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Bygone Stanley - The Fire


On February 18th 1911 a terrible fire occurred. The building was completely gutted and only the outer wails remained, The fire was noticed at about three o'clock and the Fire Brigade was sent for. Unfortunately the local fire fighting facilities were very poor and it was some time before a suitable engine was sent for from Wakefield. By this time the church was beyond hope and, as the Steam Fire Engine arrived, the roof collapsed and an impressive burst of flame leapt upwards.

Fortunately brave church workers had been very busy trying to rescue as much as possible from the interior of the church. Vestments, documents, church plate (especially the brass lectern costing almost £100 which the congregation had presented to the church as a memorial to Rev. Richard Burell.

It appears that the fire was caused by the pitch pine roof being ignited by the heat from the boiler which was situated at the east end of the church in the vaults. This heating system had replaced the open fireplaces which had been built with the church. An iron pipe carried smoke from the boiler up through the timbered roof.

A report of the event was contained in the Wakefield Express on Saturday February 25th 1911. It mentioned the names of a number of parishioners who were present during the fire when the rescue of church articles took place. Messrs. William Burton, Lewis Arundal, Freeman Hartley, William Parkinson, Henry Shepard (organist), William Shepard (clerk & verger), and the vicar, Rev. J. B. Bolland and the Railway Station staff.

The church was largely looked upon by the people of Stanley as a memorial to their well-loved past vicar, Rev. Richard Burell who had done so much for them in many ways. Unfortunately the church was very badly damaged and only insured for £6,400 though its cost in 1824 was almost twice that amount.

Just after the fire a parishioner, Mr T. Peel of Sycamore Terrace, Stanley Grove, wrote this poem about the tragedy:-

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 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 cry 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 murmur
And with faces ashen white
You could see people gather
From the village, left and right
For their dear old altar
Was on fire and was burning bright.

But alas! their hopes were thwarted
The church had met its doom
As suddenly the villagers
Were plunged in grief and gloom
But here's one that governs all things
And I'm sure he knows the best
And they who meekly trust him
Will find the sweetest rest.

Yes, rest in rime of trouble
When the church is swept away
For he who built the churches
Taught us how to pray
And by prayer, in faith, believing
In the true and living God
He again will raise their altar
And the people praise their GOD.

The church authorities at Stanley wasted no time and a fund was opened for the re-building of the church. Correspondence began between them and Mr Douglas Carde, Architect to the Ecclesiastical Commission. The first meeting of the Building Committee was held on 9th March 1911. Mr Carde undertook the work of designing and supervising the restoration of the church and Messrs. Wilcox & Co. of Wolverhampton undertook the building. They gave an estimate of £10,540 for the work; the final total cost being over £10,700. The central heating was constructed by the Leeds Marble Company.

The shell of the gutted church was used in the construction of the new building. The interior stone work was constructed of Ancastor stone, the exterior of Halifax stone. The arches and pillars were particularly lofty and had clerestory windows above. A large chancel was constructed at the east end to house the choir and high altar. The church was re-opened on July 5th 1913.

The church could not afford an organ at that time and so a Harmonium was purchased from Archibald Ramsden for twenty-five pounds. An organ was built later by Messrs Fitton & Haley of Leeds who quoted £1,860. The total cost was £2,000 and it was completed in 1921. The choir stalls were done by H. P. Jackson, a woodcarver of Northowram near Halifax between 1921 and 1924 and cost £951, 11s. 0d. They are carved in oak and the misericords depict the development of life from the creation up to the present day. The stalls also contain appropriate shields and heads of well known characters of the day. The names of the various donors are carved on the stalls.

The foundation stone of the new church can be found on the easternmost pillar on the south side of the nave and has the following inscription:


The following is a list of vicars of Stanley Parish Church:
Rev, G. W. Lewis 1824-1828
Rev. P. Ashworth 1829-1831
Rev. J. Lister 1833-1844
Rev. C. D'oytelaplin 1844-1846
Rev. R. Burell 1854-1888
Rev. H. G. Ince 1888-1902
Rev. J. B. Bollan 1902-1917
Rev. Canon H. R. Baugh 1917-1962
Rev. E. H. Forshaw 1963-1969
Rev. J ,A. Crabb 1969-1978
Rev. Hick 1978-1984
Rev. P. Howard 1985-1992
Rev, G. Henderson 1993-

In the 1920's and 1930's the church suffered from subsidence from workings in the Silkstone seam, Newmarket Colliery, with the result that the arches at the east end over the vaults have had to be supported. Large wooden beams have been inserted on the inside of the arches to prevent further movement. Various improvements have been implemented over the last decade. These include the decoration of the church interior, the laying of carpets, the purchase of a broadcasting system of bells, the nave altar, the creation of a children's corner and the newly constructed Jubilee meeting room.

Other points of interest:-

During the re-building of the church after the fire, the services were held in St. Peter's School.

Stanley vicarage was built in 1838 at a cost of £85 raised by public subscriptions.

William Craven, aged 7 years, was the first recorded burial - September 17th 1824.

Extract from a 1922 Slavery Trade Directory.

The register of Stanley Church says...

'The living is a vicarage net yearly value £400 with residence in the gift of the Vicar of Wakefield and held since 1917 by the Rev. Harold Ryde Baugh M.A. of Queens College, Cambridge.'

'A Cemetery of 1 ½ acres was formed in 1886 at a cost of £1,000 and is under the control of the Burial Board of nine members.'


Before leaving Stanley Church, which is known as St. Peter's Church, mention must be made of the Stanley men who lost their lives during World War 1 and World War 2.

The Memorial for the 1914-1918 war commemorates the fol1owing :-

Albert Ambler, Thomas Dobinson, Edmond Humphrey, Joseph W. Anderson, Spencer Clifton, Richard James, Arthur Armitage, Norman Garret, Harold Littlewood, Terry Asquith, Thomas Gowland, William Lunn, Charles Ball, Joe Hargreaves, A. Robert Moate, Harry Barley, Walter Hargreaves, Joseph Myton, Frank Beighton, William Harris, James T. Newby, Wilfred Bettney, Thomas Hawkes, William Newby, Lawrence Beverley, H. Stanlev Haworth, Henry Nicholson, E.N. Bladley, James R. Hemsby, Arthur Norbury, Harry Bramfoot, Abraham Hepworth, Kenneth C. North, Herbert Brook, Thomas H. Hines, Joseph E. Holroyd, James H. Brown, Alvin Holroyd, George Peat, Frank Burkinshaw, Tom Horan, Thomas H. Pickard, Henry Clarkson, Arthur Humphrey, William T. Poulter, Harry Burnley, Hamil Howarth, Robert C. Porter, William Raby, Albert Ramsden, Albert Rose, Albert C. Rushworth, Herbert H. Sampson, Charles Senior, Albert Smith, Arthur Smith, Frederick Stafeman, Allen Stead, Bertie Tate, Josiah Taylor, William E. Tate, A. Frank Todd, Albert Ward, Sidney Waring, Thomas Ward, Joseph Ward, Herbert Whitemam, William S. Wilson

A total of 68 lives lost.

The War Memorial on the east side commemorates the following from 1939-1945

Albert Abson, Henry Balmforth, John Blakey, Albert E. Philpot, Alexander Ramsden, Lawrence Smales, John Sykes, Leonard B. Stennet, William P. Summers, Walter White

A total of 10 lives lost

I have been fortunate in obtaining a copy of the original application for authority to build Stanley Church in l820 during the reign of George IV. The following are extracts for the case :-

That the township of Stanley cum Wrenthorpe is in need of a church being 3 miles in length and 2 miles in breadth and contains about 4,000 inhabitants.
That the dwellings of the said inhabitants are greatly dispersed and most of them are situated at the extremities of the township, consequently in fixing upon a site for a new church it had been found impossible to select any which will be convenient to the residents of every part of the said township.
'That a site for a church has been procured and the ground excavated for the foundations thereof at a place called Lake Lock within the said township of Stanley cum Wrenthorpe which your petitioners humbly confirm to ho more convenient than any other which can be obtained for the accommodation of the greatest number of inhabitants of that township whose place of abode are most remote from their parish church, Saint John's of Wakefield, and from the site provided for the proposed church at Alverthorpe.
'Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that no alteration may to made in the ready prepared site'

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