Honley Parish Church: Centenary 1843-1943 was a 18 page booklet published in 1940 to commemorate the upcoming centenary of the present St. Mary's Church, Honley.
To mark the centenary of the present building which is the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Honley, we have endeavoured to provide a brief, illustrated booklet recording the history and development of the church in order to meet a long-felt want by parishioners and many friends overseas.
In a short account of this nature it is impossible to refer in detail to all the items which contribute to the adornment of our church, and many of which are the generous gifts of devoted parishioners.
Neither is it possible to mention by name more than a very few of those who have taken active and useful parts in the various aspects of church life during the long period under review.
There are always difficulties to be surmounted in producing a first edition of a descriptive booklet, and doubtless it will reveal many imperfections and shortcomings. We are, however, indebted to those who have assisted with its production, for the care taken in compiling the text and executing the sketches.
Acknowledgment should also be made to the Parish Church Youth Fellowship for defraying most of the cost of production.
The present Parish Church of Honley is a comparatively modern building, and almost all traces of former edifices have disappeared. Such remnants as exist, however, are of sufficient significance as to present at least a general outline, not only of the religious life of Honley throughout many centuries, but of the actual life of the village itself.
The earliest recorded reference to Honley occurs in the Domesday Book (1086), and the very brief mention concludes with the blunt remark — "but it is waste". This is generally taken to mean that the locality, in common with a wide area in the north of England, was devastated with ruthless severity by William the Conqueror in order to stamp out the lingering remains of opposition to the Norman rule.
But it would not be long before the evicted folk returned from their refuge among the forests and moors, and rebuilt their Saxon village whose origin is preserved in the names of its principal streets and in the layout of the township itself.
The local countryside of this period, and probably for many centuries afterwards, was, as we know, far more wooded than it is to-day. It is unlikely that any attempt would have then been made at cultivation of the higher bleak moors, and the various small villages would occupy clearings on the lower hillsides. The Honley native of eight or nine centuries ago would fish in the two rivers which met half a mile below his village, while the woods provided him with a sufficiency of game. In Norman times, and for long afterwards, the bear, wolf, wild boar, badger and red deer were to be found in this district. The majority of Honley villagers would be foresters.
In this pleasantly situated village, with its many wells, its valley communications and its easy access to the lonely Pennine moors, some kind of chapel or forest shrine must long have been in existence, but, as Canon Hulbert says — "the origin of the primitive chapel of St. Mary, Honley, is involved in the mist of antiquity". The earliest reference to religious activity in Honley (1503) particularly mentions an existing place of worship as being of great antiquity, but since the families in possession of the manor of Honley were not resident, this edifice must often have been closed and neglected, or used only by travelling priests. Honley people, according to very old records, used to walk to Almondbury church, where special places were reserved for visitors from outlying districts.
In the year 1503, the eighteenth year of the reign of Henry VIII, however, Archbishop Savage of York gave permission for divine service to be held at the aforementioned chapel or oratory which was named the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Houndsley (the place of hounds). The original Faculty, written in Latin on vellum, is preserved in the vicar’s vestry, and as translated reads as follows —
Now that proper services were to be held, the chapel would require alteration, and was practically rebuilt in 1507, while there is a tradition that further enlargements were carried out about 1625-1630. A proof of its ancient character and importance is given by its prominence on a map dated 1610 whereon towns such as Huddersfield were not even mentioned. The antiquity of Honley (though not as a parish) goes back as far as that of Almondbury or Kirkburton.
No record has been preserved of the sources of money used for the chapel — the people of Honley probably gave voluntarily for its upkeep. Curates were sent from Almondbury which had become the parish responsible for the ecclesiastical affairs of the Honley chapel. Meltham residents had long been worshippers at Honley, but in 1650 they built a chapel of their own, and 22 years later Godfrey Beaumont of South Crosland gave lands for the maintenance of the ministers of both edifices.
In 1569 Sir John Kaye, of Woodsome, became lord of the manor of Honley, and in the early part of the seventeenth century he gave land for the enlargement of the chapel. The costs of maintenance were substantially met in 1729 by £200 from Queen Anne’s Bounty and a similar amount from Richard Horsfall and William Walker. Marriages were usually solemnised at Almond-bury, but there is a record in the Almondbury registers of the marriage of a Mr Philipson at Honley chapel, thereby proving that this service could be performed there in 1683. The present marriage registers only date from 1837, baptisms and burials from 1813.
In 1759 the Rev. W. Croft obtained a faculty for the rebuilding of the chapel. Most of the old material was used, but even so its cost was £1,392, of which £160 was obtained by voluntary subscriptions. The new chapel was still a plain building without a tower, although a bell which had done duty in the previous building was hung at the west end. There were three galleries, an organ, and a pulpit which was erected in the central aisle. Many of the old pews from the edifice of 1507 were used, and the selling of pews began to supplement the money raised voluntarily for the rebuilding, a practice which continued until 1887. The graveyard attached to the chapel was consecrated in 1789.
It was later discovered that the pulpit had been placed in the wrong place, and a faculty was granted in 1793 for its removal to the correct position. Incredible though it may seem to-day, this action provoked bitter opposition from the Netherthong and South Crosland members of the congregation, and the feud thus engendered lasted for nearly a century. The pulpit was eventually moved at night to a position on the north side of the chapel and legal proceedings were commenced by the indignant opponents of the scheme, lasting for many years.
The long series of free fights, exchanges of verbal violence and damage to Mag Bridge, which were primarily caused by the offending pulpit, were carried on with especial heartiness at the occasion of Honley Feast.
Until 1752 the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was observed on September 8th, and kept for an octave until the 15th, but in the year just mentioned England adopted the Gregorian Calendar, and eleven days were accordingly cancelled from the calendar in November 1752. In 1753 the people of Honley would not keep the feast on September 8th, as they had not had a full year since the last feast, and they therefore observed the 19th as the date of their festival. Honley Feast Sunday (i.e. the Sunday within the octave of the Patronal Festival unless the feast itself falls on a Sunday) should be either September 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th or 25th.
As time went on, the religious significance of the feast was more or less dimmed by its secular side, and its merrymaking and feasting came to represent a well-known annual feature of West Yorkshire life. Prior to the erection of the present parish church, however, the annual "sing", held at the chapel on Honley Feast Sunday, used to attract large crowds, and the building was often filled to overflowing.
The chapel built in 1759 — "Old Peg" as it was nicknamed locally — became in need of repairs in 1825, and among other alterations the dark oak pews remaining from the earlier chapel were replaced by new ones in the nave. Soon afterwards, the erection of chapels at Crosland and Netherthong occasioned the withdrawal of numbers of the congregation from outlying districts from worship at Honley.
In 1830 a Leeds architect advised a reconstruction of the Honley chapel as the building was in a bad condition, the roof was beginning to fall in, and the pews, many of them from the chapel of 1507, were in a ruinous state, but the necessary work was not begun until 1842. On Sunday January 9th of that year the last service was held in the old chapel, and next day the demolition of "Old Peg" was begun. Few of the materials of this chapel were preserved. Stone, timber and fittings were retrieved by Honley people, and relics may still be seen in the village, but otherwise the destruction of the building was allowed to proceed unchecked.
Over the foundations of the earlier chapels rose the present St. Mary’s Church. Its cost of more than £4,200 was met chiefly by subscriptions given by the people of Honley and its immediate neighbourhood.
The new church was opened on Thursday 26th October 1843, and the text for the first sermon was from Exodus xx, 14, "In all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee and bless thee."
Built in the Gothic style in local sandstone, the church has accommodation for 1300 worshippers, and its lofty nave, a striking feature of the building, is supported by 12 pillars. There are three galleries.
The square tower, 105 feet high, contains a clock and two bells, and is a prominent landmark, standing out with good effect from the main Huddersfield-Woodhead road, especially in approaching from the former, when the church appears in a very pleasing sylvan setting. Seen from Honley Moor, the tower and nave stand high above the picturesque confusion of Honley roofs.
Internally, the building originally presented rather a different appearance from that of to-day. There were no choir stalls, but the organ and singing pew were placed in the west gallery. There were two pulpits, one of them for the reading of the lessons; around both of them were seats for the inmates of the "workhouse" which then existed in Thirstin. A large brass chandelier from the demolished chapel hung from the roof until gas was introduced. It was then sent to Brockholes and afterwards hung in the National School at Honley until the provision of electricity.
In 1856 the old graveyard adjoining the church was closed by order in council, and the present burial ground consecrated in the following year. A new organ, presented by Miss Marshall of Northgate Mount, was installed in the church in 1858, and this fine instrument was retained until 1910.
The year 1876 was a notable one in the ecclesiastical life of Honley, as it was then first recognised as a separate parish, although the final separation from Almondbury did not take place until 1888. Important alterations were effected in 1878, when the introduction of gas enabled evening services to be held for the first time, while a new heating and ventilating apparatus was fitted, the cost of £469 being raised by subscription.
In the following year, two bells and a new clock were installed, and the existing bell, which had been used in both of the previous chapels, was hung at the burial ground chapel. Of the new bells, the largest weighs more than a ton, and the small one five cwt.
Hitherto, confirmations had been held at Holmfirth, but in 1886 Honley Church had its first confirmation, attended by the Bishop of Ripon in whose diocese Honley was then situated. The weekly offertory was started at about this time, and consequently sidesmen were elected for the first time. The year 1888 saw the formation of the new diocese of Wakefield, in which Honley, now a fully established parish, was included.
In the same year, important alterations, costing more than £2,000, were decided upon, and the internal appearance of the church assumed many features which are
familiar to the present generation. The Apsidal Sanctuary was added, the organ was removed from the west to the east end, and instead of a mixed choir occupying the "singing pew" in the west gallery the church was now one of the first in the north of England to have a surpliced choir of men and boys. The two pulpits and clerk's desk were removed, and a new pulpit installed, along with a brass lectern presented by the Sunday School teachers. Stained-glass windows were fitted at the east end, open pews were placed on the floor of the church, and the system of buying and renting pews was abolished.
Subsequent major alterations and additions include the introduction of electric lighting in 1904, the chancel redecorated and the Triptych installed in 1905, and a new choir vestry and organ built in 1909. More detailed information regarding many of the foregoing features will be found in the following notes.
The east window, consisting of three lancet lights, is a memorial to Mr Thomas Brooke and was placed there in 1888 by his children (see tablet in north wall). The top portions of the north and south lights depict two angels with censers and five adoring angels. The middle panel of the north light shows St. Alban, St. Agnes, St. Aquila, St. Pancras, St. Lawrence, St. Catherine, and St. Stephen. Below are the apostles St. Andrew, St. Bartholomew, St. Philip, St. James the Greater, St. Matthew, St. Peter, and St. John. In the centre panel of the south light are St. Augustine of Hippo, St, Jerome, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, St. Edward the Confessor, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. The lower panel contains representations of Daniel, Nathan, Jonah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Moses.
It will be noticed that each of these panels contains seven figures, and it is interesting to notice how frequently the decorative details of the building are arranged in groups of seven.
At the top of the centre light is shown Our Lord in Glory, wearing the emblems of royalty, priesthood, and power over the world; above on the left a cherub, on the right a seraph, above Our Lord an adoring angel on either side. This group symbolises Ascension Day. Below are the emblems of the four evangelists, a man (St. Matthew), the lion (St. Mark), the ox (St. Luke) and the eagle (St. John). The centre panel depicts the Crucifixion, with Our Lady, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene, symbolising Good Friday, and the lower panel represents the Nativity — Christmas Day — with the Holy Child, St. Mary the Virgin, St. Joseph, two adoring angels and the ox and the ass.
The Annunciation window, in memory of Mrs Anne Brooke, was placed by her son, the late Mr William Brooke, in the east end of the south aisle in 1910.
The west window, representing the Adoration of the Magi, is in memory of Anne and Benjamin Ingham, and was placed there by Mrs Brooke in 1889.
In the north aisle is the Good Shepherd window, adjoining the children’s corner, in memory of Henrietta Grace Coates and Jane Elizabeth Armitage, and given by members of their family. A fine example of modern window art, this was dedicated on 23rd October 1938.
The Triptych, with its finely-balanced rich colouring, was placed in the Sanctuary in 1905. The centre panel illustrates the Adoration of the Magi; they are shown as representing the three great races of mankind, the Caucasian or European, the Oriental or Eastern, and the Negro. The north (left) panel depicts the archangels Michael and Raphael, representing war and healing, while on the south panel are the figures of the archangels Gabriel and Suriel — the messenger and the lamp of God. In the crown above is shown the vine with five shields; the centre one bears the sacred monogram IHC; on either side a shield with M. Maria Mater; at either end the shields show Alpha and Omega.
Below the centre panel are seven shields carrying the symbols of the Passion. From left to right they show the seamless robe and the dice, the ladder, the spear, and sponge upon a reed, the post of scourging and the cord, the nails, the lantern and the bag inscribed “30” (meaning the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas Iscariot as the price of his treachery). When closed, as it should be for the penitential seasons, four shields depict the symbols of the Crucifixion. This beautiful piece of work is of Italian design and craftsmanship.
What may well be a unique feature in Honley Church is the fact that at either end of the building, i.e. on the Triptych and in the west window, the subject depicted is the Adoration of the Magi.
The present organ was given by Mr William Brooke and Miss Sarah Brooke in 1910. This fine instrument is an electrically-blown organ with modern action, three manuals and pedal organ and a great variety of stops. The handsome oak casing and aluminium-finished pipes are in keeping with the quality of the instrument itself. The dedication was performed by the Bishop of Wakefield on 14th May 1910.
For choir practices and infrequent emergencies, a serviceable American organ is also available.
The musical equipment of the church includes an excellent library of choral music.
The previous organ, which had occupied positions in the west gallery (see brass tablet) and later at the east end, was installed at South Crosland Church.
The present pulpit was given by Captain Jessop and Miss Siddon in memory of Mr George Jessop and his sons. Panels in this well-proportioned and beautifully coloured pulpit depict the four evangelists and St. John the Baptist.
The brass cross standing on the altar was presented in memory of Amy Walsh, daughter of the first actual Vicar of Honley. Objectors to its presence at one time frequently removed it and hid it in the vestry. The Children's Corner
Begun in 1929, the Children's Corner now occupies a place in the north aisle against the organ. Illuminated panels record the names of children baptised since its inception. It is bounded by a carved oak grille on the south side of which are the symbols of the twelve apostles, surmounted by the Rose of York. On the reverse side are carvings of things beloved of children, surmounted by the inscription "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven" (the bookcase at the end carries the final eight words of the inscription). At the back are carvings of flowers beloved of children and surmounted by similar larger replicas; all these subjects carved on the grille include the crocus, primrose, daffodil, tulip, daisy, pansy, Madonna lily, apple, pear, cherry, plum, grape, banana, hazel nut, oak, rowan, sycamore, holly, and horse-chestnut.
This was furnished in 1938 as the gift of Mrs Mabel Lyon in memory of her father and mother, Samuel and Mary A. Jagger. The reredos and panelling represent a beautiful example of West Yorkshire craftsmanship; the sanctuary lamp symbolises the unending light of memory in the presence of God. The carved wood panel records this gift as follows — "For the greater glory of this Church, this Chapel is furnished in grateful memory of Samuel and Mary Ann Jagger by their daughter, 1938."
The reredos is in the Gothic style with four angels surmounting four pillars. The centre panel of the cross is in relief, balanced by panels of the rose of York in silver and blue, and the altar rail shows six variant carvings of rose forms with wild rose details. Mr S. Jagger was a churchwarden for many years, and also a county alderman, so that the rose of York very appropriately monopolises the decorative scheme. Mrs Jagger was the authoress of the "History of Honley" and many other literary works, and in addition to numerous other activities was a highly esteemed member of the Bronte Society.
The present font is not only the fourth to have been used here, it is, strange to say, the second as well. The oldest existing font, which may be of thirteenth century origin, stands in the churchyard near the south entrance, while the font which is now in use belonged to the previous chapel, or "Old Peg". At the time of the dedication of the present church, however, it was missing, and Mr Thomas Brooke of Northgate House procured a new one which is still to be seen in the garden of the latter house. Twenty years after the dedication, it occurred to the parishioners to remove the debris of the old chapel from the churchyard, and the missing font was discovered and placed in its present position.
Regarding the oldest font, in the churchyard, no notice need be taken of the initials and date carved upon it; these seem to have no particular significance, and this font may be regarded as one of the earliest relics of Honley places of worship, although not necessarily dating from the original chantry or shrine.
The font cover is the gift of Mr Edward Holdroyd, and is of a carved Gothic type, made from the wood of an oak tree which grew at the top of Timinits Steps.
The corbels carved in the likeness of heads on the main pillars in the church are worth more than a passing glance. They have been carved with particular skill, and represent "all sorts and conditions of men", both nobility and commoners. The Evil One will be noticed in the traditional position in the north-east corner.
The various memorial tablets in the walls of the church are of great interest, as a comparison of them clearly indicates the influence of the Oxford Movement in the Church, in commemorating the departed.