In 1838, James Brook (1773-1845) had paid for small chapel to be built next to the Meltham Mills National School. However, with the need to extend the school within only a few years of opening, he turned his thoughts to building a proper church for Meltham Mills.
Architect James Pigott Pritchett of York produced the design and the foundation stone was laid by James’ son William Leigh Brook (1809-1855) of Meltham Hall on 26 April 1844. From newspaper reports, we known that some of the stone from the first chapel was incorporated into the building of the new church.
Prior to laying the foundation stone, William Leigh placed a number of coins underneath. The brass plate on the stone was reported to read:
The Foundation Stone of St. James’s Church, Meltham Mills, in the Parish of Almondbury, was laid by William Leigh Brook, Esq., of Meltham Hall, eldest son of James Brook, Esq., the Founder, on Friday 26 April 1844, in the 7th year of the reign of Queen Victoria.
Lewis Jones, Vicar of Almondbury.
Pritchett & Son, Architects.
Sadly James Brook died shortly before his new Church of St. James was consecrated in November 1845 by the Bishop of Ripon. A tea party was held in the school rooms after the ceremony, with an invitation sent to every resident in the district.
On 12th November 1845, just a few days after the consecration, the bodies of James Brook and his son, also named James, were removed from the vault at St. Bartholomew and interred in the new Brook family vault at St. James.
Did You Know?
- The first choirmaster was the renowned Joe Perkin of Holmfirth. Today, Perkin is perhaps best-known locally for his composition “Pratty Flowers”, also known as “The Holmfirth Anthem”, which he published in 1858.
Historic England Listing
- Grade II (6 April 1967)
MELTHAM MILLS ROAD (Meltham Mills). Church of St. James.
Gothic Revival Church. 1845 by J P Pritchett. Endowed and founded by James Brook of Thorparch. Dressed stone with ashlar dressings. Pitched slate roof with gable copings. Cruciform plan with square west tower with slender, octagonal stone spire. Chancel with side bays. South porch on south transept. Square porch on south side of tower. Bay divisions marked by buttresses. Angle buttresses to corners surmounted by tall pinnacles. Four-bay nave, transepts are two bays deep, two-bay chancel under which, at east end, is arched slype with foiled window openings. Vault under chancel with arched entrance on east side. Single bay to each side of chancel containing vestry and organ. Slender two-light lancets with cusped heads and hood moulds to nave. Similar north and south Three-light window to transepts. Single and two-light traceried windows with cambered heads to chancel and side bays. East window is three-light with cusped lights and two quatrefoils in head. Two-tier tower with diagonal buttresses and crenellated ashlar parapet with crocketted pinnacles. Simple two-light bell chamber openings, and slender two-light lancets with transom to lower tier, all with hood moulds with mask-like faces as stops.
Interior: gallery to west, and north and south transepts, the latter now gone. Those to north and south were presumably later than 1853 since they part obscure wall memorials, one of that date. Galleries were reached from the outside. Chancel and transept arches on clustered responds. Diagonally crossbraced roof with carved bosses,
Carved oak reredos, pulpit, reading desk and good. eagle lecturn. Memorial to James Brook of Thorparch, 1845, by E G Physick, a marble relief depicting mother and child and departing husband. Also by E G Physick, 1855, a memorial to Charlotte and William Leigh Brook of Meltham Hall, a marble relief of lamenting women. A memoral to James Brook of Thornton Lodge, died 1840, by H Mares.