Religious services in Copley were conducted in a small room at Green Royd, Skircoat Green. This was in charge of Rev John Henry Warneford, vicar of All Saints' Dudwell, whose parish included Copley.
The Parish Church of St Stephen the Martyr is in the French neo-Gothic style and was built in 1861-1865 for the people of Edward Akroyd's Copley model village.
The church was designed by W. H. Crossland.
The curate-in-charge at Copley, Rev James Hope, gave the initial commission to Crossland, and planned and raised funds for the church. At this time, services were held in Copley National School.
Akroyd laid the foundation stone on 5th June 1863.
The cost was £4,000 for building the church – which was financed by public collections – and a further £5,000 for the furnishings and the stained glass, much of which was paid for by Akroyd. Akroyd also paid for the chancel and the sacristy and contributed to the Vicar's stipend.
The church accommodated 450 adults and 220 children.
There were difficulties in building the church:
The church was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon on 30th October 1865.
There is a lychgate. This is discussed in the book Our Home & Country.
The war memorial stands by the door. There is a Roll of Honour inside the Church.
The windows of the nave features objects associated with Christ's passion: scourges, Judas with 30 pieces of silver, the cock and the lantern of the betrayal, the winding sheet, the ladders of the cross, the spear and sponge, the hammer and pincers of the executioner, the seamless robe, and the dice. The windows of the sanctuary depicts scenes from the life of St Stephen. The font was given by Rev James Hope. The nave is 31 ft wide and 75 ft long, and the chancel a further 40 ft. The walls are 31 ft high, and the roof ridge is 56 ft high. The pulpit is of Caen stone. In the apse, there is stained glass by John Hardman. The sanctuary gate and two lecterns were carved by Harry Percy Jackson. The church does not have a tower or spire, but there is a small bell cote.
Edward Akroyd nominated Rev John Benson Sidgwick as the Vicar. In 1872, Akroyd had a disagreement with Sidgwick's churchmanship and stopped his voluntary contribution to the Vicar's stipend. Part of the congregation supported the Vicar and made up his income by voluntary contributions, other left the church and worshipped with the Wesleyans in Copley schoolroom.
On 24th March 1928, the verger was killed by a motor.
With a declining congregation, there was a proposal to merge with Lower Skircoat Green Methodist Church but this was abandoned in 1971.
The Rev John Poolman left in 1990 and was not replaced. The church closed in 1993. Services continued in Copley School.
The church is still consecrated and is now in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust. The church is not normally open to the public. It has been included on the list of sites which are open to the public on Heritage Open Days
A list of some of the Vicars of Copley is given in a separate Foldout
The records for the Church are held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service office in Wakefield (Collection WDP59): Baptisms [1865-1993], Banns [1938-1993], Marriages [1866-1993] and Burials [1866-1977].
See Copley Vicarage, Halifax Monumental Inscriptions, William Heaton, William Brown Holgate, St Stephen's Church Copley: Graveyard, St Stephen's Sunday School, Copley and James Thomas
Revised 13:36 /12th March 2021 / 8153
Page Ref: QQ_12
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