The Bancrofts involvement with Scartop Sunday School & Chapel for more than 80 years..

Scar Top Chapel

 I wrote an article some time ago about George Riley Bancroft’s life as a farmer in the Upper Worth Valley, and the hard times he had to endure trying to make a living in the harsh conditions, farming in the Upper Worth Valley near Keighley, which can be read by clicking here.

George, together with various other local individuals, was a trustee of nearby Scar Top Chapel for over 50 years and was appointed on 6th April 1940. When he died in April 2000, his funeral was fittingly held at the Chapel.

George Bancroft and friend

The Chapel , which the Bancrofts were connected with since before George's time, and where many of the local Bancrofts were baptised,has a very interesting history in its own right, which is briefly as follows:

The original Sunday School Building at Scartop was the first chapel erected in the neighbourhood. It was built in 1818 by the local inhabitants, everybody taking part in the work. Farmers led the stone, the outdoor workers got the stone, masons did the building, joiners did their part, and it was erected at little cost as a ‘labour of love’. There is no known description of the original building at Scartop, but we know that a  piece of land, measuring 120 square yards, was purchased 4 May 1818 from a Mr Wright, yeoman, of West House, Oldfield, for six pounds, on a 9,000 years lease, with a peppercorn rent. The land was on a steep hillside, with the Haworth-Colne Turnpike road to the north

The current Scartop Chapel, which is situated alongside Ponden Reservoir, came about when the Trustees agreed to replace the original building with a much larger two storey chapel, including a balcony, in 1868. The laying of the corner stone on February 9th 1869 was celebrated with an open air ceremony which was marred by extremely wet weather and more than 200 people retired to the nearby Ponden Mill for tea. The new school was opened in September 1869.

Scartop Chapel interior

We are fortunate to have a photograph of the new building taken soon after its completion. The area was extensively photographed during the early phase of the construction of Ponden Reservoir. The fabric of the chapel and adjacent cottages have remained largely unchanged over the past 140 years, which is testimony to the skill of the builders and their choice of good workmen and materials.

Newly built Scartop Chapel, with the construction of Ponden Reservoir in the foreground

Scartop was originally built as a nondenominational Sunday School. However soon after it was built the Wesleyan Methodists began to teach at the Sunday School. The Keighley Wesleyan Methodist Circuit were also providing preachers for adult classes, from the mid 1820s, but these groups met mainly in people’s houses, rather than the Sunday School building. The independent, nondenominational, status of the chapel was a subject of heated debate during the rebuilding of the Sunday School in 1869. The inscription stone on the original building from 1818 read

Scar Top Chapel circa 1910

This original inscription stone was broken under controversial circumstances (accident or deliberate...who knows?). Half the Trustees objected strongly when the Building Committee asked for permission to fit a new stone with the inscription “Wesleyan Chapel built 1818; rebuilt 1869”. They objected to any change, other than adding the year it was rebuilt. The issue was not resolved, which is  why the new inscription stone was left blank.

Scar Top Chapel had a popular social aspect within the community, when all its members, sometimes numbering up to 300 individuals, would gather at various times in the summer and the photograph below records on one of these gatherings around 1909. Concerts, Lantern Shows, Sports Days, Sales, Carol Services and Parties  were all part of the local social activities in the area. As well as the Festivals and Annual prize giving concert there were numerous other concerts. Entertainment was provided by the choir, scholars and friends. In the 1920s and 30s a wide range of other concert artists, choirs and bands were hired ,and there were up to six concerts per year. Some of these were annual events, such as at the New Year and others to celebrate special occasions. Many romances between young couples from the surrounding area started at these occasions, known locally as 'copping on ', and this included some of the local Bancroft boys and girls. [see the end of this article.]

This impressive scene, looking west shows Scar Top Chapel  on the sky-line, just above the roof of the mill. Clearly it was an important occasion for the ladies to parade their finery. An Anniversary Service which was held in the open air in June 1909, was reported in the Keighley newspaper as  
‘a larger gathering, with numerous traps and waggonettes from Lancashire giving the day quite an old-time appearance.The usual Festival held last Saturday in August was also a big success, with excellent weather, and friends from near and far assembled.. In the afternoon the teachers, scholars and friends marched from the school to Intake Farm where special hymns were sung, after which Mr. John A Riley generously distributed fruit. Returning by way of of Haggate Nook another halt was made and “lucky packets” were distributed by Mr. William Greenwood. A public tea was then served to 300 people. There was then a series of competitions before an evening meeting with recitations and songs'

Anniversary Service circa 1909
The Anniversaries were still a major event attracting large numbers into the 1950s .Other than in wet weather, the afternoon and evening services were still held outdoors, at nearby Ponden Mill, as shown on the following photograph. Even today the Anniversary Services still take place, but they are now always held indoors.

Both George Bancroft, his family and his parents, John and Mary Bancroft, were all involved in the social side of Scar Top Chapel, as the following picture shows. These Chapel ladies were performing a fund-raising sketch called “Our Trip to Blackpool” on a snowy Saturday night in 1930. It had been preceded by part-songs, solos and recitals, but the ‘Keighley News’ of the time thought this, with its quaint old dresses and Yorkshire dialect, “the tit-bit of the evening”. [Mary Bancroft, George’s mother, is on the front row, first on the right.]

And another concert party night at Scar Top, shows the ladies of the chapel in fine form, looking well dressed in old-time fashions. [Mary Bancroft is standing on the back row 2nd from the left.]

In 1971 it was realised that Scar Top had never been registered as a chapel however, to be registered, it would need to come under Methodist Administration, losing its independence. Also an architect’s plan would have to be submitted, so the matter was dropped. However, Scar Top Sunday School once again became a fully independent nondenominational chapel, in 1974 because the Methodist Circuit informed Scar Top trustees that they would cease to supply Methodist preachers and presumed the chapel would have to close. The trustees were incensed by this announcement, and George Bancroft is on record as saying “we were ‘avin no’an that!”…..The independent nature of the Scartop Chapel folk was once again roused. The Trustees took some pleasure in informing the Methodists that they were in charge of the Chapel’s future, not the Methodist Circuit and that it would not be closing.

It was however not registered as a place of worship until 1997, just before it was also registered for the solemnisation of marriages, and although the numbers attending the Chapel today are small, they had no problem in attracting local preachers who were sympathetic towards Scar Top Sunday School.

The Bancroft connection continues with Scar Top to the present day, as George's son, Adrian, took over as a trustee from his father, and is still connected with the Chapel.

I mentioned earlier in this article, the part Scar Top played in bringing you people together romantically, and to finish this piece here is a couple of nice little stories written by Adrian and June Bancroft, which describes this perfectly.

'There's a little country Chapel that stands beside the road that goes from Haworth over Lancashire
moor to Colne. It's called Scartop Chapel and I have been connected to Scartop all my life. I was christened there, went to Sunday school there, we had our own children christened there and I have been a trustee there for around forty years.Scartop Chapel always holds its anniversary on the second Sunday in June and years ago it was a great social occasion. Weather permitting the services, afternoon and evening, were held in the open air. A stage was built and the preacher, the Sunday School scholars and a brass band were on this.People came from miles around, from into Lancashire, Hebden Bridge, Oxenhope, Haworth, and Keighley, hundreds of them and all the homes in the valley were full of visitors for tea between the services.Scartop Anniversary was also called locally Scartop Charity, and sometimes Scartop Copping-on Charity [a boy meets girl thing]. One Saturday night I took a young lady out on our first date and on the Sunday we met again at Scartop Anniversary. Last Sunday that young lady and I celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary, so together we chose three of our favourite hymns from Scartop Anniversary hymn sheets and the one has been chosen for us to sing tonight is 'Sweet is the work my God my King'.

Adrian Bancroft 2004

Scartop Chapel Anniversary is often known as Scartop Copping-on Charity and I think I can
safely say that my husband and I 'copt-on' there. One Saturday night many years ago I went on a first date with a lovely young man to Haworth Picture House to see 'An Affair To Remember'. The next day we met up again at Scartop for the outdoor Anniversary services'. A year later we again attended after becoming engaged the previous day. Later that year we held our wedding reception in Scartop Chapel and during the next few years our four daughters were christened there. In those days all the family attended the Anniversary and Harvest Festival services but alas we are the only two from the family to still attend. Sadly in recent years we have said “Goodbye” to many of our family and friends at Scartop Chapel. God willing, later this year, the now not-so-young man and I will celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. So, thank-you Scartop !

June Bancroft 2009

I am grateful to David Riley, for much of this information about Scar Top Chapel.
David has written a really excellent book entitled “ The Rise and Fall of Methodism in the Upper Worth Valley Yorkshire 1740-2013” which  includes the Scar Top Chapel history....a copy of which is held in Keighley Reference Library.

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