South Ossett Christ Church
South Ossett Christ Church, is a plain, but substantial building and was originally designed to be capable of accommodating 608 persons. More than 400 of the sittings in the church were deemed as "free forever for the use of the poor" at the time when the more well-off parishioners paid for the best seats in the church.
The church design is a cruciform shape in the Gothic style of the 13th century. Christ Church is considered one of the most beautiful country churches in the neighbourhood.
The two acre site was donated by Joseph Thornes of Green House, Ossett Green, for a church, a churchyard and a vicarage. The piece of ground the church was built on was originally a rough field, in the centre of which stood a small straw thatched cottage in the possession of an old woman named Martha Giggall, who used to boil size for use in cloth weaving. Her fireplace was located where the pulpit of the church now stands. At the time, the old woman was extremely reluctant to leave her home, but was persuaded to move on when she was given £22 from church funds (only about £2,950 in 2019).
South Ossett is an ecclesiastical parish formed on November 27th 1846 and was formerly part of the parish of Dewsbury. At that time the parish comprised some 600-700 souls whose spiritual wellbeing was largely left to non-conformist ministers and preachers. In fact, South Ossett was a hotbed of non-conformism.
Above: South Ossett Church as it is today and with a virtual Blue Plaque.
It is said that before 1840, the vicar of Ossett only made occasional visits to this part of the town, which were not very warmly welcomed. In those days Ossett, and especially Ossett Low Common (broadly the area now bounded by South Parade, Teall Street and Manor Road) had a reputation for the rough treatment of strangers who dared venture "down the common" when the unruly element was at large. The intrusion was deemed an offence to be punished by stoning and there was not much respect for the Vicar of Ossett, or any Curate of his, to save them from the attention paid to strangers by the inhabitants of the Common.
In spite of this, the Reverend Oliver Levey Collins, the Vicar of Ossett, who was held to be the founder of the South Ossett parish, held meetings in the Low Common house of Jesse Teall to make his presence known in the area. In 1845 Reverend Collins met with the Vicar of Dewsbury, intent on dividing from Dewsbury parish, which was permitted under the "New Parishes Act" passed by Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel in 1843 with the intention to make better "Provision for the Spiritual Care of populous Parishes".
Above: Christ Church, South Ossett. Picture courtesy Andrea Hartley.
In 1846 the division was made and South Ossett became a provisional Ecclesiastical District which would convert to full parish status once a parish church was established. The Reverend George Bayldon was ordained as Curate of Ossett with responsibility for the new district. Reverend Bayldon lacked the common touch and under his leadership little progress was made in building a congregation and church.
He was succeeded in 1848 by Reverend D.C. Neary who moved his meeting place away from Low Common to a weaving chamber in the region of what was once known, rather appropriately as "Happy Land". He soon gathered a growing congregation around him and opened a Sunday school to the extent that a subscription list for a church was opened. Reverend Denis Neary was soon to become the first vicar of South Ossett Christ Church.
A suitable site was procured from Joseph Thorns of nearby Green House, The Green, who gifted two acres bordering Horbury Lane which would suffice for a church, churchyard and vicarage. The land comprised a rough field with a small straw thatched cottage occupied by the elderly Martha Giggall whose fireplace stood where the church pulpit stands today. Martha was offered a healthy sum and moved elsewhere.
A building committee was formed comprising Joseph Thornes, Philip Briggs (the first churchwardens of the parish), David Dews and Jacob Archer. The architects were Messrs Mallinson and Healey of Halifax and soon all contracts were let and work began. On Wednesday, Januaty 1st 1851, on the Feast of the Circumcision, the Foundation stone was laid by Reverend Oliver Levey Collins. The wall stone came from Newmillerdam and the ashlar, square hewn stone from Brighouse. With building work relatively inexpensive at that time, remarkably the total cost of the works including fees and every requisite was only £2120. 11s.1d.
The building work was completed in just nine months and the church was consecrated on Thursday October 16th 1851 by Dr. Longley, Bishop of Ripon who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Churchyard was also consecrated and the first interment took place the next day. The churchyard was closed by Order of Council in the late 1880s by which time 1,976 burials had taken place in the churchyard from the opening of the church in 1851. A replacement burial ground was opened at Manor Road on May 9th 1920.
Above: South Ossett Christ Church with the graveyard in front of the building.
When the Church was opened there was no organ. Mr David Dews (a member of the building committee) hired one at his own cost and it was placed in the gallery. Mr Dews’ nephew, Benton Wilby – a lad of 15 yrs of age was the first organist, but he died in April 1852. Subsequently a subscription list was begun to buy an organ, which was successful and one was ordered to be built by Foster & Andrews of Sheffield at a cost of £200 including fixing. Unfortunately inferior metal was used and after 20 yrs it showed signs of wearing out. By 1880 it was unfit for use. A new organ was dedicated and opened on October 9th 1886. The decision to bring the organ closer to the choir in the chancel entailed an addition of a chamber in the angle between the chancel and the transept, and the construction of a new vestry under the gallery. The total cost was just over £1000, most of which had been raised by the congregation prior to the opening. Mr J. Clafton of Oldham, who was a native of Ossett, gave the first recital.
Not all went well at South Ossett and there was great dispute about Church rates, the payment of which was a sore grievance to many people, before they were abolished in 1865. The collections of these rates produced ill feeling against the Church, in many places besides South Ossett. But here on one occasion extreme measures were used to enforce the payment. The furniture of Mr Greenwood, the Surgeon of Sowood House, Ossett Green was seized and publicly sold and as a consequence of this, he and his family left the Church. It is understood that many others did the same.
The first stained glass window was the East Window, installed in 1862-1863 by Mrs Carr of Carr Lodge, Horbury in memory of her husband Mr John Francis Carr, who died on Christmas Day 1861. At the same time Mr Neary gave one of the small windows in the chancel, in memory of his young daughter who died in 1857. In 1908, "The Good Shepherd" stained glass window was placed in memory of Joseph Cox, who for forty years had been the master of the church school. He was Ossett's mayor in 1896-97.
1. Joan P. Smith Horbury And Ossett Family History
2. The Formation of The Parish John H Ward , Vicar of South Ossett (1884-1892)
4. Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA) Facebook Group.