'The largest parish church in the W parts of the West Riding' (Pevsner 1967, 229) is a mostly 15thc. building with only traces of an earlier structure. It was restored in 1879. The church has a five-bay nave with aisles, a W tower, a small N porch, a larger S porch, and a S chapel (Holdsworth chapel); the aisled chancel is also of five bays and has a N chapel (Rokeby chapel). The nave altar is currently in the fourth bay of the chancel.
For general illustrations and plan, see Ryder (1991, 75-77; fig. 89; plan in fig. 155).
The 12thc. remains are fragmentary, and sometimes puzzling.
No pre-Conquest stones are recorded in Coatsworth (2008).
The manor of Wakefield was granted to William, second Earl de Warenne by Henry I, probably in 1106. The Warennes gave the church to Lewes Priory, a gift confirmed in 1147 by the third earl. The church was granted to Hubert Walter c.1170-1186; he became archbishop of Canterbury in 1193 (Faull and Moorhouse 1981, 385-386).
According to John Lister, the grant to Lewes was made c.1116-1121 (Crossley 1939).
In the N aisle, a series of shallow pilasters is seen, with a plain and chamfered string course at their top. The exterior of this wall in part has an ashlar surface of stones that could be of 12thc. dimensions; at the top this area has what could be the remains of a string course.
Only four fragments were found by the fieldworker, although many more are mentioned in the literature. All four had a similar chevron pattern, but only two were close at hand and easy to see in the lighting conditions. They were not boldly moulded nor regularly drawn, and even allowing for the wear they have endured, they are not thought to be work of the later 12thc.
Fragment 1, nave S clerestory wall, bay 3. Located against the moulding of the arch. One stone with two shallowly-carved 'zig-zags' formed of a roll, three narrower steps and another roll. This stone may have a slight curvature at the top, indicating a section of label.
Fragment 3, Holdsworth chapel, E wall. Located below the window and is visible across the altar table. One unit of chevron, set sideways and similar to the previous two. Yellowish gritstone.
Fragment 4, N aisle, N wall. Located at the base of the westernmost window, just outside the lower L corner of the mouldings. Two zigs on one stone. Fine-grained, light grey, micaceous gritstone.
|Fragment 3, h.||0.195m|
|Fragment 3, max. w.||0.205m|
|Fragment 4, h.||0.195m|
|Fragment 4, w.||0.27m|
Some are 'loose', but, according to Ryder, (1991) more fragments, less easily seen, were built into the fabric.
Ryder identifies six grave-slabs that appear to be of 12thc. date (1991, 25-26), and many other remnants that could be of the same period.
Ryder's slabs 1-4 are fixed by metal brackets to the wall of the S porch.
|Slab 1. h.||1.68m|
|Slab 1. max. w.||0.62m|
|Slab 1. thickness||0.06m|
|Slab 2. h.||1.61m|
|Slab 2. max. w.||0.41m|
|Slab 2. thickness||0.11m|
|Slab 3. h.||1.055m|
|Slab 3. max. w.||0.46m|
|Slab 3. thickness||0.11m|
|Slab 4. h.||1.21m|
|Slab 4. max. w.||0.5m|
|Slab 4. thickness||0.12m|
Slab 1. W of the doorway into the nave. Solid cross patee, central bored hole, background sunken slightly; circular head, stem and two steps outlined by incised line. Shears to right outlined.
Slab 2. E of the door to the nave. Similar to slab 1, but no additional motif.
Slab 3. W of the outer door. Top 2/3 of slab only, also broken on R side. The cross head has arms ending in three-fold foliage (or two leaves and a bud), within a sunken ground. The stem of the cross is made by incised lines as before.
Slab 4. E of the outer door. Foot and upper L corner of slab missing. Edges of the slab are chamfered more finely than the others, perhaps the finder fabric allowed it. Pattern formed by pairs of parallel incised lines, except the stem where the lines appear to taper towards the foot. The head of the cross is formed by a diagonally set square developed from the stem, interwoven with a four-fold loop.
This slab Ryder says 'may be more precisely dated to the third quarter of the century' (1991, 26).
Barber, F., Halifax Parish Church, 1876, reprinted as 'The architecture of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Halifax', in Halifax Antiquarian Society Record Series 3 (1917) with notes by J. Bilson.
E. Coatsworth, Western Yorkshire. CASSS vol. VIII, Oxford, 2008.
S. Crabtree and G. Washington, Halifax Parish Church, St. John the Baptist. Halifax, 1994.
E. W. Crossley, "Halifax Parish Church: The Chevron Mouldings.", Halifax Antiquarian Society Transactions (1939), 1-3.
M. L. Faull and S. A. Moorhouse, eds., West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to 1500, Wakefield, 1981.
T. W. Hanson, 'Halifax Parish Church: The Norman Era.', Halifax Antiquarian Society Transactions (1953), 21-30.
N. Pevsner, Yorkshire: West Riding. The Buildings of England, Harmondsworth, 1959, 2nd. ed. revised E. Radcliffe. 1967.
P. Ryder, Medieval Cross Slab Grave Covers in West Yorkshire, Wakefield, 1991.