At the same time that Colonel Edward Akroyd set out his model village of Akroyden in 1855-6, he began work on his greatest gift to the locality, All Soul’s Church, Haley Hill.
He employed George Gilbert Scott, who also provided the original layout for the village, to design the grandest possible statement of High Anglican pride, a fourteenth-century Gothic church with a tower 236 feet high, one foot higher than that of his carpet-manufacturing rivals, the Crossleys’,Congregational Square Church down in the valley below.
Scott was and is generally regarded as the best architect alive at the time, and Scott himself described All Souls’ as “on the whole, my best church”.
As might be expected, the finest decorative materials were used – Minton tiles, glass by Clayton & Bell, Hardman & Co, and William Wailes, ironwork by Skidmore & Co, the font of Lizard serpentine marble standing on an Aberdeen granite base, Caen stone for the pulpit, alabaster for the reredos.
The tower houses a ring of eight bells by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the four-manual Foster & Andrews organ of 1868 was the biggest in Halifax.
This huge church became redundant in 1979, and stood neglected until 1989 when the Churches Conservation Trust took it over.
Unfortunately, the Steetley limestone Scott chose for the structure reacted badly to atmospheric pollution, and the twin tasks of conserving the fabric and securing it against vandalism are prodigious.
Details of access and coming events at All Souls’ are at All Souls’ Church, Halifax Haley Hill, West Yorkshire | The Churches Conservation Trust (visitchurches.org.uk)
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.