent entirely on the benevolence of the people. Whitehead states that Mr. John Cramblecome was preaching there. During the Commonwealth period the chapel was used by Presbyterians or Independents but was neglected after the Act of Uniformity in 1662. Under the Toleration Act of 1669, it was certified to the Quarter Sessions as a Chapel for Dissenters by Henry Robinson, but the decision was referred to the Archbishop. Evidently permission was not granted by the Archbishop but other properties in the area were registered for worship by Dissenters. A Mr. John Chromleholme, minister at Tosside, was buried [4] at Long Preston on 5 May 1682.

In 1843 the chapel was repaired by the Revd. Ambrose Dawson and it was thoroughly restored in 1873 by the Revd. John Ellerbeck. During repairs in 1987, plaster was removed from a wall revealing stonework that gave the impression that the building had once been a barn. It is built in a similar style to the neighbouring public house, which was formerly a farm [1]. The octagonal font, made from local stone, bears the date 1619 and it is believed that it may have been made for Gisburn Church. It had been outside for many years and the carving had become eroded, but the part that remains visible states:

‘(k)now that all children baptised heare God gave them good lives to lead the Eternal God to feare 1619 R.T.’

Description of the Registers

The first register has the title: The Register of the Chapelry of Gisburn Forest dated in the year of our Lord 1769, Richard Carr, Curate. The name of John Foster, Curate, 1794, appears to have been added later.

This register covers the period from 1769 to 1796 and records both baptisms and burials. For baptisms, the information recorded is: the name of the child; the father’s name; the mother’s Christian name but not her maiden name; the abode of the family and the date of baptism. No information is given in this register about the ministers performing individual ceremonies. However, from 1790, John Foster, inserted statements each year that he had sent copies of the entries to the bishop.

The second register is entitled The Register of Houghton or Tossett Chapel in the County of York and Diocese of Craven of Births and Burials for the Year 1796. The names of John Foster, Curate, and John Robinson, Clerk of Chapel, were added below. This register covers the period from 1797 to 1812.

Baptism records include the seniority of the child in the family and the maiden name of the mother. There is a note that a population count was conducted for the census of 1811. Of particular interest is the following statement:

The Rev d John Foster appointed the Perpetual Curate of Houghton alias Tossett Chapel void by the death of Thos: Heaton deceased on 10 January 1807 and licensed 28 June 1807. Nominated by the Rev d Robt: Knowles vicar of Gisburn as patron of the said chapel.

Thomas Heaton had not made the annual return to the bishop since 1786 but he appears to have remained Perpetual Curate until his death in 1807.

The third register is the standard type used in all parishes from 1813. The title on the first page is Houghton alias Tossett in the County of York, 1813, Jno: Foster Curate, Parish of Gisburn and Chapelry of Houghton. John Foster continued as curate until 1840 and reported a further population count in 1821.

There are burials recorded in the first two registers but there is then a gap from 1811 to 1821. Only 14 burials are recorded from 1821 to 1852 and these are in the register currently used at the church. It is possible that some people were buried at St. Mary’s in Gisburn or changed allegiance and were buried at Mount Sion Chapel, Sandy Syke. The latter chapel [5] is only half a mile away. It opened in 1813 and recorded burials from 1814.

The bishops’ transcripts of the registers are kept at the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research in York. In the 1770s and 1780s, some Houghton Chapel records were included on the same parchments as those for St. Mary’s at Gisburn. A most unusual feature of the Houghton Chapel bishop’s transcripts is that in some cases information has been included on the children baptised at the nearby Nonconformist Chapel, Mount Sion at Sandy Syke. The Yorkshire Parish Register Society produced a transcript of registers of St. Mary’s at Gisburn in 1943. A few of the early Houghton Chapel records are included in it. I have taken the opportunity to gather all the records for Houghton Chapel into the present transcript.

The Most Common Surnames

For those interested in family history in the Gisburn Forest Area the following are the most common surnames in the Houghton Chapel registers.

Blackwell Coat(e)s Jackson Rawsthorn(e) Wolfenden (Wolfendale)
Boardley Cook(e) Lawson Robinson Wood
Brown Dickson (Dixon) Leach Taylor Wooler
Butler Geldard Marsden Thornber  
Carr Harg(e)aves Parkinson Turner  
Clark(e) Holden (Holding) Peel(e) Whittle  



I would like to thank the Revd. Mark Russell-Smith, Priest-in-Charge of Slaidburn and Long Preston with Tosside, for permission to transcribe and publish these registers. Mrs. Vera Newhouse, the churchwarden, kindly provided some of the background information on Tosside from her own research and allowed me to inspect the current burial register. I would also like to thank Professor David Smith, Director of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research for permission to publish details from the bishops’ transcripts, Anna Watson at the Lancashire County Record Office for permission to use the original registers; Sue Holden, Reference Librarian at Clitheroe Library, for help with place names, and Mrs. Jessie Thornber for bringing the registers to my attention.

Craig Thornber March 2001


1. Information from Mrs. Vera Newhouse, Churchwarden.

2.  Finding Folk, Handlist of Genealogical Sources in the Lancashire County Record Office, July 1995.

3.  History of the Dales Congregational Chapels, by Thomas Whitehead, published by Feather Bros., Hanover Street, Keighley, 1930.

4.  Information from Reg Postlethwaite.

5.  Mount Sion Chapel, Sandy Syke, Tosside in the Forest of Gisburn, Baptisms from 1811 to 1990; Burials from 1814 to 1996, transcribed and edited by Craig W Thornber and checked by Mrs. Sue Holden, privately published, July 1997.


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