Aireborough Historical Society

1852 Wesleyan Chapel Riot Yeadon

Wesleyan Chapel Riot Yeadon
Date 1st May 1852
Location Yeadon
Photo ID

 "Disgraceful Outrage in a Wesleyan Chapel On Sunday last the village of Yeadon was again the scene of the most disgraceful and riotous proceedings, arising out of an unfortunate misunderstanding between the Conference Wesleyans and the party calling themselves the "Reformers".

An eye-witness has furnished us with an account of what took place, and if his narrative is correct, (which we do not have the slightest reason to doubt) the parties appear to have conducted themselves more like a tribe of Choc-taw Indians than as members of a civilised- not to say Christian community.

      Sometime before the hour of morning service several hundreds of persons had collected in the neighbourhood of the Wesleyan Chapel.

Many of them occupied the chapel yard and others the adjoining streets.

Upon the doors of the chapel being opened, a rush was made to enter and then ensued a scene, which, we should hope, has rarely been paralleled within the walls of an edifice professedly dedicated to the purposes of Divine worship.

     One part of the "congregation" set up the most hideous yells; another commenced singing lewd songs; while others amused themselves by tossing the cushions about the chapel.

The interior of the chapel was a very Pandemonium.

The scene, says our informant, was "truly awful" to witness.

     Two gentlemen from this town had entered the chapel under the impression that the Rev. Mr Shrewsbury was about to preach and had taken their seats in one of the galleries.

Whether or not they were supposed to belong to the Conference party we cannot say, but they had been there but a few minutes  when about fifty men, forming apparently an organised body, entered the gallery and marching up to the men peremptorily ordered them to quit the place. Finding that expostulation would be useless they prepared to obey but when about to descend the gallery steps a cry of "Back up" was raised by the mob and they were pushed violently down the stairs.

    The gentlemen had scarcely managed to reach the chapel door before they were set upon by a number of other ruffians, who, taking advantage of their defenceless condition, commenced pushing and kicking them in a most disgraceful manner.

After a while one of the gentlemen managed to obtain a hearing and expostulated with the mob, declaring that he was no party to their disputes and claiming the right for himself and his companion, either to remain unmolested on the premises or depart.

     They were allowed to take the latter course, although not until they had received several severe contusions from kicks and blows.

We understand that some of the parties concerned in this outrage can be identified and that it is not improbable that they will have to answer for their conduct before the magistrates.

     It is really high time that some steps were taken  to vindicate the supremacy of the law and put a stop to the disgraceful scenes which are weekly enacted in this village.

Surely, when strangers who attend a place set apart for Divine worship are liable to be subjected to such treatment as that we have described, it ought to be the duty of the constituted authorities to interfere".


Image reproduced by kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive, research by Edwy Harling


      Further text by Christine Lovedale:

In 1851 a schism occurred in the Methodist Church when some members began demanding reforms, a notion quashed by a Methodist Conference., this gave rise to great ill feeling  and was the cause of the riots and tensions in the Yeadon chapel (Chapel Hill).

Arrests were made if not following the affray described here then on another occasion.

     Tracts had been printed demanding reform which were banned by the Wesleyans, William Kenion who ran one of the Yeadon chapel bible classes obtained a copy and read it to his group, as a result they were banned from the chapel. Instead they continued to meet at Willow Cottage on Ivegate which was Kenion's home.

     The disputes ended when the differing claims were taken to court, the Conference members retained the use of the chapel.

Kenion and his group of reformers were gaining support, he gave a plot of land on the High Street and funds were raised to build a new place of worship, the New Wesleyan Reform Chapel opened in 1855.

The congregation continued to grow to such an extent that the numbers were too large to accommodate on the High Street, a larger building was erected, Queen Street Chapel opening in 1898.

The High Street premises were then used as Sunday School rooms and a Lecture Hall.


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