A brief history


The Chapel spacer Benjamin Ingham
Wheatley Lane Inghamite Chapel   Benjamin Ingham



Benjamin Ingham was born at Ossett in Yorkshire in 1712, educated at Batley Grammar School and Queen’s College, Oxford. There he met Charles and John Wesley, who became known as "methodists" because of their approach to worship. After ordination in 1735, Ingham accompanied the Wesleys as a missionary for the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel to the colony of Georgia in America. They sailed in The Symonds and met aboard a group of Moravians, who impressed them with their evangelical beliefs.

The Moravians are one of the oldest Nonconformist groups in Europe. The movement was started in the late 14th century by Jan Hus to throw off the authority of Rome. They were opposed to Papal indulgences a century before Martin Luther. The movement was initially in Bohemia and Moravia. Some of the followers of Jan Hus formed the Bohemian Brethren. The Moravians suffered persecution during the 17th century in Central Europe and were forced either to worship in secret or flee. During the 18th century Moravians established communities in North America, first in Georgia, which proved unsuccessful, then in Pennsylvania and North Carolina where they founded new towns.

In 1737, Ingham returned to Ossett intent on bringing his ideas to ordinary people. He began to form societies within the Church of England, initially in the Leeds area but soon beyond. This upset the established church and in June 1739 he was banned from preaching in churches in the Diocese of York. Instead he took to preaching in private houses, barns or in the open and drew a large number of followers.

In November 1741, Benjamin Ingham married Lady Margaret Hastings, daughter of the Theophilus the 7th Earl of Huntingdon. Her sister-in-law was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who gave her name to the Methodist group known as the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. Following their marriage they lived at Aberford Hall, just outside Tadcaster and their only son, Ignatius, was baptised at Aberford in 1745.

In May 1742 Ingham went for the first time to Lanshaw near Settle. He met Gyles Batty of Newby Cote who had three sons, William, Christopher and Lawrence, all educated at Cambridge. Ingham returned in February 1743 and preached at Austwick, Wray, Newby, Lanshaw and Settle. After meeting John Gaukroger of Colne, Ingham formed a society there too. By this time the large number of societies and their geographic spread made the movement hard to administer and Ingham turned to Moravians in Leeds for help. Among them was John Toeltschig, who had been with Ingham in Georgia. As a result many of the societies became part of the Moravian movement.

Freed from the administrative responsibilities of running the societies he had formed, Ingham continued to preach but gradually drew away from the Moravians. In 1745, Ingham visited the Pendle Forest area, preaching at Barrowford, Watermeetings, Roughlee and Thornton in Craven. In 1748, in response to the opposition from Anglican ministers, Ingham and his supporters decided to register their places of worship as 'Meeting Places for Protestant Dissenters'.  Ingham and William Batty attended the Quarter Sessions in Preston in July 1748 for this purpose. In August 1748, the vicar of Colne fomented a mob to attack preachers, including William Batty.

On 12 December 1748, Ingham, William Batty, Robert Robertshaw, William Whitaker and William Hargreaves met at Batty's house and formed a society of 99 members. They met with other friends at Watermeetings and 13 of them subscribed money for a chapel. In January 1749 there was a debate about its location, some favouring Roughlee and others Wheatley Lane. The decision was made by drawing lots and the group settled on Wheatley Lane.

On 1 May 1749, Benjamin Ingham purchased the site from John Town or Townson of Wheatley Carr and on 19 March 1750, Ingham and the stewards of the society laid out the ground plan. The foundation stone was laid on the afternoon of 1 May by Ingham and William Batty and followed by a gathering at Watermeetings Farm near Blacko. On Christmas Day 1750, Benjamin Ingham preached his first sermon in a church of his own with 100 society members. Women sat on the right of the pulpit and men on the left.

Helen McDonald's dissertation shows that when the chapel was registered at Preston in October 1750, it was described as "A new building situate at Wheatley Gate in the Forrest of Pendle registered for a meeting place for Protestant Dissenters."

William Batty purchased land for a chapel at Winewall in August 1751. The foundation stone was laid by Benjamin Ingham, William and Christopher Batty on 7 February 1752. A new chapel was built at Winewall in 1860 but was eventually demolished after storm damage in 1980. Services were then held in the old chapel which had been enlarged for use as a Sunday School and Day School.

While Ingham formed a number of other societies I mention only one here, Birks in Westmorland, where nine members joined on 10 October 1754. Three baptisms are recorded at Birks in the Wheatley registers but it is not clear if they are at Birks in Westmorland or Birks in Westby on the Fylde.

The break with the Church of England started in 1754 when the Wheatley Society voted to declare themselves Dissenters. Like Wesley, Ingham wished to remain within the Church of England; both were ordained ministers. Two years later the final step was taken when Ingham ordained William Batty and James Allen as ministers.

In 1758 the movement set up conferences of representatives from each group or chapel to regulate general business. The minutes of these meetings are listed in Paul Oates' book.

In 1761, Ingham sent Batty and Allen to Scotland to meet Robert Sandeman, the son-in-law of John Glas with a view to joining forces with the Sandemanians or Glassites. Allen was very positive about such a move but Ingham was not. Alan eventually broke away from the Inghamites taking a number of the smaller societies with him.

In 1762, Ingham was in contact with Robert Fisher of Little Marton near Blackpool. The latter licensed his house as a meeting place for Dissenters after the vicar of Poulton had threatened to prosecute him. It may be that William Batty visited the Fylde as there are a small number of baptisms recorded for Marton and Poulton starting in 1784, three for Birks and one for Birks in Westby, which is also in the Fylde.

Benjamin Ingham died on 1 December 1772. Wheatley Lane was the only Inghamite Chapel to have a full time minister. William Batty was elder from 1760 to his death in 1787 and was followed by James McAdden. Thomas Hargreaves followed in 1799, John Whitaker in 1813 and John Winterbotham in 1836. In 1813 Wheatley Lane Inghamite Chapel was reported as having 56 members, the most of any of the 13 groups still in operation. However, from details in the registers we know that a far large number of people were involved in a Club or Society between 1807 and 1813.

Pickles reports that a number of Inghamite baptismal and burial registers with entries before 1837 were deposited at the Public Record Office, now the National Archives. They are for Birks in the Eden Valley, Howden, Kendal (three volumes) Leeds, Salterforth, Tadcaster and Winewall.

Wheatley Lane Chapel is now a member of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. Of the Inghamite chapels, only Wheatley Lane and Salterforth remain in use.


Kay Birkett contacted me to report that her husband's family had founded the only Inghamite Church in North America in Brantford, Ontario.  It was founded by William Birkett of Kendal.  Kay has traced the family back to Pear Tree Chapel in Kendal and then to Newby near Clapham in Yorkshire.



My Ancestors were Inghamites , by Paul J Oates, published by Society of Genealogists Enterprises, Ltd. 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7BA, 2003. ISBN 1 903462 77 0

Benjamin Ingham: Preacher amongst the Dales, Forests and Fells by H. Malcolm Pickles, 152 pages, published by H. M. Pickles and printed by Pioneer Press Ltd., Skipton, 1995,
ISBN 0 9526950 0 6

The Revd: B. Ingham and a history of the Sect of Protestant Dissenters known as Inghamites, by Heather, K McDonald, Dissertation, 1965-8. A copy is in Burnley Library. It draws on the history written by William Batty in 1779 and the journals of Ingham and Batty. It also uses the Conference Book of the Inghamite Societies, Dec 1760 to Dec 1761, held at the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

The Inghamites and Moravian Brethren : The connections of my ancestors, the Brogdens and Harrisons, to both these denominations, by Maureen Shakeshaft, 4 April 2004, privately produced. Maureen Shakeshaft acknowledges the three sources above and in addition mentions as primary sources The Conference Book of the Inghamite Societies at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and a Church History by William Batty, produced in 1779 and now at the Methodist Archives in City Road, London.

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