Saint John the Baptist, Halifax
This Foldout looks at
Halifax Parish Church and its history
Halifax Parish Church is dedicated to St John the Baptist.
The present mid-15th century building stands on the site of an
earlier Norman church built around 1120 by the monks of Cluny
from the Priory of St Pancras at Lewes and granted between
1086 and 1095.
It is one of the largest and most impressive late mediæval churches
in West Yorkshire.
It was consecrated around 1140.
The aisles were added about 1290.
Extensive work was done on the Church during the period 1430-1480, in
the time of Thomas Wilkinson.
Only the north wall remains from that time, and that is inside-out
because it was probably a part of the south wall.
Those who gave money towards the rebuilding included
During the Civil War, soldiers and their horses were billeted in
The Parliamentarians smashed the windows, broke up the organ,
damaged the statues and moved the font into the churchyard.
After the capture of Dr Richard Marsh in the 17th century, the
church funds were confiscated and the church had to be supported by
local people for some time.
The crypt at the east end takes advantage of the sloping ground.
There are said to be tunnels beneath the church which lead to the
Union Cross Inn, the Talbot, and the Ring O'
In her journals, Anne Lister refers to this as the Old
In 1850, the vicar sold the Vicarage to the railway
During the incumbency of Rev Dr Francis Pigou, the interior of the
church was altered.
In his autobiography, he mentioned
the high square pews in which it was whispered in my ears that
rubbers of whist were sometimes played
It was also recorded that the church was
delapidated, dusty, foul, strewn with human remains, and no better
than a charnel house
In 1878, Sir Gilbert Scott and his son John Oldrid Scott carried
out extensive restoration work at the church.
reduced the height of the pews,
removed the galleries,
removed all the plaster from the interior walls,
refurbished the railings around the
The church reopened on 7th October 1879.
In 1997, a £2,000,000 scheme was proposed to restore the church.
The adjacent building is the Sunday school which is now used as a
Halifax Parish Church Day School stood in Dispensary Walk.
The records for the Church are held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service office in Wakefield (Collection WDP53): Baptisms [1538-1977], Banns [1785-1842], Marriages [1538-1981] and Burials [1538-1937].
In November 2009, the church became a minster, the
Minster Church of St John the Baptist
When you visit Halifax Parish Church, look out for ...
- The railings
- The churchyard
- The South Gate
- The West Gate
- The sundial
- The tower
- The clock
- The bells
- The south porch
was the gift of John Lacy of Cromwellbottom and the gable
is inscribed with his arms and crest
- The south door
was made in 1665.
The initials of John Gillet can be seen on the door
- The grave stone
- Where the tower was going to be
The original plan was that the tower should be at the south-west
corner of the nave, but this was changed to have a larger tower in
the present position.
There are signs of the original plan inside the church – including an
unnecessarily sturdy tower
- The font cover
- The collecting box
- known as Old Tristram – dated 1701
- The Tonsured Monk
- The memorial to Dr John Favour
- The Musgrave memorial
to Charles Musgrave stands below the tower
- The nave
is 192 ft long by 60 ft wide.
The nave and the chancel are believed to have been built by John
- The Jacobean pews
were large box pews.
These were reduced in height by Scott in 1878
- The pulpit
was given by the family of Charles Musgrave in 1878.
It is mounted on wheels and can be moved about the church
- The organ
- The candleholders:
Harry Percy Jackson made the two 6 ft tall candleholders
- The Jacobean altar rails
with 51 elaborately-carved balusters were installed in 1698
- The altar
The panelling behind the altar was installed in 1962.
The work is by Robert Mousey Thompson of Kilburn
[1876-1955] and his trademark mouse can be found on the lower
right-hand side of the second panel.
More of Thompson's work can be seen in the Duke of Wellington's
- The misericords in the Sanctuary
are believed to have come from Kirkstall Abbey at the
- The great East Window
- The plain leaded Commonwealth Windows
The three-levels of capitals on the chancel arch
- The 17th century oval window
above the priest's door in the south aisle
- The Rawson Memorial Window
The oval painted window on the south side was erected in 1830 by
It is in the style of the Marygold Window in York
The arms on the Ceiling
The Royal Arms
- The chapels
There are a number of chapels inside the church
The carving of The good samaritan by Westmacott
- The library
was established in 1438 when Robert Clay cleared the crypt – the
former charnel house – to make a library room.
He presented some of his own books, and solicited gifts from other
Many of the books were damaged by the damp and cold conditions in the
The books were restored and rebound in the 1960s, and have been on
permanent loan to York University since 1966.
The collection includes:
The first edition of Henry Briggs's Arithmetica
logarithmica  which Briggs presented to the library in 1627
The first Latin edition of Galileo's Systema cosmicum 
A copy of the 1695 edition of William Camden's Britannia
A copy of Pupilla Oculi given by Richard Waterhouse
|Odd Facts about the Church
In 1828, records show 658 were baptised, 637 couples were married and
197 were buried
In 1829, records show 621 were baptised, 554 couples were married and
281 were buried
Those who have been churchwardens at Halifax Parish Church
Revised 15:49 / 28th November 2023 / 14436
Page Ref: MMP432