The History and Topography of the Parish of Kirkburton and of the Graveship of Holme (1861) by Henry James Morehouse
The Church of Burton, otherwise Kirkburton, appears to have been founded about the same time as those of Almonbury and Huddersfield. There is no mention of them in the Domesday Survey, which is regarded as presumptive evidence that they were not then in existence.
Dr. Whitaker, in treating upon the church of Burton, appears to have adopted rather a fanciful speculation concerning its site. He says “wherever the name of Burton [qu. Burg-town,] occurs, may probably be expected either the remains or tradition of a Saxon fortification. Accordingly, at this place the parish church, from which there is a steep declivity on the north and west, the appearance of a ditch on the south, and a deep and a narrow lane at a corresponding distance on the east, has every appearance of a Saxon fort, though the keep has been levelled. In addition to these appearances, a small sike, immediately adjoining to the north and east is still called the Old Saxe Dike.” I shall not presume to dispute the general accuracy of the Doctor’s suggestion, in regard to the etymology of the name, but I apprehend that he was misled by too hasty a survey of the place, and an insufficient knowledge of the habits and peculiarities of the district. The “Old Saxe Dyke,” the name usually given to this small brook, had undoubtedly a very different origin. The aged people of the district well remember when the sexton of the parish church dwelt in a house near this rivulet, and as he was usually designated the old Saxe, or Sac, (for sexton,) the brook thereby acquired the name of the old saxe dyke.
Concerning its early severance from Dewsbury, Dr. Whitaker says, “it still continues to pay a pension of four pounds per annum, as a mark of its ancient dependence upon that ancient and fruitful mother of churches, Dewsbury, — a sum, the amount of which at that remote period, is to be accounted for from the great extent of the parish of Burton, at least ten miles in length, and probably containing fifty square miles.”
Dr. Whitaker has certainly over-estimated the extent of this parish. It is now clearly ascertained that it does not comprise more than 16,000 acres, including a very considerable extent of moor-land. Respecting the first foundation of this and the neighbouring church of Almonbury, several learned antiquarians, who have written upon the district, are agreed that they were founded by the Norman barons soon after they had acquired these possessions. After a careful examination of certain evidences, and the peculiarities of the district, we are led to the conclusion that they are of Ante-Norman origin : the grounds of which we will briefly state.
This parish comprises within its limits the townships of Burton, Shelley, Shepley, Cumberworth Half, Thurstonland, Wooldale, Fulston, Hepworth, and Cartworth; the four last-mentioned lie within the Graveship of Holme, and all within the Manor of Wakefield : but there are likewise three other townships within the said Graveship, viz.: Holme, Austonley, and Upper Thong, also within the Manor of Wakefield, which form part of the parish of Almonbury. It is extremely difficult to conjecture what the circumstances were which led to so arbitrary a division as we have just described, as they have long since ceased to be apparent ; for why Earl Warren, if he were the founder, did not include the whole of this part of his fee in the parish of Kirkburton is very extraordinary, especially when it is remembered that the townships of Holme, Austonley, and Upper Thong, are at least a mile nearer to the church of Burton than to that of Almonbury. That such a division of the parish should have been a matter of indifference to the Warrens, if they had the power to control it, will not be difficult to disprove, by a circumstance which bears singularly on this point, and which, if it do not elucidate it, at least furnishes us with a glimpse of evidence which may guide us in our enquiry through the dark vista of so many ages.
We have already seen that the church of Dewsbury was the ancient parish, or mother church, of these districts during the Saxon times: but whether chapels had been erected at Burton, Almonbury, Huddersfield, &c., anterior to the Norman Conquest, and had districts assigned to each, is the question to which we purpose directing our enquiry. Dr. Whitaker, in reference to the chapel at Hartishead, says, “It may have existed before the time of Domesday, which, as it does not take notice of chapels, affords no evidence of their non-existence. In regard to Burton,” he says, “at the aera of Domesday here was no church.”
Whatever was the state of the church when Earl Warren came into possession of this great fee, we have incontestible evidence that he distributed his bounty with a liberal hand. He, as well as the lords of the adjoining fee, endowed their churches if they did not found them with the tithes of their respective lands, certain annual payments being reserved to the mother church of Dewsbury, viz. : from Kirkburton, £4 ; Almonbury, £2 6s. 8d.; Huddersfield, 4s. ; Kirkheaton, £1 3s. 4d. ; Bradford, 8s. The wide difference in the amount of these payments bears no proportion to the extent of the several parishes, or the quality of their respective lands; Kirkburton paying the highest, and being the least productive ; and yet, Mr. James, in his History of Bradford, states, that the payments made by Bradford and Huddersfield, to Dewsbury, were equivalent to their value. This is so obviously erroneous, that it is evident we must look to other sources for an explanation of so great an inequality.
It perhaps may be questioned whether, in taking this subject into consideration, sufficient attention has been paid to the fact, that the churches of Burton and Dewsbury were parcel of the Warren fee, while those of Almonbury, Huddersfield, Kirkheaton, and Bradford, were connected with that of the Lacis; that when these churches were endowed by their respective owners, their object was to reserve all such endowments to their own churches; thus, to the churches of Dewsbury and Burton, Earl Warren while desirous of giving to the latter a sufficient maintenance, was equally anxious to preserve to the former an ample competence. The Lacis would not be influenced by these considerations, and doubtless would resist all attempts of the rectors of Dewsbury, to exact from their territories what otherwise might have been granted to them. Still they might be constrained by ecclesiastical authority, to submit to small annual payments from each, in token of their dependence.
If we suppose Earl Warren to have been the original founder of this church, it seems extremely difficult to account for such an ecclesiastical division, in assigning the townships of Holme, Austonley, and Upper Thong, to Almonbury, and at the same time reserving to his own church of Dewsbury the rectorial tithes arising from them, which afterwards passed with that church to the monks of St. Pancras, at Lewes, in Sussex. Here we have Earl Warren’s special care to further the interests of his own church in regard to its endowment, while apparently disregarding its parochial division; a supposition which seems in no degree probable. Moreover, we find in the Domesday Record, that these three townships or, as they are there stated to be four, were not surveyed in connexion with the other townships within the Graveship, but were regarded as quite distinct and independent : fortunately, Domesday, in this particular, is
unusually explicit; it states in “duabas Holne,” (two Holnes,) “Alstanelie,” (Austonley,) and “Thoae,” (Thong,) “the King two carucates.” Again, after enumerating Breton, Horbury, and Osset, it states “besides these there are to be taxed two carucates in Holne, and another Holne, Alstanelie, and Thoae, one plough may till this land. It is waste, wood here and there. Some say this is Thaneland, others in the Sohe of Wakefield.” Here, then, we find at the Norman Conquest these townships, which afterwards constituted part of the Graveship of Holme, were held by a more independent tenure, at which time it was doubted whether they even owed soke to Wakefield. Domesday likewise mentions their last Saxon owner, Dunestan, whom the Conqueror dispossessed.
We are led to infer, therefore, that the churches of Burton and Almonbury were founded at some period antecedent to the conquest, and that Dunestan, or some of his progenitors, when these districts were divided for greater ecclesiastical accommodation, might be led by some local consideration to desire their annexation to Almonbury. They might be, and doubtless were, denominated chapels, and, therefore, were not mentioned in the Conqueror’s survey: to each Chapel had been assigned a district or chapelry:—these chapelries, after the conquest, were constituted parishes, and then it was that the Norman barons displayed their munificence, by granting to these churches so liberally of “their spoil.”
The church of Burton was granted by the third Earl Warren and Surrey, along with Dewsbury, Halifax, and Wakefield, and the rest of their churches and chapels in Yorkshire, to the Priory of Lewes, in Sussex, which religious house had been founded and endowed by his ancestor, William de Warren, the first Earl of Surrey.
The value of this rectory, according to Pope Nicholas’ taxation, taken in 1292, is stated at £35 9s. 8d. per annum.
The exact time when the monks of St. Pancras, of Lewes, alienated the church of Burton is not known; they presented for the last time in 1331. To whom they granted it is equally unknown; we find, however, that in 1356 it vested in the king, (Edward III.,) from the following extract from Torre’s MS.S., p. 803.
Dr. Whitaker, with a view to account for its passing from the monks of Lewes to the College of St. Stephens, conjectured that this church, along with that of Wakefield and others, had again reverted to the Warren family, and, by the last earl were once more granted to the Chapel of St. Stephens. “This,” says Mr. Hunter, in reference to the church of Wakefield, but which is equally applicable to that of Burton, “was gratuitous and improbable. It also left him to account for the possession of the church of Wakefield by the last Earl of Warren, of which there was no proof, neither, indeed, of any connexion of the Earl Warren with the church of Wakefield after the time of the sons of the Conqueror, when the Warrens gave it to their newly-founded monastery of St. Pancras, of Lewes.” Mr. Hunter then explains from positive evidence, how the churches of Wakefield and Dewsbury passed from the monks of Lewes by grant, in 1325, to the Despencers, who being attainted, forfeited them, together with the rest of their possessions, to the crown, “thus,” says he “it was that King Edward III. acquired his right to give the church of Wakefield to the College of St. Stephens.”
At present nothing is known how the king, (Edward III.,) acquired the church of Burton, “that it was ceded by the monks of Lewes to the king, is indeed by no means an improbable supposition. They had given in the reign of Edward II. Wakefield and Dewsbury,” as we have just seen, “to the Despencers. In fact, “the alien houses,” says Mr. Hunter, “of which Lewes was, I think, accounted one, were often glad to save themselves from greater calamities by yielding up some portion of their possessions.”
On the 27th March, 1357, the ordination of this vicarage took place, and is thus described in Torres’ MSS.
The living was valued in the king’s books at £13 6s. 8d., after deducting synodals 7s. 6d., and procurations 4s.
It seems to have been customary to grant out the rectorial rights on lease. Mr. Hunter observes, respecting Burton and Penistone, — the latter of which had also been given to the College of St. Stephen, that:
Near the close of the reign of Elizabeth, an attempt was made by the vicar to regain to the church the tithe-hay, and certain lands held by the impropriator, as part of the rectory, by bringing the case before “Commissioners appointed to divide spiritualities from temporalities,” wherein it was stated that:
What was the immediate result of these proceedings we have not been able to discover.* We find nothing more concerning it till the year 1606, about which time Mr. Smith, [the vicar,] petitioned the Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to grant processes against Jervas Golthorpe and about thirty other parishioners, to recover the tithe-hay and close, &c., in possession of the impropriator. In the same year we find, that — “by virtue of a commission directed to William Ramsden, of Longley, Esq., and others, for the examination of witnesses in a case depending in the Court of Wards and Liveries, between Henry Hubberd, knight, his Highnesses attorney of the said court plaintiff, and William Smith, clerke, defendant, — the said commission was to meet and hear evidence ‘at Almonburie Church, upon Thursday next after Trinitie Sonday.” The issue of these proceedings seem to have terminated adversely to the vicar’s claim, as I find at a later period an allusion is made to it, wherein the writer states that “one Smith, vicar, about eighty years ago sued for tithe-hay but got it not.”
The rectory was granted by King James I., by letters patent, in the fourth year of his reign, to Henry Butler and Henry Ogle, in trust for the Duke of Lennox; this must have been in reversion, as the Wortleys still held by lease as already shewn. The duke, who was successively created Bari and Duke of Richmond, also had other honours conferred upon him in rapid succession. He, however, died in 1623, at Whitehall, suddenly, as he was preparing to attend parliament, leaving no male issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Esme Stewart in the dukedom of Lennox, who, by his wife Catherine, daughter and sole heiress of Gervas Lord Clifton, had issue several sons and a daughter, Lady Elizabeth Stewart, who married Henry Frederic Howard, Earl of Arundel, and had issue. Henry Howard, the second son, created Earl of Norwich, was in possession of this rectory in 1670. It would therefore appear to have passed from Lennox to Howard by marriage. The earl about that time threatened legal proceedings against the parishioners, to compel the payment of tithe corn and hay in hind, and for many years refused to accept the accustomed modus in lieu thereof. In 1675, the earl, however, agreed to give a receipt according to ancient custom, on the payment of the modus, with the arrears then due, comprising a period of ten years, which was accordingly done.
The Earl of Norwich, in 1665, commenced the founding of an hospital in accordance with the benevolent intentions of his ancestor, Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury, for the perpetual maintenance of twenty poor persons belonging to the town or parish of Sheffield, called “The Hospital of Gilbert, Earl of Shrewsbury.”
On the 23rd November, 1680, the Earl of Norwich by the death of his elder brother without issue, having become Duke of Norfolk, conveyed certain portions of his estate to trustees for the perpetual support of the Hospital, inter alia “the rectory of Kirkburton,, with the glebe lands thereto belonging,” and in connexion with which it has since remained.
It has already been shewn, that in 1357, when this church was constitued a vicarage, tithe-hay formed a part of the endowment, but from some cause unexplained, it seems to have passed at a subsequent period to the rectory, and was included in the modus, or fixed annual payment due to the impropriators for tithe corn, which for the whole parish amounted to £20 0s. 1d., called Rate Money, which was borne in the following proportions, and paid by each township on St. Mark’s day, in the chancel of the church of Burton.
In 1852 this modus in lieu of the tithes was purchased by each of the townships, of the trustees of Sheffield Hospital, at the rate of forty years’ purchase, according to their respective proportions, under the direction of the Tithe Commissioners for England and Wales, by virtue of the powers to that effect, given by the statute of 6 and 7 William IV., c. 71.
At the dissolution of the religious houses, this Rectory and Advowson reverted to the crown : and it seems not improbable that when the Manor of Wakefield was united to the Duchy of Lancaster, on the marriage of Philip of Spain to Queen Mary, the Advowson &c. might also form a part of that settlement, as the patronage has long vested in the chancellor of that Duchy.
“The situation of the town of Burton,” says Dr. Whitaker, “is beautiful — on the verge of a valley finely diversified with native oak, which has been permitted to attain a greater bulk than usual, where it is not immediately intended for the purposes of ornament.” In the midst of this thriving village, on a fine knoll, stands the Church, with its lofty embattled tower, bidding defiance to the raging tempest which has so often assailed it. True it is that the battling storms have not beat upon this edifice for so many ages without leaving deep traces of their tremendous power.
To the east of the church is seen the Vicarage House, a neat and commodious building, embowered in lofty beeches and sycamores, among whose branches the deep-toned chorus of a colony of rooks adds to the solemnity of the place.
When seen at a distance, or from any of the neighbouring heights, the church is a pleasing and interesting object, but a closer inspection reveals some discordant repairs and alterations made by successive generations of churchwardens. More recent repairs and alterations have been made which have greatly improved its appearance, and it is only to be regretted that they have not been extended to other parts of the edifice.
The stranger, in surveying the graveyard, will not fail to observe the two ancient covered sheds, or Lich Gates, which constitute the two principal entrances, — one at the south-east, and the other at the south-west comers of the ground. Under these sheds the corpse and mourners remained till the approach of the minister.
There are few of these now to be found in connexion with our Yorkshire churches. “Of the first Norman church,” says Dr. Whitaker, “there are no remains; the present structure must have been built in the reign of Edward III.; the east end has three lancet lights; the nave has eight cylindrical columns, with peculiar, but very elegant capitals, and the west door of the tower, of which the arch is pointed, is much enriched with a kind of hatched ornament.”
We may here observe, in connexion with the rebuilding of this church, that there is still remembered by some of the old people in the parish, a legendary story, which represents that when the church was to be rebuilt, it was the desire of many of the parishioners to have it erected on Stocks Moor, in Thurstonland; but no sooner had they determined to do so, and begun to convey the materials to the place, than they were as speedily removed back to Burton;—that is, what materials had been brought in the day, were miraculously removed to Burton in the night so that the parishioners were at length obliged to adopt the ancient site!
This story appears to embody a probable fact under a very superstitious garb. It may be observed that the church of Burton is situate near the eastern extremity of the parish. This, when it was originally founded, no doubt arose from its being by far the most populous and fertile part. In the reign of Edward III. the population and cultivation of the western part of the parish had greatly increased, probably through the introduction of cloth manufactures, and with this increase of population, the distance from the church must have been felt a serious inconvenience. Accordingly, when it became necessary to rebuild the church, efforts would be made by the inhabitants of the western part to have it fixed in a more central situation:— thus, the situation on Stocks Moor seemed the most advantageous. What should have deterred the authorities from adopting it can now only be a matter of conjecture. The influence of the lords of Burton and Shelley, who were persons of the greatest consideration in the parish at that time, would most likely be adverse to the change; and, perhaps a popular feeling also might exist to retain the ancient site. If the authorities, in the first instance, were disposed to make the change, it was ultimately abandoned; but with a view to accommodate the western part of the parish, it is not improbable that it was arranged that a chapel should be erected in Holmfirth, for the convenience of the inhabitants of that district. Whether this was done at that time does not appear. A chapel did exist in Holmfirth in the reign of Edward IV., if it was not erected during the reign of Edward III., which, however, seems most probable; the unsettled government of Richard II., and the dire effects of the long and protracted wars of the Roses, in which the lords of Wakefield were principal actors, so engrossed the minds of the people that there seems little reason to expect it was accomplished at that period. Another circumstance seems to favour the supposition of its having been erected in Edward III.’s reign, the king having granted the patronage of this church to the Dean and College of St. Stephens; it was held by them till the dissolution of the monasteries, by Henry VIII., therefore Edward IV. had no immediate control of the ecclesiastical arrangements of the parish, although he was lord of the Manor of Wakefield. He might, notwithstanding, make an annual grant towards the maintenance of a priest or chaplain ;— for we find there is extant a confirmation under the privy seal of Richard III., of a grant made by Edward IV. “to the king's tenants of Holmfirth, member of the lordship of Wakefield, of xls. per ann., towards an exhibition to ministre divine service in the chapel there.”
The tower of the church of Burton is twenty-six yards high, and of two stages, with diagonal buttresses to the first; the second stage is surmounted with a strong battlement without pinnacles. A cursory inspection will readily discover that it is of a more recent date than the body of the church; the stone being of a different kind of grit, except the west door, which accords with that of the church, differing also from the rest of the tower which is of the plain perpendicular style. This ornamented doorway of the tower over which is a small niche, had before been the west door of the church. A closer examination will likewise shew that previously to this erection, the church of Edward Ill’s, reign had no tower, as indicated by the strong buttresses at the west-end of the nave, from which arose a small belfry containing a bell. The tower was probably erected in in the reign of Henry VII. or VIII. It has recently been furnished with a peal of six musical bells. About thirty-five years since the porch was rebuilt, and the north choir, at which time a vestry was added. The water tables on the east-side of the tower shew that the roof of the nave has been angular and lofty, but now greatly reduced; this change may perhaps date back a century or more. These alterations tend to destroy those fair proportions which this church anciently possessed.
Extensive repairs have been made in this structure within the last few years. The chancel has been entirely rebuilt, and the interior of the church very greatly improved by the removal of the screen, plaster work and whitewash, by which the edifice had long been disfigured. A handsome east-window has been introduced, and the pews and stalls have been made uniform. The church is fitted-up with an efficient warming apparatus, and has very recently been lighted with gas, thus rendering it one of the most comfortable and interesting of our country churches, reflecting credit upon the architect employed; but especial praise is due to the worthy vicar, to whose untiring zeal in the accomplishment of this desirable work, the parishioners are much indebted. The nave of the church is seventy-four feet long, by forty-six wide. The chancel is forty-four feet long by nineteen feet wide; in the south side wall is a piscina. The nave has a centre and two side aisles. The north choir was the property of the lords of the Manor of Burton; and the south choir belongs to the lords of the Manor of Shelley; the early lords of these manors having founded chantries here.
Galleries have been erected on the north and south sides, and at the west-end : faculties being granted for these purposes in 1770, and 1780. In 1789 a faculty was obtained to re-pew the church. About the year 1830 an excellent-toned organ was erected in the west gallery.
The pews in the chancel are the property of the trustees of Sheffield Hospital, the impropriate rectors.
“It is not very probable,” observes Dr. Whitaker, “that painted glass was introduced into the windows of this church before the reign of Henry VII, yet the ancient lords, the Earls Warren were not forgotten.” “In Dugdale’s elegant manuscripts of Yorkshire Monuments, &c., are three shields copied from the windows of this church; namely, 1st Warren, 2nd Warren, and a bordure Argt.; 3rd Warren, and on an escutcheon Argt. a bend gules.”
“In one of the windows,” of the south choir, “remaining not many years since, was the figure of a woman, holding a church in one hand, and a palm branch in the other.” “In the western window,” of the north choir, were these arms, namely, Arg. a chevron between three crosslets, gules.” It is scarcely necessary to say that these have now almost, if not entirely disappeared.
The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and the certified value of the benefice is £14 9s. 6d. In the parliamentary survey there was found “belonging to the parish church of Burton a vicarage presentative, with cure of souls, the profits thereof worth about eighty pounds per annum. Mr. Daniel Clarke is vicar, a painful preacher, who receiveth the profits. The Rectorie is impropriate.”
There is nothing deserving of special remark in regard to the stalls or pews, except one opposite the pulpit, on which is engraven in the wood, “john walker, xx of April, anno domi., 1584.” It has been asserted by some ecclesiastical writers, that prior to the reformation, the seats or stalls in our parish churches were open to all the parishioners indiscriminately, and that no rights were either acquired or recognised till after the reformation. Some misapprehension exists on this point, such rights were recognised long before that period, as the following somewhat remarkable charter evidence proves, which is in the author’s possession, and which, in more respects than one, is an interesting document. It is an award made by the kirkgraves, [churchwardens] of the church of Burton, to settle a dispute respecting the rights of certain persons to kneel, &c., in a certain stall in the said church; and bears date 1490. It also indicates the separation of the sexes in the churches, a custom which begun to decline about the period of the reformation. Whatever tends to disclose the social condition and habits of our remote ancestors must always be interesting.
About a hundred years since the sexton of this church, while digging a grave, found an ancient silver hoop or ring, for the finger, but whether within the church or in the churchyard is not now remembered, upon which the following inscription is engraven, “amor + meus + i.h.s. est.” I.H.S. is perhaps a contraction for Jesus, or as some writers contend, they are the initials of “Jesus hominum Salvator.” This ring had probably belonged to some ancient ecclesiastic, who had been interred with it on his finger. This relic soon after its discovery fell into the hands of the late Mr. Newton, of Stagwood Hill, who retained it in his possession about seventy years. It is now in the author’s possession.
He is supposed to be descended from the ancient family of Suthill, of Suthill, near Dewsbury. Little is known of him beyond the circumstance of his being appointed to this vicarage on the 9th April, 1506, and being buried here on the 9th July, 1562, having been vicar 56 years. During this long incumbency here had been five successive sovereigns on the throne. His appointment was made in the reign of Henry VII., in the dominant period of Romanism, when the priesthood had uncontrolled power in the state : continued through that of Henry VIII., with its great changes—the early steps of the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries : also, through the reign of Edward VI. with the temporary establishment of Protestantism : and, the inauspicious reign of Mary when Romanism again predominated; and until after the accession of Elizabeth, when Protestantism took a permanent stand. What effect these great religious and social changes had upon the mind of Mr. Suthill, whether his sympathies were more accordant with the old or the new religion, can now only be matter of conjecture; all we know is, that he remained vicar till his death. If it would not be putting too uncharitable a construction upon his conduct, we might be led to suppose that, like his contemporary of Bray, he had determined to live and die vicar of Burton.
Was a native of Swinton, in the parish of Wath-upon-Dearne, near Rotherham. He was educated at University College, Oxford ; and became a fellow of that college. He was presented to the vicarage on the death of Mr. Suthill. He also acquired the valuable rectory of Methley, where he resided, and resigned the vicarage of Kirkburton, in 1579, but retained Methley till his death, which took place in 1590 or 1591. He gave all his lands in Swinton, freehold and copyhold, to the college where he had been educated, for the maintenance of scholars, first, from Swinton; secondly, from any place in the parish of Wath ; thirdly, from the parishes of Methley and Kirkburton; and when no applicant from any of these places, fourthly, from any other place in Yorkshire. Mr. Hunt never resided at Kirkburton.
Was inducted to this vicarage on the 12th July, 1579. He continued here till his death, in 1615. His name is in no degree remarkable, except for lawsuits with his parishioners, and the impropriate rectors of the parish, respecting the tithes. He did not succeed in obtaining “tithe-hay, but got wool and lamb in kind, yet he was not made so rich thereby,” as stated in a MS., written about the year 1680, “but that some of his children went a begging from door to door, and that in Holmfirth also, within the memorie of some yet living, which might be a caution to his successors from treading too much in his steps.”
He was entered of St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1605, and M.A., in 1608, and was appointed to this vicarage in 1615. We have already had occasion to notice, at some length, the character and family of this gentleman in connexion with the part he took in the civil war, to which we must refer the reader. He died at Manchester, where he was suffering imprisonment, in 1644.
Was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1631, and M.A., in 1634. He was for a short time minister of Denby Chapel, [church,] and married a daughter of George Burdett, of Denby, Esq. Mr. Clarke was favourable to the cause of the parliament, for he was appointed by ordinance of Parliament of the 14th March, 1642-3, “to officiate in the church of Kirkburton, and to receive the profits of the said vicarage for his paynes, till further orders be taken by both houses of parliament.” This arose from Mr. Whitaker having been suspended or displaced. In the parliamentary survey Mr. Clarke is styled “a painful preacher.” He removed from Burton about the year 1649.
Nathaniel Shirt was a native of Cawthorne, near Barnsley, where his family seem to have been both numerous and respectable. His father’s name is supposed to have been John, who was steward to Godfrey Bosvile, Esq., of Gunthwaite Hall. Captain Shirt, of Rawroyd, near Cawthorne, a parliamentary officer in the civil war, was also a near relation. He was born about the year 1620, and at a proper age was entered at Emanuel College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1639-40, and that of M.A., in 1643. He was appointed to the episcopal chapel of Midhope, by Mr. Bosvile the patron of the living, which he held in 1647. But on the retirement of Mr. Clarke from Kirkburton, he was appointed to succeed him, probably through the same interest, as Mr. Bosvile’s influence with the goverment of the time, and his own attachment to the parliamentary cause, would procure for Mr. Shirt a favourable reception among the parishioners. He married Sarah, daughter of the Rev. Nicholas Broadley, incumbent of Cawthorne.
Although Mr. Shirt’s family were attached to the parliamentary cause, he seems to have adopted no extreme political views, for when the parishioners, among other grievances, complained that “the arms of the late king, [Charles I.,] were still kept in the [parish] church,” it is evident Mr. Shirt did not sympathise with them ; and as they seem to have manifested some hostility to him, it is not improbable it might arise from this cause.
Mr. Shirt died shortly after the restoration of Charles II., apparently of a very short sickness. He was interred at Kirkburton, on the 3rd May, 1662.
Was a native of Wakefield, where his father, whose name was William, had resided some time. He was baptized at the parish church on the 25th March, 1639. He received his early education at the Grammar School in that town, and was, in May, 1654, admitted a sizar of Magdalen College, Cambridge, at 14 years of age ; having for his tutor, Mr. Joseph Hill, “a man of some eminence in his day.” At the time of his entering college his father was dead, and he records of himself, that he was “of a sickly constitution of body.”
He took his B.A. degree in 1658, and that of M.A., in 1661. Where he was ordained does not appear; the Archiepiscopal See of York was then vacant, so that he had tj seek it from some bishop out of the diocese. He was resident at Swillington, in 165 , as curate to his valued friend, the Rev. Henry Robinson, then rector of that parish, who had previously been vicar of Leeds, and whose daughter, Grace Robinson, he afterwards married. By the death of the Rev. Nathaniel Shirt, in 1662, the vicarage of Burton became vacant, when Mr. Briggs was appointed his successor, and was accordingly inducted on the 31st May, in that year. He was thus called upon at an early age, to fill a responsible situation in the church, at a very trying and exciting period of its history, being shortly after the restoration of episcopacy, and within three months of the period when so many of the clergy were ejected from their livings by the act of uniformity.
The principles of the Puritans and other sects had taken deep root here during the Commonwealth, and the circumstance that one of his predecessors had, in the early part of the civil war, been entirely overwhelmed by his opposition to the popular cause, at once indicated that the situation, for a young man of such very limited experience, was one of no light responsibility. It does not appear that Mr. Briggs had any misgivings of this kind, but set himself earnestly to the performance of what he regarded as his duty. His ministry here was prolonged to the extraordinary period of sixty-five years, during which time he was led to publish several small works, in defence of the established church, and the improvement of its discipline.
Like many conscientious men, Mr. Briggs looked with abhorrence upon the period which immediately preceded the restoration, as “the disordered times,” — which he believed to have originated in the diversity of religious doctrine among the people, and thought that to reduce these various elements to one uniform standard of doctrine and discipline, was the paramount duty of the state. In the accomplishment of this object the episcopal clergy, now reinstated in their former position, were ready to become active instruments, from a conviction that, unless this great work was effected, the scenes which had so recently taken place might ere long be re-enacted.
With these views he applied himself to the task of reducing the “schismatics,” and restoring them again to the bosom of the church; and if his persuasions failed in their object, he did not scruple to call upon the civil magistrate to enforce obedience. He maintained the divine right of kings, with its associated principle of “passive obedience.” When Charles II. granted his Indulgence, in 1672, to the nonconformists, Mr. Briggs shortly after published a small volume, which was addressed to his parishioners, in which he observes, “it is not fit for me, or any other son of the church, who profess the strictest obedience and loyalty, to make any saucy descant upon his Majesty’s actions. He is wise as an angel of God, and freely do we submit to his deliberate counsels and determinations,” &c. This servility, even in Mr. Briggs, was subsequently put to the test.
But he had differences of another kind with his parishioners, in regard to the tithes ; these differences were kept up, more or less, till the close of Charles II’s. reign ; but in that of James II. it resulted in a suit, in which he “sued a number of the principal parishioners for tithe-hay, flax, hemp, and rape, in the Exchequer Court,” upon all, except the first, he was successful.
Scarcely had this suit been concluded, when James II. issued his “Declaration,” dated 4th April, 1687, for the suspension of the penal enactments, by which he granted liberty of conscience to his subjects. This was commanded to be read by the clergy in all churches and chapels: upon which, Mr. Briggs as well as a large proportion of the clergy, manifested a strong spirit of resistance, and as it seems, made it, not unnaturally, the subject of animadversion from the pulpit. It appears that on the 12th and 19th June, succeeding the issuing of the declaration, Mr. Briggs preached sermons in the parish church, and in the episcopal chapel at Holmfirth, in which he is reported to have used several “seditious expressions against the government of the king.” The witnesses against him were a number of parishioners, who probably were strongly embittered by their recent contest respecting the tithes, and who appear to have made these expressions known to the authorities ; upon which they were called to give evidence before Mr. Justice Alibone, at Rotherham, who was then on his return from “the assize for the northern circuit,” “who examined them touching the said sermons ;” after which the judge ordered their affidavits to be made and forwarded to “The Ecclesiastical Commissioners,” the prosecution being undertaken by the judge. The result of which was, that the court decreed that for his offence, Mr. Briggs should be suspended from his function as vicar, until further orders; peremptorily requiring him to abstain from preaching, &c., upon pain of deprivation. His suspension was read and published in the church of Burton, and in the chapel of Holmfirth, on the 16th October following. He afterwards applied to “The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and acknowledged his fault, and was thereupon released from his suspension, and restored to his benefice.”
The long-cherished maxim of “passive obedience,” had now been put to the test, when he saw the Anglican church in danger of being subverted, through the stubborn will of a Popish king, and his conscience at once dictated the line of duty. It is, however, much to be regretted that he afterwards submitted to the humiliation of acknowledging this as a “fault.”
It must also be stated that, soon after William III. became seated on the throne, Mr. Briggs instituted a suit for compensation, against those parishioners who had given evidence against him, laying his damages “at £500 for losses sustained,” alleging also, that “The Ecclesiastical Commissioners” had been unlawfully constituted, and, therefore, had no jurisdiction, and that the prosecution had been unjustly instituted. It was contended by the defendants that, as the Commission was unlawful, its orders were void; that the prosecution had been instituted by Judge Alibone, and that they only gave evidence as to fact. The pleadings describe him as “a very troublesome litigious vicar.”
We will now turn to the more agreeable part of his character, as a minister of the sanctuary, — here he seems to have been most exemplary in the performance of his duties, and especially in the work of catechising the young; for his deep sense of the importance of which he acknowledged his great obligations to his early and revered friend, Mr. Robinson, his father-law, who not only first drew his attention to it, but furnished him with the most material part of the questions and answers upon the Apostle’s creed, which he used, and which he afterwards published in 1696, along with question and answers “of the Baptismal Covenant, the Decalogue, the Lord’s Prayer, and concerning the Sacraments,” which he entitled, “The Church Catechism, explained to the meanest capacity; not only in questions and answers, as usual, but after each answer is an enlargement by the catechist, for the improvement and further instruction of the congregation in general. Useful for families. By Joseph Briggs, M.A., Vicar of Kirkburton, in the county of York.” He printed a second edition in 1722, when he had been vicar of the parish sixty years, and dedicated it to Sir "William Dawes, Archbishop of York.
In 1704 he published another small volume, entitled, “Catholic Unity and Church Communion, or Christians’ duty to communicate with the church of England ; with a just reproof of several novel and schismatical notions and practices, particularly that of occasional conformity ; clearly stated and proved by way of question and answer. Suited to the well-meaning countryman’s capacity. By Joseph Briggs, Vicar of Kirkburton, in the county of York.” It is dedicated to “John [Sharp,] Archbishop of York.” Mr. Briggs acted many years as a surrogate for the proving of wills, &c., to which office he had been appointed in the reign of Charles II.
He was twice married. His first wife was Grace, daughter of the Rev. H. Rohinson, rector of Swillington, by whom he had issue. She died in 1695. His second wife was Ellen, widow of John Earnshaw, of Holme, whom he also survived.
He died on the 25th July, 1727, in the 89th year of his age, and was interred in the chancel.
Was appointed vicar on the death of Mr. Briggs, but was non-resident, being also vicar of Windsor, but whether of Old or New Windsor is not known. This parish did not, therefore, benefit much by his personal services ; indeed, it is reported that during the whole period of his connexion with this church, which was nearly forty years, he only paid three visits to it. The Rev. John Hardy, who had been curate to Mr. Briggs, in the latter years of his life, also became curate to Mr. D’Oyley, and remained through the greater part of his incumbency, till Mr. Hardy became incapacitated by age, when the Rev. William Mountjoy was appointed to succeed him as curate.
The neglect on the part of the vicar to appear more frequently among his parishioners, gave them great cause of complaint, and the reasonableness of that discontent appears to have been felt by Mr. Hardy, as is implied in the following facetious reply of the vicar to his curate, dated “15th June, 1736.”
Mr. D’Oyley died in 1766.
Was descended from an ancient and respectable family, at Wooton-under-Edge, in Gloucestershire, where his father was an eminent surgeon. After receiving his elementary education in his native town, he was entered of Brazen Nose College, Oxford; where he took at the usual period his B.A. degree, and in due course that of M.A. He was ordained to the curacy of the parish church of Huddersfield ; from thence he was appointed, by Mr. D’Oyley, resident curate of Kirkburton, about 1754, on the resignation of Mr. Hardy, through bodily infirmities, which also rendered it necessary for him to resign the office of schoolmaster to the Free School of Burton, to which Mr. Mountjoy was likewise appointed. On the death of Mr. D’Oyley, he was appointed to this vicarage through the interest of the Earl of Dartmouth with Lord North, then prime minister. He married Jane, daughter of Mr. John Gill, of Blackhouse, in Thurstonland, who survived him many years. Here he continued till his death, on the 7th September, 1778, aged 47 years, having been twelve years curate, and twelve years vicar. He was a worthy, pious minister, a good preacher, and from his amiable and conciliatory manners, gained the warm affection of his hearers, and the esteem of his parishioners.
Was inducted on the death of Mr. Mountjoy, and was in many respects the opposite of his predecessor, from whom he differed widely in doctrinal sentiments. Although possessing strong religious feelings, and many excellent qualities, which in some situations might have rendered his ministrations eminently useful, he was, unfortunately for himself and his parishioners, of an irritable and imperious temper which was but too frequently manifested in the excitement occasioned by the annual collection of the vicarial tithes, under circumstances calculated to arouse a determined spirit of resistance on the part of the parishioners. This was felt by them more especially after the quiet, peaceable, and unostentatious demeanour of Mr. Mountjoy.
Mr. Kay had not been long seated at Burton, before he gave indications of his intentions to assert what he conceived to be his rights, — and these to the full: thus the great body of his parishioners, and he, were at an early period in complete antagonism. “This wrought upon his warm temper,” observes a contemporary, “and caused him to fly to the Ecclesiastical Courts for redress, which proved his ruin. He brought actions against a great number of his parishioners, many of whom were of the poorer class, which alarmed and aroused their superiors, and induced them to form a general association through the parish, for mutual protection and defence. These inconsiderate proceedings brought upon him, as well as on several of his parishioners, long and tedious, as well as expensive and troublesome contests, which lasted ten years, and were only terminated by his death, which no doubt had been greatly accelerated, if not occasioned, by grief and distress of mind, as he died insolvent, being much in debt to all his friends who could or would assist him. His proctor, after his death, took out letters of administration, sold all his effects, and paid six shillings in the pound to his creditors.” “Mr. Kay rebuilt the greater part of the vicarage house, and greatly improved the garden and grounds.” He died 16th January, 1793, aged 47 years,—having been twelve years vicar. He was a popular preacher, — possessing a fine voice, and a commanding person. His doctrinal views were highly Calvinistic.
Only a few marble monuments have been erected in this church, all of which are modern. Some of the inscriptions on the floor of the chancel are of an older date.
On the floor of the chancel:—
Another Marble Monument:
Marble Tablet in the north choir:
In the Middle Aisle, on the floor:
On the floor of the south aisle:
In the church yard:
In quitting these sacred precints, we may here remark that about a century ago, there was to be seen in the clerk’s house, at a short distance from the church, the following lines, which have now disappeared, but which will not inappropriately conclude this part of our subject.—
I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev. Joseph Hunter, F.S.A., of London, for a copy of these lines, which he transcribed from the MSS. of the late Mr. Wilson, of Broomhead, an industrious collector and antiquary, who saw them on the clerk’s house, at Kirkburton, in 1760. To Mr. Hunter I am also indebted for discovering whence these lines are borrowed. For, as he justly observes, “I always thought them above the reach of the rustic muse of Kirkburton. They are taken from Draxelius’ Considerations of Eternity, in R. Winterton’s translation, originally printed in 1632, the work became popular and passed through several editions.”