Table of Contents for The History of Huddersfield and the Valleys of the Colne, the Holme and the Dearne (1898):
Of the Parish Church of Huddersfield — The Rev. Henry Venn — The Rev. Edmund Hill — The Rev. Josiah Bateman — Church Rates — The Cemetery — Monuments in the Church — The Parish Registers — The Parish Church of Almondbury — Thomas of Rotherham — Tithes — The Rev. C. A. Hulbert — The Parish Registers — The Plague — Penance — Monuments — The Parish Church of Kirkburton — Monuments — The Parish Church of Kirkheaton — Ancient Chapels of Ease — Church Building Acts — The Ecclesiastical Commissioners — The Ancient Chapel of Marsden — Queen Anne's Bounty — Some Incumbents of Marsden — The Condition of the People — Tithe Disputes — The Ancient Chapel of Slaithwaite — The Rev. Robert Meeke — Some Other Incumbents of Slaithwaite — Beginnings of Dissent — Parish Registers — Local Names — Burial in Flannel — The Ancient Chapel of Holmfirth — Holmfirth's Service to Cromwell — Wakes — Rushbearings — The Ancient Chapel of Honley — Certain Monuments — The Ancient Chapel of Meltham — Modern Churches — The Priory of Kirklees.
AUTHORITIES :— Tomlinson : History of Huddersfield in Home Words ; The Political History of England ; Miall : Congregationalism in Yorkshire ; Bateman : Reminiscences ; Oliver Heywood : Event Book ; Boccacio : Decameron ; Jessop : Plague in East Anglia ; Yorkshire Notes and Queries ; Moorhouse : History of the Graveship of Holme ; Whitaker : Loidis et Elmete ; Torres MS. ; Crockford's Church Directory ; Phipps : Monograph on Kirkburton Church ; Sykes : History of the Colne Valley ; Stevens : Commentaries on the Laws of England ; Hearth Tax Returns ; Parliamentary Survey, temp Cromwell ; 26 Henry VIII. c. 3 ; 2 and 3 Anne, c. 11 ; Robinson : Marsden Memorials ; Meeke's Diary ; Hulbert : Annals of Slaithwaite Church ; Book of Common Prayer ; Hughes : History of Meltham ; Hobkirk : History of Huddersfield ; S. J. Chadwick in Notes and Queries ; Journal of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society.
There has been no subject upon which men have differed more than upon religion, in the ordinary sense of that word. And yet all will agree that religion has in all ages and among all people played a prominent, perhaps of all other factors the most prominent, part in moulding the convictions, the ideals, the hopes, the characters of men, and therefore it is fitting that in a History professing to be that of the peoples of this or any other district, adequate record should be made of their religious institutions. And first of the Parish Church of Huddersfield.
It is probable that the Church at Almondbury and that at Huddersfield were erected about the same period. It may well be that the first-named had priority in point of time, for it seems likely that the de Lacis, residing, or at least having a residence, at Almondbury, would first build a church near their own abode for the convenience of themselves and their household ; and I imagine, moreover, that the further we go back in our local records the greater the importance of Almondbury, the less that of Huddersfield. The Parish Church of the latter parish is said to have been erected and dedicated to St. Peter, about the year 1073, by Walter de Laci, in fulfillment of a vow made when his life was imperilled on the morass then lying between Huddersfield and Halifax. The first structure, a small edifice in the Norman style, was consecrated by the Bishop of Negropont, and the advowson of the benefice, or, in plain speech, the right to nominate the vicar, was conferred some time before 1131 upon the Priory of St. Oswald, at Nostell, the grant being confirmed by royal charter in the following terms :—
Hugh de la Val was a sub-feoffee from the de Lacis of the Manor of Huddersfield.
The Prior of St. Oswald appointed a Vicar to the Parish of Huddersfield, with the usual allotment of lesser or vicarial and reservation of greater or rectorial tythes. As witness the following Deed of Ordination :—
In the year 1288 the Pope granted the tithes of ecclesiastical property to Edward I. for six years to enable him to defray the cost of a Crusade to the Holy Land, and in that year a survey of such property was made for the purpose of the tax. From the following extract from the Survey it will be noticed that the churches at Almondbury and Kirkheaton were assessed at a higher value than that at Huddersfield :—
|"DECONATUS DE PONTEFR. IN ARCHEDEACONATA EBOR."|
|Eccl'ia (church) de Halyfax||93||6||8|
|Vicar' ejusdem (vicarage of same)||16||0||0|
|Eccl'ia de Almonbury||40||0||0|
|Eccl'ia de Huddersfield||9||6||8|
|Eccl'ia de Heton||20||0||0|
In 1534, 26 Henry VIII., a general visitation of the Monasteries was held, possibly with an eye to that dissolution which quickly ensued. The following extracts touch the Rectory of Huddersfield :—
| Rectory of Huddersfield.
The Outgoings and Profits of the Rectory of Huddersfield, belonging to the said Priory (St. Oswald de Nostell), £3 4s. 0d. of Glebe, and £15 12s. 10d. great tithes in the same county.
| Vicarage of Huddersfield.
Peter Longfellow, Clerk, Incumbent. The Vicarage there is worth : Dwelling-House with garden, annual value 3s. 4d., tithe of wool as in former years 60s., tithe of lambs 64s., oblations as formerly £4 11s. 8d., and small tithes and private contributions amounting to £9 18s. 6½d.
| Payments as follows :
Annual payment to Edward Kellett, Vicar of Dewsbury, £2 3s. 4d. Payment to the Archbishop 3s., and to the Archdeacon of York for procurations 7s. 6d., £0 10s. 6d
|The tithe thereof is||£1||15||4|
|Chantry of the Holy Trinity. Richard Blackburne, Incumbent. The Chantry is worth in Rents, lands and tenements in Golding, Co. Notts, per ann. Total clear value||£4||13||4|
|The tithe thereof||£||9||4|
|Chantry of the Blessed Virgin. The Chantry is worth : Rents, lands, tenements in Stainland £1 6s. 8d. ; in Slaighthwaite 6s. 8d. ; in Raistrick 1s. 4d., and in Huddersfield 16s. Total per ann.||£2||10||8|
|Due in rent to William Blackburn 4s., and to the Prior of St. Oswald is. Total per ann||£||5||0|
We gather that the gross yearly value of the Vicarage at the time of the Reformation was £20 17s. 0½d. Out of this the annual pension to the Mother Church of Dewsbury, £2 3s. 4d., and other small ecclesiastical dues, 10s. 6d., had to be paid by the Vicar, reducing the net value to £17 13s. 21d. There were moreover two Chantries of the clear yearly value of £4 13s. 4d. and £2 5s. 8d. respectively. At that time wheat, which before the Corns Laws fluctuated considerably, but averaged about 55s., was 6s. 10d. per quarter, and money therefore was worth nine or ten times as much as now. We may conclude therefore that the annual value of the Vicarage represented under £200 in present values. A Chantry, it may be added, was a small chapel in which masses were said or sung for the repose of the soul of the founder of the Chantry or that of some person designated by him. The endowment was for the payment of the priest who said the masses. The priest of the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin must have fasted sore and oft if we may credit the following :—
We read also of "an obiit (a memorial service held on the anniversary of the founder's death) in the seyd church founded by Thomas Rogers, sometime Vicar there, to have continuance for ever, which gave one yerely rent of 7s., by yere for the maintenance thereof; and of a lampe or light in the seyd church founded by George Key, to have continuance for twenty years, whereof 12 be expired, which gave a yerely rent of 8s. to the maintenance thereof."
At the Reformation the property of the Nostell Priory was appropriated to the King, who sold to Richard Andrews of Hales and Leonard Chamberlain of Woodstock "all that our mansion and messuage, called the Parsonage in Huddersfield, in the county of York, with its appurtenances, late appertaining to the Monastery of St. Oswald in the county, but recently dissolved, and being then parcel of its possessions."
In 1546 William Ramsden, ancestor of the present ground landlord of Huddersfield, purchased the advowson of the Vicarage of Huddersfield. In the " Political History of England "f this same William Ramsden is mentioned as a considerable purchaser of monastery lands.
From the early years of the thirteenth century, when Michael de Wakefield was the first Vicar of the Parish of Huddersfield of whom there is mention, many grave and learned divines have held the Vicariate, most to be commemorated of them all being the Rev. Henry Venn, M.A., who, though he ministered in Huddersfield only twelve years, 1759 to 1771, made his ministry memorable in the annals of the church. Venn was associated with Wesley and Whitfield in the great religious revival that marked the middle of the eighteenth century. He accompanied those ministers in their apostolic journeyings, and was on terms of friendship with that Lord Dartmouth whom the poet Cowper had in mind when he wrote of one who wore a coronet and prayed. It was the Earl who prevailed upon Sir William Ramsden, the patron of the living, to offer it to Mr. Venn. During his ministry the services of the church were attended by overflowing congregations, people flocking from great distances to hear him. In his time John Wesley preached in the Huddersfield Parish Church on more than one occasion. Venn was the author of "The Complete Duty of Man," and Sir James Stephen ranks him along with John Newton, Thomas Scott, and Joseph Milner, as one of the four great evangelists of the Church of England in latter days. A tablet in the church bears this inscription :—
During the Commonwealth the Rev. Edmund Hill was Vicar of Huddersfield, presumably conforming to the Presbyterian form of Church Government. It is interesting to learn that he was required to qualify as a Registrar of Marriages, that rite being, under the Republic, performed by a civil officer, marriage itself declared to be what in law it merely is, a contract entered into with certain safeguards for publicity and perpetuation of testimony. In Miall's Congregationalism in Yorkshire there is a touching story of the Vicar's last moments: " He had attained a profound age, and was confined to his room. In the same chamber was his wife, who had been bedridden for two years, and was near her end. Hill left his bed with difficulty to take leave of her, and as he kissed her for the last time he said, ' Ah, my dear wife, thou hast followed me for fifty years, tarry awhile and let me go before thee.' He was, with difficulty, carried back to his couch, and immediately expired. His wife died within two hours." Oliver Heywood, the Presbyterian Chronicler, in his Diary under date January 29th, 1668-9, has the entry : " This day we have been interring the corpse of old Mr. Hill and his wife ; he was aged 80 years within a few weeks, she near as old, and they had lived many years together. He died on Wednesday between eleven and twelve o'clock, and she died at three o'clock the same day. Seven Nonconformist ministers laid him in the grave. Lord, sanctify it."
It was during the vicariate of the Rev. Josiah Bateman, who was incumbent from 1840 to 1855, that the present Vicarage was erected, a note of the circumstances in Mr. Bateman's Reminiscences being quoted by Mr. Tomlinson : "This (the old Vicarage) was a very old building in the worst part of the town, with a garden attached in which nothing green would grow. Close by, a large, old-fashioned inn was standing, which in times past had been built upon the glebe, and now paid a good rent to the vicar. But all was hemmed by tall chimneys and wretched buildings ; and the house proved on trial an unhealthy residence. Again and again, one and another of my family was attacked with illness ; again and again we were invited by kind parishioners to make their handsome houses in the outskirts our home for weeks together. But this could not last; and before a year had lapsed a decision was required whether we would leave or stay; and that turned upon the retention of the old house or the erection of a new one. I called a meeting in the vestry, and proposed the question. It was responded to with Yorkshire liberality. A beautiful paddock of two acres and more, just outside the town, was exchanged for some glebe land four or five miles away, and on it was built a handsome Gothic Vicarage for £2,200. Patron, parishioners, and friends contributed nearly £1,500, and Queen Anne's Bounty advanced, on the usual terms, £700. Roads were made, trees planted, and fences erected, under the contract. All internal fixtures, such as chimney-pieces, stoves, grates, bells, closets, and shelves, were provided and paid for, thus becoming the property, not of the Vicar, but of the Vicarage ; and I rejoiced exceedingly when, in due course, I received a request from the bank that I would allow them to close the account, by drawing out the twelve shillings due to me."
Thus was the shepherd, with his family, enabled to move from their unsavoury surroundings. But the flock remained.
The Cemetery in New North Road was opened also in Mr. Bateman's time. In the year 1847 it was proposed to lay a general rate by the Vestry for the maintenance of the Burial Ground of the Parish Church. Great hostility was manifested by the Dissenters of the town to this proposal to expend monies compulsorily contributed by men of all religious denominations and of none upon a Burial Ground which would be in law the Vicar's Freehold, and in which only clergymen of the Established Church could perform the last sad rites o'er the dead.
An impression prevailed that the motion for a rate could not be met by a direct negative, and accordingly at the Vestry held December 9th, 1847, under the presidency of the Vicar, an amendment was moved by Mr. Joseph Boothroyd, and seconded by Mr. Wright Mellor —
The Vicar objected that no such coin existed, but on the production of a handful of half-farthings, procured by an astute ratepayer from the Bank of England, the objection was over-ruled and the amendment was carried. To collect such a rate would not have been worth the candle, and since that day no more has been heard in Huddersfield of Church Rates, though for some years thereafter Easter Dues continued to be demanded. The following copy of a Demand Note for the latter assessment may interest the curious :—
The present edifice dedicated to St. Peter was erected in 1836. It is a Gothic structure, with tower containing a clock and seven bells. The construction cost near £10,000. The interior consists of nave, chancel, aisles, and transepts. The pulpit, communion rails, and screen are of pure white stone beautifully carved. The windows representing the Ascension and the Agony in the garden are excellent specimens of their kind, and against neither this church nor that at Almondbury, to which it also refers, can the accusation contained in the following extract from a memorandum of his visitation in 1804 by the Rev. Joseph Hunter be any more alleged : "There are many good stones of yeomen and inferior gentle families in this (Almondbury) parish, but they are so covered with dirt that there is no making out the inscriptions. This and Huddersfield are the nastiest churches I ever saw."
Few of the monuments in the church are of general interest. Some perpetuate the virtues of members of the family of Brooke of Newhouse, now extinct in the male line, but connected on the distaff side with the Wilkinsons of Greenhead, and through them with the Lister-Kayes of Denby Grange. The inscription on the tomb of "Thomas Brooke, the elder, of Newhouse," gentleman, who was buried November 17, A.D. 1638, betrays an enviable complacency :—
The Event Book of Oliver Heywood has a reference to this family that incidentally throws a not very flattering light upon the town. "I cannot but take notice and exceedingly admire God's providence, that when one door is shut God opens another for service and employment. By an observable call I was brought to one Mrs. Brooke's, at Newhouse, to keep a fast upon a special occasion, November 18th, 1673, and indeed I have very seldom found such enlargement and melting of spirit. It may be God hath some design of good in that very ignorant place; the old woman was carnal, I fear, her daughters civil. Mr. Gell, the young gentleman that married the one, keeps a kennel of hounds, yet much affected." There is much significance in that "yet."
The Parish Registers commence in 1562 and bear witness to the permanence of family names in the same district. Thus in the entries for that year we have the names, Hanson and Aneley of Longwood, Fraunce, Armitage, Sykes, Thorpe of Slaighwith (Slaithwaite), Shaw of Marsden, Fyrthe of Lynley and Longwood, Brooke, Jepson, Clayton of Huddersfield, Why th wham, Dyson, of Golker.
The Vicarage is of the annual value of £450 with residence.
The Church of All Saints' at Almondbury, according to "A Little History of Almondburie," quoted by Canon Hulbert in his "Annals of the Church and Parish of Almondbury," was probably built by the Lacis, Tyases, and Beaumonts, and their tenants about the year 1100, only 34 years after the landing of Norman William on our shores. Be this as it may it is certain that in 1187, Alice de Lacy and her son Henry Lacy presented to the Rectory, and the Advowson to the Rectory remained with the Laci family, and, following the fortunes and other property of the Lacis, as heretofore traced, became vested in the Crown in 1399, and with the Crown remained till 1485. Henry VII. conferred the Rectorial Tithes, Glebes, and Advowson of Almondbury upon Thomas, Archbishop of York, a native of Rotherham, who devised them to the College of Jesus at Rotherham, a seminary founded pursuant to the will of that prelate. In this will the testator recalls the fact that in Rotherham in his youth "there was a teacher of Grammar, who came to Rotherham by I know not what fate, but I believe it was by the grace of God he came thither, who taught me and other youths, whereof others, with me, reached higher station. Therefore, desiring to return thanks to the Saviour and to magnify that cause, lest I should seem unthankful and forgetful of the benefits of God and whence I came, I have determined with myself first to establish there an instructor in grammar, teaching all persons gratuitously." The testator then appropriates to the College, the Provost, and Fellows of the same, inter alia, "the Parish Church of Almondbury, which is worth twenty pounds four shillings yearly." By Deed of Appropriation, " given in our Chapter House at York, the eighteenth day of the month of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty-eight," the Archbishop, with the assent of the Dean and Chapter, "for certain reasonable causes, moving their minds in this matter, and chiefly because a vicar of the aforesaid church (of Almondbury) for the time being, who was bound constantly and permanently to reside at the same, would be able by his own watchful attention and industry to collect, levy, receive, and dispose of, and convert to his own benefit and advantage for maintaining hospitality and supporting housekeeping, the Tythes of Lamb, Hay, Wool, Oblations, Mortuaries, and other small tythes in a better and more exact manner than the President and Fellows of the said College who reside at a greater distance from the same ... WILLED, ORDAINED, and DECREED that the Perpetual Vicar of the Parish Church of Almondbury, whosoever for the time being, who shall administer, have, and exercise the cure of the souls of the parishioners of the same Church, should have and receive for his own due and portion and maintenance in future for ever, all and every, the Tythes of Hay, Lambs, Wool, Calves, Fowls, Pigs, Geese, Ducks, Chickens, Doves, Eggs, Bees, Honey, Wax, Milk, Flax, Hemp, Apples, Woods, Trees, Coppices, and other small Tythes, Mortuaries, and Oblations whatsoever, within the said Parish, anciently and by right due and customary to the Rector of the same." But the same deed reserved to the President and Fellows of the said College "the total, entire, and every, the Tythes of Sheaves of Corn of the said Parish, also the entire Glebe, Lands, Tenements, Messuages, Enclosures, Meadows, Pastures, Rents, and Services whatsoever of old or recently belonging to the Rectory of the same Church, and other emoluments whatsoever in any way appertaining to, arising to, or concerning the said Church, excepting only the provision theretofore assigned to the Vicar." The Deed also assigned to the Vicar a part of the old Rectory House, subject to his maintaining the same in repair, and to his providing the Bread, Wine, Wax, and Lights sufficient for the said Church and the procurations and synodals theretofore defrayed and paid by the Rector.
I have not stinted in my extracts from this ancient document, for it is very illuminative of the manner in which our forefathers provided for the support of their ministers. When one remembers that at the time when the above deed was signed in the Chapter House at York the parish of Almondbury was almost exclusively agricultural, and that a tythe meant in very sooth a tenth part in kind of all the produce of the land and of all that fed thereon, and reflects upon the arguments by which the Church based its claims to tythes, one realises how momentous was the occasion on which Abram gave "tithes of all" to Melchizedek, King of Salem, "priest of the most high God."
The advowson and the Rectorial Tithes of Almondbury Church remained in the College of Jesus at Rotherham until the College was dissolved in the reign of Edward VI., when they lapsed to the Crown. In the reign of Philip and Mary they were conferred upon the Clitheroe Grammar School, which was founded by Queen Mary, August 9th, 1554, and from the time of Mary to 1867 the advowson or right of presentation to the living of Almondbury was exercised by the Governors of Clitheroe Grammar School, and in that year we find Sir J. W. Ramsden has become patron of the living. That the claim to tithes was capable of being translated into a very substantial and tangible endowment the reader will already have gathered from the fact that in the Honley Enclosure Award over a hundred acres of that manor was allotted to Clitheroe Grammar School in lieu of Rectorial tithes.
I may add that a building near the south end of the National School in Almondbury was called the "Tythe Barn," and was doubtless once used for the measurement and storage of the tithes paid in kind.
It were outside the purview of this History to enumerate the many rectors and vicars of Almondbury from the days of William de Notyland (Nottingham), the first rector whose name is preserved, in 1231, down to the present, but tribute is due from any writer of the history of this district to at least one of them, the Rev. Charles Augustus Hulbert, M.A., Honorary Canon of Ripon, who was Vicar of Slaithwaite for twenty-eight years before, in 1867, he accepted the cure of Almondbury, which he held till his death in 1888. Mr. Hulbert was a painstaking accumulator of topographical details rather than a skilled compiler ; he knew better how to amass the materials of a fabric than to erect the structure, and his "Annals of the Church in Slaithwaite " and "Annals of the Church and Parish of Almondbury," are valuable contributions to the too limited storehouse of our local lore ; whilst to him also must be attributed the credit of preserving from loss or destruction that unique little volume, the "Diary of the Rev. Robert Meeke." From the Almondbury Annals I cull several extracts from the Almondbury Parish Registers which have an interest even to us of these days so far removed from that on which they were first inscribed.
This plague or pest was commonly supposed to take its rise in the East and to be brought by mariners to this country. There can, however, be no doubt that the habits and condition of the people largely contributed to the direness of the periodic visitations. They lived in hovels or in houses in which the commonest sanitary safeguards were neglected. The dunghill and the cesspool were quite generally hard by the house door. Fresh air was as jealously excluded from the living-rooms and sleeping-rooms as though oxygen were the pest itself. Add to this that the people must perforce depend almost entirely on the produce of their own lands, so that, as we may judge from the great fluctuations in the price of corn, the necessities of life were in one year plentiful, in the next at nigh famine prices, and when famine prices reigned we may be sure the lower orders suffered intensely.
It seems to be inferred from the extract from the Register concerning Beaumont of Lockwood that the corpse was committed to the earth without the usual services. When people talk of the good old days let them recall this picture of the wife and young daughter laying the body of the dead upon the back of a horse, toiling with their sad burden through Newsome to Almondbury, those they passed on the road fleeing as people in the East from the leper, and casting the corpse into the grave without one prayer said, one holy verse to assuage their sorrow and breathe a hope of the life to come. Let them picture this, I say, and then think of our hospitals and nurses and of the incessant vigilance that guards the humblest home against the dangers of infection.
The plague, says Boccacio in that naughty Decameron of his "showed itself in a sad and wonderful manner ; and different from what it had done in the East, where bleeding from the nose is the fatal prognostic. Here (at Florence) there appeared certain tumours in the groin or under the armpits, some as big as an apple, others as big as an egg ; and afterwards purple spots on most parts of the body ; in some cases large and but few in number, in others less and more numerous, both kinds the usual messengers of death ... They generally die," he adds, "the third day from the first appearance of the symptoms, without a fever or other bad circumstance attending." "It took men generally," says Villan, quoted by Dr. Jessop in his article on the Black Death in East Anglia, "in the head and stomach, appearing first in the groin, or under the armpits, by little knots or swellings called kernels, boils, blains, blisters, pimples, or plague-sores ; being generally attended with devouring fever, with occasional spitting and vomiting of blood, whence, for the most part, they died presently or in half a day, or within a day or two at the most." Dr. jessop concluded that the plague was not scarletina maligna, nor small-pox, nor cholera, but a variety of the Oriental plague.
The reader will perhaps be interested in reading the precautions devised by our forefathers against the plague, particulars of which are published by Mr. S. J. Chadwick from papers preserved by the late Sir Thomas Brooke, Bart., of Armitage Bridge.
We read in Morehouse's History of Kirkburton that for four months in the summer and autumn of 1558 the plague raged in that parish, and during its prevalence neither baptism not marriage is recorded. One hundred and twenty persons died of the scourge. From nth June to the 23rd a death from the plague is recorded daily. Thenceforth no dates are given, and the names of the hundred and eight others are gathered together in one sad entry, opposite is the significant note "Plague Tyme."
Other extracts from the Almondbury Register tell of the perils of the wayfarer over the mountain tracks :—
Even the Churchwardens' Accounts of two hundred and odd years ago are interesting :—
|1697.||Aug. 16. For ringing for Joy of the Peace with France||0||4||6|
|1698.||May 24. Joseph Fryer for a fox head||0||1||0|
|Wine for Communion for the whole year||16||3||3|
|Pd. Henry Kaye for Ringing five of the Clock five month ten days||0||5||0|
|1700.||Jan. 27. Spent when Mr. Porritt preached||0||1||0|
There are many entries of payment of the same amount to the curates of Meltham, Marsden, Honley, Holmfirth, and others :—
|1705.||May 9th. For walking in ye Church on ye Sunday to keep people from sleeping, and whipping off ye doggs||0||2||6|
|1740.||For going about to fright children from play in service time, great complaints being made||0||2||0|
|1752.||Spent when going to Berry Brow to see if children were playing on Sabbath day||0||2||0|
|1764-5.||Paid Paul North for Cloth for Communion,Table and for Pennance Sheet||0||5|
Mrs. M. A. Jagger, in an article on Honley Church in Yorkshire Notes and Queries, tells of an old person then living in Honley who heard her father-in-law tell of his flight to London rather than submit to the ordeal of penance in the old Oratory. A young woman, who had borne an illegitimate child, to escape doing public penance, walked from Honley to York Castle, where her father was imprisoned, with the child strapped to her back.
Each churchwarden was to have on Easter Sunday a pint of wine for his own use.
The present church in Almondbury, which superseded an earlier structure on the same site, was founded in 1522.
The Kaye Chapel within the church contains many memorials interesting to the antiquarian and to those concerned with the family history of the great; but for an account of these and a description of the church itself the reader is referred to other well known and easily consulted local histories.
The present net income of the living is stated in the Clergy List to be £215.
Mr. Morehouse opines that the Parish Church of Kirkburton was erected about the same time as the churches at Almondbury and Huddersfield, and like them appears to have been an offshoot from the church at Dewsbury. Whitaker says "It still continues to pay a pension of £4 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." The Rev. R. Phipps, M.A., Vicar of Kirkburton, in a mongraph on the church published in 1902, states that during the rebuilding of a portion of the present chancel "a broken Crucifix was found built in the rubble of the East and North walls, which takes us back to the fourth century, when Christianity was first adopted as the religion of the Roman Empire," so that the Kirkburton Church may claim an antiquity greater than that ascribed to it by Dr. Morehouse. One feature that especially emphasises the claim of the building to a remote period is the existence of the "hagioscope, or leper's window, as it is often called, which is in the north wall of the chancel, and opens to the inside of the church," and which Mr. Phipps inclines to think may have been the window through which the Sacrament was administered to the unhappy beings whom their fell disease shut off from communion with their kind. The area originally confided to the spiritual care and jurisdiction of the incumbents of Kirkburton comprised the townships of Burton, Shelley, Shepley, Cumberworth Half, Thurstonland, Wooldale, Fulstone, Hepworth, and Cartworth, the four last-named being included in the Graveship of Holme, and all the townships being in the Manor of Wakefield. Four other townships in the Graveship, to wit, Holme, Austonley, and Upper thong, which, too, were under the jurisdiction of the lord of Wakefield, were nevertheless included, for ecclesiastical purposes, within the parish of Almondbury, one of those curious instances, by no means rare, of the overlapping of jurisdictions, the causes of which baffle the research and in vain exhaust the ingenuity of the antiquary. The advowson of the benefice was originally in the lords of the manor, the Earls of Warren and Surrey. By the third Earl it was granted to the Priory of Lewes in Sussex, a religious house founded by the first Earl of Surrey, William de Warren. A valuation was taken of the living in 1292, and its annual value at that time was £35 9s. 8d., no inconsiderable sum if converted into money values of this day. The monks of the Priory of St. Pancras, at Lewes, did not long retain the patronage of the living, presenting for the last time in 1331, and in the reign of Edward III. apparently transferring or surrendering the advowson to the Crown. The Crown reserved in its hands a portion of the rectorial dues, and constituted a vicariate, nominating a vicar to discharge the spiritual functions of the incumbency. The Ordination of the Vicarage was dated March 27th, 1357, and the vicar seems to have been somewhat generously dealt with, for he was to have —
The patronage is now vested in the Bishop of the Diocese.
Of the original structure of the church, when Dr. Whitaker wrote, there were, he tells us, no remains, that then existing dating back, however, to the reign of the third Edward, and that in its turn has been rebuilt. "We may here observe," wrote Dr. Morehouse, in his History, published in 1861, "in connection with the rebuilding of this church, that there is still to be 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 Stock 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 brought 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," an instance of Divine preference of which it is to be trusted Kirkburton is sufficiently appreciative.
Not many of the monuments in the church are of general interest. One mentioned by Dr. Morehouse recalls the troublous times of the Civil Wars :—
I shall have something to say of this inscription on a later page.
Another, in the graveyard, is at least quaint :—
Mr. Morehouse records that a century before his time there was a clerk's house near the Vicarage, in which were incribed lines that are and always will be true :—
The living is stated in Crockford at the net value of £101.
There is much reason to believe that the Church in Kirkheaton, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is of very remote antiquity. The discovery there of a Saxon tombstone with runic inscriptions fortifies the tradition that the early Church was founded by missionaries of Paulinus in the seventh century. Certain it is that Kirkheaton, in common with Huddersfield, Almondbury, and Kirkburton, pays tribute to the mother church of Dewsbury; The area originally comprised within the spiritual jurisdiction of Kirkheaton was very extensive ; but in comparatively recent times Denby Grange has been added to the parish of Flockton and the Houses Hill district, both formerly in the ancient parish of Kirkheaton, has been merged in Hopton. Heton, as it was anciently called, appears to have become a separate parish about the year 1200, the advowson in 1245 being in the Burgh family and the living being valued in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas II., the Crusade assessment, at £20 per annum.
In the Parliamentary writs of 1316 we find the name of William de Heton, probably a Beaumont.
The advowson of Kirkheaton has been in many hands : the de Burghs, the Nevilles, the Watertons, the Crown, and now Trustees. A complete list of Patrons and Vicars from 1245 is exhibited in the church.
In the Liber Regis there is mention of the Chantry of the Blessed Mary. It is now used as the Beaumont Chapel, in which is the recumbent figure, so widely known as "Black Dick," of Richard Beaumont. In the Parliamentary Survey of 1653 the living is valued at £105 yearly, and the Vicar (the Rev. Christopher Richardson), whose name will recur in these pages, is mentioned, as "a godly and well-affected minister who receiveth the Proffitts and performs the cure." The main body of the church has been oft rebuilt, the Tower (circ. 1450) and the Beaumont Chapel, part of which dates to the 14th century, alone remaining of the ancient structure.
An inscription on a mural tablet to the memory of the Revd. Bryan Allott, who was Rector 1757-1773, is ascribed to the pen of David Garrick :—
Garrick is not the only genius associated with the church. A patten bears the inscription :—
Charles Dickens is claimed to have been of the family of this Thomas Dickins.
The parish of Kirkheaton was much concerned in the Civil Wars, one minister being ejected for refusing to subscribe the Covenant, another, of the Presbyterian faith, taking his place, and he in turn being " silenced " on the Reformation. To the memory of this latter a tablet is inscribed :—
A more recent memorial is a window to the memory of J. C. Broadbent, J.P., of Lascelles Hall, who, a prosperous merchant, yet evinced a warm sympathy with the efforts of the industrial classes for better social and economic conditions.
I would express my indebtedness to the present Rector, the Rev. John Wright Moore, M.A., for his courteous assistance in this brief notice of this historic church.
The district to which this History is devoted was originally comprised within the parishes of Almondbury, Huddersfield, Kirkburton, and Kirkheaton ; and for many centuries the faithful desirous of assisting at the celebration of mass, confessing their sins, marrying, baptizing their children, or burying their dead, were under the necessity of resorting to the church of their particular parish ; though it is probable that itinerant priests made a practice of celebrating mass at stated times at some chosen and fixed spot in the open air ; and mention has already been made of the ancient crosses marking those spots at Woodhouse, at Deanhead, at Cruthill, and, possibly, at Crosland. To us degenerate mortals who find it inconvenient to attend divine worship with due regularity unless we have a shrine almost at our doors, it may seem a matter of wonder that people should in olden times have cheerfully and habitually traversed, by rude and difficult roads, the great distances that separated their homes from the parish church ; yet in Ireland at this day the peasants make light of a journey of many miles to attend divine service, and I myself knew a gentleman, but recently passed away, who, week after week and year after year, each Sunday, walked in all weathers from Meltham to Sunny Bank in Golcar to lead his class in the Sunday School and take his place in the chapel. Faith, methinks, aforetime was of a robuster sort than is now general. Be that as it may, as the centuries passed after the erection of the parish churches, the necessity became pressing to provide greater convenience of public worship, and I imagine many readers will care to learn how the existing parochial divisions arose to meet the exigencies of the altered times. As I dealt with this subject at some length in my History of the Colne Valley I may be pardoned reproducing what was there written on the subject.
"A parish is defined to be that circuit of ground which is committed to the charge of one parson, or vicar, or other minister having care of souls therein — parochia est locus in quo degit populus alicujus ecclesice, a parish is the place in which the people of a certain church dwell. According to Camden, England was divided into parishes, about A.D. 636, though other writers maintain that their constitution dates only to the Council of Latheran in 1179 — the truth lying probably between the two dates. The creation of the ancient parishes, like that of those which have sprung from them, was gradual, and was dictated from time to time by the varying needs of the people ; but it seems certain that the boundaries of parishes were originally ascertained by those of manors; for it very seldom happens that a manor extends over more parishes than one, though there are often many manors in one parish."
"The lords" — of manors, I quote from Stevens — "as Christianity spread itself, began to build churches upon their own demesnes or wastes, to accommodate their tenants in one or two adjoining townships ; and in order to have divine service regularly performed therein, they obliged all their tenants to appropriate their tithes to the maintenance of the one officiating minister, instead of leaving them" — as had been originally the practice — "to distribute them among the clergy of the diocese in general ; and this tract of land, the tithes whereof were so appropriated, formed a distinct parish — which will well enough account for the intermixture of parishes one with another ; for if a lord had a parcel of land detached from the main of his estate, but not sufficient to form a parish of itself, it was natural for him to endow his newly erected church with the tithes of those disjoined lands. Thus parishes were gradually formed and parish churches endowed with the tithes that arose within the circuit assigned."
"Tithes, then, we see, were the provision made by the lord of the manor for the maintenance of the structure and the conduct of the services of the Church. It is true the tenant paid the tithe, but it is reasonable to assume his rent and services to the lord were abated in view of his obligation to the payment of his pious tribute to the Church, and it may also be assumed that when the transfer of landed property became general a purchaser reduced the price he paid by the capitalized amount of the tithe ... This tithe was levied at one time not only upon the produce of land but upon the profits of the trader and the earnings of the labourer; and history presents to us the pleasing picture of a whole people, distracted by no doubts and torn by no schisms, gladly and gratefully contributing to the maintenance of the Church."
Of the chapels of which I have spoken, subsidiary and auxiliary to the ancient Parish Churches, "some were private, others public 'and designed for the benefit of particular districts lying within the parochial ambit, these latter having been, in general, founded at some date later than the parish church itself, for the accommodation of such of the parishioners as lived too far from the parish church, whence public chapels, so circumstanced, were described as chapels of ease.'" At common law the right of nomination to them is in the incumbent of the parish church. Hence it is that the living of Holmfirth is in the gift of the Vicar of Kirkburton, those of Honley, Marsden, Meltham in the gift of the Vicar of Almondbury ; that of Slaithwaite in the gift of the Vicar of Huddersfield ; and formerly Holmfirth, Honley, Marsden, Meltham, Slaithwaite were but ancient chapelries, and their ministers were designated curates. "In 1818 Parliament began to apply itself systematically to the great task of extending the accommodation afforded by the national Church, so as to make it more commensurate with the wants of the people. To this end a long series of Church Building Acts received the sanction of Parliament. The Crown appointed Church Building Commissioners — a body superseded by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners — who were directed to ascertain where the accommodation of additional churches and chapels — this, of course, does not refer to dissehting places of worship — was required ; and out of the funds placed at their disposal by Parliament, to cause such churches as they thought necessary to be built, or to assist the parishioners or any persons subscribing, with grants or loans of money for the building thereof. The New Parishes Act, 1843, provided that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might form out of the larger or more populous parishes separate districts for spiritual purposes, and the funds in the hands of the Commissioners were made available for endowing or augmenting the income of the ministers. After a church or chapel had been built or purchased for the district and approved by the Commissioners and duly consecrated, the district (immediately upon such consecration) became a new parish for ecclesiastical purposes, and thereupon it became lawful to solemnize marriages, baptisms, churchings, and burials therein, and the minister having been first duly licensed by the bishop to such church, thereupon, ipso facto, became the vicar thereof, and the new church was styled and designated a vicarage, and was deemed to be a benefice with cure of souls to all intents and purposes. Finally, the New Parishes Act, 1856, enabled the Commissioners to select a district to an existing chapel" — such as those of Marsden, Slaithwaite, Honley, Holmfirth, Meltham — "and to constitute it a distinct parish."
We have already seen that in the reign of Edward IV. the Crown, out of the 40 marks which it reserved to itself out of the fee-farm rents of Marsden, set apart 4 marks "for the use of a minister to perform divine service and worship in the chapel at Marsden," to be paid every Easter Monday to the living incumbent from the fee-farm rents by the lord of the manor. It is manifest, therefore, that at least so early as the middle of the fifteenth century there was a chapel at Marsden — one of those chapels-of-ease whose origin I have described. In 1666, so modest still was the position of the Curate of Marsden, we gather from Assessments of that year, his residence afforded but one fire-place. In addition to the money revenue of 4 marks, or 33s. 4d., equivalent to perhaps £20 in our currency, the curate had tithes of calves, of the wool of lambs, tithes of foals, mules, turnips, and other vegetables, and of the swarms of bees. The regularity with which this tithe of bees occurs in ancient provisions for the maintenance of the clergy indicates that apisculture was much more general formerly than now, when, in these parts, at least, it is a mere but very fascinating hobby. To these tithes must be added fees for burial and marriage. In the time of Cromwell there were, according to the Parliamentary Survey, 250 families in the chapelry, i.e., a population of some 1,200 souls, and the "maintenance" of the Incumbent is stated at £2 10s., a rough estimate probably of the four marks aforesaid.
In 1738 recourse was had to the Commissioners of Queen Anne's Bounty, who granted £200 ; in 1816 there was still another grant of £600, and in 1824 one of £500. In view of the fact that in recent years the people of Marsden, assisted by the generous hands of Churchmen in other parishes, have raised on the site of the old church a stately edifice whose proportions and beauty of design justify its claim to be the Cathedral of the Colne Valley, it seems ungracious to remark that the benefice of Marsden has been not a little indebted to public funds. As this statement may not pass without cavil, and as the origin of Queen Anne's Bounty is not a matter of common knowledge, and without that knowledge the extension of the Church's activities cannot be fully understood, some short account of that Ecclesiastical Fund may not be out of place in this History.
In the early days of the Christian Church in England the first fruits and tenths of all spiritual preferments in the kingdom were originally a part of the papal usurpation over the clergy of the kingdom. The imposition was first introduced by Randolph, the Pope's legate, during the reigns of King John and Henry the Third, in the See of Norwich, and afterwards attempted to be made universal by the Popes Clement the Fifth and John the Twenty-second about the beginning of the fourteenth century. The first fruits (primitiae or annates) are the first year's whole profits of the benefice or other spiritual preferment, according to a rate or valor made in the time of Pope Innocent the Fourth, by Walter, Bishop of Norwich, and were afterwards advanced in value in the time of Nicholas the Fourth, under a taxation by the King's precept, which valuation was begun in 1288 and finished in 1292. The tenths (or decimae) were the tenth part of the annual profits of each living by the same valuation ; and this tenth part also was claimed by the Holy See, under the pretence of the Levitical Law which directs that the Levites "should offer the tenth part of their tithes as a peace offering to the Lord and give it to the High Priest." These pretensions met with a vigorous resistance from the English Parliament, and a variety of Acts were passed to prevent and restrain them, one statute calling the payment of first fruits "a horrible mischief and damnable custom."
The Popish Clergy, however, were faithful to the Bishop of Rome, and continued the payments, the exact amount of which will be understood if the reader reflects that had the payment of first fruits and tenths still continued the Vicar of Huddersfield would have paid the whole of his first year's income from his incumbency to the Pope, and thereafter, so long as he held the living, a tenth of his yearly income. One thus realizes what vast sums in former times found their way from England to Rome. When Henry VIII. resolved on being King and Pope, too, in his own realm, Parliament vested the first fruits and tenths in the Crown as part of the Royal revenue or pension for the Crown (26 Henry VIII. c. 3). By subsequent statutes, benefices under fifty pounds per annum were exempted from first fruits and tenths. From the time of Henry VIII. to that of Queen Anne, a period of some hundred and eighty years, the Church of England contributed to the Royal Treasury the wealth that had previously gone to the Vatican.
Queen Anne, by Royal Charter, confirmed by statute 2 and 3 Anne, c. 11, transferred the revenue arising from first fruits and tenths to a fund called QUEEN ANNE'S BOUNTY, which was vested in trustees for ever, to form a perpetual fund for the augmentation of poor livings. Had the Crown been content to diminish its expenditure by the amount so sacrificed to the Church, it might have been said, with considerable show of reason, that the poorer clergy were indebted to royal beneficence for the augmentation of their livings ; but as the Crown in nowise curtailed its profuseness, and as the deficiency in the royal revenue caused by the surrender of the first fruits and tenths was necessarily made good by increased grants to the Crown, it seems idle to deny that the Church is indebted, in effect, to the bounty of the general taxpayer for the subsidies that are euphemistically ascribed to the bounty of Queen Anne.
The Marsden Church was rebuilt and enlarged in 1758 and again in 1894. The Church Calendar for 1909 states the income of the Incumbent as £250. Of the various incumbents there can be little narrated in a work whose record of each church must necessarily be brief. One of them, the Rev. Lancelot Bellas, who flourished in the later years of the eighteenth century, attained an unenviable notoriety from his addiction to the pleasures of the table, and is remembered and quoted to this day from his exhortation to his flock to do as he said and not as he did, to follow the light and not the candle. Of another, the Rev. Edward Edwards, who was preferred to Marsden in 1823, Canon Hulbert declares that he was "the pioneer of civilization in that district (Marsden). Slaithwaite could date back 100 years. But when Mr. Edwards commenced his work in the Valley the village of Marsden was in a comparatively barbarous state" ; in which connection may be quoted also the testimony of John Wesley, who, writing a little more than half a century before the commencement of Mr. Edwards' ministrations in Marsden, declared of the people of Huddersfield : "A wilder people I never saw in England. The men, women, and children filled the streets as we rode along, and appeared ready to devour us" ; and again, "I preached near Huddersfield to the wildest congregation I have seen in Yorkshire."
Although what immediately follows is scarcely concerned with the church in Marsden it may not unfittingly be here introduced, for the period of which it speaks must be near upon that of Mr. Edwards' incumbency of Marsden. About 1880 Mr. J. B. Robinson published in the Huddersfield Examiner, and afterwards collected in a brochure, his "Marsden Memorials." He was indebted for his information to James Garside, of Oxhouse, born in 1794 ; John Schofield, of Inghead, born in 1804 ; Luke Marsden, born in 1810 ; and George Kaye, born in 1810. We learn that in the early days of these contemporaneous witnesses the cotton was the chief industry of Marsden. The leading firm, that of Messrs. Haigh, occupied extensive works near Warehouse Hill, called "The Factory." The Haighs "imported a number of young persons of both sexes from the Foundling Hospital, London. In the local vernacular they were called ' The Foundlers.' These foundlings lived at a house in Throstle Street, in a building said to have been 'as big as a small factory.' Their employers found them with food, clothing and lodgings. The lodgings were not sumptuously furnished, the clothing would not now be worn by a beggar. The food consisted mainly of oatmeal porridge, made in a boiler. Wages were unknown in the form of hard cash. These imported hands were 'a rough lot.' When the factory finally stopped in 1805 the foundlings at once became destitute and paupers, and chargeable upon the poor rates." "They bred," says Mr. Robinson, "after their kind, and it threatened to be a breed that will never become extinct."
"The late George Kaye," — to continue the quotation from the "Marsden Memorials" — "would tell how, when six years of age, he worked as a 'billy piecer' at Wood Bottom Mill, how work commenced at six o'clock in the morning, or even earlier, and ended at eight at night, and at four o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday ... In those days there were no half-timers, and little girls had to work as hard as the boys. In wild, wet weather the poor children were carried to their work by their parents, to remain there until night, in clothes frequently saturated with rain." "The slubbers were the 'upper ten' of the operatives, and the highest ambition of the aspiring youth was to become a slubber one day. A slubber could earn as much as 20s. a week. The cardings for the slubber were pieced by children, who rolled the soft ends together on a slanting board with the backs of their hands, from which the skin was worn and bleeding by constant friction. The maximum pay of a billy piecer, of whatever age, was 6d. a day. The willeyers — boys and girls who tended the fearnought and the willey — earned as much as 5s., aye, even 6s. a week. Feeders had 5s. a week, 6s. for two engines, the feeder of a carder 4s. or 4s. 6d. per week. A youth who earned 10s. a week was a 'superior person,' and on the high road to obtain the prize of the labour market — 15s. weekly. No spinning or weaving was at that time done in the woollen mills. The slubbing from the billy was taken home by the hand-loom weavers to spin on the hand jenny of 50 spindles, a wonderful advance upon the original one-spindle process. The weft was wound for weaving from the cop by the bobbin wheel. This was a slow process, as only one bobbin could be wound at one time. Husband and wife joined at the labour, beginning soon after daybreak in summer and working continuously (when they were so fortunate as to have a warp) until ten o'clock at night. But even then the day's work was not finished. The warping had to be done, and the husband 'ran' the warping frame while his wife 'set in.' With full work the two combined could earn 20s. per week. The weaver paid for his own size for -the warp ; and after sizing he had to wait for a fine day for drying his warp by the roadside ... In winter the only light to work by in the mills was the tallow candle, generally eight candles to the pound, fixed in tin candlesticks. Rude cast-iron snuffers were used, and as frequently the fingers instead. Some manufacturers had the candles made of a green or other colour, to prevent the candles being abstracted for domestic purposes by the workpeople ... Necessarily it was as much as poor people could do to keep body and soul together ; and how to obtain sufficient clothing was a standing difficulty. A Sunday suit had to last seven or eight years ; and cases have been known where the bridegroom has worn his wedding suit, made of good blue cloth, adorned with shiny brass buttons, as his Sunday suit, regardless of the change of fashion, for the remainder of his life, extending over a period of, perhaps, forty years ... Working people begged clogs, shoes, and cast-off clothing for themselves and their children ... A native residing at Pule, bearing the honoured name of Pogson, obtained a red coat belonging to a defunct soldier, and wore it to the envy of his less fortunate companions. A woman in those days had to 'make little fit,' and fit long. Few could read and fewer could write. Books were rare. Even the 'Number Hawker,' with his dear books, "though better than none, had not found his entrance into Marsden at the beginning of the century ... Three or four newspapers came to Marsden weekly, and they were passed round among the comparative few who could read and took an interest in the history and politics of the day."
The low rate of wages was not compensated by low prices for what we now consider the necessaries of life. Again to quote Mr. Robinson : "Wheat is regarded as the staff of life, and the principal food of the present day ; but in the first quarter of this" (the nineteenth) "century, the people had to exist without it. They then lived upon barley made into bread, and oatmeal porridge. The latter is an excellent and wholesome diet, but it is apt to become monotonous when it is only varied with barley bread or oatcake without butter ; and a man, if he has porridge four times a day, may be pardoned for thinking he may have too much of porridge ... In Marsden the price of flour was sometimes 8os. per peck. Mrs. Martha Grandage, who kept a shop in the Town Gate, sold flour at 8s. to 9s. per stone, and John Haigh, of Brougham Road, paid 6d. per pound for flour to Thomas Bottomley, a small shopkeeper at Netherley ... Meal was 70s. per 240lbs. ; sugar was 8d. to 9d. per lb, and 'as brown as sand' ; tea was 8s. per lb. Betty Hill worked at 'The Factory.' Her mother one morning brought her the usual porridge for breakfast, and it was said to her as a huge joke that 'she should have brought Betty some tea instead.' The mother replied that she was better off than some of them, for she could have brought some tea if she had known, as she had a quarter of a. pound when Betty was born, which she was saving till Betty was married ... The wages in the mills were paid monthly, and the employer told the shopkeepers how much to trust his people between the pay days. If he sent no word they had to go without goods."
For a period of twenty years after 1871 the Vicar of Marsden was the Rev. Thomas Whitney, in whose time the question of payment of tithes by dissenters assumed an acute phase.
About the year 1850 the Tithes, Easter Dues, Mortuaries, etc., of all the Townships of the Parish of Almondbury, except part of Honley and of Meltham, had been commuted, with the consent of two-thirds of the property owners, the tithes of Marsden at £30, and the Easter Dues at £14. In the year 1877, however, Mr. J. B. Robinson, the author, by the way, of the "Marsden Memorials," from which I have so freely quoted, and Mr. Wilkinson, both of Marsden, objected to pay the tithe, and their goods were distrained by the bailiffs of Canon Hulbert, at that time Vicar of the mother church of Almondbury. An action of replevin was brought against the bailiffs, and the case was heard in the Huddersfield County Court before His Honour Judge Giffard, a brother, by the way, of Lord Halsbury, under more than one Conservative administration Lord High Chancellor of England. The objections to the distress were of a purely technical character ; and the action of replevin failed to accomplish any object save to call attention to the objections of dissenters to contribute to the support of the Established Church, which probably was all the aggrieved parties expected or sought.
It is possible that the Word was first preached to the people of Slaithwaite and Lingards by missioners from the mother Church at Huddersfield at the Cross that stood at Lingards till destroyed in the year of the great Reform Bill. When the church dedicated to St. Mark was first erected cannot be determined. The first record of it now extant affirms that there was at Slaithwaite, in the year 1593, "an ancient Chapel, which, being much decayed, was repaired and enlarged at the expense of John Kaye, Esq., and his tenants and neighbouring inhabitants." In 1651 the Parliamentary Commissioners reported that there was "no minister, the way bad, and only four shillings per annum endowment." Better days dawned for the Slaithwaite chapelry when, in 1685, the Rev. Robert Meeke accepted the curacy, for he was possessed of or acquired some private fortune, and living and dying a bachelor, he left the means of endowing the church he loved and served so well for forty years. Robert Meeke came of a Nonconformist stock, his father, William Meeke, of Salford, being of the Presbyterian faith, and suffering persecution and imprisonment during the Independent ascendancy in Cromwell's times. In his diary Meeke thus characteristically refers to his ancestry : "I desire to be thankful and humble, for my parentage is of an inferior rank, but I hope, and as I hear, of a religious family, which is better than gentility and greatness. My father was born in a very mean home, my mother in a courtly hall ; thus the Lord is pleased to make both high and low, noble and ignoble, equal, and both one. I am a branch of yeomanry by my father, of gentility by my mother. Lord grant me true nobility, virtue, and grace above my mother's blood ; meekness and humility according to my father's name." Mr. Meeke's life was lived in times when the minds of men were violently agitated by religious differences, when the kingdom was torn by sectarian strife, yet midst all the turmoil this simple, unaffected, godly man displayed a spirit of toleration and charity rare indeed in those times and that it were not amiss to emulate even in these. On August 31st, 1694, he wrote in his diary : "Went to see a new chapel, at Tintwistle, which is built by a Nonconformist, who is tabled at my aunt's. There are since the toleration many chapels builded. Lord grant it may be for the good of souls. We all preach the same doctrine, pray for the same things. All the difference consists in garments, gestures, and words, and yet that difference breedeth heats, discussion, prejudice, jealousies, judging, and coldness of charity and Christian affection among friends. I am afraid this is the effect of such separate meetings and different modes of worship." And, again : "May, 1694. Met with an old acquaintance, a Nonconformist, who told me there was an ordination of ministers at Mr. Thorpe's, of Hopton. There is much difference among learned men about ordination. Some are for Bishops, some for Presbyters, some for the Congregation and Lay Elders. Lord promote true religion by men of thine own sending, and by what hands thou pleasest, in thine own time. Grant a greater union among learned, and in particular among pious and religious, men."
By his will, dated March 20th, 1724, Mr. Meeke left "£4 per An. to ye School of Slaightwate for teaching 10 poor children." Some years previously he had obtained from the Queen Anne's Bounty Commissioners a sum of £200, which was supplemented by a sum of £200 contributed by Sir Arthur Kaye and Mr. William Walker, and with this £400 was purchased forty-six and a half acres of land at Sowood, the rents of which went in augmentation of the income of the living.
A later incumbent of Slaithwaite, a very different character in many essential respects from the Rev. Robt. Meeke, was the Rev. Joseph Thorns, M.A., who held that cure from 1727 till 1760, despite the fact that his uncanonical habits gave offence to the graver sort of his parishioners and occasioned the following letter from John Eagland, his Chapelwarden, to the Archdeacon—a letter I reproduce, by no means as one delighting to perpetuate the memory of backslidings in those responsibly placed, but solely because it throws light upon the manners, notions, and speech of those who lived and moved and had their being in Slaithwaite a century and a half ago :—
On the day following this letter this zealous officer of the church duly "presented" to the Archdeacon William Bamforth, or Bamford, of Inghead, Joshua Sugden, John Hirst, of Castle, and James Bamford, or Bamforth, of Einley Place, for "common, open, and notorious profain (sic) cursers and swearers." I do not find any record of the result of this process. The Archdeacon's powers seem not to have extended beyond ordering the offender to do penance by traversing the aisles in view of the whole congregation, probably clad in the penitential white sheet. The Commination Service has supplanted this discipline, and if the reader will turn to his Book of Common Prayer he will find reference to the old practice in the introduction to that Service : "Brethren, in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that, at the beginning of Lent, such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open pennance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord ; and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to offend. Instead whereof (until the said discipline be restored again, which is much to be wished), it is thought good, that at this time (in the presence of you all) should be read the general sentences of God's cursing against impenitent sinners," etc., etc.
A man of very different type from Mr. Thorns, and in another way also from Mr. Meeke, was the Rev. Thomas Wilson, who held the cure from 1777 to 1809, a man, according to Canon Hulbert, "plain and earnest in his style and very energetic and loud in his pulpit ministrations, stamping and thundering, as well as sometimes weeping, and using the most tender persuasions" ; recalling the methods to which Dr. Johnson attributed the success of the earlier followers of John Wesley : "Sir, it is owing to their expressing themselves in a plain and familiar manner — which is the only way to do good to the common people, and which clergymen of genius and learning ought to do from a principle of duty, when it is suited to the common people." "John," said Mr. Wilson to a hand-loom weaver at Crimble, "John, when you have done that piece, and cut it off, what will there be left ?" "Why, thrums, sir !" "And when you have run through your present wild life, what will there be left but thrums : ruined body and a damned soul ?"
Mr. Wilson was a popular preacher and attracted large congregations, nevertheless it was in his time that Dissent first reared its head in the Colne Valley. Of this Canon Hulbert offers an explanation which, I venture to think, does not cover the whole case. The licensee of a certain hostelry in Slaithwaite — the "Silent Woman," an inn whose signboard represented a headless female, applied to the magistrates for the renewal of his license to which the curate objected, probably on the usual grounds, and the license was not renewed. "Then," said the applicant, "I will thank you to give me a license for a Dissenting Meeting House." Unfortunately for the story vouched by Canon Hulbert, application for such a license must, under the Toleration Act of 1689, be made to the Quarter Sessions, not to the Licensing Justices. Still it is incontrovertible that the Baptists of the Colne Valley first met in the upper chamber of the "Silent Woman," thence, as their numbers swelled, migrating to the outskirts of the Dartmouth Estates, within which they were denied a site, and founding the Baptist Church at Pole Moor.
It was in Mr. Wilson's time, too, that the present church of St. James was erected, the old structure and the burial ground having suffered from the inroads of the Colne ; and in his days also the Sunday School was instituted at Slaithwaite, among the first in the country, the school being held at first in the kitchens or parlours of those members of the church who consented to afford that accommodation, and to these, we are told, the venerable leader of the school, Joseph Mellor, a cripple, was oft borne on the back of Joseph Mayall, of Vineyard!
The Parish Registers commence January 1st, 1684. The names of those baptised, married, and buried show that at the time of the Revolution most of the families now resident in the Colne Valley had representatives then living in the parish — Crowther of Whiggon Cross, Aneley of Low Westwood, Halliwell of Crimble, Haighe, Thorpe of Westwood, Sykes of Holthead and Slaithwaite Hall, Dyson of Westwood, Mallison of High Fflatts, Hurst of Vineyard, Crowther of Fflathouse, Brooke, Balmforth, Shaw, Quarmby of Mooredge, Ffirth of Leymoor, Hoyle of Wilberlee, Wood of Highhouse, Sugden, Cock, Garside of the Vineyard, Walker of Lingards, Cotton of Linthwaite Hall, and Woodhead of Slaigthwaite Hall — sometimes (so recently as 1707) also written in the Register Slackthwaite Hall.
The origin of surnames, especially of one's own, is interesting. Surnames did not become general till a comparatively recent period. At a more remote period people were known chiefly by their baptismal or, as we commonly say, their christian names. As population increased and in the same village were found many Johns, Richards, Marys, Sarahs, etc., some means of distinguishing one John or one Mary from another became necessary. Hence surnames, or super-names, nicknames. Some were formed by adding "son" or "daughter" to the father's Christian name. This we get Johnson, Richardson, Stephenson, etc. Others were derived from a man's calling, as Smith, Baker, Webster (a weaver) ; others from some personal peculiarity as Cruikshank ; many others from the family homestead. Applying this guide to the names in the Slaithwaite Register we should get —
And so forth, adding only the caution that name origins, owing to the change in spelling, are generally speculative and often purely fanciful.
The practice of calling people by a system of patronymics and by nicknames once prevailed much more than now ; and it will probably soon be among those customs more honoured in the breach than in the observance. As a matter for the curious in days to come I preserve here a fugitive leaflet by an anonymous writer, referring to the village of Meltham. Its like might easily have been compiled fifty years ago in any hamlet in the district.
The "Account of what breifes have been promysed (? provyded) since 1689," signed "R. Meeke, Curate," shows that the charity of the faithful at Slaithwaite was not restricted to the parish needs. A brief (so-called from the short note authorising it) was a collection for charitable purposes. The Account includes briefs for Irish Protestants, for "carriers whose goods is burnt in Mount Sorrell," for "Teignmouth, near Torquay, burned by French," and for " Captures in Algiers, Sicilly, and Barbary" — then and long afterwards noted nests of pirates.
Among the burials in 1679 are :—
Similar entries are common in old Registers of date subsequent to the Restoration, and their explanation is to be found in a curious statute of Charles II. made for the encouragement of the woollen trade and "for the prevention of the exportation of money for the importation of linen" — an insensate Act promoted by the English woollen manufacturers for the protection of their industry at the expense of the flax-growers of the North of Ireland. The Statute enacted that no corpse of any person should be buried in any shirt, shift, sheet, or shroud, or anything whatsoever made or mingled with flax, hemp, silk, hair, gold or silver, etc., any stuff, or thing, other than what was made of sheep's wool only, on pain of £5 ; a curious and instructive instance of the pitiful resorts to which portective tariffs may have recourse. The minister officiating at the burial was required to make affidavit that the Statute had been complied with.
In Crockford's "Clerical Directory" the income of the Incumbent of Slaithwaite is stated at £180. All who know and value the worth of the Rev. H. H. Rose, the present Vicar — and to know is to value — will be glad to learn steps are now being taken for the augmentation of the income.
The ancient chapelry of Holmfirth comprised the townships of Wooldale, Hepworth, Cartworth, Holme, Austonley, and Upperthong. Of these the first three are in the parish of Kirkburton, the others in that of Almondbury, and though it would appear that the church in Holmfirth has always been recognised as standing in filial relationship to the mother church of Kirkburton, it will be seen that the Vicars of Almondbury have in former days considered themselves to have some interest in the chapelry.
It is certain that there existed an ancient chapel of ease in Holmfirth as far back as the reign of Edward IV. (1461-1483 A.D.), Dr. Whitaker observing : "There is extant a confirmation under the privy seal of Richard III. of a grant made to the King's tenants of Holmfirth, members of the lordship of Wakefield, of xl s. per annum, towards an exhibition to mynestre devine service in the chapel there" ; and it was stated in MSS. in the possession of Dr. Morehouse, bearing date 1698, that "the said chapel was built by the mutual consent and at the charges of the inhabitants within the chapelrie, for a chappel of ease, and that no stipend or endowment was settled upon it by them or others." Most ancient churches and chapels of ease, as we have sufficiently seen in our enquiries in other cases, were indebted to the lords of the manors in which they were erected, for a more or less liberal endowment of glebe and tithe ; but the piety of the inhabitants of the district comprised in the Holmfirth chapelry seems not to have extended to the making of any permanent and reliable provision for the needs of a minister, the MSS. informing us "that ye said inhabitants did by the like consent from time to time procure and agree with such as they thought fitt to be curates there, sometimes for a greater and sometimes for a lesser sum, as may be seen by sundrie witnesses sworn and examined touching these matters, by which it is manifest yt ye inhabitants gave the curates more or less as they pleased." In the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, Dr. Morehouse tells us, "the curates had £6 13s. 4d. per annum in money, and sent some persons up and down the chappelrye for what wool and oats the inhabitants would give them ; but to a Mr. Lord they agreed to give £12 per annum, as he deemed it too low and base a thing to go from house to house for such wool and oats as the inhabitants would give him, and did desire to let him have all in money." During the Civil Wars the people of Holmfirth were active for the Parliament, and when Oliver Cromwell was Protector they appear to have considered the times propitious for putting an end to the inconveniences arising from their divided allegiance to Kirkburton and Almondbury, and having the Chapelry declared an independent parish. They presented a petition to "the Commissioners at Leeds," in which, as will be observed, they did not fail to remind the commissioners of the sacrifices they had made in the wars. The Petition was dated June 8th, 1650, and it prayed that "the said chappelry should be divided from the parish churches of Kirkburton and Almonburie, and made a parish of itselfe, and Holmfirth Chappel made the parish church," urging, inter alia, the following reasons more or less pertinent:—
Now whether the Commissioners were moved by the obvious necessity for a commodious division of the parish, or by the loyalty of the people of Holmfirth to the Parliamentary cause, or by the slackness therein of the Vicars of Kirkburton and Almondbury, or by the thought of the Vicar "tippleing in a Com'on alehouse" doth not appear, but it is certain that they issued a decree nisi, dated February 25th, 1651, that " the said Chappelrie of Holmfirth be made parochial, and that the profits of the said Vicarage, arising within the said Hamlets and Chappelry, shall goe and be allowed for and towards the maintenance of a godly and well affected minister to preach and officiate in the said Chappel." But whatever satisfaction the people of Holmfirth may have derived from this Order was shortlived, for on the Restoration, nine years later, this and other doings of the tribunals of the Commonwealth were deemed null and void and of none effect, and it was not till May 7th, 1858, that the Church was declared, by Order in Council, a perpetual curacy and the area attached to it a distinct parish. The income of the Vicar is stated at £320.
It was the goodly custom of our village youths in the days gone by to strew the earthen floors of the church in which they worshipped with reeds or rushes gathered by the sedgy pools of the hamlet. These were generally, when the season served, collected hard upon the day consecrated in the calendar to the saint whose name the sacred edifice bore, and on that day, the day of the village Feast or Wakes, borne in triumph to the church and scattered in the aisles and pews, a not superfluous ward against agues, rheums, and other like affections. Hence the village Rush-bearings were once, and that within the memory of those not stricken in years, eagerly anticipated by the youths of many a village in this district — Almondbury, Holmfirth, and Saddleworth among the number — and regarded with indulgent complacency by their elders. The rushes were arranged upon a wain in conical form, somewhat resembling a huge hay-cock, and no little art was shown in the binding together of this reedy mound. It was plentifully decorated with flags and emblems, and the village swains, fantastically attired and decked with ribbons and posies, drew it through the village to the portals of the church amid the plaudits of the crowds of friends, neighbours, and sighseers, drawn to this yearly festival by the hospitality of the villagers, the rare chance to meet kinsfolk, old neighbours, and friends. A youth bearing a long pole to which a tin vessel or other collection box was attached, clamoured for the guerdons of the crowd, and coppers and small coin were freely given for the behoof of those who had toiled to gather and plait the rushes, prepare the cart and drag it on its slow and hazardous procession along the rutty country routes. It was a pleasing custom, observed long after reeds were needed or would have been tolerated on the sacred floor. But it was, I fear, the occasion of not a little excess, followed by the inevitable brawls, and, like the Maypole dance and other frolic doings of a former age, seems out of harmony with a world grown older and staider if not older and sadder.
We have seen that Slaithwaite was largely indebted to the pious care of the Kayes of Woodsome for the restoration of the Church of St. James. The Kayes were lords also of the Manor of Honley, and to that family the church there is not a little indebted. Mrs. M. A. Jagger, of Honley, the gifted writer of "Rookery Mill " and other local stories, wrote some years ago an account of the ancient chapel of ease at Honley, which was first published, I believe, in the columns of the Huddersfield Examiner and afterwards reproduced in Yorkshire Notes and Queries. Mrs. Jagger sets forth the Faculty for the Celebration of Mass in the Chapel of Honley, issued in the 18th year of Henry VII., A.D. 1503, a document that will serve to remind us that many to whom the name of Rome is as that of the Scarlet Woman, and to whom the spoliation of vested interests is abhorrent, worship without qualms in structures originally devoted to the Romish cult.
"Thomas, by Divine permission, Archbishop of York, Primate of England, and Legate of the Apostolic See, to the beloved children in Christ, the natives of the villages and hamlets of Houndeley, Meltham, and Crosland, in the parish of Almondbury in the diocese of York, to the Inhabitants Greeting in our Saviour's embrace. Since we have lately had information from a true source that the real parish church of Almondbury aforesaid is far distant from the hamlets aforesaid, and that the natives and inhabitants of the villages or hamlets, broken down with age and held with various diseases, moreover women labouring with child, and several others of them being far distant, are by no means able to be present to celebrate mass on holy and other festivals of the Saints, and at the canonical hours in the said church in the parish of Almondbury : We, desiring to relieve such persons and other inhabitants of the villages and hamlets aforesaid from a great and heavy labour of continually visiting the aforementioned Parish Church of Almondbury, hoping to maintain that they may more frequently offer the accustomed offerings at the Divine Services and for the rest may be free to attend the offices; In order that in the Chapel of the Blessed Mary of Houndeley aforesaid, founded and created of old, the mass, the canonical hours, and other Divine offices, may be freely and lawfully celebrated in a low voice by some proper chaplain or proper chaplains, the various vestments and expenses being furnished and found; ye may have power and such man may have power, while however from thence there shall be no injury to the Parish Church of Almondbury aforesaid. To you and your servants for the hearing and to the chaplain or chaplain aforesaid that the celebration of the mass and other offices may be carried out, licence by these presents We grant. May it be confirmed by confirmation to our spiritual benediction. Given under our Seal in our Castle of Cawood on the last but one of March in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred and three and the third year of our translation."
The chapel thus licensed was the religious provision for Honley (including Netherthong), Meltham, and Crosland. It was called "The Three Nooked Chapel," one corner pointing to Meltham, another to Crosland. The site was given by John Kaye of Woodsome, teste the following lines formerly to be read upon painted glass under the Kaye arms in the chapel :—
The chapel, as I have said, was built but a few years before the Reformation, and coming events, casting their shadows before, perhaps suggested to the kind donor the last two lines of the above poetical deed of gift, if one may so describe it. But though the chapel has been "pulled down" more than once, both in fact and in metaphor, there is no reason to believe that "the poor of the town" of Honley have benefited by the demolition to any greater degree than the rest of the inhabitants. The present, the third edifice built on the ancient site, was built 1842-1843.
Mrs. Jagger states that after the Reformation the Roman Catholics of Honley worshipped in a building behind the present row of shops on the left side of the church as you approach the church.
The monuments are of no special note. It is interesting, however, to read in the list of churchwardens for the year 1685 the name "Will. Broke de Honley," sufficient testimony, were such needed, that the affection of the Brookes of Honley for Mother Church is no new growth.
The following lines, quoted by Mrs. Jagger from a stone erected near the entrance to the churchyard to the memory of May Wood, aged 32 years, are noteworthy if only for the fact that, like the reputed author of the Pentateuch, the writer records her own death :—
An epitaph that suggests more pleasing reflections is found on another stone :—
The annual value of the living is stated at £350 net.
The church in Meltham differs from others in the district in the honourable circumstance that it owes its being, not to the munificence of some territorial magnate but to the piety of men of the yeoman class. By his will made November 1st, 1649, William Woodhead, a native of Meltham, directed "that John Waterhouse, his brother-in-law, should, out of the rents and profits of property in Saddleworth, pay towards the maintenance of a minister to preach the word of God at Meltham, if there should be a church there erected, the yearly sum of forty shillings" ; the same John Waterhouse gave "lands and cottages in Dobcross for the use of such a preaching minister as should officiate in Meltham Church" ; Godfrey Beaumont, of South Crosland, by his will dated March 31st, 1672, gave lands in Honley and Meltham towards the maintenance of the ministers of those chapels; and the Rev. Abraham Woodhead, of whom there will be later occasion to make mention, and who, though a clergyman, sprang from the yeoman class, himself was also a benefactor of the church of his native village. The church is also noteworthy from the fact that it was the only episcopal church consecrated during the Presbyterian supremacy. This sacred service was performed on August 24th, 1651, by Henry Tolson, Bishop of Elphin, in Ireland, a prelate who had been driven from his see by the troubles in that country, and was at that time residing near Dewsbury. In Whitaker's "History of Whalley" it is stated that "in the time of the Commonwealth, the little Chapel of Cumberworth had a very eminent person for its Incumbent, Henry Tilson, Bishop of Elphin, who had been driven from his diocese by the troubles in Ireland, and had found shelter at Soothill Hall, near Dewsbury." Writing to an intimate friend — probably Sir George Radcliffe — in 1651, he says 'But you shall knowe that I am not altogether idle, for I pray after the Directories of the Church of England—and preach every Sunday at a place in the mountains called Cumberworth, two myles beyond Emley, where I have, by the way, Lawrence [Laurence Farrington, Rector of Emley] my Gaius or hoste. It was proffered me by a gentleman, Mr. Wentworth, of Bretton, whom I never saw, savinge once, before he sent unto me, and because it came — as all my ecclesiastical livings and preferments have done — without my seeking and suite ; and because it is a lay donative, and in his power to give or detaine, and the engagement was past in that parish, I took it to be pointed out to me by God as a little Zoar, to preserve my life, and did accept it : though it will not reach to forty marks per ann. Besides, I trust to do God service in the exercise of my ministrie amongst that Moorish and late rebellious plundering people'" — a reference, this latter phrase, to the spirited part taken by the people of the neighbourhood of Cumberworth on the Parliament side in the Civil War, of which more later.
The living of Meltham is now valued at £530. In 1716 it was stated at £34 3s. 6d.
Since the days when the parish churches of Huddersfield, Almondbury, Kirkheaton, and Kirkburton, and the ancient chapels of Marsden, Slaithwaite, Holmfirth, Honley, and Meltham supplied the spiritual needs of this district many other edifices have arisen dedicated to divine worship in conformity with the episcopalian mode of discipline. Space permits only the record of these and such slender particulars as are subjoined :—
|Name of Church.||Patron.||Net Value of Living.|
|In the Ancient Parish of Huddersfield.|
|St. Thomas (Bradley)||Bishop of Wakefield||£157|
|Holy Trinity||Simeon's Trustees||£410|
|St. John Evang.||Sir J.W. Ramsden, Bart.||£220|
|St. Paul||Vicar of Huddersfield||£265|
|St, Thomas||L.R. Starkey, Esq.||£300|
|St. Stephen (Lindley)||Vicar of Huddersfield||£380|
|St. Philip, Ap. (Birchencliffe)||Vicar of Lindley||£220|
|All Saints (Paddock)||Vicar of Huddersfield||£275|
|Christ Church (Woodhouse)||Bishop of Wakefield||£300|
|St. John, Evang. (Golcar)||Bishop of Wakefield||£300|
|St. Mark (Longwood)||Bishop of Wakefield||£260|
|St. Bartholomew||Bishop of Wakefield||£193|
|In the Ancient Parish of Almondbury.|
|St. Paul (Armitage Bridge)||Vicar of Almondbury and Devisee of Thos. Brooke||£210|
|St. Barn. (Crosland Moor)||Bishop of Wakefield||£300|
|St. David (Holme Bridge)||Bishop of Wakefield||£215|
|Holy Trinity (South Crosland)||Vicar of Almondbury||£268|
|Christ Church (Linthwaite)||Vicar of Almondbury||£300|
|Emmanuel (Lockwood)||Vicar of Almondbury||£290|
|St. John, Evang. (Newsome)||Rector of Lockwood||£211|
|St. Stephen (Rashcliffe)||Rector of Lockwood||£285|
|St. James (Meltham Mills)||Simeon's Trustees||£290|
|Christ Church (Helme)||C.L. Brook and Vicar of Almondbury||£260|
|St. Luke (Milnsbridge)||Vicar of Almondbury||£300|
|All Saints (Netherthong)||Vicar of Almondbury||£160|
|St. Lucius (Farnley Tyas)||Earl of Dartmouth||£220|
|St. John (Upperthong)||Bishop of Wakefield||£216|
|St. Mary (Wilshaw)||Simeon's Trustees||£380|
|In the Ancient Parish of Kirkburton.|
|Holy Trinity (Hepworth)||Vicar of Kirkburton||£135|
|Christ Church (New Mill)||Vicar of Kirkburton||£285|
|Emanuelm (Shelley)||Vicar of Kirkburton||£161|
|St. Paul (Shepley)||Vicar of Kirkburton||£250|
|St. Thomas (Thurstonland)||Vicar of Kirkburton||£250|
|St. John (Lepton)||Rector of Kirkburton||£130|
|Christ Church (Moldgreen)||Rector of Kirkburton||£281|
All the above churches are in the Archdeaconry of Huddersfield, the Ven. William Donne, M.A., Vicar of Wakefield, being Archdeacon, and the Rev. Canon How, M.A., Vicar of Meltham, being Rural Dean. In connection with several of the churches, mission churches have been established, which, in the fulness of time, may become parish churches.
To what has already been written concerning the ecclesiastical provisions for the district with which this work is concerned must be added some notice, however brief, of the Priory of Kirklees, beautifully situate in extensive grounds about three miles from Huddersfield, just off the high road from that town to Leeds, should be found in these pages, though the interest in this ancient foundation is of course purely historical. The ancient convent of Kirklees was a House of the Cistercian Order, which was founded in 1098, at Cisteaux in Burgundy, in protest against the luxury, and worse'than luxury, which had, even then, crept into some of the religious houses of the unreformed faith. An offshoot of this order was settled at Kirklees about the reign of Henry II. The site of the nunnery and other lands were granted to the nuns in mortmain, by Rayner le Fleming, Lord of the Manor of Clifton, the deed of endowment being witnessed, inter alios, by Robert de Laci, and granting "to God, St. Mary, and the holy women of Kuthales, the place in which they dwell, i.e., Kuthelaga and Hedneslaya, as the water of the Kalder goes to the mill, and by the road which leads to the old mill to the runlet of the rocky (&nbsdp; &nbsdp;), and so to Blackelana, and from Blackelana to Wagestan, and from Wagestan to the boundary of Liversege, Herteshevet and Mirfield, all within the limits named." The charter also conveyed twelve additional acres to be held of the grantor and his heirs for the souls of his fathers and his ancestors and for his safety and that of his friends — a provision which secured to the pious donor and his family the benefit, which might probably be not so highly esteemed now as in former days, of the prayers of the nuns of Kirklees.
In Mr. Hobkirk's History of Huddersfield the reader will find a list of twenty-one Lady Superiors of the Priory, and of the first, Elizabeth de Staynton, and the last, Joan Kepasst, the monuments are still preserved in one of the former chapels of the convent.
"Sweet Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, take mercy on Elizabeth Stanton, Prioress of this House ;" the latter behind the altar of Mirfield Church, of which the Prioress of the convent had the advowson : "Dame Joan Kespasst late Nune of Kirklees was buried ye fyfth day of February,. Anno Dui mdlxii."
During the four centuries of their domicile at Kirklees the nuns of Kirklees became considerable landed proprietors. Lands held in the dead hand did accumulate. It will not profit to set forth particulars of these holdings, but one may mention certain pieces of land in Shelfe, viz., Wetecroft, Hallcroft, and Northcroft, and common of pasture belonging to the same town, for four hundred sheep by the great hundred (i.e., 120) with as many lambs, and for ten cows and as many calves, and for eight oxen and one horse. And yet people are to be found who maintain that the rights of common destroyed by Enclosure Acts were of little or no value !
On the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. the Priory of Kirklees shared the common lot. Its lands were confiscated and given by the dissolute monarch to his favourites, or, in the glut of land that marked the period, sold for an old song. The Rectory of Mirfield and the glebe lands, tithes, tithe barn, and the right of presentation to the Vicarage was acquired by Thos. Savile, of Clifton, for £114. The site and precincts of the Priory, the demense lands, about 260 acres in all, were acquired by John Tesburgh and Nicholas Savile for £287 15s. 7d., subject to a rent charge of 13s. 4d. to the Crown. In the same year (1545) the other property of the Priory was secured by William Ramsden, of Longley, named over and over again in the records of the time as a trafficker in the lands of the despoiled church, and from him they were purchased by John Armitage, of Farnley Tyas, Yeoman, the ancestor of Sir George Armytage, Bart., the present owner of Kirklees.
I am indebted for much of the foregoing account to an article in Yorkshire Notes and Queries, by Mr. S. J. Chadwick.
There is a Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Peter, in New North Road, Huddersfield.