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St John, Halifax, Yorkshire, West Riding

(53°43′23″N, 1°51′16″W)
SE 097 252
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Yorkshire, West Riding
now West Yorkshire
  • Barbara English
  • Rita Wood
29 Jul 1997

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'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).


Exterior Features

Exterior Decoration


Interior Features

Interior Decoration




According to Bilson, the W wall of the crypt below the N choir aisle shows Norman ashlar and marks the E limit of the 12thc. church (see Barber 1917). The crypt was not seen by the fieldworker.

Nave N wall. Dr A. Hamilton-Thompson, if not Dr. J. Bilson before him, suggested that 'the interior face of the N wall of the nave aisle had been the exterior face of the S wall of a Norman Church that stood further to the north of the present site' (Hanson 1953, 30). According to H. E. Wroot the ashlar on the present exterior surface is of gannister in the lower courses.

Reset chevron stones. John Bilson inspected the fabric and his comments may be found in full in Barber 1917. He thought the chevron profile of the scattered remnants (of two angular fillets between two rolls) would date from 1120 or after. E. W. Crossley (1939, 1-3) described finding some of the chevron stones after plaster had been removed from W end of N aisle wall, high up on the N face of the S clerestory wall towards the W end of the arcade, and built into the E wall of the Holdsworth chapel. From a ladder, he saw "other stones similar, but dressed down" around fragment 2. Ryder 1993, 155, says there are 'a large number of reused 12th-century architectural fragments and carved stones scattered all round the building.' Only stones 3 and 4 were easy to see, they were not boldly moulded or regularly drawn. Even allowing for wear, it is not thought that they can be work of the later 12thc..


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.