Halifax Minster is the minster church of Halifax, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, England. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist. The parish church of the town, it was granted minster status in 2009. Halifax Minster is one of three churches in the county of West Yorkshire to be given this honorific title; the other two are Dewsbury Minster and Leeds Minster.

Halifax Minster
Minster and Parish Church of St John the Baptist
53°43′24″N 1°51′13″W / 53.72320°N 1.85371°W / 53.72320; -1.85371
OS grid referenceSE 0975 2521
DenominationChurch of England
ChurchmanshipBroad Church
DedicationSt John the Baptist
Heritage designationGrade I listed building[1]
Architectural typePerpendicular Gothic
Episcopal areaHuddersfield
Vicar(s)Canon Hilary Barber
Curate(s)Sam Crook
Organist(s)Graham Gribbin
Organ scholarRobbie Lumb
Churchwarden(s)Mick Walker
Sheila Stoppard
Flower guildMargaret Stears
Parish administratorAnnie Bolton
Servers' guildSheila Stoppard
Aerial view of Halifax Minster with the town hall to the right and the surrounding area

Halifax Minster, which stands on the site of an earlier Norman church, was built during the 15th century, although the Rokeby and Holdsworth Chapels were not completed until around 1530. The organ was built by John Snetzler in 1763 and installed in 1766. Other notable features of the church include a medieval font cover, Jacobean box pews, and the tombstone of 19th-century diarist Anne Lister.

History edit

The first church on this spot, thought to date from around 1120, was owned and operated by the Cluniac monks of Lewes Priory. Some portions of the stonework of this church have been incorporated into the present building – most notably the carved chevron stones in the north wall of the nave and elsewhere.[2] It has been suggested that one section of the north wall was actually the south wall of the Norman church.[3][4] Several early medieval grave covers also survive.[2]

The present church was built in the fifteenth century, apparently fulfilling a need for "more spacious accommodation for the growing population of the parish".[5] The nave and chancel were completed around 1450.[6] At some time between 1455 and 1480, the eastern wall was made higher to accommodate a clerestory.[5][7] Work on the church tower began in the 1440s; it took over three decades to complete, as it was still under construction in 1482.[5] The Rokeby and Holdsworth Chapels, built at the expense of former vicars William Rokeby and Robert Holdsworth, were completed around 1530.[8] William Rokeby's heart and bowels are buried beneath his chapel, as stipulated in his will.[9]

Jacobean box pews are a prominent feature of the Minster, and most of those in the nave date from 1633 to 1634. A pew in the centre aisle bears the remains of a memorial brass to John Waterhouse, who died in 1539/40. The carved arms of Richard Sunderland of High Sunderland, who died in 1634, are attached to another pew. Several ancient pew nameplates may be seen attached to a board on the inner north wall of the tower, the oldest dates to 1615 and reads: "This stall made at the cost of Robert Fisher of Halifax."[10]

A small portion of medieval stained-glass survives in the upper westernmost clerestory window, which was removed from other windows in the mid-19th century. The Puritans, who were prominent in the town in the 17th century, thought stained glass with its "images" was an abomination. During the Commonwealth (1649–1660) many plain-glass leaded windows of a unique design were installed, paid for by Mrs Dorothy Waterhouse. Many of these were later replaced by Victorian stained glass, but those that survived in 1958 were carefully rebuilt. At that date there were three of these on each side of the chancel, but now there are five on the south side and only one on the north.[11]

The large west window in the tower is a late 19th-century reconstruction of a Commonwealth window dating from 1657, but contains no original work. The great east window of the church depicts the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and was completed in 1856. It is the work of George Hedgeland (1825–98), and is based on a design which won first prize for stained glass at the Great Exhibition of 1851.[12] The remaining glass in the church dates also from the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

In 1878 and 1879 a great internal restoration of the church took place, initiated by Vicar Francis Pigou (1875–88), and carried out under the direction of George Gilbert Scott and his son John Oldrid Scott. This work involved the removal of galleries, the altering of floor levels, and the removal of plaster from the internal walls.[1][13]

A more recent reordering scheme took place in 1983, when pews at the east end of the nave were removed, and a dais installed for the nave altar. At the millennium, after an appeal, Victorian pews were removed from the west end of the church, to provide a more open reception area, with adjacent fitted kitchen.

On 31 March 2007, the stand of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) Regulation Colours were laid up in the church. The Colour party, with 2 escorts of 40 troops, marched through Halifax from the town hall, preceded by the Regimental Drums and the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band. There was a short ceremony in the Minster grounds where the troops were inspected by Colin Stout, the then-Mayor of Halifax, and Ingrid Roscoe, Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

The church was granted minster status on 23 November 2009.[14][15]

Features edit

View of the font at the rear end of the main aisle
The main nave
  • The font cover is a feature surviving from the medieval period, and is acknowledged to be one of the finest in England. The stone font bowl may also date from the 15th century, or earlier. Before 1879 traces of paint could be seen on both font and cover, and it was once ornately gilded. The cover was originally intended to prevent people from stealing the baptismal water kept in the font, which was supposed to have curative powers.[16]
  • The wooden sedilia in the sanctuary date from the 15th century, and were restored in 1879. They contain three misericords, and were possibly brought from some nearby abbey – such as Kirkstall – after Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.[17]
  • Six other 15th-century misericords, including a Green Man, are located under the chancel's return stalls.[17]
  • A set of late 17th-century altar rails, with a fine double-spiral carving. The altar was first railed-in by 1665; these rails were replaced by the present "twisted banisters" in 1698.[18]
  • A series of painted ceiling panels, representing the heraldry of the vicars and famous families of Halifax Parish. These were originally painted by James Hoyle, and were put in place between about 1696 and 1703,[19] but were repainted in 1815–16, and cleaned in 1948.[11]
  • Two Royal Coats of Arms of Queen Anne, dating from 1705. They were carved by John Aked.[20]
  • The alms-box is held by a life-sized wooden effigy known as "Old Tristram", carved by John Aked about 1701. The carving is believed to represent a real person who once begged in the church precincts.[20][21]
  • The Bishop Ferrar Memorial dating from 1847 is a feature of the western wall of the south aisle. From Halifax parish, Bishop Robert Ferrar of St David's was earlier the last prior of Nostell Priory. He was burnt at the stake at Carmarthen in 1555. The sculpture is by Joseph Bentley Leyland.[22]
  • A painted bust of John Favour (vicar 1593–1624) is adjacent to the Ferrar Monument.[11] Favour was a celebrated physician and lawyer, and the founder of Heath Grammar School, Halifax.
  • The Wellington Chapel. Halifax was the home of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, which is now the 1st battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. In 1951 the church's south choir aisle was adopted by the Regiment as its chapel. Among the Regimental Colours previously displayed were those carried at Waterloo and those borne during the Crimean War and Abyssinian campaign.[23] These Colours have now been placed in a protective stand of drawers that will remain in the church.
  • A pulpit on wheels. This was given in 1879 in memory of Archdeacon Charles Musgrave (vicar 1827–75), by members of his family.
  • The recently rediscovered tombstone of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall (1791–1840), a noted local diarist. The stone is damaged and is currently in the Rokeby Chapel.[24]
  • On the west wall near the tower is a list of former rectors and vicars. The most famous were Hubert Walter, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Rokeby, who became Archbishop of Dublin.

Organ edit

The church houses an organ built by John Snetzler, installed in 1766. The organ has been enlarged several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, and was completely rebuilt in 1928 by Harrison & Harrison of Durham. Only a small amount of the Snetzler work remains in the present instrument.[25][26][27]

List of organists edit

Previous / Later position
1766 William Herschel afterwards organist at Octagon Chapel, Bath
1766–1819 Thomas Stopford previously organist at Hey Chapel
1819–1834 John Houldsworth
1835–1838 Robert Sharp
1838–1862 Joseph Henry Frobisher
1862–1868 H. E. Moore
1868–1882 John Varley Roberts afterwards Informator Choristarum at Magdalen College, Oxford
1882–1883 Fred Bentley
1883–1884 T. T. Liddle
1884–1897 W. H. Garland
1897 George Milligan
1897–1911 F. de G. English
1911–1915 Joseph Soar afterwards organist of St David's Cathedral
1915–1924 F. de G. English
1924–1929 Thomas E. Pearson previously organist at St. Bartholomew's Church, Armley
1929–1937 Reginald Tustin Baker afterwards organist of Sheffield Cathedral
1937–1939 Kenneth F. Malcolmson afterwards organist of Newcastle Cathedral
1939–1941 Vernon Rhodes
1941–1963 Shackleton Pollard
1963–1965 Robert Smith
1965–1968 Neil Wade
1968–1970 Cyril Baker
1971–2010 Philip C. Tordoff
2010–2015 Chris Brown
2015–present Graham S. Gribbin

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Historic England. "Church of St John the Baptist (1133928)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  2. ^ a b Hargreaves, John A. (2010). "The Minster Church of St John the Baptist, Halifax: The Medieval Foundations". Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society 2010. pp. 28–9.
  3. ^ "History". Halifax Parish Church. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008.
  4. ^ Bretton, Rowland (1967). "Halifax Parish Church". Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society 1967. p. 79.
  5. ^ a b c Hargreaves 2010, p. 31.
  6. ^ Bretton 1967, p. 75.
  7. ^ Hanson, T. W. (1920). The Story of Old Halifax. F. King and Sons. p. 68.
  8. ^ Bretton 1967, p. 77.
  9. ^ O'Flanagan, J. R. (1870). The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland, Volume 1. London: Longmans, Green and Co. p. 157.
  10. ^ Bretton 1967, pp. 82–3.
  11. ^ a b c Bretton 1967, p. 82.
  12. ^ Bretton 1967, p. 78.
  13. ^ "Over 900 Years of History" (PDF). Halifax Minster. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  14. ^ "We're a Minster town!". Halifax Courier. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 26 November 2009.
  15. ^ "Halifax Minster: the start of a new era". Halifax Courier. 24 November 2009. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012.
  16. ^ Bretton 1967, pp. 81–2.
  17. ^ a b Savage, H. E. (1908). "Halifax Parish Church: The 17th Century Woodwork". Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society 1908. pp. 370–77.
  18. ^ Savage 1908, pp. 384–7.
  19. ^ Savage 1908, pp. 381–2.
  20. ^ a b Bretton 1967, p. 81.
  21. ^ Savage 1908, pp. 388–91.
  22. ^ Bretton 1967, pp. 80–1.
  23. ^ Bretton 1967, p. 84.
  24. ^ Glover, David C. (5 June 2019). "The Mystery of Gentleman Jack's Tombstone". Northern Life.
  25. ^ Houseman, J. W. (1928). "History of the Halifax Parish Church Organs". Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society 1928. pp. 80–109.
  26. ^ "Halifax Minster Organs". Halifax Minister. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  27. ^ "The Organs of Halifax Minister" (PDF). Halifax Minster. Retrieved 9 July 2021.

External links edit