Hebden Township Historical Data

St. Peter's Chapel-of-Ease, Hebden

1874 photograph of St. Peter's Chapel-of-Ease, Hebden.
The earliest known photograph of St. Peter's Chapel-of-Ease - 1874
Click image for larger resolution


Hebden was not well served by the established church for many centuries. The Parish Church in Linton is a 2.5 km traipse across the fields when the stepping stones are negotiable at Linton, and a lot further when they aren't. The church in Burnsall is a little nearer, and indeed, many Hebden folk preferred to go there for their baptisms, weddings, and funerals. Whilst this might have been deemed acceptable when Hebden was still a rural community with a low population, it wasn't after industrialisation, in the form of lead mining and textiles, raised the population of the village to around 500 in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The area was at the forefront of the nonconformist movement. John Wesley, himself, preached in Grassington in 1780 and 1782. The Methodist movement was one that encouraged its members to care for the poor and the needy; Wesley spoke out against issues that mattered to the working class - the condition of the destitute, working conditions, inherited wealth, and education for all; and people were encouraged to value their worth, rather than accept their lot in life as encouraged by the Anglican theology. Largely neglected by the established church, it is not surprising that a high proportion of the Hebden population turned to Methodism. A Wesleyan Chapel was built in the village in 1812, and a Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1838. On the 30th March 1851, there was an official government Religious Census which required the attendances to be noted for all services and Sunday schools at all places of worship. The population of Hebden at this time was 490, and St. Peter's had been built some ten years before. The following figures were returned for the township:

St. Peter's Wesleyan Methodist Chapel Primitive Methodist Chapel
Capacity 190 230 180
Number of services 1 2 3
Congregation 59 230 175
Sunday School 24 52 78

Whilst the congregation sizes for the non-Anglican chapels have been inflated by the fact that more than one service was on offer and people often attended more than one, at least they were given the opportunity to do so. It was noted that the Primitive Methodist Chapel also hosted a school, which we know Thomas Francis Hammond, later of Angle House, was attending about that time.

It was against the background of much of the village being drawn towards Methodism, that the decision was made to provide a chapel-of-ease allowing the Anglicans to worship within the township.

The Building and Consecration of the Church

The two leading the project were the rectors of Linton of the time. Linton had an ecclesiastic peculiarity that would have been at home in Trollope's Barchester Chronicles. Normally the office of rector was in the gift of the Lord of the Manor or principal landowner, and was paid out of tithes. In Linton's case, there were until 1860 two rectors, who each held a mediety, and who shared the duties between them. Originally, the patronage of both medieties was held by the Lords Grey of Rotherfield, but the patronage of the first mediety came to the Crown in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and the second in the time of King James I. In the nineteenth century the patronage was exercised by the prime minister. Hebden Parish Council were still paying the equivalent of tithes on their land until the middle of the twentieth century. The rectors in the 1840s were Henry Crofts, and Edward Coultherd.

Wooden commemoration plaque in St. Peters Chapel-of-Ease, Hebden. Date  1841
Wooden commemoration plaque in St. Peters - 1841. Click image for larger resolution

Edward Coulthurst (1795-1849) was the elder of the two incumbents. He was rector from 1821 to his death in 1849. He was born in Gargrave, graduated from St. Peter's College, Cambridge in 1818, and died in Machynlleth where he was buried.

Henry Crofts (1809-1857), however, seems to have been the main driving force behind the building of St. Peter's. His name appears first on the plaque in the church, and is on the application for a grant. He also made a substantial donation. Crofts graduated from University College, Oxford in 1830, and became rector of the first moiety of Linton in 1833, which included Hebden. He was also involved in the provision of a new school in Grassington that opened its doors in 1845. Crofts suffered from heart disease, and was not a well man for much of his time at Linton, and he had to employ a curate to fulfill most of his duties. He eventually resigned his benefice in 1855 due to ill-health, married in late 1856, and died suddenly five months later in 1857 in Munich, probably while on his nuptial holidays.

The land on which the church lies was donated by the Rev. Henry Ives Bailey (1778-1870), who at the time was the incumbent of St. Paul's, Drighlington. Although born in Norfolk and dying in Nottinghamshire, Bailey was a substantial landowner in Hebden. According to land tax records he owned a substantial amount of land in 1827, and at the time of the tithe map in 1846 he and his son owned over 26 acres. At the time of the 1857 Enclosures he owned 27 acres in the parish, for which he was awarded an allotment of 90 acres. He (and his son Henry Bailey) also held a share of the Manorial Rights, and so benefited from the proceeds of the mineral exploitation on Hebden Moor.

The "rough designs" for the church, according to B.J. Harker in 1869, were drawn up by John Pearson Fearon (1798-1855), Henry Crofts' curate, "a clergyman very energetic and much beloved". Fearon was born in Whitby, and graduated from St. Catherine's, Cambridge, in 1831, being ordained two years later. He was said to have been a keen amateur artist. The basic appearance of the Church is of Gothic Revival style. It is constructed from dressed stone with a slate roof, and the west tower is topped by four corner pinnacles and a pierced parapet. It has a single bell. There are eleven single lancet windows - one at the west end, eight in the nave, and one in the vestry. There is a triple-lancet east window overlooking the alter.

The building of St. Peter's was paid for by benefactors, charitable institutions, and public subcription. It cost £756, about £82,000 in today's money. It is recorded that about £473 was raised by public subscription, including £25 from Rev. Croft, £10 from Rev. Bailey, and £120 from the Ripon Diocesan Church Building Society. Some of the money so donated was from absentee landlords. A further £27 was raised towards the building fund on the occasion of the church's consecration.

Subscriber Subscription Notes
William Alcock, Esq. of St. Leonards £50 Possible William Alcock, co-founder of the Craven Bank.
Rev. and Mrs. Robinson, of Jersey £25 Possibly Charles D P & Ann Robinson, although they didn't marry until 1843
Rev. Henry Crofts, Rector of Linton £25 Largely responsible for getting the church built
Richard Alcock, Esq. of Skipton £25 Son of William Alcock, above. "Landed proprietor".
Henry Alcock, Esq. of Skipton £10 Son of William Alcock, above. "Banker and solicitor".
Abraham Chamberlain, Esq. of Rylstone £10
Richard Waddilove, Esq. of Rystone £10
Rev. Henry Bailey, Driglington £10 Owner of 21 acres in Hebden. Donated the land and the east window.
Rev. William Peart £15 Possibly the son of John Peart, co-founder of the Craven Bank.
Mrs. Brown of Otley £10
Rev. William A. Fountain, of Middleton £5
William Birkbeck, Esq. of Settle £5 Probably William Birkbeck, co-founder of the Craven Bank, died 1838.
Rev. John Blackburne, of Arncliffe £5
Mrs. Constantine of Lythe House £5 Owner of 20 acres in Hebden.
John and Henry Wormald, Esqs. £25 Owner of 20 acres in Hebden.
Rev. John Swaile £10 Owner of 63 acres in Hebden. Probably John Swale of Kendall.
The Misses Ellen Lambert of Settle £20
Francis J Lace, Esq. of Inglethorpe Grange £20 Inglethorpe Grange, West Marton.
Rev. William Boyde of Arncliffe £3
Henry Bailey, Esq. of St. John's College, Cambridge £10 Son of Rev. Bailey above. Later donated the current organ.
Rev. W. Boyd and Rev. W. Horton £9 7s 6d
Rev. Henry Wigglesworth of Slaidburn £10
Mrs. C. Hutton £2
Miss Hobson of Manchester £2 2s
Thomas Birkbeck, Esq. of Settle £2 2s Son of William Birkbeck, above. "Banker".
Miss Holmes of Linton £1 1s
Sundry small donations £3 11s
Rev. William Carr £20 Probably William Carr, recumbant of Bolton Abbey for 54 years.
Ripon Diocesan Church Building Society £120

A substantial grant was also received from the Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building, and Repairing of Churches and Chapels - a predecessor of the National Churches Trust. As a condition of the latter, the church had to have a certain number of "free seats", that is to say ones which are not leased out. As part of the application, the following seating plan was submitted to the Society. It doesn't actually match the plan of the Church!

Plan of the intended seating arrangements in St. Peter's Church, Hebden
Seating plan submitted when requesting a grant. Click image for larger resolution

Although we not have an itemised costing of the build, we do have an estimate made in 1839, which is only £11 less than the quoted cost:

Item Estimate
Mason £267
Additional item £20
Churchyard wall £20
Cutting foundations £5
Addition for HB (??) £10
Joiner £184
Slater £64
Glazier £28
Plaster £31
Painter £28
Glazier £28
Repair fund £30
Architect £10
Consecration fees £18
Bell £15
Stones £10
Surplis £2
Sundries £5
Total £745

The foundation stone was laid in May 1840, and the Church was consecrated on 27th October of the following year. Officiating at the service was the Lord Bishop of the newly created diocese of Ripon, Charles Thomas Longley(1794-1868). Longley had an illustrious career in the Church. He was headmaster of Harrow before becoming Bishop of Ripon in 1836. In 1856 he became Bishop of Durham, followed by Archbishop of York in 1860, and finally Archbishop of Canterbury in 1862. The prayers were read by Crofts' curate, John Fearon, and the address was given by the Rev. William Boyd (1809-1903), the rector of Arncliffe, who was later to become the Archdeacon of Craven.

The first baptism in the church was that of Ellen Whitaker's on October 31st 1841. The first burial in the churchyard was in June 1842, and the oldest churchyard memorial is that for Joshua Whalley who was buried in February 1843.

St. Peter's church bell, Hebden
St. Peter's church bell, Hebden. Click image for larger resolution

The bell, although appearing in the estimates above, was not cast until 1847 - six years after the Church was consecrated. It was cast under the supervision of Charles and George Mears, who were the master founders of the renowned Whitechapel Foundry between 1844 and 1860. They were also responsible for casting "Big Ben" eleven years later. Everything apart from the pull rope appears to be original. It rings at a frequency of about 470 Hz, or approximately b♭″ in the Helmholtz pitch notation, and has a base diameter of 20" (50.8 cm) and a height of 16" (40.64 cm).

In the late 1870s, John Emsley, Hebden's poet blacksmith, wrote a poem "Lines on Hearing Hebden's Church Bell", which begins:

"Ring on, ring on, thou solemn bell,
We love to hear thy cadence swell;
Thy clapper swinging to and fro,
Regarding neither friend nor foe."

St. Peter's was listed as a Grade II building in January 1994.

The Windows

The church has eleven windows - one at the east end overlooking the alter, one in the west end, eight in the nave, and one in the vestry, all with decorated glass.

The one in the chancel is formed from three lancets, and has the most colourful and ornate glass, thought to be part of the original fabric. It was donated by the Rev. Henry Ives Bailey, who also contributed the land on which the church stands, in memory of Ann Bailey, who died on Christmas Day, 1820. John Bland says that Ann was Bailey's mother, but she was actually his first wife, Ann Rathmell (1779-1820), who had given birth to their eldest son Henry in 1815. Henry Ives Bailey subsequently married Sarah Rand in 1824.

East Window of St. Peter's Church, Hebden
East window of St. Peter's Church, Hebden. Click image for larger resolution

The other ten windows are also lancet shaped, and are decorated with soft, delicate colours. These were donated in 1884 by Ralph Bowdin (1833-1917), of Bridge House, in memory of his father Daniel who died in 1855.

Vestry Window of St. Peter's Church, Hebden
Vestry window of St. Peter's Church, Hebden. Click image for larger resolution

The Organ

St. Peter's boasts a very fine organ made and installed in 1894 by Harrison & Harrison, of Durham. A file of correspondence relating to the acquisition and installation of the organ is available for public inspection in the church, although the associated commentary is sometimes off the mark. Its purchase was organised by Rev. Frederick Arthur Colbatch Share (1851-1926), who was the Rector of Linton Parish Church from 1892 to 1911, and is renowned for transcribing and publishing the Linton parish registers for the period from 1562 to 1812.

The organ in St. Peter's, Heden, made by Harrisons of Durham in 1894
The organ made by Harrison and Harrison of Durham in 1894. Click image for larger resolution

It wasn't the first organ to be installed in the church. In 1874 John Bland talks of the Church having an organ, "but of it the less said the better, as it is an unsightly and misplaced article in the sacred edifice, no matter what its musical capabilities." According to the Rev. Share the previous one had been made by Wordsworth of Leeds and was, he says, "old and worn out". However, a donor who wished to remain anonymous, had promised £100 for the purchase of a new instrument, which gave the opportunity for replacing it with something finer.

The identity of the donor is made clear in a school diary entry for January 6th, wherein the headmaster, William Mason, records that "A Public Tea and social was held in the Schoolrooms. During this the Rev. F. A. C. Share read a letter from Canon Bailey of Canterbury offering £100 for a new organ for our little church for a new year's gift to the Villagers." This makes it certain that the donor was Dr. Henry Bailey (1815-1906), whose father had gifted the land on which the church lies as well as the east window. Dr. Bailey was a graduate of St. John's College Cambridge, and was prominent in the Anglican Church, being Warden of the Anglican Missionary college, St. Augustine's College in Canterbury, for 28 years. He saw out the rest of his career as Rector of West Tarring in Sussex, from which he retired in 1892 following the death of his second wife. At the time of his donation, he was 80 years old and living out his days back in Canterbury. He still owned property in Hebden, including Green House, and he had contributed £1 towards the building of the suspension bridge nine years before. He left almost £16,000 at his death. Interestingly, in 1847 his father had donated an organ to St. Martin's Church in North Leverton, during his long incumbency there. The organ was dedicated on Easter Day, March 25th, 1894.

The dedication plaque on St. Peter's organ
The organ's dedication plaque. 'HB' was Dr. Henry Bailey, the doonor. Click image for larger resolution

Share was explicit in his requirements for the organ: "Now do be careful to let us have a trim little instrument - nice and bright without harshness or shrillness. All nicely blended and well balanced." He couldn't get what he wanted for £100, but agreed to pay the extra £12 18s 6d cost out of his pocket. He finished happy with the final product: "Your organ has fairly established your reputation in our district for sterling quality at a reasonable cost".

Harrison's bill for the organ in St. Peter's Church, Hebden
Harrisons' bill for the organ in St. Peter's Church, Hebden. Click image for larger resolution

Since then, the only major change to the instrument has been electrifying the wind supply, although the handle for the manual pump is still present. In 2004 it was awarded a Grade II Certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies under its Historic Organs scheme aimed at preserving good pipe organs. In 2010, a full renovation was undertaken by Andrew Carter of Wakefield costing £21,000. The money was raised from donations, grants and recitals.


Regular services were suspended as a result of Covid restrictions in 2020, and the church has remained closed since with the door kept locked. As a result of the reorganisation of the manning of the local parishes, it is unlikely to open again for regular worship.