Taken from 'A Brief History of Oxenhope' published in 1996 by David Samuels with many local contributors. Proceeds from the sale of the book are to support the Multiple Sclerosis action groups.
Snippets from Past Oxenhope (David Samuels)
The History of Oxenhope (Mr R Hindley)
Daily Life (Mrs Freda Feather)
Life on a hill farm (Mr Joe 'Bodkin' Feather)
Mill Life (Mrs Lucy Shackleton)
Village Life (Mrs Winnie Cowgill)
Education (Mrs Pauline Sheffield)
The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin (Mrs Margaret Hindley)
Religious Life in Oxenhope (Mrs Norma Mackrell)
Until 1845 anyone in Oxenhope who wished to
attend an Anglican church had to walk to Haworth and back to do so. Otherwise
the only churches available were Methodist and Baptist. Then an Act of
Parliament said that anywhere needing a church could build one. As the
population had increased because of the mills, the Rev. Patrick Bronte of
Haworth sent his curate, the Rev. Joseph Brett Grant to start the church in
Oxenhope. He had to hold services in a house at the top of the catsteps,
although nobody now knows which one it was. He was allowed to perform baptisms,
but marriages and funerals could only take place in a church. As a school and
vicarage were needed as well as a church, it was decided to build the school
first. This was completed in 1846, and services were held there. The Rev. Brett
Grant raised money by approaching people, telling them he needed money to build
a church, holding out his hand and asking them how much they would give him.
Charlotte Bronte described him in her novel 'Shirley' under the name of the Rev.
Don, adding that
he had walked so far he had worn out 14 pairs of shoes! She quite rightly described him as 'the champion beggar'. As a result of his persistence, the foundation stone was laid on 14 February 1849 and the finished building was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon on 11 October 1849. The total cost was £1308.
It was built in the Norman style, with its squat tower open all the way to the single bell at the top, and its internal pillars formed from a solid block of stone. This was because the architects came from Durham where the Cathedral is built in this manner. The church was 'open', that is, the pews went right to the back of the church and could seat 439 people. There was no heating in the building for over twenty years, although there were plans to put a fireplace in the vestry, as can be evidenced from the two small chimneys outside. Neither was there lighting until possibly 1891, as that was when gas bills started to be paid. The interior was slightly different to what it is now, in that the pulpit was on the right and the lectern in the centre. Behind the altar the three windows were smaller, made of plain glass, with a round window above. This was changed to its present form in 1912.
The vicarage was built across the road from the church in 1851 or 1852 and has accommodated the first nine vicars. The new vicarage was built during the incumbency of the late Rev. Tom Chives, the ninth vicar, and is now occupied by the tenth, the Rev. Canon Bruce Grainger.
The Rev. Brett Grant was vicar of Oxenhope for 35 years, and the three stained glass windows in the choir are in his memory, as is the window in the staircase, which was provided by the Sunday School.
The pulpit and lectern were donated in 1911 by the parents and family of Samuel Eric Crabtree who died as a child, and were put in their present position.
The wooden panelling round the back of the altar was put there in 1927 in memory of the 3rd vicar, the Rev. Gunyon. The four saints on top of it are St. Cuthbert who is holding the head of a Northumbrian king, St. Mary to whom the church is dedicated, St. Hilda holding Whitby Abbey and St. Chad holding Lichfield Cathedral, because in mediaeval times Oxenhope was in the diocese of Lichfield.
The altar was transferred to the side chapel when the present altar and reredos was donated in 1938 by Hilda and Marion Ambler in memory of their mother. The carving on the front is of the supper after the walk on the road to Emmaus, taken from a tapestry done by their mother.
The war memorial was placed on the wall after World War 1, and the clock, which only has two faces, added to the tower. The glass case with its memorial book was put in place after World War 2. All of these were paid for by village collection.
The offertory plate which is made of latten (a type of brass) was already old when it was given to the church at its opening. It is now in a very delicate condition, and a replacement was given and blessed on 4 December 1994. The new plate is made of old wood, thought to be elm, with the lilies of St. Mary carved in its centre by Chris Wright, a local woodworker who specialises in church carvings. On the back is carved the memorial inscription in memory of Joanna Birch from her family.
Oxenhope has been 'twinned' with St. Stephen's, Forest, West Virginia, USA, who gave a plain metal inscribed communion cup.