IT is now nearly half a century since Benton Congregational Church ceased to exist as a separate entity.

The Rawdon church had served the local community for more than 120 years before it became part of the present day Trinity Church.

These photographs, from Aireborough Historical Society show how connected it was to the lives of local people - with parties, plays, outdoor gatherings and the crowning of the Rose Queen.

The church opened in 1846 on a site which was part of the grounds of Benton Park House. The land was donated by Robert Milligan whose family lived there.

The building was paid for by Milligan’s business partner Henry Forbes. The church was enlarged in 1868.

In 1972 the Congregational, Baptist and Methodist Churches of Rawdon combined to become the present Trinity Church.

The Benton Park estate belonged to Benjamin Hird in the late 18th Century.

By 1838 the house was used as a boys boarding school, but by 1861 it was the home of Harrison Milligan. The building was used as a senior department by Rawdon Littlemoor School from 1951 to 1957. It was then demolished and replaced by Benton Park School in 1960.

In an atmospheric image, which appears to date back to the early years of the 20th century, children and adults can be seen taking part in a hat making competition in the grounds of Professor Page’s home.

The man on the left of the photograph is T K Winfield. The man on the right was a school master in Menston.

A photograph taken in 1956 shows the church’s Rose Queen. Although her name is unknown we do have the names of the two attendants.

On the left is Janet Emsley of Batter Lane. On the right is Valerie Hoare of High Royd, Larkfield Avenue.

The photograph was donated to AHS by Valerie Hoare, who went on to become Valerie Ryan. Her mother, who often arranged the flowers in the church, had made the attendants’ dresses and the head dresses. Her father was a church warden.

A picture also donated by Mrs Ryan shows a group of young people on the stage of the church hall in 1957. The girls are from left to right Janet Helmsley, Valerie Hoare, Janice Brooksbank. The boys are from the left to right Howard Atkinson, Neville Brooksbank and Alan Atkinson.

The arts were clearly an important part of church life. A picture taken in 1928shows the church orchestra. Founded in 1901 at the chapel, it was part of The Pleasant Sunday Afternoon movement - a national movement to provide light musical entertainment.The musicians are seated outside the chapel. Fred Coleman was the double-bass player and the cornet player was Gilbert Myers.

The chapel also had its own thespians - Benton Players. They can be seen here in 1931 performing Milestones. Edgar Sutcliffe played the butler. The other cast members are, left to right, David Ellis, Edna Gill, Kathleen Dawson, Dora Creasey, Harry Wright and Ralph Ellis. The Benton Players were a dramatic society formed by the Rev. W Guy Caunce. Their first production was in 1923.

The church’s centenary party in 1946 is captured in one of the shots. Mrs Nicholson is sat at the table, the Rev Sydney Nicholson is preparing to light the candles. Senior churchwarden Mrs J Johnston is cutting the cake and the Rev T Davis is on the right. In an undated photograph a group of clergy and church leaders can be seen. Second on the left is Tom Davies, retired minister, Mr Atkinson a lay preacher is fourth from the left, and the Rev. Wilkins is on his right.