Searching through the newspaper archive has turned up important new information about the history of St Anne’s Church, and the long-serving vicar of Alverthorpe, Rev Joseph Walton’s struggle to build a Church in Wrenthorpe. Walton had already established Potovens National School in 1844. By the mid-1860s he had set about finding the resources to build a church.
The nonconformist Free Press is somewhat scathing about Walton’s ambition.
Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 6 August 1864
THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF ALVERTHORPE
We are informed that an attempt is to be made by a number of gentlemen to provide for the spiritual destitution of Potovens, Carr-gate, Kirkhamgate, and the other little spots around Alverthorpe, which are at present almost totally neglected. A committee is to be formed to co-operate with the Rev. J. Walton in this praiseworthy object. The population thus intended to be cared for, is large but poor, and doubtless will need assisting with money at the outset. But surely so benevolent an object will be supported by the many rich Churchmen in our town and neighbourhood.
By the end of the decade, Walton had the found funding for a curate for Wrenthorpe and launched an appeal for funding to build a new church. He’s also been granted a special faculty by the Bishop of Ripon allowing Church of England services to be held in the school building.
Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Friday 8 October 1869
PROPOSED NEW CHURCH AT WRENTHORP (POTOVENS)
In our advertising columns will be found a proposal for a new church at Wrenthorp, or Potovens. A church with a resident clergyman in that neighbourhood is a want which has been long felt, and we are heartily glad that there appears now a probability of its being met. The Rev William Stephenson, M.A., (Oxon.) has been appointed by the vicar of Alverthorp, the resident clergyman of Wrenthorp and its neighbourhood; and, as will be seen by the appeal, the rev gentleman is in full work, holding three services every Sunday, with daily morning prayer, and a Wednesday evening service with short sermon, in the Wrenthorp National School [in School Lane]. During the past three or four months the number of scholars attending the day school [Potovens National School] has increased threefold; but the continued changing of desks, school material, &c, preparatory to divine worship is extremely inconvenient, to say nothing of the heat of the room is summer, and the extreme cold in winter through the want of height in the walls and ceiling beneath the slates. The congregation, therefore, are anxious for better accommodation for divine worship. The spiritual condition of Wrenthorp has long been a cause of great anxiety, and when the labours of a curate were devoted more directly to it, on the foundation of the new parish of St Michael’s, Westgate Common , hopes were entertained of a speedy and permanent provision. The work, however, was delayed, but now there appears to be a reasonable hope of the completion of it, all that is required being the hearty assistance of all who profess to be friends of the church in aid of the great work. We are aware that with many who are always ready and willing to help forward a good church work, there have been trade depressions and anxious times. Perhaps some have been compelled to be as economical as possible; but we think in an appeal for God’s work, which comes so direct as this cry from Wrenthorp and the neighbourhood does, all who profess to be anxious about the extension of church principles will give it a favourable reception. That it is a cause which calls for the proper application of christian charity, no one will we suppose deny who knows anything of the real position of Wrenthorp, and the poverty of the locality. The amount required is about £2950; that is, £l000 for endowment, £1800 for building, and £150 for repair fund. We think a plain statement of these facts are; quite sufficient to enlist the sympathies of our readers to the scheme.
The advert under Public Notices on the same page, headed ‘Proposal for a New Church at Wrenthorp (Potovens) near Wakefield’, states:
The population of Wrenthorp and its neighbourhood, irrespective of Kirkhamgate and neighbourhood is 1400; with Kirkhamgate it is upwards of 2000, most of whom reside from a mile to nearly two miles from Alverthorp church, and a mile and a half to two miles and a half from Alverthorp parsonage.
When it is remembered that the present parish of Alverthorp contains the villages of Alverthorp-with-Flanshaw and Ossett-street-side, the scattered hamlets of Kirkhamgate, Brandy Carr, Carr Gate, and the village of Wrenthorp, with a population of not less than 4000, it will be evident that it is not in the power of the Incumbent of Alverthorp to attend to the spiritual wants of Wrenthorp, Carr Gate, Brandy Carr, and Kirkhamgate, which (with a population of some 2000) forms the north part of the parish.
It is therefore proposed to erect a Church at Wrenthorp, to supply a want which has been long felt – the seats to be entirely free. The cost of a substantial building to accommodate 300 or 350, if a site be given, may be reckoned at £1800, to which must be added, before consecration, £1000 for endowment, and £150 for Repair Fund.
By help of a grant made to Alverthorp by the Society for the Employment of Additional Curates, a resident clergyman has been provided as curate, to labour chiefly in Wrenthorp and neighbourhood.
The proposed plane has received the special attention and approval of the Bishop of the Diocese, the Archdeacon, the Rural Dean, and patron of Alverthorp.
At present, divine service is celebrated (by permission of the Bishop) in the National School Room, Wrenthorp, on Sundays, morning, afternoon, and evening; morning prayer daily; and evening prayer every Wednesday, with short sermon.
The increased attendance of day scholars (being three times the number of that in the early part of the year), demands more school room accommodation; and the removal of desks and school material for divine worship becomes more and more difficult and irksome.
The earnest attention of Church people is called to this plain statement, which will be followed up as soon as possible by more definite propositions for carrying out the good work, and the names of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken the trusts of the funds raised or to be raised for the purpose.
The population of Wrenthorp and neighbourhood consists mainly of poor persons, who are unable to do much for themselves in this matter; and as they form part of the old parish of Wakefield, they may be considered to have a claim on the sympathy of all Wakefield people.
Any suggestions or communications on the subject will be thankfully received by
JOSEPH WALTON, M.A.,
Vicar of Alverthorp
The 1871 census returns find the Rev Stephenson and his young family living in the end house of Warren Terrace, on the corner of what’s now called Lindale Lane/Wrenthorpe Lane. He describes himself as ‘Priest of the Church of England’ and gives his place of birth as Portland, Dorset. The family even has a servant.
By the following year, the Rev Charles John Naters – who was to become Wrenthorpe’s first vicar – had taken over as curate.
The Rev Stephenson died in London in January 1880, aged 48.