History





Nether Chapel

                                     



















Burngreave Chapel

    






                                                                                  
 
Wicker Congregational Church


Queen Street Chapel


Central United Reformed Church 1971




The Buildings
350 years ago in 1660 our forebears following the Reverend James Fisher, the vicar of Sheffield, broke away from Sheffield Parish Church (now Sheffield Anglican Cathedral) to form the beginnings of Congregationalism. 
The congregation met in rooms that were connected with the workhouse then at a building called the New Hall on Bridge Street, at the foot of Snig Hill, where the Hollis Hospital later had it's site.
In 1700 site was rented on Norfolk Street called the New Chapel but all was not well with the congregation.
300 years ago in 1714 a plot of land was purchased for £60 in the garden of John Tooker (a Master Cutler) lower down Norfolk Street and a Chapel was built and so the split between the the New Chapel now called the "Upper" chapel and the "Lower" site was complete.  This became the first chapel to occupy our current site.   It was known as Nether Chapel. The front of the building was on Tucker or  Tooker Alley, which subsequently became known as Chapel Walk, and set back from what is now Norfolk Street.
In 1828 a new Nether Chapel was opened (see left) and some additional land bought from Dr Thomas Young at a cost of £700 that led on to Alsop Fields.  From this three more congregations grew at Burngreave, Wicker, and Queen Street (see below). 
These four subsequently rejoined to form a new church built on the site of Nether and opened in 1971 as Central Congregational Church.
When the United Reformed Church was formed in 1972 from Congregational and Presbyterian denominations the Church became Central United Reformed Church.


Some Famous People Connected with our Church
                                        
George Bennet
In 1821 he set off to Polynesia in the company of the Reverend Daniel Tyerman to become a missionary. He was  away for over 3 years You can read all about his adventures,
 including how he was responsible for the death of his companion, Revd Daniel Tyerman,
 in On The Missionary Trial by Tom Hine (ISBN0-099-28597-5.)

Bennett was first apprenticed to a bookseller in Sheffield but inherited ‘a comfortable competency’ while still a young man and dedicated himself to philanthropic work.
In the early 19th century ‘The destitute state of the town awakened an enquiry as to the best means of withdrawing the masses from the thraldom of ignorance and vice’. A Mrs Leader ‘invited a number of girls to her house in Portobello to teach them writing and scripture’ and ‘George Bennett Esq. invited a number of youths to his residence’; both groups soon moved to Queen Street and soon there were 200 scholars - at one time numbers reached 1000 - and this was the beginning of Sunday Schools in our churches.
Bennett’s principal interest was missionary work and from 1821 to 1829 he travelled some 90,000 miles visiting the main mission fields of the London Missionary Society; China, the Pacific Islands, Australia, India, and South Africa.
He died suddenly in 1841 and there is a monument to him in the General Cemetery.
                          
Ann Gilbert (better known as Ann Taylor)
The wife of the ninth minister of Nether  along with her sister Jane, had a reputation as a poet and hymn writer.  The two sisters supplied the hymns for the Sheffield Whitsuntide gathering of 1815.
In 1806, with her sister Jane Tylor, she published Rhymes for the Nursery which included a poem called The Star now more famously known as the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.   
Both Robert Browning and Sir Walter Scott were great admirers of her work, the ‘quality and beauty of which’ caused Revd Joseph Gilbert to fall in love with her and propose to her before actually seeing her.
It is interesting to note that the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific (now part of the area known as Kiribati) were named after the family.          
                                 
James Montgomery (4 November 1771 - 30 April 1854) 
Editor of the Sheffield paper The Sheffield Iris, imprisoned twice for writing political pieces but remembered for the Christmas Carol Angels from the Realms of Glory.

Born at Irvine in Scotland in 1771, Montgomery was a member of the Moravian Church, a small Protestant denomination which had no church in Sheffield, so he worshipped regularly at both Nether and Queen Street. From 1794 to 1825 he edited the local newspaper, The Iris - which is the Greek for ‘Rainbow’, which may be seen on the banner heading of the accompanying photocopy of the newspaper. He suffered two terms of imprisonment (and narrowly escaped a third), one of which was for criticising the way the authorities had dispersed an assembly causing two men to be shot dead.
He leaves a great legacy of poems and hymns, many of which are  radical even by today’s standards. Several of his hymns are still sung, perhaps the best known being the Christmas hymn ‘Angels from the realms of glory’; other well known ones include ‘Hail to the Lord’s anointed', ‘Stand up and bless the Lord’, and the communion hymn ‘Be known to us in breaking bread’.
He died at his home, The Mount in Broomhill, in 1854 and was given a public funeral. There is a plaque at the end of Aldine Court on the corner of the the Sheffield Newspapers building commemorating his work there and in 1962 a statue was erected at the side of the Sheffield Cathedral with his remains reinterred nearby from the General Cemetery.

Samuel Plimsoll
Plimsoll’s family were descended from the Huguenots, French Protestants who had fled to England to escape persecution in the late 17th century. He was born in Bristol and moved to Sheffield where he worked as a clerk in a brewery in Pond Street and, as a Protestant, attended Nether. Later he was elected as MP for Derby and was largely responsible for the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876 which, among other things, regulated the loading of ships, including the introduction of the Plimsoll Line, the well known marking on the side of a ship which indicates the depth to which it may safely (and legally) be loaded.

Henry Coward
Both Henry Coward’s parents were musical; he was born in 1849 in Liverpool and, on the death of his father (who had been born in Sheffield), he and his mother returned to Sheffield when he was 8. He had to become the breadwinner and joined George Wostenholme’s as an apprentice cutler, leaving when he was 20 to set up on his own making penknives - which often appeared in exhibitions and won prizes. He also began a systematic self-education, took an appointment as a pupil teacher, and began to teach singing in Queen Street. This was the beginning of a notable musical career and the gist of a Queen Street church meeting resolution (the rest is flowery 19th century embellishment) dated 24 October 1889 reads ‘We have much pleasure in congratulating Mr Henry Coward on his success in having won the distinction of Bachelor of Music, as announced in the Oxford Congregation today’.
Later he was awarded a doctorate of music, was knighted in 1926, and made a Freeman of Sheffield; nevertheless he still kept in touch with his roots and remained a dedicated worker in his church. He composed the music for several hymns, some of them for the Whitsuntide sings in the Sheffield parks; the tune ‘Norfolk Park’ is still used for the hymn ‘Saviour, blessed saviour, listen while we sing ...’ and other tunes also had local names, for example ‘Brocco Bank’ and ‘Iris’ (the name of James Montgomery’s newspaper). He was perhaps most well known for his Sheffield Festival Choir which performed throughout the world and gained a high international reputation.
He also conducted the Whitsuntide sings in Norfolk Park on many occasions and in 1937, at the age of 88, did it so vigorously that he fell from the platform - but was quickly reported as ‘quite well’ in the Sheffield Star and is pictured the following year in that paper playing bowls. He died in 1944 at the age of 95.

Henry Dixon
You do not have to be all that old to remember Dixon’s Mint Rock – and you can still buy it as well as all the traditional types of boiled sweet which are still made by the family firm, now called ‘Maxons’.  
All the information below is taken from
Down the Years 1860 to 1944 
which was written by Henry Dixon himself.

Henry Dixon’s father was a silversmith at James Dixon (his great uncle) & Sons Ltd Cornish Works but later moved to a house in Arundel Street where he started his own workshop. Here Henry was brought up in a religious atmosphere but showed his commercial abilities very early; he could read by the time that he was about three and quickly earned the 2d that his mother promised him when he could recite the 23rd Psalm.
While in this house he fell and damaged his right eye; he was sent to Moorfields Hospital but remained blind in that eye for the rest of his life. However his business abilities rose to the occasion; patients were allowed a gill of porter a day and ‘I soon found a customer for my daily portion’.
More commercial talent was shown when the family went to live in Morecambe; ‘for pocket money I acquired a barrow and carted luggage from the station for visitors’. He was 13½.
The family returned to Sheffield and, after a spell with his father, he went to work for Wilson & Son, toy merchants of Snig Hill; the hours were 8 to 8 Monday to Friday and 8 to 10 Saturday.
About 1882 he met a young lady at a friend’s 21st birthday and ‘courted her for 62 years: 57½ married ones’. At the same time, ‘having a little money’, he became a partner to a baker and confectioner but ‘got back many times with full order book to find that [his partner] had been drinking all day and made nothing’. So he left to set up his own shop at 87–89 West Bar and later opened another in St Philips Road.

Throughout the years Henry Dixon was active in his church, Queen Street, and ‘At the age of 36 I was elected a deacon together with my friend Allan Hastings. We were two of the youngest ever elected. My mother thought I was too young for so serious an office’; he also served on many local and national Congregational organisations. It is interesting to read his comment that ‘In those days letters were delivered on Sundays, but not wishing to be tempted to do business on that day, refused to accept delivery’.
The shops prospered; he began to make ‘children’s novelties and cheap toys’ at a factory in Spring Street and moved to a house in Wood Lane, Stannington, but later sold this house and bought one in Wilkinson Street; he also bought a factory in Love Street which he renamed Britannia Works and began to ‘make and fill Christmas Stockings and Christmas Novelties’. At about this time he sent his son, Henry, as an apprentice to ‘a Scottish firm because Scotland was noted for its high class goods, especially boiled sugars’.
The actual beginning of Dixons as we knew it is a bit vague but somewhere between 1902 and 1904 ‘my son returned from Glasgow and we commenced the manufacture of sweets under his supervision’.
              

Jack Shaw (1938 - 2009)
Radio Sheffield presenter and author of many books including Through the Bible in 80 Days ISBN 1-874718-40-7.



Other notables
The independent–nonconformist tradition produced many men and women who have been active in promoting social advances in both public and private life often, like Fisher and Montgomery, contrary to contemporary accepted opinion.
In our churches we have had Members of Parliament; Lord Mayors, aldermen, and councillors; Master Cutlers; as well as industrialists, shopkeepers, and professional men: magistrates and holders of the OBE and MBE.
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