Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Aug/1888) - Some Account of the Parish Church of St. Mary's, Honley

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


BY MRS MARY A. JAGGER, Honley, Authoress of 'Rookery Mill,' 'Is Love a Crime?' etc., etc.

'The decent Church that topt the neighb'ring hill.' (Goldsmith.)

(Continued from last week.)

It was the custom In the old chapel that when any member of the congregation died, to sing Luther’s Hymn. The singing was reinforced after each verse, by three loud blasts from a trumpet. It is recorded that once a clergyman came to preach who was unaware of this customs What was his consternation, not unmixed with terror, to hear the powerful blasts from the trumpet, sent forth by the trumpeter, James France. The singing of this venerable melody, and the sound of the trumpet had always a very powerful effect upon the congregation.

We must now take a farewell of the old chapel and its congregation ; all except the youthful members (as well as many of those), laid quietly at rest In the churchyard or cemetery. The old building had now begun to totter with age. The rafters were rotten, the oak pews were in a ruinous condition, and one day, from the outside, the roof was observed to sink in some parts. It was thought advisable to consult Mr Chantrell, the eminent architect, of Leeds. He suggested that the building 'should be taken down, and a new church built upon the old foundation.' Having had bitter experience with regard to the expenses of the litigations at York, the congregation before acting upon Mr Chantrell's suggestion, ascertained if sufficient funds would be forthcoming to accomplish the work. This being found practicable, they at once made preparations to commence the re-building.

On Sunday, January 9th, 1842, the church was dosed. A large congregation assembled for the last time in the old chapel. The Rev Charles Drawbridge, who had officiated there as curate for 19 years, preached from Psalm xxxvi., 8th verse — 'Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy House.' He divided his sermon into two parts ; in the first noticing the past history of the sacred building, and in the second examining the testimonies of our love for the Lord’s House. From an extract in the parish book, it is written that 'the occasion was felt to be a very solemn one by the numerous congregation assembled.'

The people could not look for the last time upon the old building without feelings of regret. It had been associated with all that was best and dearest in their lives ; and the ancient landmark was to be removed. What mattered their old contentions of who should be first, or who last? Like the old edifice, they too would 'Have their day and cease to be.'

According to the entry in the Parish Book, written by Mr Drawbridge, it says :— 'On the following Monday morning, January 10th, 1842, the contractor entered the building and began dismantling and throwing down.'

The present and third edifice, built upon the same foundation as the previous structures, can now, since the death of Canon Halbert in March, 1888, claim the title of Parish Church. It was one year and eight months in building. The foundation stone was laid by the late Thomas Brooke, Esq., of Northgate House, Honley, on February 14th, 1842. The church was opened for divine worship on Thursday, October, 26th, 1843. The Rev Hugh Stowell, of Manchester, and the Rev Josiah Bateman, vicar of Huddersfield, preached the two opening sermons. The Rev Charles Drawbridge, who had preached the last sermon in the old chapel, also preached on the first Sunday in the new building. The subject taken for this sermon was from Exodus xx, 24th verse, 'In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and bless thee.' There has been no record kept of the other sermons.

The style of the present church is Gothic, and it is a noble and lofty edifice. It has capacious galleries on three sides, end the organ with singing-seat at the west end. The nave is sustained by six arches, and in length measures 73 feet, and in breadth, including aisles, 47 feet. The square lofty tower, which is 105 feet high, contains a clock, with four dials and two bells. The present organ that took the place of the old one, was given by Miss Marshall, who at that time resided at Northgate Mount. It was opened on December 17th, 1858, by Mr George Allen Beaumont, a clever young organist. This promising musician died at the early age of 19. The crowd at the opening of this organ was so great that it partook of the nature of the vast gatherings that were wont to assemble at the 'great sings.'

The staves that were formerly in more use than at present, belonging to the constable and church wardens, still stand upright at the entrance of the church. At the re-building they were painted afresh, and one bears date 1843, the other 1830. The font is a piece of fine massive stone and chastely carved. It now stands in the Baptistry, that was until lately the pew occupied by the churchwardens and constable. The font has a belt-shaped canopy of carved oak, presented by the present vicar. The wood was taken from au old oak tree that stood on the top of Timinets Brow.

Under the three aisles of the nave — the tower — the east and west aisles, as well as under the chancel are buried many of the old families of Honley. Some of these names are mentioned in the pall-tax of King Richard II., and are still represented by living descendants. Their sound is familiar to the ear ; for they are like the Saxon words — homely, and of native grit. Under modern sanitary ideas, the custom of burying the dead inside the church is objectionable. As our feet walk over their remains we almost forget that fact in the many thoughts that those old records suggest.

The chancel is very lofty, and it has three windows. It contains the Communion Table and two antique chairs, given by the late Miss Armitage. Against the walls are the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Over the Communion Table is written, 'I am the bread of life.' The monumental tablets on the walls will be described more fully later on. There is a pulpit, reading and clerk’s desk.

In 1887 the church plate was augmented by the presentation of a gold and silver gilt paten and chalice, by Miss Siddon and Miss O. Brooke. Miss Siddon also gave new white altar cloths, and Miss O. Brooke an alms-dish and offertory bags at the same time.

The inscriptions, written in Latin on the old church plate, translated are as follows :— On the large paten, 'To the glory and honour of God, for the people’s convenience, and for the welfare of the chapel of Honley, this piece of silver have the inhabitants presented, together with the rest, for the constant celebration of the Eucharest.'

On the small paten, 'Sacred to God and the Church, at the cost of the inhabitants. A D. 1792.'

On the chalice, 'Honley Chapel. A.D. 1754.'

Netherthong and Crosland, though now separated from Honley with regard to ecclesiastical matters, looked upon the new edifice with a little envy. When the natives of these two townships were returning home on a Saturday evening, or from the far-famed Honley feast, they were wont to stand under the church wall, and shout derisively at the new building. Their farewell greetings were not at all respectful. They would exclaim, 'We neither care for your new church, nor yet for your grand steeple, with its four clock faces and four pinnacles. We won you at York, we won you at York.' This pleasing retrospect of their last victory so elated the natives of Crosland, that when they arrived at the bottom of the defile, known as the 'Sentry,' their superfluous high spirits had to be let off. Mag Bridge divided the two townships, Honley and Crosland, and this structure had to be the safety-valve, for as a rule the coping stones on Honley side were toppled over into the water. Honley resented this, and took the same trouble with the coping-stones on the other half belonging to Crosland. The bridge stood almost as many sieges as Pontefract Castle, and often was utterly dismantled and dangerous to cross.

The new church arose to its completion amidst many difficulties, for there was carelessness and mismanagement on the part of both contractor and clerk of works. It required all the activity, diligence, and ability of Mr James Stocks, the churchwarden, to bring it safely through its various troubles.

The cost of the re-building of St. Mary’s Church amounted to over £4,000. The following are a list of the donors, all, with the exception of two, no longer worshipping here in the 'Temple made with hands' :—

£ s. d.
The Ripon Diocesan Church Building Society 400 0 0
The Right Hon. William, Earl of Dartmouth 320 0 0
Miss Mary Anne Armitage 500 0 0
William Brooke, Esq. 500 0 0
Thomas Brooke, Esq. 200 0 0
George Jessop, Esq. 150 0 0
Mrs John Allen 100 0 0
John Brooke, Esq. 50 0 0
Geo. Beaumont, Esq. 50 0 0
Mrs Waddington 50 0 0
James Stocks 30 0 0
Honley Co-operitive Society 24 5 0
Charles Brook, Edward Brooke, Enoch Vickerman, Mr Leah, and Edward Lees, each £20 100 0 0
Godfrey Drake, Esq. 10 10 0
Miss Brooke, Miss E. Brooke, B. L. Shaw, William Wilkinson, Benj. Mellor, Joseph Haigh, John Dyson, Thomas Dyson, and William Leigh Brook, each £10 90 0 0
Joseph Kilner 5 5 0
Thomas Schofield 5 5 0
Walter Platt, Rev C. Drawbridge, Mr and Mrs Tidswell, W. Green Armitage, William Leigh, William Drawbridge, Abraham Littlewood, George Littlewood, B. France and Son, William Bottomley, Mrs Donkersley, B, Littlewood, Joseph Littlewood, Mrs Eastwood, Charles Hallas, Miss Smith, Rev George Hough, and Mrs W. Leigh each £5 0s. 0d. 90 0 0
Smaller subscriptions 42 17 10
Received for vaults 20 7 10
Bank interest 47 15 11
£2785 6 7
William Brooke, Esq., made up the balance £1434 11 8
Total cost £4219 18 3

In the summer of 1878 considerable improvements were carried out. Previously gas had been introduced. The church was cleaned and all the wood-work re-painted. A new system of ventilation, and of heating by hot water was introduced. The pews in the body of the church were altered, so as to allow kneeling more conveniently ; and a wooden screen with folding doors was thrown across the entire width of the church at the west end, as a protection from draughts. The total cost, defrayed by subscriptions and collections, was £469. Mr Thomas Farrar, who was then churchwarden, devoted much time and energy to these alterations.

The Bells.

Two new bells and clock were aided to the church in 1885. The bells were supplied by Messrs Taylor, of Loughborough, and their cost was defrayed by public subscription. The large bell weighs over one ton, the small bell five cwt. They were dedicated to the service of the church of Sunday, October 25th, 1885. The morning preacher at this interesting ceremony was the Rev Canon Bardsley, vicar of Huddersfield, and rural dean. His text was, 'They made them golden bells.' In the evening the Rev Canon Ingham Brooke, rector of Tornhill, and rural dean, occupied the pulpit. He preached to a crowded congregation from the text, 'Where art thou?'

The new clock was supplied by Messrs Potts, of Leeds, and the sole cost was defrayed by a lady parishioner. The old clock had begun to exhibit signs of age, and was very erratic in its moods, cold and changeable weather having a disastrous effect upon its internal organisation. The new clock, which is a great boon to the inhabitants, chimes the hour and half-hour, and its deep rich sonorous tone sounds over hill and valley. The old bell, which previously hung in the tower, has been transferred to the chapel in the cemetery. On account of its crooked tone, it was re-cast in the year 1753, and bears that date. As previously stated, it is said that the old chapel was nicknamed 'Old Peg,' on account of the cracked tone of its bell ; but I cannot vouch for the truth of this statement. Harsh or harmonious as the tone may be ; its death-toll has long sounded down the valley, telling of man’s mortality. There is an old custom associated with this bell that makes it interesting. The custom may be only a relic of Popery, when people went to the Old Oratory to be shriven ; but in our enlightened age we can afford to forget that fact. I refer to the ringing of the 'pancake bell.' Formerly its first toll was the signal that in Honley all private apprentices, as well as other apprentices, to any handicraft, were free from their masters' control on that day. Though freedom is not as pleasant as its sound, the apprentices were wont to rush up Church-street with wild whoops of delight to salute the old bell, and play sad havoc for the rest of the day, chiefly kicking football in the streets.

The ringing of the 'pancake bell' is still kept up, and I hope the day is far distant ere the time-honoured custom will be discontinued. On each Shrove-Tuesday the children will rush cut of school, and, with the trust of childhood, which even an advanced education cannot altogether crush, look up at the steeple with wistful earnestness, as if they expected the pancakes falling down — a belief not quite extinct in the village.

Baptisms and Marriages.

Previous to 1813 all baptisms and burials belonging to Honley parish are recorded in the pariah church at Almondbury. The first baptism entered in the Honley registry is that of Matthew Roberts, son of Charles Hallas, clothier, Ludhlll, December 13th, 1812. A licence was granted in July 11th, 1837, for the solemnisation of marriages in St. Mary’s Church, and the first marriage that look place was on December 3rd, 1837, between Henry Beever, of Honley, and Anne Brooke, of Brockholes. Previous to this date all marriages took place at Almondbury. I have heard the description of the picturesque bridal train, as they vet out from some hillside home ; the lady decked in her bridal finery, mounted upon the pillion ; the gentleman upon his good pack-horse, that for once was exonerated from the the prosaic duty of carrying pieces to Huddersfield market. The bright colours worn by those who accompanied them rivalling in appearance the bloom of the blushing gorse and heather, that they mayhap rode through. After the ceremony the best mounted in the train would race back to the village, the first to arrive having the honour of kissing the bride. Old customs die hard, like the fox ; and many Honley natives have had the same inclinations to wend their way to Almondbury to perform this important ceremony.

Again, Honley people have been troubled with the disease of restoration. The attack is so mild, however, that it has only developed into 'proposed alterations.' I am glad to say that the church will not have to pass through the same fiery ordeal as many other luckless edifices have had to do.

At a public meeting of the parishioners, held on Monday, December 20th, 1887. in the National School, it was resolved to alter the interior of the present church. A Building Committee was formed, and it was decided that Mr C. Hodgson Fowler, M.A., F.S.A., diocesan architect, Durham, should be instructed with the alterations. The organ is to be removed from the west to the east end (Its once original position). The high singing gallery is to be abolished, and oak choir stalls to be substituted in the chancel. The body of the church will be re-seated with open benches, but not. I am glad to say, made of the now hackneyed pitch-pine. The pews in the galleries remain intact, but the front of the galleries are to be moved further back. An improved system of heating and ventilation is also to be introduced. A new pulpit and lectern is to take the place of the present pulpit, reading and clerk’s desk. Captain Jessop and Miss Siddon intend to present the church with the new pulpit, in memory of the departed ones of their family. The three large east windows of transparent glass are to be replaced by memorial-windows. These windows are to the memory of the late Mr Thomas Brooke, of Northgate House, placed there by his family. No words of mine are required to bring to memory the noble traits of this good man. I can only say of his death what David said of Abner's death, 'that a great man had fallen in Israel,' and my readers will echo this. The subjects of the middle window are the birth and crucifixion of our Lord, and of his being seated at God’s right hand after His ascension. The two side windows contain illustrations from the Te Deum.

Near upon a thousand pounds — the proceeds of a bazaar, the subscriptions of the members of the congregation, and donations from outside Churchmen — has already been collected and promised for the proposed alterations. Other gifts for various purposes have also been promised. A surpliced choir of men and boys is to take the place of the present mixed choir, one of whom, Miss Brooke, of Northgate House, bas faithfully performed her voluntary duties as leading soprano for 22 years. The church was be closed for these alterations on the first Sunday in July ; and they are to be completed by the end of September during the present year.

In closing this unsatisfactory account of our church (at least to me) I can only hope that the poor memorial will be received in the same spirit that it is written — to the memory of those who ought to have 'the pleasing ribute of a sigh.'

Honley, June, 1888.

(To be continued next week.)