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Saint Peters Church

Church History

After the battle of Waterloo parliament voted the sum of £1 000, 000 from the war indemnity paid to this country by Austria to be spent on building churches for populous parts of the country that needed them. The Church of Stanley dedicated to St. Peter was constructed in 1822 at a cost of £12,000 and opened in September 6th 1824; The Rev. G. W. Lewis was instituted as the incumbent by the patron, the Vicar of Wakefield. The church as then built was regarded as an unsatisfactory building due to the Commissioners insisting on there own design for the building, it is said the Vicar of Wakefield’s design would have been more satisfactory. Built with the two western towers, large lofty walls with large windows the building was heated by four enormous open fire places.

In the early days there was no organ, the choir was led by stringed instruments, and a Mr George Eggleston was paid a salary of ten shillings for playing the bass for the first half of the year in 1830. John Maude of Moor house spent £1100 in 1851 making alterations to the church, building piers and arches to form a nave, aisles and constructed a small chancel. He also changed a timber roof to a plastered ceiling and glazed the east and west windows with stained glass. The Rev. Richard Burrell removed the north and south galleries in 1862 and took out the old box pews, reseating the nave with open stalls and raised the floor of the chancel. The font was also replaced with one presented by the ladies of Stanley. Several years later more improvements were made adding a chancel and side screens and oak choir stalls.

On February 18th 1911 a disastrous fire occurred destroying the building due to the pitch pine roof being ignited by heat from the boiler. The alarm was raised around 3 o'clock but by the time the fire brigade arrived it was already too late, it was a windy day which caused the flames to spread quicker and because the fire brigades facilities were poor they could do very little. Locals salvaged what they could from the church before the roof collapsed in on the timber pews inside sending a great burst of flames up into the air.. The next day the entire village turned up for a open air service, which would be the last at the Church until it was rebuilt. From the fire only the bare walls survived. Steps were taken at once to re build the church with direction of Mr Caroe. The north and south walls were lowered in height to form new aisles, new stone piers and arches were built with windows above and a new 31ft chancel was built at the east end of the building. The western vestibule gave way to a stone vaulted porch. The new church was consecrated by the Bishop of Wakefield on July 5th 1913.

The Churches misfortunes would continue over the next several decades through subsidence caused by mine workings. Work was carried out to try fix the problem in the 1920s but overtime the problem has worsened and due to an increasing cost to repair the building, the church was relocated in 2001 to the old school building, ironically the same place that housed the church for two years after the 1911 fire. Today the old church stands derelict and amid controversial plans to convert it to a housing development.

A look back at the church in photos

The Great Cholera Epidemic burials

The last Great Cholera Epidemic that hit the area was in 1849, which killed 99 inmates at the West Riding Asylum. These inmates from the Asylum were buried at the North East side of the Church Graveyard where a commemorative stone was laid to remember the dead. At the height of the epidemic some 16 bodies were buried in one day and for some time the “Dead Cart” was in daily transit to and from the Churchyard.

The Church Fire

On Saturday February 18th 1911, St. Peters Church caught fire, due to the pitch pine roof being ignited by heat from the boiler, by way of an iron pipe which carried smoke up from the boiler up through the timbered roof. A local publican saw the smoke and raised the alarm. The fire brigade was sent for but unfortunately their fire fighting facilities were poor and although there was a river directly opposite the church, because of the buildings elevation it was impossible to get water across. It was some time before a suitable engine was sent from Wakefield but by this time the church was beyond saving, and as it arrived the roof collapsed and a great burst of flames leapt skyward.

Several villagers braved the flames and rescued as many church articles as possible, including the brass lectern. Evidently high winds fanned the flames, making an impressive, though tragic, and sight. The following morning the whole village turned out for the service, which was held outside the burnt out ruin of the church, and was the last to be held there until the church was restored and re opened on July 5 1913.

I have spoken with several older people in Stanley who remembered the fire. One told me that when the news that the church was alight spread, he and four of his pals abandoned their game of taws and ran hell for leather across the fields and up the hill to see the sight. He said it was heavy going against the wind, and that people were streaming across the fields from all directions. Another resident told me that he was riding on a horse and cart with his father when word came of the fire and to his chagrin he was left holding the animal whilst his father charged off.

An old lady told me she run into their house to ask her mother if she could go to the church, but was told that she must take her little brother with her. He could barely toddle so she had to take him piggy back all the way and she was only seven years old herself. Another lady told me that a week after the fire her son had left a lighted candle in the bedroom window and during the night the orange curtain caught fire. He woke up, lept out of bed and ran from the house yelling that the church was on fire again! Irene’s Burton's friend Jessie remembered the fire very well indeed.

“I was playing with my friend, Millie, in the fields when we saw a plume of smoke over towards the church. It was a February day and the wind was terrific. I know we had trouble keeping our hats on and eventually gave up. I ran to ask mother if I could go to see the fire and Millie asked hers, for we wouldn’t have dared go without asking, but we were warned to stay well clear of the church. The fire was well on the way when we got there and we stood in the field below, where the school feasts were held, watching the wind blow the flames in all directions.

There was plenty of water in the river across the road, but the horse drawn fire engine that had been summoned could not get any water over to the church. Then we saw the roof begin to cave in and it crashed down onto the pews, just as the Wakefield fireman arrived, but by then it was too late, and in any case the hydrant pressure was not enough to do any good. There were crowds of people there with more and more arriving as word got round. Some of the men were carrying things out of the church and a big lad of about 6ft 2, Billy Parkinson, ran in and carried out the big brass lectern and put it by the west door amongst the graves. When the new church was dedicated the vicar said Billy should have the honour of carrying the lectern back in again, but do you know, he couldn’t lift it, no matter how many times he tried. It took three men to carry it back into the church. One of those cases of strength needed strength given".


The Church font

Poem referring to the Church Fire

Written by Mr T Peel of Sycamore Terrace, Stanley Grove shortly after the fire

"In a little quiet hamlet

Near to Wakefield, known so well,

Where the people love to worship

And to hear the old church bell

Ringing out its notes of gladness

Early in the morning air,

Calling folk to sweet communion

And to thankfulness and prayer.

But to all there came a shadow

To remind us of the past,

By so many fleeting changes,

Nothing in the world can last.

As we heard the cries of fire

And the clanging of a bell

And the hoofs of panting horses

Then the firemen as well.

So they passed us in a moment

and were quickly out of sight;

Then there came a gentle murmour

And, with faces ashen white,

You could see the people gather

From the village left and right;

For their dear old family alter

Was on fire and burning bright

Church exterior 2012

Church Demolition Photos

The following photos were taken between Sunday 9th February 2014 & Wednesday 12th 2014. They cover the open air ceremony outside the old church up to the demolition of the south tower which was the last section of the building to be demolished. 

The following poem is courtesy of Emma Turner


More Church Photos

Taken by Shaun Parkin

Click any image to enlarge

Church Interior Photos

Taken by Brian Robinson in Stanley Church April 1977 and March 1978. These photos show how much of a beautiful building the village has lost.

The Church Choir Stalls

The chancel of Saint Peters Church was enriched by H.P Jackson’s beautiful stall work, the most remarkable part of the design being the sixteen misericords. Jackson, a woodcarver of Northwram near Halifax, was commissioned to create the choir stalls at the church between 1921 and 1924 at a cost of £951, 11s. 0d. The names of various donors who funded the work were also carved on the stalls.

The stalls were seated with heavy blocks of oak hinged at the sides so as to be capable of being raised to allow room for passage. These oak blocks four to six inches in thickness, known as misericords, were appropriated by the carver as a raw material, their reclusive position gave him considerable license in choice of subject.

Jackson was given free hand in the creation of the misericords at Stanley. In deciding upon the sixteen stages of creation for his design, he produced the only set of its kind in the world. He also would be the last craftsman commissioned to make a set of misericords in the UK during the 20th Century.

Commencing with the creation of light, stage after stage with its development of fish, reptile, bird and beast, and of vegetation are shown, until apelike man appears and, after the long struggle with nature, ascends to the human and divine emotions of civilisation. The end of the series presents the climax; the ascended Son of Man enthroned within a cincture of spiritual light.

The elbows of the stalls themselves were surmounted with carven beasts, among which will be noticed the jackass, the simian imps, the pig, sheep and other creatures. The desk standards were buttressed and ended for the most part in carved heads of varied design along with various inscriptions.


Choir stalls upon completion


Showing the misericords and elbow carvings


The carver, H.P Jackson

Misericord photos courtesy of Shaun Stuart

The following were taken in 2008

The Saint Peters Church Action Group have successfully located the whereabouts of eight of the missing misericords. It is our hope they will be returned and relocated in the village. These items are part of our heritage and should remain in Stanley

The following postcards were kept in the possession of Ron Owen. Ron and his family were keen supporters of Stanley Church and Outwood Salvation Army, they regularly donated and raised funds for various items during the 20th century.

Thank you to Harry Stix for sending us the above postcards

Locals invited to have say on future use of church site

Wakefield Express article from January 1994

Stanley’s new vicar, the Rev Bill Henderson, wants to hear local peoples views on the future use of the parish church. Writing in the parish news he says “One of the main questions that will face us is, what are we going to do with the church building?”

“Its not the sort of question to give either an easy answer, nor is it a new one. The problem is that the building has some major defects which will cost a lot of money to put right. At the same time it is a very distinctive landmark which many people would be sorry to see disappear.”

“We plan to take some time discerning the right way forward, seeking Gods guidance as to how the building should be used, and looking for the resources to make it suitable.”

He added “I would be very interested to hear peoples views about the church building and ideas about finding resources to look after it.”

“Whatever the outcome of the church development, our prayer is that it will be full. Full of people and full of life. Before we do anything major to the building we shall be seeking to make it more welcoming.”

Two years ago there were plans to hive off part of the church for mixed use, as it was felt the building was too big for the congregations needs and the cost of maintaining it was an increasing burden. Suggestions for joint use included developing part of the building for community facilities.

Mr Henderson told the Express; “The actual volume of the church is too big in terms of keeping it warm, in the short term we want to make it more comfortable and welcoming. In the long term we need we need to take a step backwards and see what we need for worship and the needs of the community.”

“The questions we need to ask then are, can we do things with this building to make it suitable? Have we the resources to do it? Will it mean that basically it is to expensive to maintain and that we will have to think about selling it off, demolishing, or rebuilding? Every option needs to be looked at.”

Mr Henderson who came to Stanley from Winchester said “People have been very welcoming and friendly, I took this as a period of consolidation - getting to know people and the parish, but also to have growth in the congregation, faith and understanding.


Design for the church interior 1995

This design would have seen the interior of the building divided up for mixed use. The sketch shows how the east end would have been partitioned off, a raised floor area added and the font brought back into the main part of the church. These improvements would have cost almost £200,000 - a figure which did not include any work to repair the structure of the building. Because of this the work was not viable.


Rev Bill Henderson 2001, looking through one of the windows damaged by vandals

Vicar Crabb

During his eight and a half years at Stanley the Rev. John Crabb was responsible for many innovations, not only at Saint Peters Church, but in the life of the village. Church attendances showed a marked increase after many years of decline and the development of the Sunday school was something to be applauded. He was keen to involve the entire community in the many new organisations that sprung up as a direct result of his work; these included the young wives group and playgroups for children. Mr Crabb also turned the parish magazine into one for the whole village involving the different religious denominations and other organisations while managing not to alienate the core supporters of the church. He was also largely responsible for the revival of the village gala. 


Vicar Crabb at the village gala

Typical of is approach was when doing his rounds at Pinderfields he would call to see all Stanley residents whether they were known to him or not. He would always find the time to stop and chat to all in the village, a factor that made him so popular, even helping with the meals on wheels service. Many people remember him sitting outside Gledhill’s with a tin collecting for charity, fond memories of a popular man. Of his stay at Stanley Mr Crabb said “It has been a very happy period of my ministry, especially as Stanley has such an interesting cross section of people”. Upon leaving he became Vicar for Saint Johns Church in Huddersfield which at the time was a large multi racial church.


Extracts from the Stanley Parish Magazine April/May 1978 

Vicar Crabb announces his departure from Stanley

By now most people will know the news that I announced on the 26th February of my impending departure on the 4th July. It was a dreadful day for me and yet, despite the obvious grief, the family of the church were so magnificent in being kind and understanding. I had a very hard decision to make when I accepted the living of Saint John’s, Huddersfield, as I am so happy at Stanley with still, as I thought, a further year or two to serve you, the people of our village. When I was asked to consider the move I prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the answer I got was that I must accept this new challenge.

I had faced the same decision several times over the past two years and then I was directed to stay, which I am certain was right. It would have been easier for me to have remained with you with the prospect of the new vicarage this year and no disturbance to my family. However, when I was ordained, I offered myself to God to serve him wherever best I could be used and I believe, therefore, that despite the upheaval and sadness, I must accept his will and serve him to the best of my ability in the new parish.

In the remaining four months I have in Stanley I will continue to work hard with my over willing team to build up and enrich the spiritual life of our community. There is so much to look forward to with the festivals of Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsuntide and our Patronal Festival of Saint Peter on Thursday 29th June and the confirmation at Outwood on Sunday 25th June at 6.30pm. On the social side we have the Sunday School Garden Party to be held in the Church Grounds on Saturday 10th June and the Village Gala on Saturday, 1st July at Stanley Grove School. In addition there will be the social events of the organisations of the village and surrounding area.

Please do not “bury me” before my time as it is the 4th July that I am going, not the 4th June, not the 4th May or the 4th April. Such remarks as “You will be soon be leaving us” or “I thought you had left” will not be favourably received. My going will be sad enough when it comes so please do not increase the sadness by anticipating my departure.

Yours Sincerely

John Crabb


The Thunderbolt

As we settled in our church seats on Sunday 26 February the service began and the Vicar began his little talk. We didn’t realise, at first, when he talked of “Good byes” what news he was going to tell us, that he was going to leave us. We were stunned, shocked, dazed. I know that tears were shed and meals not eaten. We were loosing a family who have become loved by many.

After the initial shock we began to realise that the work must go on. The disciples must have felt even more distressed when Jesus told them that he would be leaving them in a short while. When we look around and think of all the services, meetings, Sunday School and many other activities in the Church and village, we realised we must get together and ensure that all the work done has not been in vain.

WE MUST NO SIT BACK and say “Why should we, the vicars leaving”. No, we must keep the family of Saint Peter’s together, a beacon on a hill; a church full of warmth and the love of God. So, when the time comes for him to leave we shall be all the more blessed for having known and been guided by him in our work. In thanks we must dedicate ourselves afresh in the love of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We must prepare for the work to continue and pray that our Church be strengthened. He will carry with him our good wishes in his new work.

Our blessings go with him, with Mrs Crabb and his family.

Thank you

Annie Myton

Memories of St Peters Church

By Grenville Horner

My dad was a member of the church choir, and I was one of the choirboys. As far as I can remember, it wasn't a large choir, and most times there were only two choirboys in attendance, myself and David Stott. This meant we couldn't talk to each other during the incredibly long sermons, as we had to sit on opposite sides of the choir stalls. If we did get the opportunity to sit together, and were talking too loudly, then Bill Hartley, a member of the men's choir, would put his hand through the screen from the men's choir stalls behind us and flick our ears rather fiercely with his fingers in order to shut us up. Choir practice was on Friday evenings, and I vividly remember the evening practice of November 22nd 1963 when Bill Hartley arrived and informed us all that he'd just heard on the radio President Kennedy had been shot.  

Sundays to me were always dreary. It was 'best clothes day' and meant attending church three times in one day. Once for morning service at 10.30am followed by Sunday School in the afternoon, and then evensong at 6.30pm. At this time we were living at the bottom of Ferry Lane, so we would either cycle across the Nagger Lines or walk across the fields, whatever the weather was. 

Another great part of the church was the crypt. I remember it as always being very scary down there, as there was hardly any lighting, and the place was full of old tombstones and family vaults. This was where the huge coal fired boiler was installed that produced the heating for the church. I remember many times venturing down there in the winter months with my dad and stoking up the furnace from the massive pile of coal that would be delivered by the ton through a special coal chute adjacent to the boiler. Eventually, more lighting was added to the crypt, and over several months we built partition walls, painted it and turned it into a youth club, with table tennis, Subbuteo and a Dansette portable record player provided by one of the congregation, as well as a collection of old sofas and armchairs. I remember taking the first single I ever bought, 'Stranger On The Shore' by Acker Bilk down there to play. 

Around 1970, whilst doing my foundation course at Wakefield College of Art I did a pen and ink drawing of the church, viewed from the entrance gates on Church Road, which was printed as a Christmas card and sold by the church to raise funds (possibly for the replacement of the tubular bells) This drawing was then used for the cover of the parish magazine for quite a time. I think the original was raffled off at one of the many fund raising events for the church.

A Cryptic Conversion

Although many people have walked over it, few would realise that, beneath their feet lies a duplicate of our huge church, each column standing on its own massive, stone pillar, so reproducing the north, central and south aisles with their corresponding north to south bays. These bays are matched by vaults, each 60ft long, 15ft wide and 10ft high to the roof, and all this underground structure is known as the crypt.

During the early 1800s parts of these vaults were made available for private burial in stone tombs; regrettably this was done without any apparent plan so that each vault is at some point blocked by five or more of these stone coffins, of which there are some sixty. Taking the view that today’s youngsters are tomorrows churchmen and churchwomen , and that they should encouraged and catered for; the vicar and one or two “ancients” got together and produced “The Plan”.

Authorisation was obtained to remove the five tombs which blocked the most suitable vault, the remains were lifted with care and given reverent interment into the churchyard. Given an unrestricted floor area of 900 square ft, the way was open to produce an effective youth complex and the work is well in hand.

Toilets have been installed, the antique water pipes with their accumulated rust have been replaced with modern plastic before the building of low partition walls. The floor, at present rather like Church Road, is to be concreted to a smooth, level finish, treated against dust.

Florescent lighting and ceiling heaters are to be fitted, roof and walls to be given an artex finish, storage facilities to be provided for Scout, Guide and other property. The end product should be a clean looking, warm, well lit recreation centre for youngsters.

Perhaps the most difficult project will be the construction of the new access stairs, on the south wall, using the old A.R.P doorway. In this the vicar has excelled himself and thanks to the media is now known as the “Ecclesiastical Excavator!”

As the work progresses, I hope to provide further news of this major development which is being accomplished on a shoestring budget, thanks to the voluntary work of a small but dedicated band.


The Ecclesiastical Excavator! Rev Peter Hicks

Photo from the Wakefield Express 1980

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