The original Heptonstall Parish Church was built between 1172 – when Thomas à Becket was canonised – and 1260. It was consecrated around 1250. It is also recorded as The Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr.
It served as a chapel of ease for those living in Heptonstall, Erringden, Langfield, Stansfield, and Wadsworth on the western side of the parish of Halifax, whilst Elland Church served the eastern side.
The priests were appointed by and paid by the Vicar of Halifax.
It was rebuilt and extended in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of the original stone was reused in the tower.
In 1440, William del Brigg left money for bells at the church.
In 1482, the church was closed for a time as a result of
an effusion of blood
when it is said that a priest was murdered in the church for performing an illicit marriage.
The north aisle was widened and dormer windows inserted in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Our Lady's Chantry was founded in 1506, and the Greenwood Chantry in 1524.
In 1547, when Henry VIII was railing against popery, many items were removed from the church and confiscated or destroyed. The organ had been taken to pieces and hidden; part in the church coffers, and part in the homes of the parishioners.
On 21st April 1572, the parish register records
In the Parish Church of Heptonstall, there were laid up on the coffer, 120 organ pipes, and 16 great pipes, 5 wood pipes and 15 lead pipes were laid up with Richard Bentley, in Heptonstall, for the use of the parish
In 1681, Roger Horsfall bought silver for the church, and further plate was given in 1718.
In 1765, 2 silver cups, a silver salver, 4 pewter flagons and 5 pewter plates were stolen from the church. Mark Farrar was found guilty of the robbery. The plate was never recovered. The township replaced some of the items at a cost of more than £20.
Records of 1757 show that 2/6d was paid
For making clock face fast when near blown off in winds
On a visit in April 1786, John Wesley commented
I preached at 10 in Heptonstall Church (the ugliest I know)
In 1810, a new clock was made for the church by a Sowerby Bridge company. This was subsequently re-installed in the new church.
The church remained in use until it was abandoned after damage in 1847 when a sudden storm tore the roof off. The falling masonry caused considerable damage to the gravestones.
When it was found that the church rate was insufficient to repair the damage, a new Parish Church – dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle – was funded by voluntary subscription and built nearby and in the same churchyard in 1850-1854.
There are said to be over 100,000 people buried in the churchyard. The earliest burial is from 1501. In the 1960s, some graves in the churchyard were cleared.
The following people and/or members of their family, were buried inside the Church:
Others were buried in the old graveyard.
The 11-sided font was moved to the new church.
After the storm of 1847, a mummified cat was found in the rafters of the Church, and was displayed at the Cross Inn, Heptonstall.
A list of some of the Vicars of Heptonstall is given in a separate Foldout
The records for the Church are held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service office in Wakefield (Collection WDP149): Baptisms [1599-1904], Banns [1754-1959], Marriages [1593-1986] and Burials [1593-1898].
See Baptisms at the Chapels of Heptonstall & Cross Stone, Burials at the Chapels of Heptonstall & Cross Stone, John Greenwood's Charity, Graveyard of St Thomas à Becket, Heptonstall, History of the Family of Stansfeld of Stansfield, Luke Hoyle, Marriages at the Chapels of Heptonstall & Cross Stone, No One, Old Mad Sal, Bequests to Heptonstall Church, St Thomas à Becket Mission Room and John Sutcliffe
Page Ref: MMP15
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