The Coley Registers were the very detailed parish records compiled by local Presbyterian clergymen Oliver Heywood and Thomas Dickenson over the period 1644 to 1752. The Reverend Heywood also produced four volumes of diaries throughout his adult life. J. Horsfall Turner’s transcript of the registers and the diaries are available in the archives at Halifax Library.
As well as containing a great deal of information regarding the backgrounds and careers of the clergymen themselves and the trials and tribulations of the nonconformist movement, the diaries and registers are a rich seam of information about the locality and this particularly exciting period of history. Heywood did not confine his records to local activities, but also referred to events of national importance, such as the Great Fire of London.
Heywood was also a consummate writer of lists. He recorded exact annual figures showing the number of sermons he gave, fasts he kept, thanksgiving prayers offered, miles he travelled, children baptised, and treatises and letters written. Picking the year 1689 at random, we see that he travelled 1358 miles, and delivered 131 sermons.
The Reverend Heywood had very strong opinions and high moral standards, and thought little of our neighbourhood. The following observations regarding Lightcliffe appeared in his diary:
“The whole chapelry is much addicted to profaneness, so that Lightcliffe and Oakenshaw have been called Sodom and Gomorrah, and I have scarcely known any serious people living there. When I have gone by the place, I have often thought of the sons of the prophets, saying to Elisha, concerning Jericho, “Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth; but the water is naught, and the ground barren … I could tell sad stories from my own knowledge about ministers and the people at Lightcliffe, but my work is not about them, therefore I shall forbear.”
MB & LK