U is for Unitarian

There is a unitarian church half a mile to the west in Rawtenstall and until 2004 another half a mile to the east in Newchurch which was known as Bethlehem .Tthere are two connections between Springhill and the Bethlehem Unitarian congregation.

The first is Rev Thomas Josef Jenkins who was minister at Newchurch 1913-1918 and died in office. Kelly’s directory 1909 has him living at Springhill House and helpfully specified his denomination though not his church. He was in Hinckley, Leicestershire in 1901, where he ministered before 1913 is not known but was possibly local. Kelly’s have been known to have people resident in a place after they left bur not usually before they arrived.

The annual Unitarian Sunday School Union music festival in 1918 was interrupted to offer condolences to his widow and family before continuing with a concert and dance (Burnley Express, 15 May 1918). Given Unitarian theology, it is interesting that the performance included ‘And the Glory’ and the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ with its proclamation of Jesus as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’.

Just to confuse things, the Rawtenstall congregation had a minister called the Rev Jenkyn Thomas from 1903-6. Barked up the wrong tree with that one for a while...

60 years later the residents of Springhill Cottage were regular attenders at the same chapel in Newchurch. Their family had a longstanding connection with the church and family members acted in a number of roles there.