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Welcome to the Benefice of Broughton, Marton and Thornton.

Dear Friends,

It is a great joy to once again be able to open our churches for public worship.

Our churches will be open and we will be following an enhanced cleaning regime to do all that we can to ensure your safety. To help us in this please do follow the current government guidelines and the signage in our churches.

Sundays

09:15 Mass at St Mary’s Thornton

10:45 Holy Communion (BCP) at St Peter’s Marton

17:00 Holy Communion at All Saints’ Broughton (NB, on the 2nd Sunday the service is at 10:45)

1st, 3rd & 5th Wednesdays of the month

10:00 Mass at St Mary’s Thornton

2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month

10:00 Mass at All Saints’ Broughton

When attending church please do follow all the current guidelines for social distancing and hygiene.

If you, or anyone that you know is not able to attend church and requires the ministry of a Priest, please do let me or one of the church wardens know.

With every blessing,

Father Alex

For general enquiries, please contact the relevant Church Wardens from the list that can be found towards the bottom of this page.

All Saints’ Broughton

This is the most completely rural of our three churches. Built between the two hamlets of Broughton and Elslack, originally in Saxon times but now with an elegant little building mainly from the 12th and 15th centuries, it has remained, as then, in the middle of the fields – the old rectory, its barn, stables, church hall, and school were all owned and run by the rector, who even had an assistant curate to help him.

All Saints’ comes into its own in the summer. On a sunny evening, with the curlews calling and the huge beech trees rustling in the breeze, it is a breathtakingly beautiful sacred place.

There are two fine but damaged statues of Mary and Child, rediscovered and replaced in the 19th century; a set of three fine bells in the tower; the family pew of the Roman Catholic Tempest family who still live in the big house.

The Rogation service with procession and the candlelit Carol Service are two highlights the year in this rural parish that had more inhabitants two centuries ago than it does now.

With its financial foundations destroyed in the early 20th century, it now shares many of the same difficulties as the farming industry of which it is part: we know that it will survive into the next century, but just exactly how is not clear.

The small regular congregation is made up of those from Broughton and Elslack, or who used to live here, so it retains its strong local feel; and is then augmented by visitors to its special services.

THE CHURCH BUILDING

There existed some kind of church presence in Saxon times. Of what form or exactly where is uncertain. There might have been a manorial church near the Roman fort at Elslack; more likely there was a small building on this spot in the 10th century.

The present building is a Norman foundation of the 12th century, extensively rebuilt in the 15th. Like many country churches, its history is poorly recorded and many of the facts collected contradictory.

THE TOWER

As you enter, through the late Norman doorway, to your left under the tower there stands an unadorned (but heavily restored) round Norman font, with a Jacobean cover.

There are three bells in the tower. The first was consecrated during reign of James I. The second commemorates the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II, in 1660, inscribed ‘It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord’. The third is dated 1713 and commemorates the Treaty of Utrecht (and the acquisition of Gibraltar).

The tower, as can be seen from outside, is built of red sandstone blocks, which came from the Roman Burwen Fort at Elslack. Black marks on the north wall are popularly reckoned to be relics of the Scots’ attack after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

THE NAVE

In the niche by the pulpit stands one of the church’s two alabaster statues of Our Lady and Child, this one Our Lady of Pew (also found in Westminster Abbey). Both statues were discovered in the 19th century, buried in the ground at the rear of the church, and placed in their present positions in the 1970s.

Their removal may have occurred in the 1530s when Henry VIII ordered the suppression of Marian shrines, or perhaps as late as the 1640s when the Puritans were beheaded what statues they could find. The (almost careful) severing of a single head, rather than comprehensive destruction, suggests the latter date, but the survival of such statues for a century after the Reformation is improbable.

Two black metal plates, which remain in the floor from an old heating system, bearing the monogram of Our Lady (MR) are even more unexpected in a rural parish church.

THE LADY CHAPEL

The Tempest family of Broughton Hall became patrons of the church on their arrival in the early 15th century. The chapel was set up by Roger Tempest and parishioners in 1442 as a charity worth 40 shillings after he and his nephew, Sir John Tempest, signed a charter for the appropriation of the church.

The 14th century Tempest box pew is unusual in that it provides access to both nave and chapel. Note also the splendid 15th century parclose screen surrounding the chapel.

On the chapel wall is a flat stone: most probably from a crusader’s tombstone, it used to be in the churchyard. The wife of a Victorian rector started the romantic idea that it was a tomb for victims of the Pilgrimage of Grace, which would make it the only one in the country and, as members of the Tempest family fought on both sides of the conflict, highly unlikely.

The 18th century memorials on the walls are evidence that the Tempest family continued to be buried here in their parish church for over two centuries after the Reformation, even though they had themselves remained Roman Catholic.

The second and smaller statue of Our Lady and the Infant Christ is situated below the east window of the chapel. It is an unusual and remarkable carving of Mary breast-feeding her Child.

The cresset stone which houses the lamp is dated 1613; it was found at Johnsons Gate Farm, Elslack, which may suggest a non-church origin. The bowl behind the communion table is an old holy water font, inexplicably fixed here on what is probably an old window mullion.

THE CHANCEL

The chancel has suffered most heavily from the Victorian alterations. The heavy woodwork, most especially the pulpit, shows little sympathy for the proportions of the rest of the church, or the remnants of earlier and more subtle woodwork.

We have the excessive zeal of the Revd Mr Guy to thank for this; though to his credit he did also build the school (now destroyed). The stained glass, here and elsewhere, is either late Victorian or, in the south windows, more recent still.

THE CHURCHYARD

The Victorians not only re-ordered the church, they re-arranged the churchyard as well, moving out such earlier memorials as were still standing, some of which now make up the path near the porch, and include the lid of a medieval coffin.

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St Peter’s Marton

A simple church, with a solid Norman tower, hidden in a fold of the hills.  It stands at the point where the Pennine Way (marking the spine of England) crosses the Leeds–Liverpool Canal (marking the east-west line across the middle of Britain).  We like to think of our parish as the intersection of the cross that marks the centre of the nation.

The church is solidly committed to the Book of Common Prayer.  The regular Sunday service is at 10.45 a.m. every Sunday.  This is usually a Holy Communion, but on the second Sunday of each month Mattins.

A simple church, its 19th century vandalism by the Victorians leaves some interesting contrasts:  the squat, square tower next to the dull reworking of the south aisle;  a 17th century ceiling, with absurdly over-large hatchments;  fine box pews, removed in the nave for the meanest open pews imaginable;  all with stained glass in delightfully bad taste.

If, despite this mongrel history, it feels a prayerful place, it is.  Open every day – note that anything of any value has long since been stolen, including the 16th century altar – it is much frequented for private prayer.  Quiet and secluded, it is a much-loved house of God, where his children may speak to him and listen.

The first church was probably from the 10th century, attached to the Saxon manor, the outline of which can vaguely be seen in the field to the south.  The dedication to St Peter was a popular one among the Saxons, and may suggest a relatively early origin.  Whatever may have been here before, it is probable that there was a small wooden church on this site over a thousand years ago.

The Normans, as energetic conquerors, were quick to establish their own presence (and remove that of their predecessors).  The present, stone building was begun some time between 1147 and 1186, probably during the reign of Henry II.  Originally the church was under the authority of the monks of Kirkstall Abbey, but by 1186 it was being administered by the canons of Bolton Abbey.

The oldest part of the church is the tower.  This is a typical example of the massive and sturdy Norman church building, complete with battlements.  The belfry has a ring of three bells.  Further examples of Norman work, including the characteristic zig-zag marking of their arches, can be seen in a number of stones in the north and east walls of the church.

THE FONT

Another piece of possible Norman work is the massive font at the western end of the church near the entrance.  It would seem that earlier decoration or pictorial carving has been hacked off on four sides, and that the original drain was taken out to one side.  It may originally have been the stone at the top of a column.  It is certainly unusual, and has gone through a number of metamorphoses.  The Victorian restorers drilled a new drain through the centre, and placed it on an old grinding wheel supported by three round stones.

SAXON CROSS

Close to the font, at the side of the tower arch is a fragment of an old Saxon cross.  It originates from Knaresborough and is carved from Knaresborough stone.  One suggestion is that it depicts the Christian hero in the form of the mythical god Thor (God of Thunder) defending himself using his hammer (or cross) with its magical powers, against the serpent.  The serpent can be seen coiled around all four surfaces of the shaft.

On the altar steps (under the carpet) is carved a crusader’s sword.  This is most likely from a crusader’s tomb, that stood within the church itself, relocated during a later re-ordering that sought to open out the sanctuary.  The church differs from many others of its period in that it has a ceiling rather than the usual timbered roof.

NAVE

The box pew on the north wall is for the Rector’s family, that in the south aisle is for the Lord of the Manor and his family.  The ones in the nave have been removed and replaced by the particularly crude and cramped examples of the late Victorian period.  It is true that there were more people living in the parish than at present, but even so the zeal to pack ’em in like sardines is unbecoming.

It was about this time that the wonderfully poor quality and inappropriate east window was put in – the iconography is a little confused:  Peter has been made to look like Paul, traditionally the older of the two and bald, and vice versa.  It has a continental quality of 19th century sentimental piety.  It is so wildly incongruous, it has gained a certain charm.

The 17th century boards with the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer would originally have been at this east end.

LORDS OF THE MANOR

Three local families have, during the centuries, had a considerable impact upon the church and the village. These were the Martons, the Hebers and the Roundells.  All were Lords of the Manor.

Of the Martons, virtually nothing is known:  they may even be an antiquarian invention, a projection back into history based on there being the same name for the two hamlets.  The Heber family took over in the 16th or 17th century, and by the 18th had outgrown their Yorkshire manor and moved to better estates further south.  They held the living of the church, and many of the rectors were Hebers or married to a Heber daughter.  There are several memorials to them on the walls of the church.

After the bankruptcy of the Hebers, the Roundell family finally became Lords of the Manor in 1841 (many bitter disputes are recorded in Heber family correspondence, hence their popular title ‘the dreaded Roundells’) and again there are several memorials to them.  They married well and managed to acquire the Thornton fortune of the Richardson family, before an alliance with the Currer family near Kildwick (after whom Charlotte Brontë named the author of her own novels).  Particularly evident are the five hatchments (coats of arms) of the Roundell family, two on the north wall and another three in the south aisle.

CHURCHYARD

The Pennine Way used to go right the through the churchyard, until it was diverted along the Leeds–Liverpool Canal.  Started in 1771, the full length was completed in 1816.  In 1793 during the construction of the local section (virtually the highest and certainly the most beautiful section) a number of the navvies died of smallpox and are buried in the churchyard.

St Mary’s Thornton

The Sunday service is a modern Sung Mass, with a certain Anglo-Catholic solemnity softened by country ways.

The glory of St Mary’s is its holy well, the only such one in the diocese, and the original Saxon ‘church’ for the village.  The Normans began a stone church higher up the slope, to which a fine, solid tower was added in 1510.  The interior may have too many pews, but it has a fine, light screen and 18th century altar;  a Portuguese statue of Mary and Child;  and a fine set of six bells, with an active team of ringers.

Thornton is the biggest village in the benefice, with over 400 people;  the congregation also has more people from the surrounding area, who come for the liturgy and the teaching.  The bell-ringers practice on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons, and welcome visiting groups from all over the country;  they ring in the body of the church, not hidden away up the tower, which is another reason for its popularity.

ST MARY’S CHURCH

It is likely, in view of the age of the village, that there was a Saxon church here, well before the Norman invasion, but no physical evidence remains.  The first recorded resident priest was William de Byrley in 1280;  the building, therefore, dates back at least to the reign of Henry III, but most probably a good deal further.

It was rebuilt some 200 years later during the reign of Henry VI;  this is confirmed by a much eroded inscription over the east window, ‘When this church and the quire were builded Thomas Lord Ros was patron. Upon his soul God have mercy and benignity. Amen.’

As the inscription on its south face indicates, the well-proportioned tower was built in 1510 by a James Carr, with parishioners contributing their labour. It still holds two of the original bells, one inscribed in Latin ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee’, the other ‘St Anthony’s bell’. Further work was carried out on the bells in 1617 and again in 1743 during Mr Richardson’s time, and finally two more bells were added to the existing four in 1998.

VICTORIAN PHILISTINES

In the late nineteenth century, the parish was much larger than it is now, including the whole of Earby and Kelbrook.  During this time the interior was re-ordered, the floor being raised at the west end (check the pillars, to see how their base has been submerged by the rising stone) and as many extras pews as possible were added, to supplement the original ones from the seventeenth century;  some of these have since been removed, which makes it possible to move around the church.

It was at this time that it was realized how much cheaper it would be to have a single roof over the whole church.  This practical if philistine solution is found in several other churches in this area of Yorkshire, though none have been as ill-treated as St Mary’s.  One can see outside on the east side of the tower where the original nave roof has been removed and how the modern one extends over the two side aisles.  There must have something like 7, or more probably 9, roof slopes: there are now just 2.  Lost are the north and south aisles, clerestory windows in the nave, a Lady Chapel to the south-east (now containing the organ and sacristy), and smaller aisles/chapels to the north-east and south-west.  The whole of the south side was also rebuilt, with the result that the present building has, sadly, lost its coherence and proportion with the tower.

INSIDE DECORATION

Inside, there is a fine east window, by Charles Eamer Kempe in 1898;  an early-C20th window in the south aisle depicting Faith, Hope and Charity, and a later one of a more open style in the north aisle;  and a spectacularly glorious Victorian horror under the tower – yes, that central figure is indeed male, none other than that great warrior the Archangel Michael (and you thought trans was a C21st phenomenon).

The carved head on the north-western pillar in the nave is a mystery:  severed heads, such as St Oswald’s, are often connected with holy wells around these parts, but whether this explains anything is entirely uncertain.  Incorporated into the floor under the tower are two C12th gravestones brought in from the churchyard for protection, the faint outline of a cross still visible.

The statue of Our Lady and Child in the north-west corner came originally from Portugal, probably in the C19th when it would have been sold to make way for the devotional renewal following the First Vatican Council, of 1870.  It was bought by the church of St Mary Magdalene’s in Bradford, and came here when it was closed.

Note also Henry Richardson’s incongruous Georgian font of 1755, with its fine modern cover:  it may look odd now, but it did then fit in with the Georgian gallery above, removed by the Victorians for an organ.  And before you go, pause before the book of remembrance (with records of parishioners buried in the churchyard back to 1566) and the 2012 Diamond Jubilee window, marking 1,378 years of Christian monarchy, since St Oswald’s great victory at Heavenfield.

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