With regard to the proposal to enlarge Sowerby Church, in the middle of last century, it was thought that if the roof were taken off and the walls raised considerably higher, galleries might be erected, which would provide the additional accommodation required. It was not until considerable steps had been taken in this direction that it was found impracticable and then it was decided to adopt the bolder scheme, and erect a new church. From the extensive memoranda, made at the time by George Stansfeld, Esq., of Field house, to which reference was made last week, I find that a meeting was held on the 23rd of February, 1759, when a plan of the old building was produced by Mr Stansfeld, It was then decided that the plan should be re- drawn, with several proposed amendments, and laid before the next meeting. The following resolutions were also passed;-
"Resolved that John Law is a proper person to get the moor stones for the front of the steeple, the front and the east end of the chapel, and all the columns; and that he be allowed and paid one penny per foot to be measured when walled and according to admeasurement of the mason, on the following conditions;-
To get the said stones in such place as the subscribers order, and in the manner and within the time they direct at their meetings. To lead them into the carts ordered to carry them away. To find all tools and utensils, except a trestle to hoist up the said stones. And to receive only such sums of money on account from time to time as the subscribers shall direct at their meetings."
Stone merchants at the present day would think a penny per foot a curious price to receive for stone of sufficiently good quality for the walls of a church but even at this price the measurement was to be taken after the stones had been dressed and walled.
A meeting was held at the King's Head Inn, Sowerby on the 20th of April, 1759, when it was ordered "That Messrs Israel Wilde, Richard Thomas, John Butterworth, John Welsh, Joseph Wells, William Barker, William Starkey, Luke Greenwood, and George Stansfeld, or any of them lay in a quantity of timber not exceeding the value of £200, and about 500 of slate.
The quarry where it was decided to obtain the stone was on the moor at the top of Sowerby. At that time there was no proper cart road to it, and at a meeting held on the 4th of May, 1759, it was arranged that "any two of the said gentlemen do set out and make a carriage road from the Slack to the Long Causey." John Wilson was employed to do the dressing, walling, and finishing of the front, the east end, and west end, till he came to the steeple and he was to be paid as follow:-
"For the windows, the achlors between the windows, and the dados, 7d. per foot. For the shafts of the pilasters and columns, within and without, 9d. per foot For the moulded work, 11d. per foot For the banisters, 5s. per banister, and for his care over and keeping an account of the labourers and others employed about the chapel, ten guineas, or twenty guineas, if he looses upon the whole."
At a meeting held 1st June, 1759, it was ordered that such persons as undertake the carrying of stones from the Slack upon Blackwood Moor be paid the following prices:-
For a man, horse and cart, bringing 48 square pounds, 10d. per gate (or journey). For a man two horses, and cart, bringing 72 square pounds, 1s. 3d. per gate; and one shilling per horse per day for any additional number of horses.
At a meeting of the subscribers on the 15th of June 1759, there were present Messrs, John welsh, George Stansfeld Israel Wile, David Waterhouse, Elkanah Holroyde, John Butterwoth, Wm. Moore, Wm. Starkey, John Sutcliffe, John Tillotson, and John Garnett. It was ordered that 2s. 6d. in the pound upon the subscriptions to be paid on Sunday, the 1st of July, after evening service, at the communion table!
A plan of the front of the building was laid before the subscribers, on the 13th of July, by John Wilson, the mason; and on the 27th of the same month he was ordered to prepare and lay before the next meeting a ground plan of a new church, to be the same length as the old one, but one yard wider; for it was thought that the old foundations would not bear the extra strain put upon them by raising the walls considerably higher. Whilst the plans for the new church were being matured, Geo Stansfeld, Esq., occupied no small portion of his time in obtaining additional subscriptions. The story is told of an old farmer living on his farm near Mytholmroyd who, when he saw Mr Stansfeld coming down the fields, guessed his object, and tried to hide himself. His fireplace was one of the old fashioned stamp, having an immense opening at the bottom. Into this opening the farmer got, but he was not sufficiently quick to get into the chimney out of sight. Mr Stansfeld caught him, and told him he wanted a subscription of a certain sum for the new church. Placing his sooty fingers on Mr Stansfeld's shoulder, on whose coat he left his mark, the farmer said, "Nay Meister Stansfeld, aw connot doo't; aw connot doo't." Whether at last he managed to do it, the story says not.
On the 11th of January, 1760, another call of 2s. 6d. in the pound upon the subscriptions was made, being made payable on the 27th of that month.
At a meeting on the 30th of May, 1760, as some disputes had arisen with John Law, the stone getter, concerning the bargain made with him, it was resolved that the said disputes be referred to Mr William Cockroft, Mr Stephen Atkinson and Mr William Whitworth, and that the determination be final. These arbitrators decided that the subscribers should take all the stones got by John Law, in consideration of £35 14s. already paid to him, and that all bargains and agreements betwixt the subscribers and John Law should henceforth cease and be of none effect. At a meeting of subscribers on the 12th of June it was ordered that John Wilson undertake the getting of the rest of the stones according to the late agreement made with John Law
On the 11th December, 1760, it was resolved, "that notice be given for the owners of seats in the chapel to appear on Sunday, the 21st of December inst. and the succeeding Sundays in the chapel, after evening service to make good their claims, in order to prevent disputes hereafter."
The following is a notice published in the chapel yard, on Sunday, the 22nd of March:-
"Notice is hereby given, that the foundation of the new chapel will be begun tomorrow, and it being holyday (holiday) time, if any young or well inclined persons are willing to give assistance, it will be taken very kindly."
"Pursuant to this notice, great numbers came on the Monday and Tuesday in Easter week 1760, and almost dug the foundation, so that wages began to be paid to labourers only on the Wednesday in Easter week." Thus the work of digging for the foundations of the present Church at Sowerby commenced on Easter Monday, March 23rd, 1760.
On the 30th of April, 1761, another call of 2s. 6d. in the pound was ordered to be made.
The following is a copy or a petition sent to his Grace the Archbishop of York, May 8th, 1761:-
To the most Reverend Father in God, John, by divine Providence Lord Archbishop of York , Primate of England, and Metropolitan.
The humble petition of the curate churchwardens, principal inhabitants, and landowners of and within the township of Sowerby, in the Parish of Halifax, in the County of York, and within your Grace's diocese of York, whose names are hereunto subscribed on behalf of themselves and others, the inhabitants of and within the said township.
Sheweth that there is within the said township of Sowerby an ancient but small chapel of ease, which by length of time is much decayed in the roof and other parts thereof. That by reason of the inhabitants within the said township, the said chapel is not capable of containing above two thirds of the inhabitants, who are desirous to attend divine worship therein, and for want of room many repair to Conventicles and Dissenters Meeting houses, that would otherwise attend divine worship in the said chapel, who have, in order thereto, contributed very considerable sums of money towards enlarging the same. Your petitioners therefore had intended to have raised the walls of the said ancient chapel so much higher, that they might have erected new galleries around the same sufficient to have contained all the inhabitants within the said township, but were advised to the contrary, because the said chapel stands on a steep declivity, very inconvenient of access to the said inhabitants, and difficult to be secured in its foundation. That the chapel yard or burying ground is so small that many of the dead are buried in the isles and under the seats within the said chapel, and the corpses of persons lately buried in the chapel yard are frequently mangled in digging to make room for others, to the great detriment and nuisance of the living.
That your petitioners being moved with a deep concern by these great inconveniences and frequent indecencies, and in order to remedy the same, as far as in them lies, and with a pious zeal and regard for the true religion of their country, have raised by a voluntary contribution among ourselves, the sum of one thousand two hundred pounds or thereabouts, and thereout have purchased and obtained a piece of ground adjoining the said chapel yard, containing 1,500 yards or thereabouts and in case your Grace be pleased to approve of their good designs, intend to build at their own expense, in and upon the said purchased piece of ground, an entire new chapel, sufficient to contain all the inhabitants within the said township, and to have the same, when built, consecrated to the honour and glory of God and for Divine uses; and they hope by entirely taking down and removing the old chapel, and thereby adding to the present chapel yard, sufficient room would be given for the burial of the dead therein. Therefore your petitioners most humbly pray your Grace's approbation of their designs, and that your Grace would vouchsafe to grant a license to take down and remove the old chapel, and to erect and build a new one on the said new purchased piece of ground, at the distance of 30 yards towards the south, from the said ancient chapel, together with seats and pews and lofts and galleries therein, for the use of the inhabitants of the said township, or give such orders and directions, in the premises as to our Grace shall seem most proper and convenient, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall ever pray for your Graces' welfare and prosperity.