History of Christ Church

Early History of Swanland

Swanland is not the most ancient village. It is not mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) although there may have been some dwellings in the area at that time but there is no evidence to support this. The earliest records of the village show that, for many centuries, part of Swanland lay within the parish of North Ferriby and part within that of Kirk Ella.

The earliest known written records referring to Swanland occur in the Pipe Rolls from 1187 onwards.  Here the spelling is Suenelund.  At that time the letters ‘u’ and’ ‘v’ were used interchangeably, but the convention was ‘v’ if the initial letter of the word, otherwise ‘u’.  Under this convention the alternative spelling is therefore Svenelund.  You then only have to think of Sven, the former England football team manager, to see the Scandinavian connection and this fits because Scandinavian first names are very common in the East Riding as the first element of place names. In the thirteenth century, a time when there was no standardised spelling of place names, the name appears to have become phonetically transformed into Swannesland or similar. This is the view of A H Smith in his 1937 publication on East Riding place names produced by the English Place Name Society, the recognised authority on this subject.

The name of the village has no connection with swans. It is unlikely the village had these birds in the sixteenth century as the pond was the prime source of water, and they may well not have been introduced until the village had a more reliable water supply. In recent years, in spite of the desire by some residents, swans have not been put on the pond as it is now considered too small and the proximity of a busy road poses a hazard to the birds.

Swanland is mentioned in the Chronicles of Meaux Abbey in 1210 (It was the Cistercian monks of Meaux – on the road from Wawne to Routh - who sold to Edward I the land which became Kingston upon Hull). Then the village was referred to as Swanneslond.

The First Church Established in Swanland
According to the Church's records, in an outline history written by Revd J. E. Whitehead, a Chantry was founded in 1332. This was a Chapel at Ease to the Priory at North Ferriby and was served by one of the priests from the Priory. In 1942 a lead bulla of Pope Clement III (1187-1191) was found in the back garden of one of the houses in Chantry Way, off Westfield Lane, which suggests that this was perhaps the site of the Chantry.

It is part of our English history that Non-conformists (or Dissenters as they were then known) suffered persecution from Tudor times. Especially in the middle of the seventeenth century, particularly after the return of Charles II to the throne, those who would not conform to the restored Episcopal Church (ie governed by bishops) had to worship in secret. If anyone was caught worshipping in a way that did not accord with the Episcopal Prayer Book, they were fined or imprisoned or transported overseas for seven years, but not to New England where the dissenters had established a settlement.

Ezekiel Rogers, the vicar of Rowley for example, was a distinguished Puritan with considerable local influence. He was silenced for his non-conformity and therefore with all his congregation set sail for New England in 1638. There they founded a settlement (now a town) called Rowley.

Revd Whitehead suggests that the Swanland Chantry - somewhat repaired - had been used in secret by the Independents for their worship after 1662. In 1662 the Act of Uniformity was passed. This ruled ‘That the book of common Prayer be used by al and every minister and curate in every church, Chappell or other place of Publique Worshipp within this realm of England‘.  Every incumbent within the Church of England was required before the feast of St Bartholomew (24th Aug) to read both the morning and evening prayer as set out in the Prayer Book, and declare his  ‘unfained assent and consent to al and every thing contained and prescribed within it’. Failure to comply would lead to deprivation of office. The act also required all clergy to receive Episcopal re-ordination no matter to which Protestant church they belonged. Two thousand members of the clergy could not in good conscience obey this Act of Parliament and as a result were ejected from their living. This included the vicars of North Ferriby, Hessle, South Cave and Cottingham.

The ejected vicar of Ferriby, John Ryther, went to live in Elloughton. He preached there and in other villages, which must surely have included Swanland. He was twice imprisoned in York Castle for these activities, one period of six months followed by a period of fifteen months.

Revd J. G. Patton, Congregational minister from 1929 - 1946, when researching the church history, was led to believe that John Packham, dissenter, licensed to preach in the house of John Newton of Anlaby, 1672, might also have influenced some in Swanland, because two of the yeomen of Anlaby appear on the first Trustees Roll 1694.

Joseph Shaw, who had been licensed to preach at Ackworth near Wakefield in 1672, came to settle in Swanland. He died and was buried at North Ferriby on 17th Feb 1680. According to Thomas Blossom, some of Shaw's descendants lived in Swanland until 1870.

In 1688, the year of the revolution that brought William Prince of Orange to the throne, an 'Order of Council' was issued for ‘returns of all congregations, Conformist, Non-Conformist, and Papist’. In the East Riding returns, Swanland Independent Chapel was entered.

The Toleration Act was passed in 1689. Prior to this, because of persecution, very few places of worship had been built by Non-Nonformists. Now congregations emerged from cottages and barns and started to build.


Early Years

The first Church was founded in 1693 and the chapel and school building opened in 1694. It was a larger building than the present chapel, seating 450 people. By 1715 the membership numbered 460, clear evidence of the massive 'underground' preceding the Toleration Act of 1689.

A number of the original title deeds were badly damaged by water (either from fire hoses during WW2 or from flooding). However copies were obtained from the Charity Commissioners. Dated June 25th and June 26th 1694, they state that William Shaw, yeoman of Swanland, sold for five shillings (25p) land for the building thereon of the chapel and school. The Church Baptismal Register shows the wide area served - Swanland and Skidby, Willerby, Rowley and Walkington. The first official minister was Emanuel Dewsnop.

The Revd John Angier became a Unitarian during his pastorate at Swanland which started in 1740. (Unitarians embrace Universalism and reject the Doctrine of the Trinity thus rejecting John 1:1-15.) Because of this a number of his congregation left in a body and worshipped in another building, thought to be the cottages at 30 & 32 Main Street. They had their own minister as shown on our list in the church. John Angier stayed in Swanland and died in 1780. The two chapel congregation came together during the pastorate of the Revd David Williams of Aberystwyth who was the minister here for 39 years.

When Robert Raikes, whose cousin lived at Welton Hall, started the Sunday School movement in Gloucester in 1780, there was much opposition, especially in the north. The Archbishop of Canterbury canvassed the help of bishops to 'stop this enterprise'.

Here are some comments from the Hull newspapers :-
'Sunday Schools are to ripen the genius of the inferior classes by spoiling millions of industrious labourers'
'What ploughman able to read would be willing to whistle up one furrow and down another from morn to sunset'
'Our poor are already too much enlightened'.

Thomas Blossom started a Sunday School in Swanland on Easter Day, 15th April 1789 with 70 scholars. This was the first Sunday School in the East Riding.

Thomas Blossom, after returning from missionary service in the South Sea Islands, went to live with his brother who farmed in North Cave. In 1847 towards the end of his life, 1777 - 1850, he wrote an autobiography. Both Whitehead and Patton referred to Blossom's writings in their work. The Revd Patton when writing his book, ‘A Country Independent Chapel’, took Blossom's writings from the church to his home along with other old documents. After his death in 1949 his wife, in blissful ignorance, while clearing up his personal papers burnt them on a bonfire!

The Minister's House was built in 1696 and still stands in West End although according to John Holmes (A New History of Swanland – 18th and 19th Centuries) the house was pulled down (at least in part) and rebuilt in 1855. A new Manse was built in Westfield Lane in 1938 and sold in 1961 because the Deacons thought that the church would never again be able to afford to pay a minister’s stipend. At that time the manse was a drain on the church's funds and because of the then Labour Government legislation of rent restrictions, the church was not allowed to rent the property without incurring financial loss. It was sold for £5,000 but in 1997 it changed hands for £175,000!

The New Chapel Building

It was in 1803 that a new chapel, the present one, was built on the site of the old. The new chapel was attached at its north end to the original school building. The schoolroom foundations can still be seen in the cellar of the Institute. The stone staircase to the gallery (on the right hand side) was then outside. The two porches were added in 1840 and the two adjoining vestries in 1854, the north vestry being built on the site of the schoolroom.

In 1928 the church was entirely refurbished under the guidance of Mr Louis Calvert. He was a joiner in the village and also a Chapel Deacon. The pulpit apse, a gift of the Westerdale family, was built and the old box pews replaced with unstained Austrian oak pews. The pulpit donated by the Blossom family was made and fitted by Mr Calvert personally. The communion table and chairs were given by Mrs Whitehead and her daughters.

Between 1968 and 1988 the roof of each building was stripped, felted and re- slated and in 1989 a steward’s room was added. The north vestry was extended, new toilets built (including one for disabled people) and the room behind the pulpit created in 1990. The balcony was refurbished and equipped with new chairs in 2000/2001. In 2006 the last major alteration involved extending and refurbishing the kitchen and the creation of a toilet for disabled people at the southern end of the building (reducing the size of the Steward’s Room in the process). The windows on the western side of the church were replaced in 2007 thanks to the generosity of The Dora and Henry Needler Trust.

In 1914 the Institute and reading room was built on the site of the chapel school playground, a gift of Sir James Reckitt who lived at Swanland Manor (demolished in the 1930s). He supplied the church with electric light which was generated at the Manor. The ceramic insulators can still be seen in the south porch wall where the cable entered the church and the original telegraph poles which carried the cable from the Manor to the church, were round the back of the pond until 2004 when they were removed as part of the refurbishment of the Old School.

Revd Whitehead noted that when he was minister, half the congregation came from outside the village but in the present day most of the congregation are from Swanland.

The chapel school became too small for the number of children from the village that wanted to attend. In 1876, John Todd Esq. JP of Swanland Hall, one of the Deacons of the church, gave a new building for the use as a Day and Sunday School.

By 1929 the number of children from the village had once again grown and were too many for the building. The church was finding it difficult to finance the day to day running expenses of the school and were certainly not in a financial position to afford the cost of extending the building. The Deacons decided to give the building to the East Riding Council but retaining the right to use it for Sunday School purposes. In 1936 the Council built on the class room on the pond side of the school, including a new entrance, cloakrooms and an upstairs staff room. By 1963 the pupil numbers were too large and the building was suffering from a number of problems. Therefore in that year the Council took over the James Reckitt Memorial Hall in Tranby Lane and the school moved there. In subsequent years the old school had various uses but by the beginning of the 21st Century was virtually derelict. Only the right by the church to use it as a Sunday School prevented its demolition and the land being sold. It was purchased by the Parish Council for £1 and was incorporated into a new village hall opened in 2005.

Other places of worship

The Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in 1827 on land donated by H. Sykes Esq. (see foundation stone moved to be installed in Christ Church’s balcony). It was served by the Methodist Circuit in Hull and was the only alternative place of worship until the end of the century when the Anglicans consecrated a building known as St Barnabas Church in 1899.

The Second World War.

Early during the Second World War the whole of Linnaeus Street Jewish School was evacuated to Swanland. They used the vestry for some time as a school room. During this time, when air-raids on Hull were a nightly occurrence, people arrived from Hull for a night’s refuge. The carnage being wrought upon Hull could be viewed from Tranby Lane like some great demonic firework display. During this time the fields around Swanland received quite a variety of bombs. The German Bombers used the River Humber as a guide flying up the river, turning over Swanland and making a bombing run on Hull. They then flew on out to the North Sea and back home. Searchlights were placed all around the Swanland area; there was one at the junction of Tranby Lane and Jenny Brough Lane. If, as the bombers turned, they were caught by the searchlights, the anti-aircraft guns at Chanterlands Avenue and the Costello Playing fields would open fire, and the Germans used to let their bombs go and try to escape .

Coming Together of the Churches

The coming together of the two denominations (United Reformed and Methodist) was a task that took over twenty years to achieve.

In 1963 at a ministers’ fraternal the topic of the two Non-Conformist churches in Swanland joining together was discussed. The Revd Roy Kilner the Methodist Minister and Pastor Rowland Taylor for the Congregational Chapel were very keen for this to happen. A letter from Roy Kilner to Rowland Taylor included "As you probably know, I believe passionately in re-union and long for the day when our Lord's Prayer has been realised and we become one". The joining together was put to both church meetings and the Congregationalists voted their agreement. Of the twenty-five that attended, twenty-three voted for and two against. Eleven Methodist members were present. Five members agreed to a joint church but six members voted to remain 'as we are'.

In 1970 the Vicar, Revd David Bulman, invited all the churches in Swanland to meet together to explore the needs of Swanland in view of the expected growth of the population that was scheduled by the Local Authority to take place in the next few years. After much discussion, the suggestion was made to extend the Congregational Chapel. At that time there was plenty of undeveloped land around it to expand, to create a set of church buildings that could be used by each denomination for their individual worship and have a central Christian meeting place in the middle of the village. Cold feet and lack of imagination defeated this project.

In 1972 the Congregationalists joined the Presbyterians nationally to form the United Reformed Church (URC) and Swanland Independent Chapel became Swanland United Reformed Church.

In 1975-6 the Methodist Chapel became unsafe to use. They approached the URC and asked if they could use their building to hold separate services. The URC members invited the Methodists to join them as one congregation but, after the Methodists declined, the URC Church Meeting said no to joint use. It was felt that, for two denominations to share one building and have their own separate services, would cause difficulties.

In 1978 the URC minister of Swanland and Hessle, Revd David Anderson, left to become the minister at Withernsea. The Church Meeting, while discussing joint pastorates with other URC churches, came to the conclusion that the best solution was to share ministry with their own village Methodists. On Jan 26th 1979 a letter was sent to the Methodists inviting them to discuss this. A joint meeting was arranged. By this time new people to the village had joined both congregations and some of the intransigent had been called to higher service. The meeting agreed that the best course of action was to explore joining together to become a joint church. Under the leadership of the Methodist Minister, the Revd Derek Jennings, a Sharing Agreement was drafted and a Constitution written out and agreed, both locally and nationally by each denomination. There were 23 Methodist members and 25 URC members. 

In September 1981 the Sharing Agreement was signed. The first minister of the joint church, Revd Kenneth Marshall, was inducted to the pastorate and officials of both denominations took part in this service. In a very short time the membership had grown to number seventy-five. At the 1988 October census the attendance figures for Sunday worship were 102 in the morning and 29 in the evening.

The two denominations locally have amalgamated in such a way that they have become one church, and the join is invisible. This was achieved by everyone accepting a new situation and agreeing to do things in a new way. As an example, for the Communion Service, the church uses the words from the Methodist Service Book and the distribution of bread and wine is made in the Congregational way, as a family meal. The only time each of the two denominations is counted individually, is for the annual census and the financial assessments, when the dues to the parent denominations are calculated.

Recent Events

1983 saw the birth of a new venture that has proved to be one of the brightest jewels in the joint church crown. Brian Gilyard and Bill Calland started the Company of 1st Swanland Boys Brigade. This developed into a Boys and Girls Brigade and proved to be perhaps the best way in which the church reached out into the local community. One evening a week about 45 young people, as well as helpers and parents, took over the whole of buildings for their Christian based activities. They also made use of the old school and once a month a Parade Service was held. In 2001 Bill and Brian wished to step down, having been the leaders for 18 years. Sadly, nobody was prepared to come forward to take over as officers and so the Company was wound up.

Over the first sixteen years the church was served very well by four Methodist Ministers from the Hull West Circuit. When it was known that the Revd Philip Chilvers would be leaving in August 1996 the Church Meeting decided to seek a URC minister. Both the Methodist Circuit and the URC District Council agreed. The latter suggested a joint pastorate with Elloughton URC Church. A pastoral profile was produced and a number of candidates were viewed. In 1998 the Revd Ian Jones was appointed minister for both Swanland and Elloughton.

In the period 1996 to 1998 Christ Church’s services and midweek meetings were well supplied by an Interim Moderator, Revd Steven Knapton, and Revd Henry Pittam, a Methodist Supernumerary Minister, as well as being served by Lay Preachers through the Methodist Circuit Plan and from the URC.

Unfortunately in 2001 the Revd Ian Jones resigned from his position and for a period of six months the Church was without a minister again. It was agreed to seek ministry once more from the Methodist Circuit and in 2002 the Revd Sue Sowden was appointed to Christ Church. She was already minister at Princes Avenue and Perth Street churches in Hull. The appointment of a Methodist minister meant the sharing arrangement with Elloughton ceased. In 2004 the Revd Sowden left West Hull to take up the position of a Superintendent Minister in the Malton Circuit and the Revd Shirlyn Toppin took her place at Swanland. As a result of a re-organisation within the Hull West Circuit Revd Denise Free took over at Swanland for the year 2005/6 before Revd Toppin returned. She left to go to the West Midlands in the summer of 2009 to be replaced by the Revd Janet Whelan. Revd Whelan, who also served the Methodist Churches in Hessle and North Ferriby, came to the area from Bridlington. She retired from the Ministry in 2014. In that year Christ Church adopted a new Constitution based on a model produced by the Charity Commission more suited to the 21st Century.

From September 2014 a new chapter in the provision of Ministry for Christ Church began when the church joined the URC Hull Area Team Ministry led by Revd Simon Swailes. In July 2015 Revd Chris Dowd joined the team and, in 2017, following the retirement of Revd Swailes, Chris took over leadership of the Hull Team. Chris left Hull and the Team in August 2019 to take up a position in the Midlands.

Many people have said, especially visitors, that there is a very special atmosphere of warmth and friendship at Christ Church. Why not pay a visit? See the website or the notice board for details of Sunday services. Come first to one of the weekly coffee mornings - Wednesdays in term time or every Saturday. The website also gives details of other events which take place from time to time throughout the year. A warm welcome awaits you.

Christ Church website for contact details, services and events - http://christchurchswanland.btck.co.uk/



These notes were compiled by Raymond Taylor in 2000 from his memory and that of others, and:
Church minute books
Notes by Revd J. E. Whitehead
“A Country Independent Chapel” by Revd J. G. Patton

Alterations in various years to bring the notes up to date were made by John White with the help of Geoff Collier, lastly in 2019. List of Ministers revised 2018 from Surman Index.

A list of Ministers who have served the Church

                                    John Packman (a dissenter may have influenced the Gathered church in Swanland - “Country Independent Chapel” p26)

                                    Revd John Ryther (ejected vicar of Ferriby; may have preached in Swanland - “Country Independent Chapel” p26))

1690 -1691                  Revd Joseph Shaw
1693 – n d                   Building of the first chapel
1696 -1702                  Revd Emanuel Dewsnop
1703 -  n d                   Revd Brook
1711 - 1713                 Revd John Gardner
1715 – n d                   Revd Joshua Hardcastle
1720 - 1738                 Revd Joshua Hoyle
1740 – n d                   Revd John Angier. (died 1780 at Swanland; buried Ferriby)
1770 - 1773                 Revd Samuel Bottomley
1775 - 1782                 Revd George Gill
1783 - 1785                 Revd Richard Leggatt
1786 - 1826                 Revd David Williams
1826 - 1834                 Revd John Hayden
1835 - 1844                 Revd John Towers Evison
1845 - 1850                 Revd John Bramall
1851 - 1853                 Revd Robert Thomson M.A.
1854 - 1865                 Revd James Wishart   M.A.
1866 - 1866                 Revd E Newsum
1867 - 1870                 Revd George Snashall B.A.
1872 - 1899                 Revd John Edwin Whitehead
1899 - 1914                 Revd Wm St John Crickmer
1914 - 1922                 Revd Wm Nicholson
1922 - 1924                 Revd Robert.Joseph.Hill
1924 - 1928                 Revd Tingay Langham Moore
1929 - 1946                 Revd John George. Patton
1946 - 1950                 Revd David Trevor Roberts
1950 - 1956                 Revd Albert F. Bayly B.A.
1958 - 1961                 Revd Derek Arthur Fitch
1961 - 1964                 Pastor Rowland V.F.Taylor
1965 - 1971                 Revd W.K.Gathercole M.A.  B.D.
1971 - 1975                 Pastor H.K.Johnson
1975 - 1978                 Revd David Anderson B.A.
1979 - 1981                 Revd Harry Smith URC.Interim Moderator
                                    Revd Derek Jennings Methodist Minister.

Joint Church

1981 - 1988                 Revd Kenneth Marshall
1988 - 1991                 Revd Stanley Barker B.A.
1991 - 1994                 Revd Kingsley Halden M.A.
1994 - 1996                 Revd Philip Chilvers
1996 - 1998                 Revd Steven Knapton M.A. Interim Moderator
1998 - 2001                 Revd Ian Jones B.Sc.  B.Th
2002 - 2004                 Revd Sue M. Sowden  B Min Th
2004 - 2005                 Revd Shirlyn Toppin B.A.  M.A.
2005 - 2006                 Revd Denise Free
2006 - 2009                 Revd Shirlyn Toppin B.A.  M.A.
2009 – 2014                Revd J Whelan
2014 - 2017                 URC Hull Area Team Ministry (Revd Simon Swailes and Revd Dr Chris Dowd)
2017 – 2019                URC Hull Area Team ministry (Revd Dr Chris Dowd)
2019 -