THE congregation of a York church will be celebrating its 350th anniversary in 2022.

The Unitarian Church in St Saviourgate dates back to 1672, when King Charles II granted three 'indulgences', or licences, for three residences to be used as meeting places, said spokesperson Andrew Hill.

They were granted to Lady Watson for her house in St Saviourgate, Andrew Taylor for his house in Micklegate and Ralph Ward, one of 2,000 protestant clergymen ejected from the Church of England for non-conformity - their reluctance to use the Book of Common Prayer.

"These licences were later withdrawn," said Mr Hill. "In 1684, an illegal 'conventicle' was dispersed by the magistrates. Ralph Ward and Andrew Taylor both spent time in the York town gaol."

He said that in 1689, an Act of Toleration enabled religious dissenters to gather legally. "So, with the financial assistance of Lady Hewley, York's Protestant dissenters purchased land in St Saviourgate, built their chapel and in 1692 registered it at the Quarter Sessions as a 'place of worship for protestant dissenters.'

"With a reordered interior, the chapel is listed by Historic England as grade 2*, for particularly important buildings of more than special interest."

Mr Hill said significant people associated with the chapel included pioneering York feminists Sarah Hewley and Catherine Cappe, Charles Wellbeloved, an historian of Roman York, and John Kenrick, a lecturer at Manchester College in Micklegate, York's earliest university level institution.

He added that Sunday services at the church were held at 11am and conducted by the minister and a member of the congregation.

Another congregation member, Joan Sinanan, said it was a 'lively and growing' community, whose approach to religion was 'broad and tolerant.'

She said: "We believe that all people have the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves, in their own way.

"We welcome people of all ages, including families with children, and come from a wide range of religious backgrounds, or none, having close ties with the York Interfaith community.

"We are united in our belief in freedom of thought, tolerance of, and respect for, other beliefs, and in letting each person be guided by their conscience."

"We are also involved with both community assistance and international aid. Our cultural side is very active, with regular concerts in the acoustically excellent building, and art and craft events.

"Unlike many religious organisations, we are not interested in evangelising or converting. We just want people to know that we are here, and available to them, so that if their view of religion and faith coincides with ours, they can, if they want, join with like-minded people."

She added that the Chapel would be open to all for Residents’ Weekend during January 29-30.