Tracing Spen’s rich history

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SEVERAL months ago I read of an Australian couple by the name of John and Liedy Fearnley.

While researching their family history at their home in Sydney, they discovered they had an ancestor who had been born in Scholes and was deported to Australia as a convict.

They also found that their great-great-great-great grandfather was buried in the graveyard at Whitechapel Church in Cleckheaton.

When the church opened its doors to the public on Saturday I paid a visit.

For the past two years I have been researching the history of the Knights Hospitallers in the Spen Valley, so was pleasantly surprised to see on my entrance to Whitechapel, a gravestone of one of the nights, dated the early 12th century.

The Knights in the area received aid from a wealthy Liversedge family named Essolf. Those knights took an oath to fight as soldiers and remain poor and unmarried.

Inside the church there are cupboards made out of old Austrian oak pews and beautiful stained glass windows in honour of First World War soldiers.

There are rumours of underground passages to the Priory pub next door, but they have never been found.

Whitechapel Church has its roots in Roman times with a font not later than 1120. It has been Catholic, Church of England and Non-Conformist in its character.

Rose Ann Heslip, the niece of Patrick Brontë is the only Brontë buried in Spen Valley. Her grave was re-discovered in 2006.

The church is listed Grade II and is No 42 on the Civic Society’s Spen Fame Trail.

If you pay a visit, don’t forget to sign the Save Dewsbury Hospital petition!

JOHN APPLEYARD

Firthcliffe Parade

LIVERSEDGE