About the Churchyard

St Matthew's Lightcliffe Old Church

Lightcliffe has, since 1529, been served by three Anglican places of worship. The first, Eastfield Chapel, was established on a 'parcel of land' given by Richard Rookes of Royds Hall, North Bierley. The land was 'bounded upon' the highway leading between Halifax to Wakefield (Wakefield Road today) and adjoining the route from Brighouse to Rooks (Till Carr Lane)'.

The land surrounding the chapel was developed, initially in a small way, as the graveyard that we know today. Rookes also gave 13s 4d (66p) a year 'for ever' for the maintenance of a priest there. The priest most likely occupied the house, erected in 1634, that now abuts Till Carr Lane. This was moved from its original position at the west end of the site by Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker and his wife Alice in 1865 when the churchyard was extended. A plaque on the rear of the property, over looking the churchyard, gives the details of the rebuilding.

The second place of worship now generally referred to as Lightcliffe Old Church was consecrated in 1775 some fourteen months after the wardens had been granted a faculty to rebuild part of the original chapel. Clearly the rebuilding programme was replaced with a decision to build a new church. Only the tower of this building, preserved under the auspices of the 'Friends of Friendless Churches' remains.

The church, a fine Georgian structure, for which the bulk of the money was provided by William Walker of Crow Nest, was built by Halifax mason William Mallinson, who lies in the churchyard. His tombstone records that he 'built this chappell in the year of our Lord 1775'. The church had a typically plain interior with galleries on three sides supported by cast iron quatrefoil columns. There were box pews, round-headed sash windows and an apsidal east end that featured a fine Venetian window and delicate Rococo plasterwork. The organ, given in 1787, was a fine Snetzler and first used when the 'Messiah' was performed in the church in August of that year. The building served as the Parish Church for 100 years, until the present church, the gift of Johnston Jonas Foster of Cliffe Hill, was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon on 21 September 1875, St Matthew's Day.

The parish now had the 'fine church with improved architecture of the period' that apparently many had wanted. Only two years earlier, on 25 January,1873, the Halifax Guardian had gleefully announced, as the building began to take shape, that it had 'long been the reproach of the churchmen of the district that no attempt had been made to replace the present plain structure'.


The old church was then used as a mortuary chapel and occasionally for special events. Much of the original fittings remained in place until the church fell out of use in the 1950s and the vandals set about them. Its fine organ, pews, and much more were destroyed and in 1973 the building was demolished. An act considered then, and especially now, by so many as 'lamentable'. 

The churchyard, owned by St Matthew's Parochial Church Council, covers just under a hectare (over 2.2 acres) and is the final resting place for over 11,000 people from Lightcliffe and the surrounding districts including Bailliffe Bridge, Hipperholme, Northowram, Southowram, Brighouse, Norwood Green and further away.


The area around the tower was “closed” by order of the Privy Council around 1867. It is maintained by the Council with help from the Friends. After 1867 the only burials in this part of the churchyard were in family graves where space remained. The next part of the churchyard was given to the parish by the Sutherland family and was used from 1867 onwards up until around 1975. The part furthest from Wakefield Road was consecrated in the 1930s and has been in use since the mid 1970s.


There is a dedicated memorial ground for ashes to the south east of the parish church further up Wakefield Road.

Click here to read about people of interest buried in the churchyard.

During 2017 we hope to add a section on the old church and other archive material. Click here to see how far we've got.

 

Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo

 

References:

L. Morgan, The story of Lightcliffe Church,(1961) pp. 1-7

J. Parker, Illustrated Rambles form Hipperholme to Tong, (1904) pp.492-4

The Halifax Guardian, 25 January, 1873.

J Horsfall turner, A History of Brighouse, rastrick and Hipperholme, (1893), p.217.

M. Saunders, Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, Vol 46, (2002). The Friends of Friendless Churches

 

 

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The postcode for the churchyard (for sat navs) is HX3 8TH.

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