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English Church Architecture -

Calderdale (U. A.).


BARKISLAND, Christ Church (SE 054 199)     (May 2016)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Namurian Series, Huddersfield White Rock)



This is a small, neat church (photographed above from the southeast) in a what is still an attractive semi-rural position on the moors above Ripponden,  erected in 1852-4 to the designs of the Halifax and Bradford firm of Mallinson and Healey.  The building comprises an aisled nave and chancel with a S. porch, N. vestry and little bell-cote above the nave W. gable, but its lack of size is compensated by its attractive masonry and steep tidy roofs of uniform grey slates.  Windows are in geometric style throughout and, internally, the five-bay aisle arcades are composed of double-flat-chamfered arches supported on quatrefoil piers, the nave roof is collar-braced with "V" struts above the collars, and the chancel roof is framed in seven cants with collars and scissor bracing.


None of these details are at all remarkable but the church is of special interest due to the extensive collection of records on its construction (accounts and correspondence) preserved in the West Yorkshire archives.  A printed appeal dated 19th April 1852, sent out by the Rev. James Sanders, M.A., Perpetual Curate at Ripponden from 1847-73, and others, sets the scene:

"The ancient Chapelry of Ripponden is situated on the eastern side of Black-stone-edge, which separates it from the adjoining county of Lancaster.  Within a circumference of twelve miles - comprising upwards of 13,000 acres of land, chiefly moor and pasture - it contains a scattered population of 12,000 persons.  They are almost exclusively of the working classes, being very small farmers and others dependent on manual labour.  For this extensive Chapelry there is only one Church with accommodation for 800, which is rather less than one-eighth of the inhabitants, and not a single free sitting for the poor..." 


The appeal then tells how three years previously, the late Dr. Thomas Churchman Harrold (1765-1849), "a perfect stranger to the locality" (he had lived in Feering, Essex), had entrusted £150 to the care of the Rev. Sanders, "for the promotion of religion", and that very recently "a second kind friend... entirely unconnected with the neighbourhood" had promised the minister another £200 on condition it was put towards the erection of a new church within the ensuing two years, failing which it was to go to "two charitable Societies".  In order to take advantage of this offer, it was now being proposed "to erect a small neat Church, in a distant part of the Chapelry, where numbers, scattered over the hills, are literally 'as sheep without a Shepherd' ".  Readers were asked to bear in mind that...

"The living of Ripponden is very small and heavily encumbered so that its income scarcely realizes the ordinary stipend of a curate; and, wide as the area of the Chapelry is, and numerous its population, there is little hope of this much to be desired work of Church extension and sub-division of pastoral duties being accomplished except in the extraneous duties of the benevolent. 

 "The spirit of the times through which we are passing, the prevalence of infidel and other pernicious principles conveyed through a multiplicity of channels, tell fearfully on individuals unaccustomed to the duties and privileges of public worship, and call loudly on members of the Church of England, and the friends of the Redeemer generally, to extend their Christian liberality to the immediate aid of such destitute localities."


This succeeded in reciprocating one hundred and sixty-one donations from individuals or families, all of which were recorded. Only ten, apart from the aforementioned, were for sums greater than £25, namely £100 from William Baxter of Lower Hall, Barkisland (1792?-1858), one of the signatories to the appeal and the “principal inhabitant" of the hamlet, £75.15s.0d from the late William MacKenzie (1794-1851), originally of Nelson, Lancashire, who had built up a prestigious civil engineering practice during his lifetime, with offices in Paris and Liverpool, £60 from W.H. Rawson & Sons (given in five separate amounts), £55 from “a friend”, £55 described as having been “collected by Mrs. Roberts”, £50 from Musgrove Briscoe (1791-1854), M.P. for Hastings, £50 from the Right Honourable Lady Horton, widow of Robert Wilmot-Horton, erstwhile Governor of Ceylon, £50 from Denton Whitely, £35.3s.6d from G.B. Hadwen, and £30 from John Hadwen. The remaining donations, which added up to £813.3s.6d, varied between £25 and £2 and included forty-two at the lower figure and fifty-seven at £5.  The sum of all the donations, including £16 from the Manchester Co-operative Society, amounted to £1,740.2s.0d. However, in addition, the Rev. James Sanders submitted four applications for grants towards the project and three of these were successful, namely those to the Ripon Diocesan Church Building Society, the Incorporated Church Building Society and the Church Building Commission, who gave £375, £180 and £150 respectively.


Grants can cast light on Victorian church building by reason of the obvious fact that in order to be successful, recipients had to comply with the awarding body’s conditions.  Thus the Ripon Diocesan Church Building Society's Rule 14 stipulated that in any building they part-funded, "a competent Clerk of the Works" had to be engaged.   This was not always done for in some construction projects below the first rank, where funds were limited, it had become routine in the mid nineteenth century to rely on the frequent attendance on site of the architect.  That was not the case here, however, and, in fact, the name of Thomas James Shaw emerges regularly, not least in the authorisation of payments for sundries.

The Incorporated Church Building Society may have set some of its conditions on a purely ad hoc basis, for one, hand-written on a blank piece of paper, specifies that 296 of the church's seats "should be set apart and declared to be free for the use of the poor for ever" and that "the word 'Free' [is to be] painted in a conspicuous manner on each free seat".  The Church Commissioners, for their part, in letters dated 12th and 19th July 1851, were content to point out that the intended site of the new church had previously to be conveyed to them, that the "patronage of the... church [had to be] vested according to the provisions of the church building acts", and that no alterations could be made "either in the construction of the Building, or in the arrangement of the Seats, etc., as shewn in the Plans", once the grant had been approved, "without the previous written sanction [their underlining] of the Church Building Commissioners".  The plans specified the provision of 150 rented seats in addition to the 296 free ones and gave as a very optimistic estimate for building the church, a grand total of £1,350, although it is not clear whether this was inclusive of materials. 

"Estimate [their underlining] of the different works required in the erection of the new Church at Barkisland in the parish of Halifax in the county of York according to the accompanying Drawings and Specifications made by Messrs. Mallinson and Healey, architects -

        Bradford, June 1851.
                                                                                              £          s          d
        Masons' work                                                             680         0          0      
        Carpenter and joiner's work                                       300         0          0 
        Slater's work                                                                70         0          0
        Plumber and glazier's work                                          55         0          0   
        Plasterer's work                                                           45         0          0 
        Painter's work                                                              35         0          0     
        Bells                                                                             25         0          0
                                                                                      £1,210         0          0
        Architects' commission, travelling and
        incidental expenses and Clerk of the Works           £140        0          0   
                                                                                      £1,350        0          0

Of course, another requirement before detailed plans could be prepared, was to obtain provision and approval of a site, and this time William Waterhouse Baxter, nephew of William Baxter of Lower Hall, came forward with an offer of an acre of land, known as School Field, as the possible site for the church and future parsonage combined.  This was not an entirely simple matter though, for the land had first to be legally made over to the Ecclesiastical  Commissioners, and before that could be done, they required incontrovertible proof that it was William Waterhouse Baxter's land to give.  Since he had inherited it from his father, who was obviously dead, it fell to Uncle William to send a letter to the Commission, witnessing not only his nephew's inheritance but declaring also how his brother had obtained the land originally:

                                                                                                         Lower Hall,
                                                                                                         23rd March 1852.

I, William Baxter of Lower Hall, Barkisland, parish of Halifax and West Riding of Yorkshire, declare that the land containing one statute acre, being part of a close called the School Field, situate in Barkisland aforesaid, and which acre of land my nephew, William Waterhouse Baxter, intends to give as sites for a church and clergyman's house, which said School Field is described in the abstract of title and contained in the Conveyance of lands from the Trustees of the late Peter Parker Bold Esq. to the late Mr. John Baxter.  And I further declare that my late brother, the said Mr. John Baxter died intestate on the first day of May 1830 and that the said William Waterhouse Baxter was then his eldest son and inherits his father's property, and I further declare that the said land intended to be given for the said sites is not encumbered by way of mortgage, rent charge, or in any way whatsoever.

                                                                                        William Baxter.

Unfortunately, The Halifax Guardian, in its report of the laying of the foundation stone for the church in July 1852, made the mistake of conflating William Baxter and William Waterhouse Baxter and the same error seems to have been perpetrated ever since.


The foundations of the building were dug in the late summer of 1852, with the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone, itself an important fund raising event, being held on Wednesday, July 14th.  Posters went up all around Ripponden well in advance, advertising the coming event, and  two inch high capital letters announced that the address would be delivered by the Venerable Archdeacon Musgrave D.D., who was evidently considered the principal attraction (although Charles Longley, Bishop of Ripon, attended as well).  Potential attendees were told that "Prayers will be read at Ripponden Church at Half Past Three O'clock, after which the children of the National and Sunday Schools, the Choir, Churchwardens, Clergy, Neighbours and Friends, who may be disposed and can make it convenient to join them, will, in order, move up to the Site, and the Ceremony will be immediately proceeded with."  The Halifax Guardian reported that  when the day came, Thomas Healey placed a bottle containing several appropriate souvenirs in a hole beneath the place where the stone was to be laid, and William Baxter senior had the honour of wielding the trowel and making his little speech while striking the stone three times with a mallet:  "Thus, and thus, and thus, I lay this as a cornerstone of a church to be designated Christ Church, Barkisland, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost".


Building thereafter seems to have progressed fairly rapidly yet there were a few minor delays which seem to have been too much for William Baxter's limited patience.  On the 10th January 1854, Rev. James Sanders and Rev. William Tatlock (who was Incumbent of Barkisland for little more than two years before Rev. Christopher Bushell succeeded him) visited James Mallinson to discuss one of these, and the three then went off to call on the carpenter.   With regard to the engagement of contractors, the principal workmen received handwritten contracts specifying what they had agreed to do and when they had agreed to do it, how much they would be paid and what precisely what the penalties were for failing to complete on time.  James Walker Taylor, the principal carpenter engaged for construction work on the building (as opposed to the interior furnishings) was given a contract dated the 14th January 1854 but almost certainly intended to be 14th January 1853, stating that he was to complete everything he had undertaken by January 29th next (which may have been the reason for the muddled date), failing which he would forfeit £10 for every week he overran. Taylor's signature is appended beneath.  However, the contract with John Wild, slater, drawn up six months earlier on 13th July, 1852, was marked only with a cross. This contract was a mixture of the vague and the punishingly specific, for since building work had barely begun at the time, the contract could only stipulate that Wild was to begin his work once the roof was "ready to receive the slates" yet it then proceeded to say that for every day Wild fell behind his unspecified schedule, begun on an unspecified date, has was to forfeit one pound. 



Nearly all the contractors and suppliers of materials can be identified from the records.  The chief men were, first, Thomas James Shaw, Clerk of the Works, followed by Thomas Thornton of Elland, mason, John Walker Taylor and William Taylor, carpenters, John Wild, slater, John Holroyd, plumber and glazier, Robert Moores, painter, and William A. Walker, heating engineer of Lower King Street, Manchester.  Though all of these were obviously necessary, their relative importance can perhaps be measured by the value of their contracts, and thus Thomas Thornton's bill eventually amounted to £806.6s.9d, John Walker Taylor's to £319.16s.8d, John Wild's to £109.9s.9d, and William A. Walker's to £80.16s.1d.  A subsequent but also very significant payment was later made to Messrs. Pogson & Taylor, carpenters and joiners, who made and fitted all the wooden furnishings, including the pulpit and benches, apparently to their own designs, although Thomas Healey designed the iron altar rail and iron gates to the church yard.


The Clerk of the Works appears not to have had a formal contract and to have been paid in irregular instalments of £10.  Moreover, it is obvious that his duties as overseer were not regarded as "full time", for he was also able to contract separately for the plasterers' work at an eventual charge of £75.1s.5d and he submitted claims for additional sums occasionally, such as five shillings for helping to hang the bells and a pound for cleaning stonework.


A problem for the major contractors who were employing men under them, was inevitably one of cash flow.  It was not possible to wait for payment until the completion of the contract and in the meantime, pay weekly wages and support one's own family at home.  But what was it prudent to pay the contractor in advance...?

                                                                                                    To the Rev. James Sanders
                                                                                                    Lower Hall,
                                                                                                    13th November 1852
                   My dear Sir,

The bearer, Mr. Thomas Thornton's son, will present you with a certificate from Mr. Mallinson as to the amount due (£25) for masonry at Barkisland church.  Thornton's son came to me yesterday for a note to you for money, which I refused to give till Mr. Mallinson had stated what was due to him.  It appears that Mr. Mallinson has certified for £25 although he has not seen the work for several weeks.  This is not right and if we are not very careful, there will be little or no money due to Thornton and the work will then be given up for the winter or perhaps for a much longer period.   You will, of course, give him a cheque for the £25 but I must see you before any more money is paid him.

I suppose you have heard nothing from Mr. Mallinson as to the slating.  I am told that the carpenters have not yet [William Baxter's underlining] got a plan of the work from the architects.

Yours truly,

William Baxter.


Significantly, although details of almost all the suppliers are preserved in the records, that does not include the purchase or delivery of building stone, probably because Thomas Thornton was expected to supply it as an integral part of his contract.  Roofing slates are accounted for, however, in a barely legible letter from Richard Massey, dealer in North Country and Welsh Slates, of Sackville Street, Manchester, dated 19th May, 1853, in which he appears to be apologising for their incomplete delivery, placing the blame on the fact that "the boatman did not wait till the time he proposed to be at Elland".  The cost for the slates and their transport combined, amounted to £60.9s.9d.  The slates had obviously arrived a few weeks earlier as a piece of paper dated 19th April, hand written by Thomas Shaw, lists twelve individuals by name, one of whom is Shaw himself, who were detailed to go along to Elland, presumably with their horses and carts, and bring the slate to Barkisland.  Between them they were due £4.13s.3d, of which Shaw claimed 3s.3d.


Other deliveries came by rail.  Payment of 5s.4d was made to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company on 23rd June for the delivery of something illegible weighing 3cwt. 2qrs. 10lbs., and then on 27th July, two separate payments were made to the Company, one of 14s.5d for the delivery of additional slates, presumably from Richard Massey though this is not specified, weighing 3tons. 5cwt. 5qrs., and the other, which appears to have been charged separately, of 7s.4d, for tiles from Massey's.


Small suppliers included such people as Thomas Gill, who provided 124 lbs. of lathe nails, but also specialist companies such as Mrs. Mawer's ornamental stone company of Leeds, who made the font donated by "two sisters in memory of a beloved mother" (shown left) and so not priced, and Thomas Hodges, bell founder of 99, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin (on the face of it, a curiously located company to approach), who having been asked for two small and presumably cheap bells for the bell-cote, had to explain to the Rev. Sanders that the smallest bells he could provide that would differ in tone would be 17 and 19½ inches in diameter and would cost £10.5s.0d and  £13.19s.0d respectively.


When it came to the settlement of invoices, William Baxter seems to have authorized payments and the Rev. James Sanders seems to have written the cheques.  Fifteen notes survive similar to the one below, invariably addressed, "Dear Sir".

                                                                                                        To the Rev. James Sanders
                                                                                                        Lower Hall,
                                                                                                        17th May 1854.

Dear Sir,

As I promised, I send to you Moores' bill.  Mr. Mallinson has struck out three items - 2/-,  7/3. and 9/7.  I think the first should not be paid as it is clearly within the contract.  With respect to the other two, I think that as the contract is so loosely worded, he should have the benefit of the doubt.  I feel certain that the glazier should have given all the spouting one coat of paint and a deduction should be made from his bill for the amount of that cost.  Moores has certainly done more than he was required to do by the contract and he should have some allowance for it.  Therefore if you pay him as a balance of his account, £12.13s.0d, making £42.13s.9d altogether, we shall do right both to him and ourselves.


This suggests William Baxter's approach was meticulous but fair-minded, and seems to cast his character in an equitable light.  James Mallinson submitted the architects' bill (which was now exclusive of the Clerk of the Works fees) in early June, although the receipted copy is dated the 6th August.  Mallinson itemised the work in detail, including the thirty-seven visits he had made to the site.  The cost for these was £4.5s.0d. and the total bill, £96.15s.4d - approximately 3.2% of the building cost, eventually calculated at £3,042.19s.8d.  It doesn't seem a lot.

                                                                                                        To the Rev. James Sanders
                                                                                                        Lower Hall,
                                                                                                        20th June 1854.

My dear Sir,

I return to you Mr. Mallinson's bill, which is more than enough for their department in the erection if our church.  37 journeys to Barkisland [his double-underlining].  How attentive he must have been.  I suppose the bill must be paid, although so unreasonable, considering the delay and trouble which he has caused.  I gave Thornton a cheque for £11.15s.3d and send you his settled bill.  I also enclose Mr. Shaw's bill.  I cannot say what he ought to have as he has spent a great deal of time at the church which, from the delay, could not have been anticipated, and I think we cannot give him less than £3.  If our funds would have allowed, I should have put down £5.

In addition to J. Haigh's bill [minor carpentry jobs] (which I enclose) of £1.18s.1d, there will be his charge for the board he is making, upon which to post notices in the church porch.  He is near you and will say what it will cost.   The wine bill may be settled when we next meet.

I thank you for the two Ordnance maps and send by Mr. Shelford 10/- for them.

I am not well but hope to be so soon.

I remain,
My dear Sir,
Yours truly,

W. Baxter.


William Baxter died four years later:  he was 66.  Thomas Healey died in 1862.  He was only 53.