St. Bartholomew, Meltham

St. Bartholomew is the parish church of Meltham.


The first recorded place of worship on the site was a chapel of ease built 1650/1, which was consecrated on St. Bartholomew's Day (24 August). By the 1780s, the chapel was falling into disrepair and unable to accommodate the growing local population, and Parliamentary approval was granted in 1785 for the building of a new chapel.

According to the Rev. Hughes' History of the Township of Meltham, some of the stone of the chapel of ease was re-purposed for the new chapel with demolition work commencing in the summer of 1786. Some of the remaining stone and oak beams were purchased by Nathaniel Dyson and used to build a fulling mill at what later became Meltham Mills.

Hughes also tells that the chapel bell, which had originally been forged for the parish church at Almondbury, had been overlooked in the plans for the new chapel, and the stone masons initially claimed it as their property. After some negations, it seems the mason agreed to hand it over in return for being given the equivalent of enough ale to fill the upturned bell.

The first service in the completed chapel took place in June 1788.

In 1828, Charles Hirst and William Broadley broke into the chapel and stole "several bottles of wine belonging to the altar table". The perpetrators were found "beastly drunk in a barn on the morning after the robbery. The pair were transported to Australia for seven years.[1]

The chapel was enlarged into a church in 1835 at a cost of £1,500 with the addition of a gallery, a new vestry, and a bell tower, designed by James Pigott Pritchett of York.[2] On St. Bartholomew's Day 1835, the tower was completed and the celebrations included members of the public being winched to the top of the tower in a basket. According to Hughes, Joseph Taylor got so carried away that, "in defiance of the entreaties and remonstrances of the bystanders", he climbed up the side of the tower using the mason's ladders with his one-year-old daughter Levina in his arms before "holding her in triumph on one of the east pinnacles of the tower."[3]

A peal of six bells were installed in the tower in February 1836, having been cast the previous year by W. & J. Taylor of Oxford. The clock was reportedly installed a few years later "at the sole expense of Mr. [Edwin] Eastwood's family".[4]

In May 1837, the "junior set of ringers of Meltham", who had only been learning for five weeks, completed "5,040 changes on the bells of Meltham church in two hours and fifty-five minutes".[5]

The Rev. Joseph Hughes became the incumbent of St. Bartholomew in 1838 until his death in 1863.

The first wedding at the church took place on 12 January 1839 when clothier Benjamin Armitage of Helme married widow innkeeper Charlotte Siddall, daughter of clothier George Taylor, who was the landlady of the Waggon and Horses Inn.

The relatively small amount of land set aside for burials at the church led to the consecration of a larger triangular plot off Mill Moor Road on Friday 14 November 1851 by the Bishop of Ripon. The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that in the region of 400 to 500 people watched the ceremony.[6]

A new organ was installed in 1859, gifted by Alfred Beaumont of Park Cottage in memory of his late wife, Mary (née Hirst), the only daughter of Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw. The Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Wilshaw was also erected in her memory in 1863.

In 1877, Edward Brook of Meltham Hall paid £5,000 to fund a refurbishment of the church, which was undertaken by architects Edward Burchall of Leeds of John Kirk & Sons of Huddersfield. Amongst the improvements were a new chancel ("in the Byzantine style"), a new organ by Conacher & Co. of Huddersfield, a panelled ceiling, and the galleries were replaced. The re-opening service took place on Friday 3 May 1878.[7]

Brook then paid for a for a carillon to be installed in the church tower in 1879.[8] Built by Messrs. Gillett, Bland & Co., it consisted of ten bells, was connected to the clock and could play 14 tunes: "The Old Hundredth", "Comin' thro' the Rye", "Bluebells of Scotland", "Easter Hymn", "Ye Banks and Braes", "Abide with Me", "Rule Britannia", "Home, Sweet Home", "Robin Adair", "Auld Lang Syne", "Sun of My Soul" and "God Save the Queen". According to newspaper reports, a new tune was played each day over a fortnight, repeated every three hours during both the day and night, and "can be heard at a great distance".[9]

Although the carillon had a facility to play a standard peal ("by simply pulling a wire which is conducted to the vestry"), it was no longer possible for the bells to be rung by hand and this became a particular problem at funerals when a muffled peal could not be rung. The impasse was eventually resolved in July 1895 when Brook offered to pay to have the carillon adapted so that it could be disconnected when required and the bells rung by hand.[10]

Historic England Listing

  • Grade II
  • first listed 6 April 1967
  • listing entry 1313662

GREEN END ROAD (Meltham). Church of St. Bartholomew. Classical church on site of church of 1651. 1782-6. Thought to be by Joseph Jagger. Tower and north transept added 1835 by J P Pritchett. Neo-Norman chancel added 1877-8 by John Kirk. Tower and nave, ashlar with raised quoins. Chancel, hammer dressed stone. Stone slate roof with gable copings on square kneelers. Moulded eaves cornice. Two storey nave with band between floors. Six-bay nave, two-bay chancel, square west tower. Single light windows to nave, four to ground floor, south side, and doorway to left and right with architrave, pulvinated frieze and cornce. Three-bay transept on north side, one bay deep, with single light windows, as nave, and oculus in gable apex. Chancel has slender round arched single lights with hood moulds. The east window has three equal round headed slender single lights with colonnettes with broad foliated capitals. Group of three small round-arched lights in gable apex. Three-tier west tower has blind round-arched windows in recess to second tier. Tall three-light, louvred bell chamber openings. Corner pilasters to bell chamber, supporting architrave, frieze and cornice, with blocking course and four large urns. Interior. Gallery to rear and north over aisle, on slender cast iron columns. Panelled gallery fronts with balustrade. Wood panelled coffered ceiling. Round chancel arch on paired, squat, red granite colonnettes. Neo-Norman font presented 1878. Various early and mid C19 wall memorials including one to James Brook, d. 1845 by H Mares, depicting kneeling woman by an altar.

Further Reading



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Notes and References

  1. "Robbery" in Hull Packet (29/Jan/1828) and summary of conviction in Newcastle Courant (05/Apr/1828). Broadly was back in Yorkshire 1835 and was arrested for Mr. Topp, a commercial traveller for John Brooke & Sons of Armitage Bridge of £5, see "Robbery" in Leeds Times (19/Sep/1835). This time he was deported for 14 years.
  2. The first stone of the new tower was laid on 5 March 1835.
  3. By 1851, Joseph Taylor was the "Collector Of Poor Rates and Registrar of Births & Deaths" and 16-year-old Levina was working as a cotton winder. Hughes states that James Garlick was so horrified by Taylor's antics in climbing the tower the "he rushed into his house to escape the sight of what he believed inevitable — namely, the destruction of both father and child." Levina married Ishmael Redfearn in 1858 and died in 1907 aged 73.
  4. According to an article described in detail the carillon installed in 1879, the six bells were E, F#, G#, A, B and C#. The carillon saw the addition of four further bells: D, D#, E (octave) and F# (octave).
  5. "Bell Ringing" in Blackburn Standard (24/May/1837).
  6. "Consecration of the New Burial Ground" in Huddersfield Chronicle (15/Nov/1851).
  7. "Reopening of Meltham Parish Church" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/May/1878).
  8. "Meltham Parish Church Chimes" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (13/Jun/1879) and "The Carillon at Meltham Church" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (26/Jun/1879).
  9. "Meltham Parish Church Chimes" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Jun/1879).
  10. "Meltham Church Bells" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Jul/1895). According to an obituary article for Edward Brook, he had paid £50 in 1903 towards the upkeep of the carillon.