NON-CONFORMIST worship in Rawdon has a long history - stretching back before the building of the first Baptist church in 1715.

At a time when non-conformism was outlawed secret services were held in the shadow of Buckstone Rock. Worshippers risked breaking the law to worship in the style they chose rather than follow the doctrine of the Church of England.

Those early clandestine meetings were later commemorated each year with an annual open air service at Buckstone Rock, which is now overlooked by the club house at Rawdon Golf Club.

An overview of the history of the Baptist Church in Rawdon can be seen in these photographs and information from the archives of Aireborough Historical Society.

The first Baptist Chapel in Rawdon was built in Cragg Wood in 1715, but it was demolished when a larger building was needed. Today we can get an idea of what it looked like from an old drawing.

Stone from the early building was used to build a second chapel- known as Buckstone Chapel- on Micklefield Lane in 1765.

This in turn was demolished and was replaced by a further chapel, on the same site, in 1892. Two years later an adjoining school room and assembly rooms were added.

Although the gateposts and walls were demolished during the Second World war the chapel continued to be used until the early 1970s when the Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists combined to form Trinity Church.

The site of the original chapel went on to be used by a world famous orchid nursery Mansell and Hatcher.

A sundial was erected on the site of the second Baptist Chapel to be built in Rawdon.

A message read: “This dial stands on the site of the pulpit of the old Cragg Chapel which was taken down and the new school and chapel adjoining erected during the ministry of the Rev A P Fayers “The Lord Hath Done Great Things For us, Whereof We Are Glad AD 1902”.

The Rev A P Fayers, who can be seen in the portrait photograph, was pastor of the chapel from 1883 to 1904.

The group portrait was taken in 1915 and shows a group of elders or deacons of the chapel.

It is said that baptisms were originally performed in the River Aire but that pollution led to the ceremonies being moved from the river to the “Bobbing Well”, near Knott Lane. Subsequently baptisms took place within the chapel itself.

In 2015 the 300th anniversary of the Baptist Church in Rawdon was marked with a weekend of celebrations at Trinity Church.

The first Baptist congregation appeared in Holland in 1609 - when Church of England minister, John Smyth, baptised himself by pouring water on his head. He also baptised his fellow reformer, Thomas Helwys and members of the congregation.

Congregations soon formed in England and throughout the seventeenth century members suffered persecution for their beliefs. They argued that Jesus Christ - not the monarch - was the head of the church.

The movement saw impressive growth in the 19th century - and huge crowds numbering thousands of people flocked to see great preachers.

Today Baptist churches are found in almost every country in the world - and there are believed to be about 40 million members worldwide.

More than 2,000 churches belong to the Baptist Union of Great Britain, with a total memberships of around 150,000.