The history of Westgate Baptist Church, Bradford (see p. 32), goes back to Rev. William Steadman (1764-1837) who belonged to a heroic age of itinerant preaching, during which the Particular Baptists emerged from their eighteenth-century introspection into vigorous expansion.
Steadman was in every way a huge figure. Converted at 17, he was powerful, outspoken and without any pretensions to gentility, style or good looks. Dr Ryland used to refer to ‘that great lump of goodness, Dr Steadman’!
Throughout his life he could be found in all weathers, tramping through the dark muddy countryside to humble cottages where he would preach Christ crucified. He displayed heartfelt joy at the commencement of the foreign mission movement, which he supported from its outset in 1792.
In 1789 he accepted a call to the pastorate at Broughton in Hampshire. His great life work began in 1805 when he moved up to Bradford to pastor the Westgate Church and lead the fledgling academy at Horton (later Rawdon College).
After just eight years at Westgate he had baptised 164 people, and admitted 175 into church membership. By 1819 there were 263 members and 300 children in the Sunday schools. In 1823 numbers were such that a second Baptist church was founded. Eventually Westgate Church had to be extended. The congregation often numbered 800-900.
Many testified to Steadman’s warm, fatherly concern for his students at the academy. He attended 115 ordinations, and delivered 101 charges to new ministers. Afterwards he maintained a keen interest in their progress.
When he retired, 157 students had entered the academy, nine were still studying, 23 had died, 14 had left the ministry, and 111 were engaged in active ministry all over the world.
For more information, read Sharon James’ article on www.reformation-today.org