The Society makes grants both to individuals and to organisations in support of cultural and scientific activities which increase innovation, outreach and diversity in Leeds and its immediate area. It also supports local museums and galleries and publications relating to the city.

About the Society

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, founded in 1819, is a charity that promotes interest in science, literature and the arts – in the city of Leeds and beyond. We have meetings, lectures, entertainments, publications and visits.

The Congregation of Mill Hill Chapel at the time of Joseph Priestley’s Ministry

Historian Janet Douglas presents this year’s Priestley Lecture

In-person event with option to join remotely – link to be sent to all who book

Joseph Priestley was the minister at Mill Hill Chapel between 1767-1773. He left with some reluctance following the Earl of Shelburne’s offer of employment at twice the salary he received at Mill Hill. Priestley and his family had been happy serving this ‘liberal, friendly and harmonious congregation’ and it this congregation which is the focus of the 2023 Priestley Memorial Lecture.

Who were the people who appointed Priestley in 1767, what were their occupations and where did they live? In what ways did their appointment of Joseph Priestley, a poor preacher but a noted teacher, reflect their own religious and cultural values?

These were troubled times for Dissenters who, despite the Toleration Act of 1689, continued to experience state-sanctioned discrimination which motivated an oppositional political radicalism and campaigns for reform.

These are some of the themes which will be explored of this evening’s talk as well as situating the members of the Mill Hill Meeting House in the broader context of Leeds in the second half of the 18th century.

The lecture takes place in the Unitarian Chapel dating from 1848. It replaced the 17th century building – illustrated here.

The annual Priestley Lecture of the Phil & Lit keeps alive a link with scientist Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). As well as his responsibilities at Mill Hill, he carried on with his scientific experiments. It was during his Leeds years that he identified what later came to be recognised as oxygen. He was a founding member and first secretary of The Leeds Library. 

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