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Title: The Old Church, Heptonstall - JSB00191

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The Old Church, Heptonstall - JSB00191


The old church at Heptonstall was dedicated to God and St Thomas a Becket – Thomas a Becket being in great popularity after his murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 and his canonisation three years later. There may have been a structure in the twelfth century, but the origins of this building are believed to be thirteenth century. Very little of the original building remains. It never actually became a church in the technical sense – it was officially a ‘parochial chapel of Halifax Parish Church’ but it is invariably referred to as a church. It was extended early in the fourteenth century and again during the fifteenth – the latter forming the bulk of the ruin.
The original structure consisted of a chancel, the present south nave and a tower. Later adaptations gave it two naves, two aisles and two chantry chapels as well as the tower – a remarkable and rare set of features. The fifteenth century church tower still stands complete with a thirteenth century base and an embattled top stage. It has a stair turret in the south east corner.
Parts of the structure have been repaired as memorials over the years, including the porch (notice the stone tablet within). Notice also the sanctus bellcote on the apex of the original gable end in which a small bell used to ring at the appropriate times during Mass.
Detailed church records, now in the care of the Leeds Archives Department, go back to the sixteenth century and one interesting item reads ‘1755: For making clock fast when near blown of[f] in winds…£0.2s.6d.’
John Wesley preached here on five occasions but was not impressed and is recorded as having said in 1786, ‘I preached at ten in Heptonstall Church, the ugliest I know’.
In the great storm in 1847 the west face of the tower fell away and plans were devised to rebuild the whole tower. However, a lesser measure of repairing the damage was approved and the church was used up to 1854 when its near neighbour was completed. Over a period of twenty years the old church deteriorated rapidly and the internal fittings had to be disposed of.


Possibly Nora Walton


Pennine Horizons Digital Archive


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PHDA - Steven Brook Collection


Pennine Horizons Digital Archive




Possibly Nora Walton, “The Old Church, Heptonstall - JSB00191,” Pennine Horizons Digital Archive, accessed October 31, 2020, http://penninehorizons.org/items/show/8633.

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