Sunday, April 7, 2013

Halifax Minster

The Minster Church of St. John the Baptist in Halifax has been in existence for almost a thousand years. The current church was built in 1438 on the site of two previous churches. Many slight additions and alterations were made throughout the years. A major restoration happened in 1879 under Sir George Gilbert Scott. The church is in daily use.

The exterior is a bit blackened, which is likely due to the heavy industry of the 1800s.

Halifax Minster

East side of the church

Mommy and L give a sense of scale

The minster does have some lovely gargoyles keeping the roof dry.

Dog or dragon?

A person

Visitors enter the church through a small porch that has some artifacts from the church's history.

Bits from the history of the Minster

The nave is dark, small, yet charming. While light doesn't flood in like it does in other churches, there is a sense of peace and security.


Pews with kneeling cushions

Several chapels adorn the side aisles of the church. On the right is the Holdsworth Chapel. Robert Holdsworth was Vicar from 1525 to 1555. The altar table is from the 17th century.

Holdsworth Chapel

Further up the right aisle is the chapel dedicated to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (now the 3rd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment). The flags are the colors of the regiment. Above the entrance is a coat of arms which I presume is Wellington's.

Chapel of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment

Coat of arms flanked by lion and unicorn!

In the center of the church is the main altar with a 19th century pulpit off to the right.

Main altar


The three misericord stalls in the sanctuary are thought to come from Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds during the dissolution of the monasteries (1500s). 

Misericord stalls

More recent stalls are found in the choir leading up to the high altar at the far end of the church.

Carvings in the choir area

The high altar at the back of the church

The ceiling is decorated with coats of arms from various vicars of Halifax, local families, and the tribes of Israel.

Ceiling with coats of arms

The organ is also located here. The first organ was a Snetzler installed in 1766. Some of the original pipes are still in use, but the current organ was rebuilt by Harrison and Harrison in 1928.


The Rokeby Chapel is on the left aisle. Built in memory of William Rokeby, Vicar form 1502 to 1520, it is now used as a cry-room. They had some toys and books which kept J and L busy while we parents looked around.

Rokeby Chapel

Altar piece detail

The baptismal font is located at the back of the church. The font cover dates from the 15th century. Originally it was painted green, red, and blue. During the 1600s it was removed to a private residence and eventually restored to the church.

Baptismal font

Just behind the font is the tomb of Archdeacon Musgrave, who was Vicar from 1827 to 1874.

Musgrave's tomb

Close up of the tomb

On the walls around the tomb are various memorials and bequests to the church. One panel includes the brass pew labels from when families would rent the pews they occupied for services.

Bequests around the west door of the church

Brass pew labels

Right by the entrance is the shop and "Old Tristam." He was a licensed beggar who asked for alms in the church porch at the end of the 1600s. He continues his work in effigy, collecting for the poor.

The minster shop

"Old Tristam" asking for donations

By the shop is a very impressive memorial to Doctor John Favour, Vicar from 1593 to 1623. He founded a local grammar school in 1585 that still runs today.

Favour Memorial

Several other memorials line the walls of the church.

Rawson Family memorial

Other memorials

For more on what makes a minster a minster, check the wikipedia article. Nowadays, the status is granted to churches in England with a long historical tradition, especially cathedrals and collegiate churches. Halifax's parish church was granted minster status in November 2009.

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