Before St Anne’s Church: the clergyman of Warren Terrace

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


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


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 [1851], 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

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.

Anglicans unlikely success in Potovens exasperates Nonconformists

As with setting up the first school for locals in Wrenthorpe (Potovens National School) in School Lane in 1844, a few years later the Church of England is beating its Wesleyan (Methodist) rivals when it comes to Sunday School attendance. This despite there only being a Wesleyan Chapel in Potovens at the time (St Anne’s Church didn’t open until 1874).

Was mid-19th century Potovens more of an ‘established’ community than previously thought? Or were local children being ‘encouraged’ to attend the Anglican school?

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Wednesday 29 December 1847


Lately, at Alverthorpe, the spirit of Dissent [Methodists/Wesleyans] and the principles of the Established Church have been fairly pitted against each other. The dissenters, having proved successful in maintaining their predominancy at the Town’s school at Alverthorpe, feel great chagrined at the success of the Church Sunday School at Potovens, which on Sunday last had 130 scholars, whilst the dissenters’ school of the same place had only about 40, being about 70 less than attended the school short time age.

On the above day, we understand, a row took place at the dissenters’ school, in consequence of a gentleman from Silcoates coming to the school to ask the teachers to give up, if they could, the name of the individual who had reported that he would turn off such of his factory children as did not go to the Church school! All the people of the village were astir, and much amusement was caused by the gentleman hastily closing the shutters of one of the windows in the face of a person on the outside who was making an harangue, with his head stuck through one the squares. A constable was then sent for, who, on his arrival, good humouredly patted the enquiring gentleman on the shoulder, shook hands with him, and wisely wished him to retire. The misunderstanding seems to have arisen from the circumstance of one of the girls who works at a certain mill in Silcoates, having stated, without foundation, that if she did not attend the Church school she would very likely lose her work.

Wrenthorpe, Potovens, Alverthorpe or Kirkhamgate?

If it’s bewildering today to say exactly where Wrenthorpe starts and Kirkhamgate, Alverthorpe, Newton Hill or Outwood ends, it’s no easier for people tracing their family history and finding ancestors living in Alverthorpe-with-Thornes or Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe.

The dividing line of those two ancient townships was the Foster Ford/Balne Beck – right in the middle of modern day Wrenthorpe. The area’s informal but widely used name ‘Potovens’ referred to the densely populated area in the village centre. Under the old boundaries, Silcoates, Jerry Clay Lane, Brandy Carr and Kirkhamgate were all part of Alverthorpe-with-Thornes.

When the Stanley Urban District Council was created in 1899 its western boundary stuck to the old township divide. During the following year Wakefield City Council incorporated much of Alverthorpe, leaving Silcoates, Jerry Clay Lane, Brandy Carr and Kirkhamgate as something of a backwater in the Wakefield Rural District Council. The area wasn’t absorbed into Stanley UDC until 1935.

Here’s a couple of confusing articles about Alverthorpe and Kirkhamgate from the WW1 era.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Tuesday 13 July 1915


The announcement that the Parish Council Alverthorpe, near Wakefield have applied for the name the township to be changed to Kirkhamgate does not mean that there is a prospect of the name of the village of Alverthorpe itself being altered. In 1900 the parish of Alverthorpe had an area of 2,481 acres, and a population (according to the 1891 Census) of 4,811, and included Alverthorpe village and several small hamlets, all coming within the area of the Wakefield Rural District Council. The borough of Wakefield then sought to extend its boundaries by the inclusion of the district of the Alverthorpe Pariah Council, and terms were arranged between the two bodies.

The Local Government Board, however, only consented to the addition part of the area, comprising 573 acres and a population 3,631 and including the village Alverthorpe, the added area becoming the Alverthorpe Ward in the borough of Wakefield. At one end of the old district was left an area of 999 acres, with a population of 164 and this became Lupset. At the other end the Alverthorpe Parish Council were left with an area of 909 acres and a population of 1,116 made up of the hamlets of Kirkhamgate, Brandy Carr, Silcoates and Beck Bottom, the first named being the largest. Officially, this small area continued to be known as that of the Alverthorpe Parish Council. As already pointed out, Alverthorpe itself is now part of Wakefield, and it is with the object of getting rid of the confusion of names that the Parish Council have decided to rename themselves the Kirkhamgate Parish Council. Though rather long delayed, the action is considered locally to be a logical outcome of the absorption of Alverthorpe into the Wakefield borough boundary, and it is not thought likely that there will any opposition to the proposal when the Subcommittee of the West Riding County Council inquires into the matter.

Leeds Mercury
Tuesday 27 July 1915


Alderman P H Booth and Councillor W Ormerod, representing the County Council, held am inquiry at Kirkhamgate, yesterday, relative to the application of the Alverthorpe Parish Council to change the name to Kirkhamgate Parish Council.

Mr W J Skinner, clerk to the Parish Council, pointed out that in 1900 the Alverthorpe township became part of Wakefield, but the name of Alverthorpe Parish Council remained. The part which was not in the jurisdiction of Wakefield was Brandy Carr, Silcoates, and Beck Bottom. The change of name would be a great advantage, particularly with regard to postal arrangements.

At present when letters were addressed Kirkhamgate, Alverthorpe, they were sent out with the Alverthorpe letters, and were returned to Wakefield to be re-directed Kirkhamgate with the result that sometimes there was a delay of twenty-four hours.

There was no opposition.

Inquests into two very different deaths

As strange as this now sounds, during the 19th and early 20th century inquests into sudden deaths were usually carried out in pubs. In Potovens in the 1800s, this was almost always at the Royal Oak. The following report relates to an inquest at the Malt Shovel – a suicide and a death demonstrating the dangers of working in the textile industry.

Leeds Mercury
Monday 6 June 1881


On Saturday Captain Taylor, of Wakefield, held an inquiry at Mr Wild’s, the Malt Shovel Inn, Potovens, near Wakefield, on the bodies of two persons who had come to their death under sad and extraordinary circumstances.

One of the parties was a widow 57 years of age, named Mary Ann Garside. Sometime ago the deceased lived with Mr John Hawley, colliery agent, The Haugh [later called Sunny Hill House], Silcoates, who married her daughter about two and a half years ago. The mother and daughter did not appear to agree very well, and in January last the deceased left her son-in-law’s residence, and had lately been living in lodgings in Park Street, Wakefield. On Thursday night she went and sat under a pear tree near Mr Hawley’s house, and it is supposed that she then took a quantity of laudanum, and laid down air to die, having frequently told a commercial traveller who lived near her daughter that she would commit suicide, and afterwards wrote a letter to that effect. Next morning she was found under the pear tree in a stupefied and is dying state, and was carried by her son-in-law and another gentleman into Mr Hawley’s stable, where she died shortly afterwards, apparently from the effects of poison.

The other sufferer was a man named James Hudson, a labourer at Messrs Colbeck’s Mills, at Alverthorpe. On Friday night a fire took place in a dust hole at the mills and whilst it was being extinguished Hudson was found quite dead and much burnt. It is supposed that the man upset his lamp among some woollen waste and set it on fire, and that the dense smoke suffocated him, and then he was roasted by the flames. The poor fellow leaves a wife and seven little children.