Skip to main content


The Story of a Station
About Us
Contact Us
Nibble and Clink
Murder at Oulton
Village Memories
First World War
Local Papers
Edward Metcalf
Volter's Films
Oulton Hall
Woodlesford House
John Batty
Reverend Mercer
Woodlesford Station
Station Masters
Clerks and Porters
Signalmen and Platelayers
Enthusiasts & Passengers
Footplate Men & Guards
Water Haigh Colliery
Bentley's Brewery
Armitage Quarries
Road Transport
Aire & Calder Navigation
Woodlesford Mill
Light Industries
Churches and Chapels
Woodlesford Church
Rev A J E Irvin
Rev Dan Ivor James
Oulton Church
Oulton Wesleyan Chapel
Woodlesford Chapel
Rev John Bell
Merchants & Shops
Traction Engines
Farms and Farmers
Post Offices
Site Map
Historical Dates
EWYU Railway
Edwin Lambert
William Lunn MP
Woodlesford Church Palm Sunday parade approaching the church gates in the early 1970s. The choir is followed by the Girls Friendly Society with their banner. The hut in the background used to be a cobbler's shop.
Woodlesford Church, before it lost its spire. 

Wakefield Express, Saturday 6th December 1930.

All Saints' Church, Woodlesford, was consecrated by the Right Rev. Dr. Bickersteth, Bishop of Ripon, on December 7th, 1870, therefore its diamond jubilee celebration takes place tomorrow (Sunday).

The Rev. Charles John Hussey, M.A., was the first incumbent, staying nearly seven years, the population increasing from 714 to 1,361, church accommodation 272, and value £150. Population in 1930 was 2,607 an the living worth £317 and house.

The Rev. A.J.E. Irvin (who, after being Curate of Rothwell, 1874-77, was the late Vicar for the long period of 48 years up to 1925) succeeded Mr. Hussey, and celebrated his own jubilee of ordination by Bishop Ryan in 1924 at Woodlesford, and also the church jubilee there in 1920.

Mr. Irvin, who now resides at Oxford was the son-in-law of the late Mr. Henry Bentley, of Eshald House, Woodlesford, who took considerable interest in the church building and gave valuable contributions to parish work generally.

Another great personality who formerly took an active part (although blind) in Woodlesford Church extension, was the late Sir Charles Hugh Lowther, third Baronet, of Swillington House, who was patron of the Rectory of Swillington, and died in 1894. The present fourth baronet, Sir Charles Bingham Lowther, is his grandson, his father, Mr. George W. Lowther, having died in 1890, in the lifetime of his grandfather.

Leeds Mercury, Saturday 9 March 1872.

At Woodlesford Church on Thursday evening, Feb 29, being the anniversary of the birthday of Sir Charles Lowther, Bart, by whom the bells were presented to this churtch, and likewise that of Mr. Matthews, one of the churchwardens, the following ringers rang a touch, consisting of 1,872 changes, in the following minor treble bob methods, 720 of New London Pleasure, 720 of Oxford, and 432 of Violet, the band being stationed as follows: Joseph Haigh, Woodlesford, 1; A. Goldthorp, Rothwell, 2; James Haigh, Woodlesford, 2; J.W. Snowdon, Ilkley, 4; W. Snowden, Ilkley, 5; J. Chapman, Rothwell, tenor. Time 64 min. Weight of tenor, 9 cwt. Conductor, James Haigh.

12 April 1895.

A new eight-day striking clock with two external dials has been fixed in Woodlesford church by Messrs. Potts & Sons of Leeds and Newcastle-on-Tyne, from instructions by Mr. R.J. Smith, architect, Leeds.

Dedicated to Timothy and Maria Bentley this stained glass
window in the south wall of the Nave illustrates the
Resurrection scene after Calvary. (Photo by James Thorp).

No. 3 Woodlesford.

Rothwell Times Friday 19 May 1882.

The following description of Woodlesford Church was written as part of a series on local churches for the Rothwell Times newspaper. It was published under the headline "Our Village Churches And Their Services" on Friday 19 May 1882 following similar articles featuring Rothwell and Oulton churches in previous editions. The articles were unsigned but the author was obviously well educated with a strong religious background and could possibly have been one of the local doctors or perhaps the editor of the paper, Andrew Marshall, or John Batty whose History of Rothwell had been published in 1878. The Vicar of Woodlesford in 1882 was Arthur John Edward Irvin who went on to be the parish's longest serving incumbent. Both his father and his grandfather were clergymen serving as the perpetual curates of Hackness and Harwood Dale near Scarborough. Arthur Irvin was educated at Rossall School near Fleetwood and played first class cricket whilst he was Oxford University between 1868 and 1871. After he retired in 1925 he moved south again and died in 1945 at the grand old age of 97 at Old Basing in Hampshire. Walter Lockwood, the organist, was a local builder and joiner who lived close to the church at Aire Vale terrace on Alma Street. He advertised his musical skills in the Rothwell Times and also supplied pianos, harmoniums and American and English organs at "wholesale prices for cash, or on the Three Years System."

As Woodlesford is in close proximity to Oulton and is part of the same township, it seems the more regular course that it should follow the twin village in the list of the churches about which I propose to write. I do not desire to place them side by side for the purpose of showing any marked contrasts or for setting one church and its services against the other to the disadvantage of either, for it is contrary to my object to do so. I wish to place each church and its service about which I write on their own merits, and to speak of them as they have impressed me in the various aspects which may come within the scope of these papers.

If Oulton or part of it is intrinsically pleasant by virtue of some or all of the attractive features mentioned in the contribution relating to it, Woodlesford is scarcely less pleasant from situation and surroundings. Placed on an elevation overlooking the valley of that "black flowing river", the Aire, it shows to advantage as seen from neighbouring points of view, and at the same time it is a very favorable place of observation for views of other places near and distant.

Christ teaching the Disciples. This window was in the
Side Chapel in the South Transept.

Looking across the valley, we see the higher portions of Swillington with the church tower just above the trees, by which in perspective, it seems environed, while on the level plain near the river is Swillington House, and to the left, Leeds-ward, nearly in a line with it the Leventhorp estate extending to Temple Newsam Park, the latter broadly stretching towards Leeds, in a north- westerly direction, and up to Whitkirk northly, and disclosing through openings in the lines of trees portions of the red brick mansion which has its past historic associations, and its more than local modern fame, while beyond may be seen the tower and mimic spire of Whitkirk Church.

Then, to say nothing of the views further to the left beyond Temple Newsam, or the westerly views beyond Rothwell and up to Middleton Wood and church, what a range we have south and eastwards - Garforth church, Castleford, Ledsham, Kippax, Pontefract Park and church, and, coming nearer home, Methley Park and church, and Clump Cliffe Hall, while Oulton seems to nestle peacefully below, like a friendly rival and ally as she is, having interests and ambitions partly independent and partly identical.

A considerable portion of the views just enumerated may be seen from the church site which is not at the highest elevation. The commercial characteristics of the neighbourhood are found here in some variety, and compromise a paper mill; (unhappily now, and for some time past, silent), a pottery, and last but much more extensive than the others the well-known brewery of Messrs Bentley & Co. Here are also the Board schools and the Mechanics Institute.

All Saints window on the north wall of the Nave showing
Old and New Testament figures. It was a memorial to two
boys from the Barker family of Aire Vale terrace who died
in childhood. Their father Benjamin Barker had been a wool
salesman, or stapler, the middleman between sheep farmers
and manufacturers.

Old Woodlesford, by which term I exclude the new community of cottage rows on the side of the village next to Oulton,consists of houses bordering each side of the public road for the length of about a quarter of a mile with several lanes or roads at right angles to the main road in which there are also tenements, and there are in addition several detached houses of a better class, chief among which is "Eshald House", belonging to Mr. H. Bentley, situate in an extensive enclosure pleasantly laid out.

The church (All Saints') is towards the lower end of the village where the railway intersects with a deep cutting, over which an arched stone bridge connects the intersected portions. It was built in 1870, at a cost of a little over £4,000, the funds being provided by public subscriptions. It is a stone building in the Gothic style, and consists of nave, chancel, and transepts, with a tower and spire at the south side, the tower containing six bells. The interior is neat and elegant. the endowment fund was provided by a wealthy resident, now dead, and is vested in trustees.

The stipend is in all about £150 a year, and the present vicar (the second holder of the benefice) is the Rev. A.J.E. Irvin, B.A., of Pembroke College, Oxford, who was previously curate at Rothwell. The services are conducted in the now prevailing style, with the aid of a surpliced choir placed in opposite sections, the reading desk being at the head of the principal choir row to the right, the lectern at the foot of the chancel steps and the pulpit at an angle formed by the chancel and the north transept.

All the sittings or stalls are on the floor of the nave and transepts, and are free. The organ, which cost between £200 and £300, is at the base of the tower, and is played with care and taste by Mr. Walter Lockwood, a painstaking musician in sympathy with his work. The "Ancient and Modern" collection of hymns is used, and the service ios choral in the usual and full sense of the term as applicable to church services.

The Pulpit.

The choir contains some good voices, but through lack of numbers the parts are not well balanced nor sufficiently full, so that there is occasionally a want of both precision and power in the singing. This is of course a misfortune rather than a fault to be criticised, and is capable of being remedied in due time by greater numerical strength.

At this church we lose one of the features which gives additional sanctity and reverence to the two churches previously noticed, and which also gives to resident parishioners, whether church-goers or not, a personal if somewhat sentimental interest in the place. There is no burial ground.

We have, however, here what we have not at the other two churches, viz.: a tuneful peal of bells which give out their music joyously and present a time honoured feature which has long ago and often supplied a moral and a theme to poetry and romance.

Moses carrying the Ten Commandments which
were originally marked in gold leaf Roman numerals.
Mr. Irvin is a good specimen of the average clergyman. The average clergyman is usually earnest in his work but his earnestness moves in a rather circumscribed course, and does not usually lead to any, even the least departure from a beaten track.

He is like one who, having to make frequent and regular journeys to a given place, will not leave the dusty hard highway nor vary the route one jot, although the new beauty of unfamiliar wayside flowers might gladden the eye and awaken new sympathies, and the sight of a fairer landscape and a wider field of vision might remove some perhaps involuntarily acquired prejudices, and enlarge the bounds of that spirit of charity which "vaunteth not itself but rejoiceth in the truth." 

In his selected sphere and in his work, however, Mr. Irvin is earnest. His reading of the service is distinct, and of course accurate in pronunciation, but somewhat monotonous in tone, and his aspect and demeanour are as grave as the most decorous church goer could wish. He preaches from a manuscript, and uses it unreservedly, but the matter is invariably of a kind to fix and keep the attention during the twenty minutes which the sermon usually occupies. He is often direct and pointed in his reference to and correction of faults, and lapses to which poor humanity is subject.

He does not indulge much in simile or in illustration outside Biblical narrative and exhortation, but he gives now and then an apposite poetical quotation not unfrequently from the great preacher for all ages, Shakespeare, to garnish and strengthen his discourse. Here again we have no decided high church manifestations, for the simple cross on the communion table will surely not offend the most rigorous taste for simplicity. We to whom the atonement is the grand fundamental doctrine, hold up the cross as the theme of our warmest ejacualtions and the emblem of our best religious hope and faith, and its image at any time in a place devoted to religious worship should be acceptable to the true worshiper.

Perhaps Mr. Irvin's tendencies are in the direction of more pronounced high church forms, but if so, he wisely abstains from any departure towards which he is not likely to carry his congregation with him, and is content to subordinate his own preference to theirs in matters not possessing a vital importance. One of Mr. Irvin's natural failings is lack of humour. If it exists it is in a latent form and wants developing. Of course we do not wish for quips and jests in the pulpit - "We seek divine simplicity in him Who handles things divine."

But a vein of humour begets a sprightliness of manner which is the more acceptable either in church ministrations or in outside intercourse, and secures more hearty sympathy and cooperation.

The question of stipend scarcely comes within the scope of a notice of this kind, but I cannot resist the opportunity of saying that the amount of the Woodlesford Vicar's income ought to be increased if possible. The office, the social position, and the means of doing good by stealth (without self impoverishment), which is one of the clergyman's unwritten duties and privileges demand a more liberal income form this benefice than what is at present dervied.

Referring again and in conclusion to the services, if any of the readers of this contribution who are not members of the congregation wish to enjoy an occasional change by attending another service than that to which they are accustomed, I am sure they will find the services at Woodlesford Church much to interest and little if anything to be dissatisfied with, and they may very appropriately acknowledge their satisfaction to their own consciences by a liberal contribution to the offertory which is devoted to current church expenses and does not always meet the demands upon it.

Woodlesford Church altar, reredos, and choir stalls. The altar was installed in October 1920 as a
memorial to 27 Woodlesford men killed in the First World War. It was made of solid oak, subscribed
to by 70 "present and former parishoners" and consecrated by Bishop William Edmund Smyth, formerly
the Bishop of Lebombo in Mozambique. The three saints depicted on the front are: St. Alban, the first
English soldier to die for his country; St. Michael, the leader of the hosts of Heaven; and St. George,
the patron saint of England. A list of the men who died was also made and placed in the west end of
the church. They were: Thomas Arch, William Blacker, Fred Carter, Henry Craven, Walker Crossland,
John Borman, Thomas Dalton, Walter Dunwell, Wilfred Dunwell, Hubert Ellis, Arthur Farrer,
William Goward, Henry Hamer, John Hare, Fred Hornby, Robert Metcalf, John Morton, Colin Nicholson,
William Preen, Wilfred Ryder, Arthur Storey, Claude Taylor, Clarence Ward, William Wass,
Joseph Watson, Marshall Westmoreland, William Wild.