The origins of Lee Mount Baptist Church lie in the mission of Birchcliffe Baptist Church, Hebden Bridge, and the impact of industrialisation and global economics on rural weavers. There had been a Particular Baptist Chapel in Heptonstall, established by Thomas Greenwood, pastor of Rodhill End and Stoneslack, between 1717 and 1724. However, by the end of the 18th century, this church had ceased to meet and in 1807 37 members of Birchcliffe Baptist Church were dismissed to form a church in Heptonstall with James Taylor, a nephew of Dan Taylor, as minister. They met first in the old Particular Baptist meeting house while building their own church at Heptonstall Slack which was opened in 1808.
By 1822 they had 200 members and Richard Ingham, a native of Slack who had earlier trained as an Anglican priest at Oxford University, became their minister. He resigned in 1834 when membership had reached 300 to be succeeded by William Butler under whom membership reached 502 in 1844 while its school attracted 700 children. At the time it was the fourth largest General Baptist Church in the country.
Then an economic downturn affected the textile workers who made up its congregation and many families left the area, among them the family of Samuel Greenwood who moved to Halifax. He and other Christians from Heptonstall Slack, Birchcliffe and Queensbury began to meet in Ovenden in 1844. Their first meeting place was a cottage in Sod House Green in 1845 where they formed ‘The Ovenden General Baptist Church’ in 1846. But in 1857 it was dissolved though the Sunday School continued. Though some of Samuel Greenwood's family continued to live in Ovenden and to work at John Crossley's, he himself moved to Bradford where he joined Trinity Horton, which had been formed by 41 members of Westgate in 1851, Westgate's centenary year.
In 1866 the school became a branch school of North Parade Baptist Church, which had moved from Haley Hill in 1854, and in 1872 a chapel was built at Lee Mount. It is claimed the chapel gave its name to the district which previously was known as Broad Tree. It operated as a branch of North Parade until becoming an independent church with 134 members in 1892. In 1893 J H Robinson became its first minister, to be succeeded by D B Davies in 1899 and F W Duncombe in 1906. During his ministry he led the campaign for a new church building alongside the school to develop the emphasis which there had always been on young people by providing more room for activities such as the Band of Hope and Christian Endeavour. This was opened on Sunday, 31 May 1908 and seated 760; at the time £2,701 of the £4,400 needed for the building had been received.
It is on the A629 Keighley Road, so has good bus links and a car park. Nearby are an Anglican Church, a Pentecostal Church and a Roman Catholic Church in Ovenden. The closure of a Methodist Church brought Boys’ & Girls’ Brigade Companies to increase those already existing. There is a Primary School in Lee Mount, and other schools nearby. The area is mainly working class with parts socially deprived with problem families and unemployment. Parts of the area have a reputation for trouble.
The Jubilee was celebrated in 1958 and in 1960, under the ministry of Rev R J Cook, ‘Family Church’ was introduced. The problems of road widening and buildings became a headache at the time. So the church building was divided horizontally to provide a Sanctuary on the higher level and an Activities Hall below. This was opened on 3rd December 1977. In 1973 the Church appointed its first woman secretary after the very sudden and sad death of Mr Gordon Smith who had been a much loved secretary for 14 years.
The 1968 Comment ‘From the beginning the emphasis of the Church has always strongly been on the Sunday School, and the work of training the young has been maintained. It is a cause of rejoicing that so many young people are drawn into various organisations, and not only trained as good citizens but are introduced to the fellowship of the church, following the introduction of Family Church.’
Frequent ministerial changes require strong lay involvement. The history of the church ‘In Search of a City’ by Joan Crabtree and Michael Jackson said ‘The Three Think Tanks have been invaluable. We owe many first-rate proposals and ideas to them.’ Such input confirms.
Lee Mount has always been well served by able, faithful and devoted workers in official positions, in children’s work, with uniformed organisations and for communal activities. Norman Thompson served as Church Treasurer for 30 years until 1978. The death in 1972 of Gordon Smith who had been Church Secretary for 14 years was a grievous blow. His successor Mrs Doreen Stansfield became the first woman to hold the post and served until 1982. On every occasion when both positions have become vacant others have stepped in to fill them. In our period there have been 5 changes of Secretary and 4 of Treasurer. ‘In Search of a City’ said of Mrs Stansfield’s appointment, ‘Male chauvinism died a long time ago at Lee Mount.’ Three Secretaries and one Treasurer have been women, as are the present holders. The first lady deacons had been appointed in the 1940’s. At present the full complement of the diaconate has both men and women. In 1997 so many ladies were involved in all the work of the church it was agreed to end the Ladies’ Fellowship.
Three members of the church have been ordained and entered the Baptist Ministry. In 1990 Jane Powell commenced training at Northern Baptist College and in 1993 became minister of Steep Lane Baptist Church. In 1999 Jane Ledingham started full time Girls’Brigade work at Didcot, from which she trained for ministry at Regents Park College. She served as minister at Gildersome Baptist Church and is now Regional Minister for Mission at the YBA. Alan Vine was Lay Pastor at Denholme Baptist/URC Church. In 1970 Rev W.B.Wilson (former member and part author of the 1968 history) and Mrs Wilson returned to worship at Lee Mount, after leaving 42 years earlier to enter the ministry. Miss Amy Jagger, a former member, worked as a missionary in China in the 1930’s.