The church across the water

St Stephen's Church, Copley, West Yorkshire

St Stephen’s Church, Copley, West Yorkshire

I find it hard to imagine the sheer power of churches in nineteenth-century England.

There’s a specific reason why the magnificent parish church of St Stephen, Copley, West Yorkshire, was built on the opposite side of the River Calder from Colonel Edward Akroyd’s model village beside the mill.

The vicar of All Saints’, Dudwell, objected having a new church so near his own, so the site was moved from the main road to the woods beyond the village.

The £4,000 cost of the building was raised by public subscription, and Colonel Akroyd spent a further £5,000 of his own money on the furnishings, stained glass, and building the chancel and sacristy.

Consecrated in 1865, it’s a complete essay in Victorian church design by the Huddersfield architect William Henry Crossland (1835-1908) – rich in stained-glass, some of it by Hardman & Co, carving, mosaic and painted decoration.

Furthermore, according to Malcolm Bull’s informative Calderdale Companion website, Colonel Akroyd contributed to the vicar’s stipend.

In 1872 Colonel Akroyd took against the practices of the vicar he’d appointed, Rev J B Sidgwick, and stopped paying his voluntary contribution.  A group of parishioners promptly made up the deficiency, while others decamped to the local Methodist church.

St Stephen’s, which is big enough to seat a third of the village, is now redundant, and is maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust:

Graham White has an admirable series of photographs of the interior at

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2012 Yorkshire Mills & Mill Towns tour, with text, photographs and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £10.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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