History and Architecture
Growth of the Town of Batley
Upper Batley in the 1700's would have taken the form of small cottages, with the exception of Batley Hall. The situation began to change with the invention of Shoddy by a Batley man around 1813. Shoddy, a form of cloth made from recycling rags, laid the foundations of prosperity. As Batley gained wealth, Upper Batley began to develop with larger Victorian houses. In keeping with their values and in response to the need for additional places of worship in the town the local wealthy business people invested in the church of St Thomas at Grosvenor Road. Several wealthier residents also helped fund the construction of a school and a hospital. Upper Batley is now a conservation area which importantly still includes the school, a former hospital and St Thomas Church.
The Land and Costs
The Church stands on land given by the Earl of Wilton in 1867 to the then Diocese of Ripon [prior to the creation of the Diocese of Wakefield in 1888]. The cost of the building, along with that of the School and adjacent Vicarage, was funded mainly by public subscription. The total cost, including the church organ, amounted to £10,343 2s 3d which would be around £4.3 million in today’s money! (estimate as at September 2018).
Design & Features
The church, which is now a Grade II listed building, was designed by Architect Walter Hanstock, by this time a resident of Batley, and was completed in 1868. Designed in a Gothic Revival Style the tower of the church is surmounted by a tall spire which is a landmark for many miles around and dominates the landscape of Upper Batley. Inside, the most spectacular feature is the stained-glass window at the east end of the church; this was given by Mr Hanstock’s business partner Michael Sheard and his wife Anne in memory of their daughter Gertrude who had died in 1867 at the age of 7 (see Photo Gallery). This and the other stained-glass windows along with the font, lectern and pulpit, were gifts from local men, many of whom had made their fortune when Batley was eminent as the “Shoddy Capital” of the world. The Conacher Pipe Organ which was installed in 1878, rebuilt in 1919 and converted to ‘solid state’ in 2014 remains central to our worship.
The current high altar which was installed in 1954 is a fine example of oak furniture by Robert Thompson, Mouseman® of Kilburn, whilst the high altar rails were crafted by Martin Dutton ‘Lizardman’ from Huby, nr. York and were installed in 1957.
More Recent Additions & Alterations
The nave altar and altar rails, which were installed in 1975, were crafted by a local carpenter out of oak rescued from a church demolition in Huddersfield. The lights in the choir stalls were added in 1983.
In 2001, our Mission Church of St. Luke's in Soothill closed its doors for the last time but several artefacts were saved and subsequently incorporated into St Thomas’. These items include the altar and wooden reredos which are situated on the south side of the building. This section of the church is considered to be ‘St Luke’s Chapel’ and is used regularly for mid-week services.
During 2005 the interior of the building was reordered; the pews were removed and replaced with chairs to create more flexibility; a meeting room/kitchenette was created in the north west corner and an office was created in the south west corner which was originally the main entrance to the building, although this has since been converted in to our Prayer Room; the west door became the main entrance and a new internal porch was added. Disabled access was installed to the west door and toilet facilities suitable for all were incorporated on the south side
With the exclusion of the above and works of repair, in particular major repairs to the tower and spire in 2012, redecoration and improvements to heating and lighting, the church, particularly its structure, remains as it was in 1868.