The United Benefice of Heckmondwike (with Norristhorpe) and  Liversedge

© 2014 The United Benefice of Heckmondwike (with Norristhorpe) and Liversedge.

The Parochial Church Council Of The Ecclesiastical Parish Of St James, Heckmondwike with All Souls, Norristhorpe is a charity registered in England and Wales (1152319).

The Parochial Church Council Of The Ecclesiastical Parish Of Christ Church, Liversedge is a charity registered in England and Wales (1157990).

A Brief history of Christ Church, Liversedge

This site has been a meeting place for the surrounding community from before Anglo-Saxon times. When you look around the church,one of the things which you will see at the back is a portrait of one of the most colourful personalities of the 19th Century, Hammond Roberson, looking from his home, Healds Hall, across to

Christ Church which he founded in 1816.

Hammond Roberson was born in Norfolk but came to Dewsbury to serve as curate after his ordination in 1779

The long wars against France at the end of the eighteenth century had led to stagnant trade. The price of wheat was high and the increasing introduction of machinery to take over traditional tasks was fast putting an end to the few jobs that could be found. Hammond Roberson hated everything which he fancied had a tendency towards anarchy and so, when he heard that the Luddites had planned to attack Cartwright' s mill in Littletown he was fully prepared to come to the rescue. He had soldiers who had been sent to control the Luddite uprising billeted in his own home, which infuriated local people.

However, it is also know that he intervened to support a James Starkey who had been arrested on suspicion of having Luddite sympathies and was facing the gallows. Ater a lot of effort, Roberson succeeded in getting Starkey's trial postponed and he was eventually freed. There is little doubt that, without Roberson's help Starkey would have hanged. This suggests that he was a fair minded intervention, man who believed in the proper execution of law and order and would fight against any perceived injustice.  Roberson was also a pioneer in education and he put a lot of effort into setting up day and Sunday schools. He opened the first Sunday school in the North at Dewsbury and the first boys school at Squirrel Hall in Staincliffe (near to the present Dewsbury and District Hospital)

In 1818, thanks largely to Roberson's energy and enthusiasm for education, a National School was built at Hightown. In 1968 the building was found to be unsafe and a new school was built on Headlands Road, to be called Hightown Church of England School. This has retained the close links with the church that Roberson had first started, although it is now know as Headlands Junior, Infant and Nursery C of E School

Roberson's wife, Phoebe, died in 1810 ater a long illness and she is buried at Hartshead where he was then the incumbent. Roberson decided to build a church at Liversedge in her memory and he commissioned Mr Thomas Taylor of Leeds as Architect. The foundation stone was laid on 9th December 1812 and the church was finally consecrated on 29th August   1816 having cost Roberson £7,474.11s.103/4d. He wrote:  "From the best judgement I can form, I am still solvent:  more, I have no ambition to be. To pay my debts is my  highest worldly ambition; there will be a shilling left for the Sexton to level up my grave."

The building of Christ Church was not without controversy. Roberson was dedicated to the establishment of Anglican churches in an area noted for its nonconformity. Many people believed he  would have done better to spend his money on feeding the poor and hungry. At the laying of the foundation stone soldiers were in attendance, both as a mark of respect to Roberson and also to provide protection if necessary, as feelings were running so high in the neighbourhood about the lot of the poor. Roberson was, however, a man of high ideals, full of determination and not afraid of anyone.

He knew what he wanted, was educated and could put ideas over to people. He did have some difficulty understanding Yorkshire stubbornness though! An indication of his character can be seen in the story of his insisting that all the tombstones should be identical.  When he discovered that one had been erected with intricate carving on it, he took a hammer and chisel to erase the offending patten! He was looked upon with suspicion by the local people. And wildtales grew up about him conjuring up devils at night. In reality, he was probably ahead of his time because he actually achieved a great deal for people in the Spen Valley who did not realise just how in debted they were to him.   Roberson became the first vicar of Liversedge and used his inluence to establish churches at Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton and Birkenshaw ater the government voted to use a million pounds for church building in thanksgiving for the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Roberson died in 1841 at the age of 84 and is buried in the south eastern corner of the graveyard at Christ Church. His plain headstone.  

Identical to all the others as he had wished, reads:

"The Rev Hammond Roberson,

Founder of this church in 1816

Died August 9th 1841, aged 84."

Whilst the church was being built it was decided that bells and a clock should be installed to commemorate Wellington's defeat of Bonaparte at Vitoria in 1813. The bells were cast from bronze cannon captured from the French at Genoa, and the opening peal was given on 12th July 1815. The clock was made and installed by Mr James Harrison of  Hull in September 1852 at a cost of £149.