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James Wood (1672–1759) was a Presbyterian minister of Atherton and Chowbent Chapels in Atherton, Greater Manchester, England. During the Jacobite Uprising, he was given the title "The General" for leading a force of men that routed The Highlanders.



James Wood was born in Atherton, the son of James Wood (1639–1694) the nonconformist minister of Atherton Chapel and his wife Anne Townley. His father was imprisoned in 1670 for defying the law and preaching in the homes of sympathisers after Atherton Chapel had been closed by the Act of Uniformity 1662. His grandfather, also James Wood (d. 1667) had been a minister of the established church in Ashton-in-Makerfield and was a powerful orator and reformer. The Act of Uniformity 1662 silenced his grandfather, who was forbidden from preaching in his church and deprived of his living.[1]

James was educated by the Reverend Richard Frankland at Rathmell Academy.[2] He assisted his father and succeeded him at Atherton Chapel in 1695. James was described by a member of his congregation,

"In person he was above the middle size and rather bulky: his appearance in the pulpit was very venerable and striking. He always wore a gown and bands, with a pretty large white wig when performing public worship. His sermons were delivered in a most solemn manner (yet without cant), and made considerable impression on his hearers."[3]

Minister Wood married in 1717 when he was 45, his wife Hannah died nine years later.[4] "General" James Wood died in 1759. It is unknown where his grave is but speculated to be at Chowbent where his wife and mother are buried.[5]


In 1715 at the time of the Jacobite Uprising supporters of the Old Pretender were marching on Preston. James Wood of Chowbent received a letter from Sir Henry Hoghton and countersigned by General Charles Wills. The letter requested that Wood “raise all the force you can, and bring arms fit for service—scythes in straight poles—spades and bill hooks and draw them to Cuerden Green about two miles from Preston.” Minister Wood led the force of Chowbent men who, in the Battle of Preston, were given the job of guarding the bridge over the River Ribble at Walton-le-Dale and a ford at Penwortham, which they defended successfully.

The Highlanders were routed and for his efforts James Wood was given £100 pension by Parliament and the title "The General" by his Chowbent congregation.[6]

Chowbent Chapel

Wood's congregation grew to about 1000 members the third largest in Lancashire.[2] Atherton Chapel was small brick building with three windows and a porch. Its windows had curved arches with diamond panes of glass in a leaded frame. Inside was a three-tier pulpit. The chapel was built in 1645 on land owned by John Atherton. In 1721 Richard Atherton, a supporter of the Jacobite cause, expelled the congregation and the minister James Wood. The dissenters met in local barns and houses including the minister's home at Gib Fold, until Chowbent Chapel was completed in 1722 on land donated by Nathan Mort.[5] "General" Wood was instrumental in raising money for the chapel and used his pension towards the cost.[2][7]


  1. ^ Wright (1921), p.19
  2. ^ a b c Gordon, Alexander; Westaway , Jonathan H., "Wood, James (called General Wood) (1672–1759),", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press),, retrieved 28 May 2010 
  3. ^ Wright (1921), p.p.24-25
  4. ^ Wright (1921), p.31
  5. ^ a b Wright (1921), p.41
  6. ^ Farrer, William; Brownbill, J. (editors) (1907), "Atherton", A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3 (Victoria County History): pp. 435–439,, retrieved 2010-05-29 
  7. ^ Lunn (1971), p.94
  • Lunn, John (1971), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Atherton Lancashire, A manorial social and industrial history], Atherton UDC 
  • Wright, J. J. (1921), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator The Story of Chowbent Chapel], Chowbent Chapel 


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