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LOCAL HISTORY ARCHIVES

 

 

ST PETER'S CHURCH

 FELKIRK

 

 John Steele 2007

Written for the Brierley Village web site

 

PART 5

 

 

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Part 5

     During the period of enlargement of the church of St Peterís work seems to have continued whilst the War of the Roses, began in 1455, were being contested between Yorkshire and Lancastrians with the ultimate prize the kingship of England. These wars were not nasty, brutish or long but despite their 30 years duration there were periods of basically peaceful years throughout society therefore the armies were small and casualties light. Except at Towton in 1461 when 20,000 Lancastrians and 8,000 Yorkies were killed. After the defeat of Richard the third at Bosworth, Henry Tudor became Henry the seventh and promptly married Elizabeth of York thus stabilising the country. We must also remember that England was a Roman Catholic country and had been for many hundreds of years. Mass was celebrated in Latin, although the congregation did not understand it, and all ecclesiastical problems were solved by an edict of the pope via the archbishop of Canterbury and York. This idyllic situation was soon to be changed following the death of Henry the seventh in 1509 and the crowning of his son as Henry the eighth.

     What followed next during the reign of Henry the eighth is quite well known throughout the world so I do not intend to embark upon the story of Henryís marriages and the dissolution of the monasteries and priories other than to mention the effect of his actions in the rural parishes. Life in the parishes, including Felkirk, continued peacefully and normally as obviously news of religion and the scandals at the court took several days to reach the furthest parishes and in any case the peasants had enough to worry about trying to feed their families without burdening themselves with the happenings in London. The daily routines had to be carried out in order to survive, land to be tilled, animals to be fed, work for the church and the manor seen to be done, being a tradesman e.g. stonemason or similar was not an excuse for failing to take care of a family. The vicar carried out his duties with bell, book and candle disregarding the rumours that eventually reached him until that eventful day when he at last he realised the truth that the church had separated with Rome and that Henry was the head of the English church. This was announced from the pulpit and read to the people from the porch.

     With the dissolution of the religious houses in England (563) Felkirkís patronage by Nostell came to an end the inmates joined many others who had been pensioned off and St Peterís came under the patronage of the Archbishop of York. Perhaps it was the change of patronage which prompted the local gentry and church officials to suggest that a clerestory should be added to the nave with a view to permitting the entry of more natural light and that a gallery should be constructed in that area adjacent to the north chapel. The arches north and south were to be load bearing and the highering was begun in the obvious Tudor style probably during the reign of Elizabeth the first. Two windows were added on the north side and both sides glazed with a suitable pale glass for maximum light efficiency. Sadly, for reasons unknown, something went wrong during the construction. Sit in the pews and look at the south wall where it meets the arches see how well cut the stones are round the curve of each arch making a neat and tidy joint. Now look at the north side where the stones have for some reason or other been cut into the curve of the arches forming an amateurish joint. The clerestory added a further ten to twelve feet to the height of the knave but in doing so incorporated a further six windows, glazed in clear glass, three on the south side and three more on the north side. This must have been a blessing to those in the congregation who were capable of being able to read and write. These alterations and new building plans took several years to consider and many more years to put into operation and to finance so it is impossible to suggest an exact date of completion but the style does give us a rough idea so to suggest a date of completion being late 17th century or early 18th century. I would suggest that early in the 17th century there was a belle-cote containing a singe bell, which was cast in 1613 at York but by the middle of the 18th century the tower, had been extended to its present height and four more bells added. One was cast at Rotherham in 1759 and three more were the gift of John Dymond of Burntwood Hall in 1876. One more was cast in 1888 but was found to be cracked and had to be re-cast in 1889.

     Any further plans for the development of the church were suspended in 1638 when the civil war broke out when Charles the firstís Scottish subjects resisted the church and political reforms imposed from London. The Scots scattered the Kings forces at the crossing of the Tyne and occupied the north of England. Political compromise could not be decided and slowly the country began to drift into civil war, the two main factions being the Royalists and the Parliamentarians, culminating in the battle of Edgehill in 1642.

     Life continued despite the civil war and any further developments of Felkirk church would have been suspended until hostilities ceased. Believe it or not this was a Royalist area and one Marmaduke Monckton, as a captain in the army, had married Mary Berrie the daughter of Richard Berrie MD who owned Hodroyd Hall. He assumed the name Berrie by marriage and also Hodroyd Hall (see photograph) thus the Monktonís owned the Hall after the demise of Mary Marmaduke without issue. Consequently the church of St Peter acquired new patronage from which it benefited for many years.

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