Front cover of Diamond Jubilee booklet, 1938
Name: Front cover of Diamond Jubilee booklet, 1938
Description: Front cover of Diamond Jubilee booklet, 1938
Collection: Morley St Mary in the Wood United Reform Church records
Location: Nowthen
Reference: WYL794
Contributor: West Yorkshire Archive Service
Rights: Morley St Mary in the Wood
The United Reformed Church of St Mary in the Wood has a long standing history in Morley

The Church was tragically gutted by fire earlier this year in the early hours of 12th June 2010, devastating church members and many people in the local community.

St Mary's has certainly held a pivotal role in the history of Morley as its sign suggests:

'The history of St Mary in the Wood covers over 1,000 years. It is recorded in the Domesday Book 1086. On the 25 September 1650, a lease was granted to local Presbyterians for 500 years. The freehold was bought in 1950 and presented to the Congregation Trustees.

Worship changed to Congregationalism at the turn of the 19th century. In 1967 St Mary-in-the-Wood, Rehoboth and St Mary's Mission joined together as the Congregational Church of Morley.

On 5 October 1972, the name of the Church reverted to St Mary's-in-the-Wood on the formation of the United Reformed Church (Congregational and Presbyterian). It is the only instance in England or Wales of an ancient Episcopal place of Worship which did not return to the Established Church at the Restoration of the Stuarts in 1660.'

Now, members of the church are working hard to keep memories of St Mary's alive. We went along to a community event in November 2010 and recorded the following stories:

  • 'I remember one Shrove Tuesday climbing up the Belfry to ring the Pancake Bell. The ladder was very steep and I froze half way up. I was very frightened. My dad encouraged me to finish climbing the ladder and I managed to ring the bell. I was 4 years old.'
  • 'Me and my husband were the first couple to be married when the church changed to URC on 7th October 1972. When I was younger, we used to go to the Minister's house after church to sing - happy memories.'
  • 'Late 1960s being part of Leeds Young Congregationalists, we formed a group who visited various churches who were without leadership and between us led the service. I well remember our visit to St Mary's. Another memory was of one of our members leading our services at Armley Congregationalists (opposite the prison, and side of the cemetery). This was when we were without a minister and where eventually I became the Church Secretary (again without a minister). Good luck for the future.'
  • 'My memory is of building the stage sets and stage managing of the plays and performances held in the "Hall" from around 1949 onwards. Also my marriage to my dear wife Ann, the christening of my three children, and their marriages, and I don't remember much of my own christening in 1928. For many years I rang the "call to worship" bell, and the ringing of both bells on Victory in Europe Day in 1945. For some time I was honoured to be a deacon of the church - happy days.'
  • 'I had my first kiss in the church hall at the age of 4 at a Christmas party (it wasn't the last). One day, whilst ringing the bell, the chain attached to the rope broke and just missed me as I jumped out of the way. I have been fortunate enough to have been a regular ringer of the Pancake Bell whenever possible. I presented the lecture to the church to give thanks for the lives of my mother and father, the latter being the organist for about 30 years. A stained glass window was installed in the transept in his memory.'

If you would like to add your memories of St Mary in the Wood, please do not hesitate to contact Rachel on (0113) 2898 223 or at rtapp@wyjs.org.uk