Upper Chapel largely owes its origin to the Act of Uniformity of 1662 where all men “should declare their ‘unfeigned assent and consent’ to all and everything contained in the Book of Common Prayer.’”[i] Ministers had to be ordained in the episcopal manner and couldn’t administer the Lord’s Supper before doing so[ii]. It was an incredibly tense time in the life of the church in England and many ministers were imprisoned as a result of the act. Although the Act of Uniformity removed several godly ministers from their usual Church of England pulpits in Sheffield, some were able to start other congregations in more secretive areas. James Fisher, a Church of England presbyterian, was ejected from the curacy of Sheffield Parish Church (now Cathedral) and took many congregants with him to start a Dissenting Chapel[iii]. He was pursued by the authorities and preached to many Dissenters in secret until the Five Mile Act of 1665 prohibited him from being within five miles of his former pulpit[iv]. He was imprisoned several times and died only a couple years later of poor health[v]. In 1669, a minister named Robert Durant, an Independent, was ejected from Crowle and settled in Sheffield at the small independent chapel started by Fisher[vi]. They met in a place called New Hall in 1678 and the Brights of Carbrook Hall were members of that congregation and contributed much to the construction of the Meeting House[vii]. Two other ministers served at that congregation until 1681 when Timothy Jollie was ordained and installed as the minister at that chapel[viii]. Doubtless there were Presbyterians in the congregation because Jollie was ordained under the auspices of presbyters[ix]. Manning states that there was a happy union between both the Independents and the Presbyterians[x]. Jollie had to leave Sheffield for a brief time in 1681 but was very influential in the start of Christ’s College in Attercliffe[xi]. This was a local seminary that turned out over 40 men into the ministry between 1691 and 1700[xii]. Many of these pupils became prestigious men in England. In 1704, a new building was built and was originally called New Chapel[xiii]. Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists all worshipped there under the good teaching of Jollie. The peace of this chapel did not last for very long. Timothy Jollie died on Easter Sunday 28 March 1714 and a debate arose over who would take over the pastorate at New Chapel[xiv]. There were some who wanted a Mr. John De la Rose, a Calvinist, to take over and but other more influential members, the trustees and the wealthiest, wanted a Mr. John Wadsworth from Rotherham, a Unitarian, to become the pastor[xv]. The latter party won out and De la Rose and 200 members from New Chapel/Upper Chapel left to start another church[xvi]. New Chapel was renamed as Upper Chapel and John Wadsworth tried to sustain the work that Jollie had maintained, especially at Christ’s College[xvii]. However, for some reason or other, we hardly hear anything about Christ’s College after Jollie’s death but that it did disband shortly thereafter[xviii]. Upper Chapel delineated in its theology under Wadsworth and his successor[xix]. It is now a Unitarian church.
[i] Manning, J.E., M.A. History of Upper Chapel Sheffield. 1900. 1.
[iii] Ibid. 16.
[xi] Ibid. 36.
[xii] Ibid. 37.
[xv] From Nether Church (Congregational) Sheffield 1714-1964.
[xvi] Manning 54.
[xvii] Ibid. 59-60.
[xix] Ibid. 66.