St Paul's Church History (Or how we came to be)

The Sunday School & Day School

The Clergy of the Parish

The Fire

Post War

The Church and Parish

Hanging Heaton: mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name 'Etun'. The prefix 'Hanging' refers to a steep hillside hanging above lower ground. Heaton means 'High Farm': - thus Hanging Heaton was a lonely hillside farmstead. The church did not appear until the nineteenth century and was one of the so-called 'million churches', built to celebrate the victory of the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Parliament gave a grant of one million pounds so that a grateful nation could build churches as a way of saying thank you to God for a safe deliverance.

The church was built in the Gothic style of stone excavated from the immediate area. Mr Thomas Taylor of Leeds designed the building to have a nave, aisles and a tower with pinnacles at the west end. Also at the west end, there was a gallery which accommodated the organ, the choir, and about thirty of the congregation.

At the east end, there was a recess which was for use as a sanctuary. The church could seat nearly 600 worshippers, two thirds in rented pews, the rest in free seats. Of course, the rented seats were at the front, and the others at the back, for the front seats were eagerly sought after, a far cry from today. When you think that the population of Hanging Heaton, or Soothill Upper as it was called at the time, was only 1,362, one can see immediately how well attended churches were then.

The Vicar of Dewsbury laid the foundation stone on August 7th 1823, when a huge gathering marched up from Dewsbury to the site, and the new church was finally dedicated by the Archbishop of York two and a half years later on 20th December 1825. The first people to be baptised were Jane Sheard, Mary Ward and Amy Wood, on December 29th 1825; the dubious distinction of the first burial in the churchyard goes to Benjamin Whitaker who was laid to rest on February 18th 1826 - his grave can still be seen; the first marriage was 12 years later on Christmas Day 1837 between Sarah Bromley and Charles Hargreaves. Perhaps marriages weren't very popular in those days either, or maybe the saintly Vicar of Dewsbury wouldn't let go of the income.

The Sunday School & Day School

In 1780, Robert Raikes of Gloucester started Sunday Schools. Dewsbury was the first place north of the Trent to adopt the concept of Sunday School teaching. In 1804, the Reverend John Buckworth produced a Sunday School linked with his Parish Church, then in the 1820s, three Sunday Schools were opened at Dewsbury Moor, Earlsheaton and Hanging Heaton. The schools for many years, were the only source of education for the children of the Dewsbury area, until, in 1845, a Church School was built at Hanging Heaton on the opposite side of the road to its present position. But the ground on which it was built proved to be unsafe, so it was rebuilt in the quarry from which the stone for the church was extracted. This is its present site.

Hanging Heaton was a 'National School' - or to give it its full title, "The National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principals of the Established Church throughout England and Wales." The pupils were taught in the monitorial system, a system by which younger pupils were taught by older pupils, having previously been instructed by the schoolmaster.

The Clergy of the Parish

Hanging Heaton has had an extraordinarily large number of incumbents, some only staying a few weeks.

Several of them could be described as characters in their own right. For example, the Reverend Francis Orpen Morris B.A. was vicar of Hanging Heaton for the period of one month and eleven days in 1834, during which time he followed his studies in natural history, and could be seen listlessly sitting on walls with a gun in his hand, shooting birds, and gazing unhappily at those he could not bring to ground. After leaving the parish, he later wrote an eight volume work on the History of British Birds, presumably taken from the dead ones he shot.

Another notable, or some would say, notorious vicar was the Reverend Stephen Matthews who stayed from 1840 until 1851, then a record. Reverend Matthews was remembered as the vicar who was accused of "taking liberties", and "having connections" with a certain Mary Halliwell aged 16. Matthews' wife left him because of his association with Mary, and he was taken to a Commission of Enquiry chaired by the Venerable Archdeacon Musgrave. The enquiry sat over six days, and Matthews was duly told that there were sufficient grounds for further proceedings. Unfortunately, we do not know the result of any further proceedings, for it may be that the then Bishop of Ripon took the papers with him when he retired.

There were then several ministers who stayed for short times, until finally the Reverend Robert Mitchell broke the cycle and stayed for thirty two years, finally dying in post. After another short stay, the Reverend William Enoch Cleworth was appointed in July 1984. He stayed at Hanging Heaton for exactly 33 years, during which time, the church opened a mission church, St Luke's at Soothill. More of Mr Cleworth later.

Following Mr Cleworth, William Barrett Harrison stayed for eight years, then Ernest Mehan Dunning who was then followed by Rudolph Arthur Maddocks. When he left the parish after another eight years, a collection was taken for him, and he was presented with a cheque for £45. Keith Charles Grain, a very popular vicar stayed for ten years, to be followed by Peter Hicks of the "donkey fame". After Peter came Nicholas Carter who stayed for three years, followed then by Simon Parkinson, John Wells, and the present incumbent Mel Garside.

The Fire

You may well ask what happened to the gallery. Quite simply, it was destroyed during a disastrous fire. The church has been struck by lightning several times, often causing the pinnacles to fall, but the worst strike caused the fire of February 16th, 1916. A certain Samuel Pleasants saw the fire from his bedroom window at 4-10am; he dressed immediately and ran to wake Mr JR Sykes, the verger who lived at 136 High Street. There was only one telephone in the village at that time, and there was a delay in contacting Batley Fire Brigade. When they were finally called out, their horses could not pull the fire engine up the hill to Hanging Heaton, so they decided to go up Grange Road into Leeds Road. The Toll Keeper at the top of Grange Road at first, refused to get out of bed to let them pass, and when he finally did so, there was an argument about the toll charge because fire engines were not mentioned on his list of toll fees. When they finally got through, they found Dewsbury Fire Brigade waiting for permission to enter the Batley Fire Brigade area to tackle the fire. Thus both fire brigades arrived at the same time, only to find that there was no local water supply for their hoses, and yards of extra hoses had to be strung out across the fields to get to a water supply. By this time the blaze was out of control, and nothing could be done to save the church. The wooden gallery fell first, then an hour and a half laterafter the fire was discovered, the roof crashed onto the ground. All the fire brigades could do was prevent the vicarage from following the fate of the church. The fire raged steadily until 7am, and all that the vicar, Reverend Cleworth could do, was to remove certain important documents. The Parish Registers and the Communion Plate were later recovered from the debris.

The task facing the parish was to be great for the church was utterly destroyed. The church members certainly needed all the help they could get.

The Ministry of Munitions refused a license to rebuild the church because of the war, so services were conducted first in the day school, then the church hall after it was built in 1917. Then in 1920 the go-ahead was given to rebuild the church. The insurance of £8000 received from the Ecclesiastical Insurance Company was not enough to restore all the stained glass windows, or the gallery, but the church was restored as near as possible to its original scale, although an extra 6 feet was added to the height of the church. The church was rededicated on November 17th 1923 at 3pm, just over 100 years after the first dedication. The church you see now is very much as it was with the exception of the organ, the pulpit and the font, which were all later gifts to the church.

Post War

After the war, there was a large building programme in the parish, which meant that the population trebled. For the next fifteen to twenty years, the church was in a strong position with a healthy congregation and Sunday School, and powerful in numbers and resources. The hall was used extensively with dances, youth clubs, discos, pantomimes and concerts. But then a change in society including TV, car ownership, and the diminishing of Sunday as a special day, meant that church membership began to decline.

Then in 1984, to the regret of most members of St Paul's, St Luke's at Soothill parted from Hanging Heaton and became part of the parish of St Thomas', Batley, after 98 years of collaboration.

The future

So to the future. The church is once again growing, with congregations and special services such as Baptisms on the increase. But far more important than that, is that the church is here for you, the people of St Paul's Parish. It offers you an oasis in the desert of our materialistic society. It offers time out from the rat race: It offers time to think: It offers time to be truly part of our community. We are here for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals irrespective of whether you are a regular church member or not. You will be made welcome.

But please remember, the church is not just a building, it is a group of people who are living in this parish all the week. We are here to help if we can. Please feel free to ring us, or call at the door. We are pleased to hear from everybody.

Revd Mel Garside and Revd Carol Gill.                               TOP