Our Victorian Stained Glass

If you are a Victorian Stained Glass groupie, then our church is a must to visit. It is one of those rare churches where all the church's glass was designed and installed in one short period. All these well-documented windows are by Heaton Butler and Bayne as part of a Richard Norman Shaw restoration in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s. The designer for the chancel interior was John Aldam Heaton  and our first window shows the red and green textile design Aldam Heaton used to provide curtains all round the chancel East end. A traditional ecclesiastical design that even appears in the early possessions of the Archbishop of York! Norman Shaw  was a famous architect who went on to design New Scotland Yard, parts of Bradford Town Hall and had a major influence on the design of Piccadilly Circus.

If on the other hand you want to get a feel for what the congregation at the time wanted to replace their plain glass with then this glass is very well described in the Church Magazine of the time. We have used their descriptions in preparing a folder to take round as you view each window

(available in the church near the display cabinet on the north side).

This window is in the East end. The Reverend George Sowden, who carefully led his flock through the upheavals in the Church of England at that time, described the blue robes of The Blessed Virgin Mary, as “ the best glass in our church”. And it is true what they said that the glass improves with familiarity. So visit, you are most welcome.

Alterations to the church in 1980s and 1990s, when people were not so aware of the importance of our collection of windows led to the sale of some of them to Pendle Glass. We have their descriptions in great detail and we would love to discover what happened to them, perhaps bought by private collectors, or dismantled.

Upper Room Window showing three angels

Heaton, Butler and Bayne became one of the leading firms of Gothic Revival Stained glass manufacturers. They produced glass for windows of churches in Britain and the USA and for churches throughout what was then the British Empire. Examples of their work can be found in Tewksbury Abbey, Westminster Abbey, St Matthews Cathedral in Laramie, Wyoming, and also in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Quebec, Canada. Nearer home, Rochdale Town Hall also has many fine examples.                                                    


A Brief History 

This beautiful Parish Church, set in the heart of the Calder Valley was consecrated on 5th October 1833. The church is dedicated to St James the Great [also known as St James the Greater], and was built on land  given by the Reverend James Armitage Rhodes and his wife, Mary, who owned nearby Mytholm Hall.

The request for a church was being discussed as early as 1824. Mr and Mrs Rhodes wished to give a piece of land in the Hangingroyd district near the centre of Hebden Bridge. However it was discovered that Mrs Rhodes had only a lifelong interest in the Hangingroyd estate, and so they donated the site at Mytholm instead. Revd. Rhodes also gave the stone for the building of the church, which came from a nearby quarry.

In the tower is a carved stone. The full inscription on that stone is as follows:

"This church was built under the direction of the honourable  board of His Majesty's Commissioners for the building of new churches AD 1832, being the third year of the reign of His Majesty King William the Fourth. The site was given by the reverend J. A. Rhodes and Mary his wife, grand-daughter of James King Esq., of Mitholm. [Mytholm] 

Pickersgill and Oates Architects, York. Messrs Roberts and Co, builders. C. Child, clerk of works".

On the 5th of October 1833 the service of Consecration was performed by His Grace The Lord Archbishop of York (Edward Vernon Harcourt). At that time Hebden Bridge was in the Diocese of York which then embraced  the whole of Yorkshire remaining so until the see of Ripon was revived in 1836. Archbishop Harcourt was a strong man of commanding and dignified appearance. Revd. Rhodes who entertained him when he came to consecrate the church, described his appearance as like a demigod.

It was a large Diocese and travelling facilities were by no means good, so it meant episcopal visits were rare events and crowds flocked to watch. The Archbishop was so perturbed at the site of the crowds on the hillsides of Eaves, that he was hardly able to concentrate on the prayer being said in the churchyard. During lunch in Mytholm Hall after the service, some reference was made to this matter. The Archbishop said:

"It was the girls with red handkerchiefs perched so grotesquely over my head on the rocks that bothered me. I was never in such a place before".




The above is based on the book THE PARISH CHURCH OF HEBDEN BRIDGE 1833-1933 Centenary Souvenir.

There is also

'A History Guide to the Parish Church of Hebden Bridge St James the Great'.

written by Hebden Bridge Local History Society. The Birchcliffe Centre Hebden Bridge HX7 8DG

The 19 page booklet is available price £2 from the Church or by contacting the church.

Both are available as an electronic file. 


Heaton, Butler and Bayne, an internationally famous company, made our Pre-Raphaelite stained glass windows. 

When the idea of inserting stained glass windows was first proposed, a scheme was drawn up. From 1875 onwards, Heaton, Butler and Bayne, the subject of a 2000 documentary film “Stained Glass Masters”, made our collection of windows which are highly regarded in the architectural world and we have had visitors including from the USA coming to view them. Look out for the townscapes and a seascape painted in the background of some windows.

A fine collection of Wood Carving

Between 1876 and 1929 the famous firm of H.P Jackson of Coley carved a number of items for St James' such as the choir stalls (1912), altar rails for both the high altar and the altar in the Sowden Chapel (1929).

The  Reredos

A memorial of the centenary of the Parish Church (1933)

Designed by the late F. C. Eden R.F.I.B.A.

carved c. 1934 by Alfonso Noflaner of Ortisie, Northern Italy