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Chapter 7

St. Peter’s Church1

“The Church’s restoration,
In eighteen eighty three,
Has left for contemplation,
Not what there used to be.”

John Betjeman

The first part of the large and ancient parish of Guiseley to get a Chapel of Ease was Horsforth where one was in existence before 1575. Francis Layton saw that Rawdon was the next most distant part of the Parish and despite previous heavy fines, he still remained wealthy enough to commence building a Chapel of Ease in 1645. The work proceeded slowly no doubt due to the unsettled state of the county in the aftermath of the Civil War and even the wealthy could have cash-flow problems.

Slater quotes a tradition that it was 15 years before the roof was on and this is compatible with the inscription on the bell “Francis Layton 1660”. Slater also speaks of a fire but gives no details.


In his will of 1653 Francis directed that his son Henry should finish the chapel. He directed that a rent charge be raised on part of his estate, of which £20 p.a. was to be paid to the Minister of Rawdon “provided that such Minister had gained possession by induction and reading” i.e. the 39 Articles implying traditional Anglican beliefs. This would have been inspired by the intrusion of Puritan ministers into churches during the Commonwealth period.

There is a full note in the Guiseley Registers on the consecration as follows:

“On Friday the Second of May, 1684, John Dolben, Archbishop of York, came from his primary visitation at Otley and Guiesley and laid that night at ye Parsonage house. Dr. Will Brearey, Archdeacon of yr East Riding, being then Rector of Guiesley, where the next day His Grace confirmed at morning and evening prayer about three hundred and fifty persons of ye Parishes of Guiesley and Addle. On Sunday, ye fourth of May, Hee concerated ye Chappell of Rawden and preached there. In ye afternoon Hee concerated ye Chappell yard, and after the Evening Prayer Hee confirmed several persons in that Chappell. On Munday, ye fifth of May, Hee returned to His Grace’s Pallace at Bishopthorpe, having laid three nights at ye Parsonage of Guiesley.”

There was comment at the time of the number of dissenting families in the parish who failed to attend the consecration service. The Archbishop was John Dolben (1624-88) who was at York from 1683 to 1688. He had been the King’s Standard Bearer at Marston Moor in 1644 and had been wounded in the shoulder. As an old Cavalier he may have been sympathetic to Francis Layton and his family.

Very few churches were built during the Commonwealth period, Staunton Harold, Leicestershire being perhaps the best known. Built by Sir Robert Shirley, it was said of him, as could be said of Francis Layton that “he did the best of things in the worst of times”.

It seems that after Francis’ death it was his younger son Thomas who did more than Henry to complete the church. He built the tower,
 where a stone is still visible with the inscription “T.L. 1704”, the old parsonage, the wall to Town Street and the gates.3

A print of the church from the 1820s does not show it as a very impressive building and a writer in ‘The Leeds Intelligencer’ (later The Yorkshire Post) wrote in 1843:

“Rawdon church is of small dimension … for the most part neat. A tower with an elevated roof stands at the west end and at the east, a chancel of proportionate size. This latter part seems to have been separated from the nave by a screen which has been taken down and demolished except a small decorated portion which has been placed in a most unsuitable position over the altar. It is inscribed Thomas Layton de Rawdon 1713 – aged 78. Appended to the same is an unsightly nondescript object, sign board-like, and which is affixed for the purpose of recording the names of certain individuals, who were honoured officials of the church, when it was once painted and coloured.

At the opposite end, a gallery has been recently erected;4 it (the church) contains a good toned organ; but the church is not graced by its windows which are of the kind peculiar to the 17th century, when architecture is said to have been at its lowest ebb.

The Parsonage is now, what it has long been celebrated as being, a receptacle for the education of youth.” (See p. 39)

Very little is known about the rebuilding of 1864. The architect was Alexander Crawford of East Parade, Leeds. He had been a pupil of the great Cuthbert Broderick (Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Corn Exchange, The Grand Hotel, Scarborough, etc.) but by 1882 he had ceased to practise and it seems Rawdon Church was his only major project. The nave and the chancel were rebuilt with a small vestry to the north of the chancel (later enlarged). The south aisle was added covering some tombs, the tower left as it was but the gallery removed. The pitch of the roof was lowered as is evidenced by the blocked window on the east wall of the tower. Some of the original stone may have been reused, especially on the north wall.

The total cost was £1,200 (maybe £500,000 today) part of which was raised by assigning seats in the south aisle and as late as 1923 one of these was still claimed by Miss Stables of Four Lane Ends Farm, Horsforth. A small choir vestry was erected in 1908 to the northwest at a cost of £947. The nave was re-roofed in 1969 at a cost of £2,000, it being possible to reuse many of the slates.

The former school, (‘The Institute’) was sold in 1979 for £15,000 for housing conversion and this helped towards the replacement of the choir vestry with the larger St. Peter’s Room at a total cost of £35,000. This was opened in 1980.

Shortly before the Tercentenary Celebrations in 1984 there was considerable internal re-ordering to bring the area in front of the chancel screen into line with modern ideas of layout and liturgical practice. The main addition was a free-standing oak altar in memory of Tony Slack (1920-82) together with a Jacobean style embroidered frontal.

The original parsonage built by Thomas Layton was restored and extended in the time of the Rev. John Deason (1745-80), partly at his own expense. By 1963 it had become virtually uninhabitable and was demolished and replaced by the modern vicarage to the design of Peter Hill.

The original churchyard measured 180 feet by 105 feet and has been extended twice, first to the north in 1829 when it was walled at the expense of Mrs Oswald Emmott. It was closed in 1869 by Order in Council. Secondly in 1870 by a gift from the Major General of about one and a half acres which were laid out and walled at a cost of £215. In about 1980 it was levelled, over 160 tons of kerbs removed and tidied to make it easier to mow.

The stocks are clearly visible on an old print. They were removed in the 1860s but after some vicissitudes found and restored to the church in 1925.5

The Jubilee Hall, mainly for Scout and Guide use was opened in 1978 on part of the Church Field6 in Layton Avenue, leased from Leeds City Council for 99 years. It is vested in the Scout Trust Corporation on trust for local use.

Having built and endowed the church, the Laytons naturally retained the patronage of the living and this is confirmed in the consecration deed which also imposed on the estate the liability to repair and refit the church. Payments for this purpose were made as late as 1905.

In 1740 there was a dispute over patronage involving the then Rector of Guiseley (the Rev. Henry Wickham). Affidavits were taken from various old inhabitants but ultimately he admitted that the Lord of the Manor had the right. However in 1909 the advowson was transferred to the Bishop of the Diocese (then Ripon), the Archdeacon and trustees.

It was never a wealthy living. It was augmented in 1742 by Christopher Wainhouse, (later Emmott) with a gift of £200 and a further £200 from Queen Anne’s Bounty. Richard Emmott gave a further £200 in 1769 and Queen Anne’s Bounty helped again in 1822 and 1824. The transfer in 1909 enabled Queen Anne’s Bounty to help yet again and in 1930 Henry Fison Killick7 left £250 to further augment the living. Even today the Church Commissioners’ accounts only show a yield of £489 on the invested capital.

I do not propose to discuss the windows and internal fittings in detail, as I have done that elsewhere, but the east window, a better than normal example of Victorian stained glass by Wm. Wailes of Newcastle was given in memory of John White of Upperwood House, Apperley Lane. (See p. 45) He was churchwarden in 1824 and 1827 and the employer of Charlotte Brontë as governess for his children from March to December 1841. There is no record of Charlotte actually attending Rawdon Church during her stay. What is curious is that though the window is at Rawdon, White was buried in a family vault at Calverley under a large and tasteless monument. There is also a memorial tablet to him in that church.

As for the incumbents, little is known about the first five, not even the Christian names of the first two. Of the Rev. John Deason (1718-80, at Rawdon 1745-80) we can assume that he had some private means as it is known that he was able to advance £100 out of his own pocket to purchase land to augment the living; give £10 towards the cost of underdrawing the church roof (which no doubt made the building easier to warm) and, as we have seen, paid towards the improvement of the parsonage. His grave in the chancel has recently been uncovered.

The Rev. Samuel Stones (1745-1823), at Rawdon 1780-1823 is a clearer figure. There is a brass tablet in the church in his memory with a fulsome inscription that reads:

“Sacred to the memory of the late Rev. Samuel Stones curate8 of this chapelry, for 42 years; who departed this life May 12th, 1823, aged 78 years. He died in the faith of Christ; in whom alone he trusted for the salvation of his soul. While God was pleased to give him health he discharged all the duties of his sacred office with Faithfulness, Zeal, Diligence and Love. He was a kind and affectionate father, a good master and an exemplary Christian.

As a preacher he was plain and forthright, zealous, scriptural and spiritual, particularly anxious to impress on others those evangelical truths which were the delight and support of his own soul. When it pleased the Lord to deprive him of that privilege he was anxiously careful to provide a faithful pastor to watch over his flock.”

However this is not mere 18th century flattery as John Wesley’s9 Journal confirms:

“On Tuesday 6th May 1778 I accepted the invitation of Mr. Stone a truly pious and active man, and preached in his church at Rawdon to a very serious congregation on “Repent ye and believe the Gospel”.

There is an interesting entry in the Burial Register in Mr Stones’s time:

“1800 April 13th. Buried Sarah Bailey, executed at York.”

She was 25 years of age and had been hanged the previous day for passing forged notes. As it is highly unlikely that the body would have been brought from York, one wonders whether Mr Stones had the grisly task of attending her on the scaffold and if so, why was he chosen?

Mr Stones’s successor was the Rev. Antony Ibbotson who, as we shall see, ran a boys’ seminary. The Rev. John Dickinson Knowles (at Rawdon 1858-65) was the incumbent during the 1864 rebuilding and was followed by the Rev. George Mills, who in 1877 gave way to his elder brother, the Rev. Septimus Mills. However there were problems for the Rev. Septimus. In 1905, as a result of an enquiry instituted by the Bishop of Ripon, he was suspended as vicar though allowed to remain in the vicarage until his death in 1921.10 He had been accused of “neglect of duty whereby the Church, the Churchyard, Sunday School and all church work had been brought into a most woeful state”. Though the charge may have been true it is now accepted that he was a most generous man who had given away a considerable amount of money during his stay in Rawdon. If anything it shows the tragic inability of the Church of England, still not entirely solved, to provide accommodation and decent pensions for its servants when they become past coping. As I have written elsewhere on them I do not propose to discuss more recent incumbents.

There are some interesting items of silver, especially a goblet-chalice and two pattens marked “Rawden Chapell Plate 1723”. It is curious that there is also silver at Horsforth with the same date. A possible explanation is that about that time there was a dispute over the presentation to Guiseley Rectory and an interregnum there over a year. Thus it may have been thought that they were necessary for the celebration of Holy Communion at Rawdon and Horsforth. But who gave them?


1. See also History of Rawdon Parish Church (1923) – Rev. J.H. Edwards.

2. The tower is 44 feet high to the top of the parapet and 52 feet to the top of the weather vane. It measures 20 feet square and at the base the walls are 4 feet thick. The clock face is 4 feet 5 inches in diameter and both parapet and weather vane are 4 feet high. The first clock came from Leeds Parish Church in 1825 and Cudworth said it was notorious for bad time keeping! It was replaced in 1921/2 by one from Potts of Leeds which is now electrically driven.

3. Unfortunately the stone globes topping the gate posts have had to be taken down in recent years.

4. The faculty for the gallery was dated 1785, obviously reflecting a growth in population. There had been extensive repairs in 1825, which explains ‘recently’.

5. There was a case of stocks bring used in Horsforth as late as 1878.

6. The name suggests that it was originally church property held possibly with a view to extending the graveyard. During the last War it was used for allotments. At some stage the Council acquired it and it is a public space with swings etc. for children.

7. (1840-1930) A Bradford solicitor and local historian. He was also much involved with the foundation of St. Andrew’s Church, Yeadon.

8. The perpetual curate did not become a vicar until 1868. Until 1839 all marriages had to be held at Guiseley Church.

9. Wesley was then 85 years of age and one of the greatest equestrians of the 18th century was then having to travel by chaise.

10. Rawdon U.D.C. had been very concerned about a pony and geese being kept in the churchyard and the insanitary conditions of the vicarage.