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Remains of the Old Church of St Thomas a Becket, Heptonstall
County: W.Yorks.
District: Calderdale
Parish: Heptonstall CP
Monument Number: ( 68 )
This record covers the standing and buried remains of the Old Church of St. Thomas Becket at Heptonstall. The church stands in the same churchyard, and approximately 60m north-east of, its successor which was built between 1850 and 1854 (see PRN 14063). The remains are designated as both a Grade II* building (List Entry No. 1226170) and a scheduled monument (List Entry No. 1016948) on the National Heritage List of England. -------------------------------------------------------------- The original church was founded in 1260 as a chapelry of St. Pancras Priory in Lewes. The building was severely damaged during a storm in 1847 when the outer face of the west wall of the tower fell away. Although the damage was repaired it was decided to build a new church which was opened in 1854. The old church was partly dismantled but the shell was left standing. The original church was aisleless with a simple nave and chancel and a squat tower. Of this date only the lower portion of the tower remains. In the 14th century the aisles and the southern porch were added but many of the surviving remains date to the 15th century when extensive alterations took place. At this time the chancel was rebuilt with flanking chapels, and a belfry stage was added to the tower. The tower arch was also raised and the tower itself was refaced. During the late 17th or early 18th century extensive alterations to the north side of the church were undertaken, with the north aisle being widened and the north chapel being rebuilt. The nave arcades, chancel arch and chancel arcades were probably also rebuilt at this time. Slightly later, the gables were raised over the east end of the south wall of the old nave and the north wall of the new nave, both of which contained stepped mullioned windows. The church which is Listed Grade II*, is built in gritstone and survives up to roof height in most places, although the roof itself is missing. The north aisle is approximately 9m wide, almost as wide as the nave itself, with a chapel at its eastern end. The arcade piers seperating the aisle from the nave are octagonal in plan and are decorated with squares and circles at the top. The southern aisle is approximately 3m wide but with similar arcade piers. The central body of the church is approximately 8m wide. The tower, which is approximately 7m square, has a rectangular stair turret to its south-east with a castellated top and perpendicular windows. The floor of the church is paved with a selection of 17th and 18th century tombstones and two cross slabs, which are possibly Late medieval or Post-medieval. (Ryder, 1988). The Churchyard is an irregular L shape. According to Pevsner, the grave yard was cleared in 1966 and the best gravestones reused, so dates and styles that are now present are probably not representative. In 1988 it was reported that some parts of the fabric [of the church] was in a poor condition and subsidence was taking place in several parts of the nave and chancel area (Ryder, 1988). A detailed study of the standing fabric was recommended to fully understand the archaeology of the building, and the need for conservation in some areas was urgent. A scheme of works was implemented by the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in the same year, in order to address some of the buildings structural problems. The conservation measures appear to have been successful as the English Heritage scheduling notification describes 'The standing and buried remains of the medieval church are generally well preserved, despite the partial dismantling which took place in the 19th century'. Because the church fell out of use in the 19th century there have been none of the usual 19th and 20th century disturbances of sub-surface archaeological features for the installation of heating systems or drains. This has provided a rare context for the preservation of important archaeological deposits. The documented and unusual history of the site is particuarly important in the understanding of medieval and susequent settlement of the village and its status within the wider medieval and post-medieval landscape. All of the modern sign posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these is included. ------------------------------------------------------------ In 2017 L. Holroyde, Bradford University, carried out a multi-frequency GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) and photogrammetry study (see PRN 16430) to the investigation of St Thomas à Becket church. A key finding of the study was a scarcely documented well which was discovered in the centre of the nave, interpreted as the explanation for the church’s location. Other archaeological features were reported as challenging to interpret due to the complexities of architectural modifications to the church. It was difficult to interpret the original 13th century structure of the church but a possible location of an early medieval wall was estimated, cutting through the well and parallel to the church’s east and west walls. Additionally, the GPR study of the graveyard found possible locations of unmarked burials. The photogrammetry techniques produced a detailed 3D model of the church which was combined with the GPR data. ....................... See also PRN 4746 for aerial photographs showing church in the context of its surrounding landscape.

Pevsner. N., 1979. The Buildings of England: Yorkshire (West Riding). p262
Johnson, J.S.,1980. AM7
Walker. J., 1981. AM12
Department of the Environment, 1984. List of Buildings of Special Architectural of Historic Interest: Borough of Calderdale: Parish of Heptonstall (HB30 List No 46).
Ryder. P.J., 1988. WYAS/CBA
Ryder. P.J., 1988. 'The Old Church of Thomas Beckett, Heptonstall' (Draft Unpublished).
O.S. card SD 92 NE 1
WY 153/11
English Heritage, 1999. Scheduling Notification
Photograph, print
WYAS, 1988. St. Thomas a Becket Church, Heptonstall Under Repair
Photograph, print
Calderdale Council, 1988. St. Thomas A Becket Church, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire: Works before and after Restoration
Photograph, print
WYAS, c.1992. St. Thomas A Becket Church, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire
Kendall. H.P., 1908. 'Heptonstall'. Proceedings of the Halifax Antiquarian Society, Vol?, p134-154
Fawcett. Rev. J., 1919. A Memorial, Historical and Architectural of the Church of Thomas a Becket, Heptonstall in the Parish of Halifax, in the County of York
Redfern, Neil EH FMW, Sept. / Oct. 2002, Site visit photographs
English Heritage, 2007, Register of Buildings at Risk
Holroyde, L., 2017. 'An Investigation of St Thomas a Becket Church using mulit-frequency GPR and photogrammetry techniques, a geophysical survey report'