Northowram House


Northowram House was an old 17th century cottage located at 15 Towngate, Northowram, England.

The property was the residence of the Reverend Oliver Heywood (1630-1702), who lived there from 1672 until his death in 1702.

Origins & History

In the early 17th century, the house belonged to Mrs. Bridget Mellen (c.1610-c.1700), who owned Northowram House and allowed the Reverend Oliver Heywood (1630-1702) to live there. However, influenced by a couple of local men who opposed Heywood's realistic views and leanings, she was persuaded and raised the rent twice in an effort to evict him.

Oliver Heywood records that one of the men, identified in his diaries with the initials M.D, broke his thigh shortly thereafter and died. The other, identified as J.L., sold his own lands and those of his wife, frequented the taverns every day and had distanced himself from all good society.

Mrs Bridget Mellen (c.1610-c.1700) subsequently sold Northowram House to her nephew, Benjamin Boys, but in March 1672 Heywood's friend Jonathan Priestley bought the house on Heywood's account for 100 marks, or £ 67 13/4d.

Finally, Oliver Heywood returned to live in the house on May 8, 1672 and 4 days earlier he received his license to preach.

In 1685, he was convicted at Wakefield, accused of having a riotous gathering at his home and fined £ 50, ordered to acknowledge his misconduct and sent to York Castle, but was later released on payment of £ 30 sterling.

The door to the old Northowram House cabin was inscribed 'O.H.A EBENEZER. 1677' for Oliver Heywood (1630-1702) and Abigail (1632-1707), named after his wife.

The inscription was carved by Daniel Sharp, but the stone was then moved to a position above the window.

Oliver Heywood / British Nonconformist Minister

Oliver Heywood (Little Lever, Bolton, Lancashire, England; March 5, 1630 - Northowram, Yorkshire, England; May 4, 1702) was a British nonconformist minister, expelled for his beliefs.


Oliver Heywood was the son of Alice Critchlaw (1590-1657), a native of Little Lever, Lancashire, and Richard Heywood (1596-1677), a landowner and owner of Little Lever who prospered by weaving Fustians.

His parents were strong Puritans, they married in 1615 in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and together they had 13 children: John Heywood (1616-1618), Hannah Heywood (1618-?), James John Heywood, Mary Heywood (1622-1648), John Heywood (1624-1664), Hannah Heywood (1623-1673), Esther Heywood (1627-1695), Oliver Heywood (1630-1702), Alice Heywood (1631-1677), Mary Heywood (1633-1634), Nathaniel Heywood (1633-1677), Josiah Heywood (1638-1664) and John Heywood (1634-1688).

One of the sons, Nathaniel Heywood (1633-1677), was Ormskirk's minister until his expulsion in 1662 after unsuccessful attempts to prosecute him under the Five Mile Act, an act of the Parliament of England passed in 1665 to prevent non-conformists from living in corporations. His older brother, Oliver Heywood, described Nathaniel as "the flower of our family for his wisdom, talent and piety."

Oliver Heywood was married for the first time, on April 24, 1655 in Denton, Lancashire, England, with Elizabeth Angier (1634-1661) and together they had 3 children: John Heywood (1656-1704), Eliezer Heywood (1657-1730) and Nathaniel Heywood (1659-1659). John was minister at Rotherham and Pontefract, and his brother Eliezer at Wallingwells, Notthinghamshire and Dronfield, Derbyshire.

He then married again on June 27, 1667 at Salford, to Abigail Crompton (1632-1707), a native of Breightmet, and they had no children.

It should be noted that Oliver Heywood was a great-grandson of John Heywood (1533-1600), of Heywood Mill, near Bolton, a younger branch of the Heywood family, of Heywood Hall, between Rochdale and Bury. It's conjectured that he is the descendant of a younger brother of a Heywood (Hall) Heywood, but of course such assumptions are always possible and do not prove anything. The closest to indicative evidence is that Oliver's father, Richard Oliver (1596-1677), was called a cousin by Robert Heywood of Heywood, who could have been his third cousin at best.

If he could not boast of descent from the great and noble of the earth, he could rejoice in the number of his relatives distinguished by their piety. His grandfather, Oliver Heywood (1556-1628), for whom he was named, 'was famous for his zeal, meekness, humility, love, and growth in grace', although he was not familiar with the salvation gospel before the sixty years of age.

His father and mother, Richard and Alice Heywood, were both truly godly esteemed before marriage, and were greatly influenced by his attachment to true godliness in their choice for each other.


After passing through the School at Bolton and other schools, Oliver Heywood (1630-1702) was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, on July 9, 1647, with Akehurst being his tutor, who later became a Quaker.

In religious matters, he was greatly influenced by the preaching of Samuel Hammond (c.1590-1665), and he joined the students in a kind of religious club that met in the 'attic' of Thomas Jollie (1629-1703), a minister expelled from the Church of England for his beliefs.

In 1650 he graduated and soon began to preach; his first sermon was delivered in a village near Preston, Lancashire. His uncle, Francis Critchlaw, recommended him as a preacher at Coley Chapel, near the town of Northowram, in the parish of Halifax, West Riding. He accepted the post, with a stipend of £ 30, on November 26, 1650, and turned down an offer from Houghton Chapel, Lancashire. Although he was less than the regular age, on August 4, 1662, he was ordained at Bury, Lancashire, by the second presbytery of that county.

His younger brother, Nathaniel Heywood, was a minister at Illingworth Chapel, in the same parish as Halifax, and the two lived together in 1654 at Godley House.

Heywood moved to Northowram after marrying in 1655. For many years prior to his arrival, communion had not been administered at Coley; he restored the monthly celebration in 1655, relating it in 1657 to the introduction of ecclesiastical discipline in the Presbyterian manner. Until then, his parishioners had been attached to his ministry; but discipline divided them and 'sincere Christians' became their 'biggest problem'; his list of communions reached seventy-three names. He persevered against the opposition, rejecting calls to one of the two churches in St. Martin, York, and to the Preston vicarage.

Heywood was a Presbyterian royalist, and although he did not participate in the insurrection under George Booth (1622-1684), 1st Baron Delamer, he disobeyed the order requiring a public thanksgiving for its suppression and was consequently arrested and threatened with kidnapping in August 1659.

Before the news that George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608-1670), had declared for King Charles II of England (1630-1685), he expresses himself in his diary with a psalm of praise. However, with the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 it's serious problems began.

Richard Hooke (1635-1703), an English scientist, architect, and scholar, the new vicar of Halifax, banned baptism in outlying chapels, but Heywood continued to baptize, amend, and send the usual bonuses to the vicar.

On January 23, 1661, the authorities stopped his private fast. However, among his parishioners, an influential group, led by Stephen Ellis of Hipperholme, the most important man in the chapel, favored the resumption of the prayer book. Consequently, a copy was placed on the pulpit cushion on August 25, 1661.

Heywood put her aside silently. At Ellis's urging, Heywood was summoned to York on September 13, after several hearings, his suspension from ministry in the Diocese of York was published on June 29, 1662 in the Halifax Church.

For two or three Sundays he persisted in preaching, a month after the uniformity law went into effect on August 24, 1662, and he was excommunicated, the sentence of excommunication was read publicly in the Halifax church on November 2, in the parish church of Bolton, Lancashire, on January 4, 1663 and again in Halifax on December 3, 1663.

Therefore, an attempt was made to exclude him from the churches, even as a listener; while, on the other hand, Ellis, as guardian of the church, claimed fines for not attending Coley Chapel, under the Elizabeth statute. John Angier (1605-1677), his father-in-law, admitted him to communion at Denton Chapel, Lancashire, and on June 5, 1664, he preached at the invitation of the vicar at the parish church at Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire; on August 13, 1665, at Shadwell Chapel, near Leeds, Hardcastle, the minister, who was then in prison for dissent.

Although by law he was a silenced minister, Heywood constantly held conventicles in the homes of the Presbyterian nobility and farmers, openly defying the law of 1664. Following the passage of The Five Mile Act in 1665, he left his residence at Coley Hall, but only to become a traveling evangelist through the northern counties.

He traveled extensively on horseback, and by one estimate he says he traveled 10,000 miles in a year and, in September 1680, it is recorded that he weighed 245 pounds and his wife 115 pounds.

On June 12, 1673, Oliver Heywood opened a licensed chapel in the finest hall of his own home at Northowram and continued there until the Tolerance Act of 1689.

He built a new chapel with earth and stone donated by William Clay, laying the first stone on April 23, 1688. Against much opposition, the chapel was finally inaugurated on July 8, 1688.


The last ten years of Heywood's life were somewhat troubled by symptoms of declining orthodoxy in some of his coadjutors. He maintained his own evangelistic work with incomparable vigor until the end of 1699, but in 1700 his health failed and asthma confined him to Northowram House.

As of December 5, 1701, he was transferred to his congregation in a chair. He died in Northowram on Monday, May 4, 1702, and was buried in a side chapel of the Halifax church, known as the Holdsworth Works, in his mother's grave.

Following his death in 1702, the Reverend Thomas Dickenson (1669-1743) became the second minister of the Heywood Chapel from 1702 to 1743 and in 1710, during his ministry, the chapel was expanded to accommodate the large congregation.

Heywood's reputation as a highly influential preacher emerged early among his followers and was consolidated with a series of publications between 1667 and his death: The first of these, Heart Treasure and the famous Closet Prayer focused, as their titles imply, on the nature of prayer, how it was the foundation of the Christian life in general, and, more personally, how it formed the continuing foundation of ministry in yes for Heywood.

There is no monument to the memory of Oliver Heywood (1630-1702), but at Northgate End Chapel, Halifax, there is a memorial slab erected by a descendant.

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