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English Church Architecture -

Calderdale (U. A.).


HEPTONSTALL, St. Thomas the Apostle (SD 987 280)     (September 2019)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Namurian Series, Lower Kinderscout Grit)


Unfortunately, this fine church by Mallinson and Healey (fl. 1845-62) was victim to a sanctioned act of vandalism in 1963/4, in which it was stripped bare inside of virtually everything of  interest when its Victorian furniture and furnishings were ripped out and replaced by more "fashionable" ones that already look ridiculously dated today.  That said, the church itself, impressive though it is, could itself be criticised on the grounds that the decision to build it rather than repair the large mediaeval church dedicated  to St. Thomas Becket, whose substantial remains stand a few yards to the south (illustrated in the photograph at the foot of the page), was itself an act of insensitivity at the time.


As it was, the opportunity to design the new church was put out to competition in 1849 and, unusually, in the light of their general reluctance to waste time on uncertainties, Mallinson and Healey decided to enter, perhaps suggesting they had some intimation that they would receive sympathetic consideration.   In fact, Thomas Healey (1809-62) submitted two designs - one in the Geometric style that was almost universally favoured at the time, and one in the much abused Perpendicular, which might also be an indication of some insider knowledge.  It was indeed the latter that was chosen, from the "nearly forty" entries received in total  (Todmorden & District News, 28th October 1904).  The foundation stone was laid on 16th May 1850 (Leeds Intelligencer, 25th May 1850) and the building was consecrated on 26th October 1854 (Halifax Courier, 1854), four and a half years later, the slow progress possibly exacerbated by the fact that the church was built by subscription, with money being raised as construction went along.  Sixty-three individuals contributed between them 4,630 towards the building cost, with all donations being faithfully recorded between 1 and 1,000 (Lambeth Palace archives).



Healey's new church is everywhere embattled and consists of a three-bay chancel with two-bay N. & S. chapels, a six-bay aisled nave with N. & S. porches, and a tall, angle buttressed W. tower rising in three stages to open-work battlements and crocketed pinnacles at the angles.  The impression the building creates owes much to the height and width of the tower (shown at the top of the page on the left) and to the fine tracery of the aisle windows and nave clerestory (seen above left from the north) in particular:  the nave windows are two-centred, with strong mullions, subarcuation over the outer lights, and supermullioned tracery above the central light;  the clerestory windows are four-centred and supermullioned and the bays are divided by buttresses rising to crocketed pinnacles by crocketed pinnacles rising through the battlements.  The chapel windows are two-light and the sanctuary E. window is five-light with a castellated supertransom, strong mullions to the central light, and outer lights subarcuated in pairs.  The proud porches have diagonal buttresses rising to crocketed pinnacles, gargoyles at the angles, and two orders of side-shafts to outer doorways bearing wave mouldings, rolls and hollows beneath crocketed ogee dripstones.  (See the S. porch, above right.)



Inside the building, the aisle arcades, chapel arcades and chancel arch are formed of arches of two orders each bearing a double wave moulding springing from tall piers comprised of four shafts separated by hollows, with only the sizes varying (i.e.  the chancel arch is larger than the aisle arcade arches and the chapel arcade arches are smaller).  (The S. arcade and chancel arch are shown in the photograph above left.)  The nave roof is framed by tie beams supported on arched braces and has purlins and of the way up the pitch, while the chancel arch has braced collar beams instead and, rather superfluously it would seem, purlins at the quarter stages, although the first and last are of such narrow scantling as to serve little structural purpose.   These basic features apart, the only furnishings in the building worth particularising are the two fonts, the one in the nave, mediaeval with a very unusual eleven-sided bowl, and the one in the N. chapel (shown above right), the original drawing for which is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum's R.I.B.A. Collection, by Healey and carved by Mawer of Leeds in 1854 for the grand sum of 25.