The ecclesiastical provision within Halifax parish, the largest parish in Yorkshire and the third largest in England, was increasingly stretched as its population began to grow with the expansion of the textile industry in the eighteenth century. Evangelical Nonconformity and especially Methodism thrived in the industrial villages and hamlets of the sprawling parish, posing a fresh challenge to the Established Church in Halifax, which by the end of the century had its first Evangelical Vicar.
John Wesley first visited the parish of Halifax in 1742 when he paid a courtesy call on the vicar Dr George Legh, describing him as ‘a candid enquirer after the truth’. Legh allowed Wesley and other Evangelical Anglicans to preach at the Parish Church and on one occasion lent Wesley his servant and horse to enable him to preach at Huddersfield. The Revd Dr Henry William Coulthurst, the first Evangelical Vicar of Halifax, founded a second Anglican church for the expanding town in 1795 dedicated to the Holy Trinity. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the first Halifax Dispensary in 1807 and the foundation of the Loyal Georgean Society. As a magistrate he later played a prominent role in suppressing the Luddite disturbances in the parish in 1812.
His successor, the Revd Samuel Knight (1757-1827) was the son of the Nonconformist Titus Knight, a coal-miner convert of John Wesley, who founded the neighbouring Square Chapel, the most magnificent Nonconformist Meeting House to be constructed in the town during the Georgian era.