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.

A ‘useful and highly ornamental institution’: the origin of Wrenthorpe Cricket Club

Wrenthorpe or Potovens has had a village cricket team for over 150 years. Early local press coverage is scant, the first reference to a Wrenthorpe cricket club tracked down so far, is the result of a New Scarborough [Alverthorpe] v Potovens match, in the Wakefield Express of 6 August 1870. The first full score (Wrenthorpe v Eastmoor) is covered in the 3 September edition of the Wakefield Free Press. Later that decade, there was even a second XI.

The current cricket club appears to have been founded in 1889, as mentioned in this article about a fund-raising event from the following year.

Wakefield and West Riding Herald
Saturday 26 April 1890


What was described as a “grand concert” took place in the Church school-room [School Lane] of the above rural village on Monday evening, and it was largely patronised, the room proving almost inadequate in its accommodating capacity. The Rev. T. J. Puckle, the vicar, who presided, after the proceedings had been opened by the playing of a solo on the pianoforte by Mr. George Hepworth, narrated the objects of the gathering. He said the concert had been got up by the members of the local cricket club, which organisation, he hoped, would prove a useful and highly ornamental institution in the village. The club was quite in its infancy, and the progress it made last year – the first year of its existence – fully justified them in hoping that it would live and grow and prosper, and he trusted that that if the large audience was only a forecast of the large audiences that would come and witness the cricket matches when played at home.

The vicar, the hat and the black eye

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 26 October 1878


To the Editor of the Free Press.

Sir, My attention has been called to a paragraph in your last week’s issue, headed “A Fracas at Potovens.” I shall be obliged if, in the interests of truth, you will correct in your next certain mis-statements of your correspondent.

I can hardly be wrong in supposing that I am the “clergyman” referred to; but I did not say to anybody, “Is that all the respect you have for your clergyman!” I did not “knock” the hat off the offender’s head. No “row” took place in the schoolroom, and no “young lady hailing from Silcoates,” nor any one at all, “received a fine black eye.”

I must decline to enter into any further correspondence on the subject.

I am, sir, yours, Francis Dudley,
Vicar of St. Anne’s, Wrenthorpe.
Wrenthorpe Vicarage, Wakefield, Oct. 23rd, 1878

{We gladly give insertion to the above, and are pleased to learn that no row took place in the schoolroom. The rev. gentleman is perhaps discreetly silent as to what took place outside the school but immediately adjoining. We may state further that the person referred to as taking part in the above, and described as wearing her Majesty’s livery, was not Police-constable Hollis, or indeed any one connected with the constabulary; and we regret that this much respected officer should have been mistaken for the person intended. – Ed. W. F. P.}

The Rev Dudley clearly doesn’t want to be associated with the nonconformist Free Press. Looking back at the previous week’s edition of that newspaper, we read:

Wakefield Free Press
Saturday 19 October 1878


A Wrenthorpe correspondent writes: “Our city is becoming somewhat famous for its strange goings on and its pugilistic qualities. On Monday evening last a bazaar was held in the Church School-room, when a little scene took place. A young man in walking up and down the room had the temerity to do so with his hat on, which brought out the ejaculation ‘Arthur, is that all the respect you have for your clergyman!’ The said clergyman without more to do, is alleged to have knocked the hat off the offender’s head, and tried to exclude him by force from the room. This was resisted and a regular row took place, during which a gentleman wearing Her Majesty’s livery struck at Arthur, but missing his mark, a young lady hailing from Silcoates received a fine black eye.”

A picture of life in 1880s Potovens

Although this article is primarily concerned with services at St Anne’s Church, its introduction contains a fascinating description of mid-1880s Wrenthorpe.

Wakefield & West Riding Herald
Saturday 1 August 1885


The annual dedication services in connection with the Church built for Wrenthorpe about ten years ago calls public attention to the labours of an indefatigable young vicar who works under great difficulties to promote the religious benefit of a poor population. It is not an extensive parish, reaching only from Carr Gate to Snow Hill and from Bradford Road to Alverthorpe Beck, but it embraces an area chiefly agricultural, and a village known by the not attractive title of Potovens. It is, however, a village that might well interest the curious, for it has features that are unique if not picturesque. Wrenthorpe is said to be a modification of Earl Warren’s Thorpe or village, and Potovens tells of a time that the historian has failed to chronicle, when the staple industry here was the making of pots and pans. All trace of the ovens has disappeared, but sometimes broken earthenware is dug up indicating the proximity of an oven, just as Roman urns sometimes lead to the discovery of a pottery bakery of the time of Julius Caesar; and just as the plough has turned up gold rings and sovereigns in the field where sixty years ago the Wakefield races were run [Lawns, Carr Gate]. To find an address at Potovens (which is literally in a hole) a guide is needed, for every ‘street’ seems to end in a piggery or garden. The stone-built cottages are not in the best repair, and, indeed, a stranger might think not a few of the little freeholds were in Chancery. The houses have been built at every angle to each other, and a journey, with the aid of a guide, will reveal some singularities in the habits of the villagers. If the collier section is badly off, the market gardeners would appear to be having a good time of it, for they live in a wealth of flowers; and their grounds are covered with fruitfulness.

The lengthy piece continues in great (too much) detail about church-related events. But it does give a striking impression of the poverty in the district and how a Church of England clergyman had been pragmatic in improving the lives of local people.

The object of the Church anniversary is to raise funds to meet the current expenses owing to the inability of the parishioners to make the offertories sufficient. The services commenced on Sunday, and will be continued on the 2nd of August. There was early Communion on Sunday, and a choral Communion service with sermon at the regular morning hour, the Rev. T. J. Puckle, the Vicar, officiating. At the floral service in the afternoon the Rev. J. H. D. Hill, vicar of East Ardsley, was the preacher. The children and their friends brought bouquets which were handed to the clergyman in the chancel, and will be sent to the Clayton Hospital and the Workhouse. The chancel screen, altar, and font were ornamented with flowers for the occasion, and altogether the services were most interesting, and attracted large congregations. In the evening the Rev. H. E. Alderson, assistant curate of Mirfield, was the preacher, and delivered an appropriate sermon before a full congregation. The number attending Communion and the amount of the offertories were an improvement upon last year. On Tuesday afternoon there was the annual sale of work at the school-room – a stone building out of repair, in a bad position – formerly the day school of the village, and now for the Sunday School [later Wrenthorpe Mission]. When the funds admit of a new school being built near the Church it will tend much to promote better order and decorum. But few persons attended the sale, and when the soiree followed in evening the pretty articles of needlework did not tempt the poor people to invest in them. About 100 persons sat down to a substantial tea, in charge of Miss Thomas, Miss Scott (Wakefield), Mrs. Parkin, Miss Jaques, and Mrs. Bland.

At the soiree the Rev. T. J. Puckle presided, when the, room was crowded. Before the entertainment commented he made a few remarks. He said they had rather a long programme, and therefore he would be brief. He wanted to say a little bit about the year and what they hoped to do in the coming year. They might remember that last year he spoke of their proposal to have one or two improvements. Among other things he mentioned a savings and a parish magazine. They had gained those objects. Mr. Joseph Marsland had had the chief work and merit in opening a branch of the Yorkshire Penny Savings Bank in November last, and up to Christmas, when the accounts closed, they had £92 9s. 7d. in the bank. Since then there had been paid in £158 4s. 9d, and altogether 186 accounts had been opened, of which 81 had been closed by people drawing out their money. They retained their books and could re-open the accounts whenever they chose. They had 107 accounts and £177 5s. 6d. in the bank. Considering that the times were so very bad he did not think that anything to be ashamed of; but he hoped that £177 would get much larger instead of smaller; if they went on at the rate of the last month they would he soon cleared out. When the pits were working longer hours they would no doubt have more money paid in. This year he should like to see that £177 doubled, and trebled next year… They had started the parish magazine, and no far they had 100 subscribers, which did not pay; if they had 150 they would just make the magazine pay the expenses, and leave a little at the end of the year…

He had been talking to some friends about whether they should not start a branch of the Church of England Temperance Society. He would mention it and leave it in their hands… Miss Scott had also spoken to him about beginning a clothing club. She had one at Westgate Common, with about 450 members, at one time. They might manage to get 200 persons to put in their pennies or shillings weekly in order to take out a useful sum at the year’s end for warm clothing. All depositors would get a bonus. They must not pay in for half the year and think to get a large bonus. The bonus was not so much per cent, but a certain sum to encourage regular savings. He wished them to continue collecting money for foreign missions because they believed that in giving to others they would be paid back, and if they wanted to raise money for the pariah purposes they must show a disposition to raise money for the Church outside the parish.

The C of E’s youngest vicar

Birmingham Daily Gazette
Monday 25 November 1929


The Rev Eric Victor Jones, youngest, son of Mr and Mrs Fred Jones of Stafford House, Oakengates, who was recently instituted to the living of Wrenthorpe, Wakefield, is only 28 years of age and is the youngest vicar in the Anglican Church.

Mr Jones received his early education at Wombridge Schools, and was afterwards transferred to Mirfield and Kelham College. When 23 he was ordained deacon, and in the next year became a priest. His first curacy was at Elland, Yorkshire, and after a short period he went to the West Indies where he did splendid work for two and a half years as a missionary.

He returned recently and only a fortnight ago was instituted by the Bishop of Wakefield to his present living. His wide circle of friends in Oakengates and district will be pleased to learn of his success, for when on a visit to his home at Oakengates, he has on each occasion conducted the services at the parish church. He is an eloquent preacher.

Building and opening of St Anne’s Church

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Thursday 24 April 1873


Yesterday the Mayor of Wakefield laid the cornerstone of a new church about to be erected at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield. The inhabitants of this rapidly-growing village have heretofore worshipped at the old church at Alverthorpe, and at a school which stands in their midst. About two years ago a clergyman was appointed to the village, under the vicar of Alverthorpe, and the combined efforts of these two gentlemen, with the co-operation of numerous friends, have resulted in £700 being raised towards a new church for Wrenthorpe. A vicarage has already been built, and the ground secured for the church is in convenient proximity. The sacred edifice is to seat 300 worshippers, and it will cost about £1,200. The architect is Mr T W Micklethwaite, of Westminster; and the contractors Messrs Thickett, of Horbury.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Thursday 9 April 1874


Yesterday the Bishop of Ripon consecrated small church which has been erected in the village of Wrenthorpe, Wakefield. Hitherto there has been no church there, but services have been held regularly for some time past in the National Schoolroom [in School Lane], the Pariah Church being situated at a considerable distance. The population of the hamlet, consisting chiefly of the working class, is not large, nor is there an immediate prospect of it increasing to any great degree. The new church is therefore not of large dimensions. It is a plain brick building, with stone dressings, and the interior is quite keeping with its external appearance. A central aisle divides two rows of seats of white pine, and a rather heavy timber screen separates the nave from the chancel. Yesterday, however, the furnishing and decoration had not been completed, nor had the east window received all its stained glass, and therefore the interior was not what will ere long appear. The aim which the architect (Mr J T Micklethwaite, of London) had in view was to design a church of substantial proportions and convenient at a small cost, and with the co-operation of the builders (Messrs G & W Thickett, of Horbury), his efforts have gained the satisfaction of the building committee and all concerned. The east and west windows are mullioned and large; the side windows are small. The total cost, including the sum paid for the site, will not be more than £5 per sitting, and the accommodation will be sufficient for 200 worshippers. The stained glass of the east window will be symbolical of the Incarnation, and form beautiful work of art, by Mr W C Kempe, of London. This fine feature is the gift of George Austerfield of Burnley. The elaborate silk vestments which adorn the altar have been wrought and contributed by Mrs Naters the wife of the Incumbent, the Rev C J Naters. The wooden cross and candlesticks upon the altar are also gifts, and Mr J Aldam Heaton, of Bingley, the committee are indebted for the sanctuary hangings.

The consecration service commenced two o’clock. The congregation was large. It consisted almost exclusively those whose spiritual requirements it is desired to meet, and judging from the interest they manifested in the event, the erection of the sacred edifice has their grateful appreciation. Amongst the clergy present were the following :– The Rev Canon Camidge, Vicar of Wakefield; Rev J W Chadwick, St Michael’s, Wakefield; Rev John Sharp, Horbury; Rev J S Gammell, Outwood; Rev J Walton, Alverthorpe; Rev J Gatrill, curate of Horbury; and the Rev J Harrison, curate of Alverthorpe. The Bishop reached a sermon on the occasion from 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, and verse 14 – “God hath both raised the law, and will also raise up us by his own power.” At the commencement of his simple, yet eloquent, address referred the object of the occasion. He said they had been engaged in a very solemn and deeply interesting service. They had been dedicating that church, which had been recently erected for the public worship of God, and by the solemn form of consecration which had been used, the building was now separated from all common and profane purposes and dedicated entirely to the ministrations of religion. The object view building the church had been to provide additional accommodation for who lived its immediate neighbourhood. They were at an inconvenient distance from the ancient church of the parish, and because of that many might have been hindered from attending, otherwise they would have attended, the house of God and the ministrations of religion therein performed; and therefore it had been hoped that by providing a building close at hand, in which they might have all the ordinances and means of grace freely supplied, many might be encouraged to go and wait on those ordinances, who perhaps hitherto had only occasionally used them altogether neglected them. He earnestly prayed God that that object might be fully attained, that numbers might be found ready to avail themselves of the ordinances of grace, and that in the faithful use of those ordinances many might grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour.

Vicar’s letter on Nonconformity

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 14 July 1902


Sir, – May I add a word? The letters in to-day’s “Yorkshire Port” will, I hope, be allowed to represent the dispassionate feeling of true Christian Churchmen towards Nonconformity. They are perfectly satisfactory as coming from representative Churchmen, and I can conscientiously subscribe my name to every one of them.

There is again, no inconsistency between their spirit and the spirit of the letter written by our revered Bishop to the new President of the Free Church Council. What I am wishing to ask is this: Are the schismatics any more than nominal schismatics at heart? Where is the difference between the majority of them and Churchmen?

I live in a village where Nonconformity has been strong for years, and taking an interest in its public life I find that the so-called “rabid Dissent” is based more upon the suspected antipathy of the parson than upon any theological difference. The Church has placed herself, to speak, in a ring fence, and Nonconformists imagine themselves to be fenced out.

I have succeeded in breaking through much of the unfortunate reserve of the Nonconformists, and I find them as body to be really admirable fellows for whom I have the greatest possible affection.

They in no particular resemble the paid political man who I contend does but libel them on public platforms. Throw out to them unfettered love and sympathy, and who shall say how soon our prayer for unity may be forthcoming? Act arbitrarily and a strengthened suspicion will bar the way. It is a most unfortunate position to contemplate, that the only thing in our common life we split upon is our Christianity.

Yours truly
Wrenthorpe Vicarage
July 11, 1902

Fund raiser to tackle church debt

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Wednesday 4 October 1905


The Mayoress of Wakefield (Mrs Childe) yesterday opened a three days bazaar in Unity Hall, Wakefield, with the object raising £500 in aid of the funds of St Anne’s Church, Wrenthorpe. The hall has been transformed into an effective representation an old Normandy Fair. It was stated by the Vicar Wrenthorpe (the Rev P S Brown) that the parish has a population of only 2,500, composed almost entirely of poor people. £325 was needed to liquidate the debt on the organ chamber and organ, £150 to complete the renovation scheme, and £25 to place the finances of the church on sound basis.

Vicar dabbles in politics

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 7 August 1905


A by-election for the Wrenthorpe Ward of Stanley Urban District Council took place Saturday. Tom Lumb was returned by 205 votes. His unsuccessful opponent, Rev Philip S Brown, Vicar of Wrenthorpe, polling 150 votes.