The Parish of Sandal Magna

History (St. Paul's)

The church of St. Paul's, The Balk, Walton- A brief history

A church for Walton?

From ancient times, the people of Walton has been unable to practice their religion within the actual village. Although they had obviously been a religious community, there are no records of an actual 'place' of worship being provided until the nineteenth century.

St. Helen's, the Parish Church of Sandal Magna dates back to its first known patron Edward the Confessor. In the middle of the 12th century the second church was built on the site of the now existing Church and in the Manorial Rolls of 1314 there is a mention of a 'John of Walton, Chaplain'. Therefore at that time we must deduce that there must have been a Chapel of Ease at Walton. Although no history of it appears to exist, there must also be at some time have been a priory at Walton, from which the present Square derives its name.

Exactly what happened in Walton between the time when the old Chapelry disappeared, presumably at the time of the Reflormation, and the date when our present Church was built, does not come within the scope of this short history of St. Paul's, Walton.

After the Reformation of the 16th century, Religion branched out in many directions. Protestantism, Presbyterianism, Methodism and other denominations. A few people still chose to worship the old faith, Roman Catholicism, the Waterton family being among this minority. In 1743 the new Archbishop of York wrote a letter to the Vicar of Sandal, Charles Zouch, referring to the Waterton Household at Walton having a private chapel where a Romanish Priest is said to practice.

A church is conceived

On hundred years ago there lived in The Balk a lady, Miss Mary Pilkington, a name venerated to this day in Walton, who provided an orphanage. It was from this humble beginning that the present day church had its roots. Miss Pilkington, a sprightly figure in her fringed shawl, crinoline and bonnet, was to be seen in and about the village every day of the week, and not least on Sundays. We will allow other renowned volumes to tell of the life and times of this most industrious lady except to say that we wonder how she managed to find enough hours in the day to carry out her many activities which included running the orphanage and a laundry, Manager of the National School, and a Cookery School. But the National School, more generally and not without reason, known as Miss Pilkington's school, and also as will no doubt also appear appropriate as Walton Church School, was more than the village school.

Before 1857 the parishioners of Walton who wished to attend a Church of England service had to walk to St. Helen's Parish Church in Sandal. The village, being part of the Parish of Sandal Magna which had its own ancient church, had no separate church. In 1857 a corner of the National School was equipped as a place of worship for the Anglican Community. Here, Sunday by Sunday, services were held in the afternoon at which either the Vicar of Sandal Magna, his assistant curate, or a Lay Reader officiated.

A church building is needed

At the top of School Lane, opposite the present War memorial, was the Old Mission School, sometimes called the Council Room, where the Sunday School was held. In Miss Pilkington's day, promptly at 9am every Sunday morning, the children assembled in the Old Mission Room for morning session of Sunday School after which, as often as not, they walked down to Sandal for Matins or to make their Communion. In the afternoon at 2pm, they met for another session of Sunday School and then, two by two, marched down School Lane to the National School for the 3pm service. Easter Sunday, and Christmas, the whole of the Walton congregation would go in procession through Lower Walton and along Walton Lane to the services at St. Helen's in Barnsley Road, Sandal.

So, when did the Walton Church of St. Paul's as we know it today really originate? We have actually to go to the year 1886 when a Mrs Coldwell of Beechwood House bequeathed money for a permanent Church building in Walton.

It was to mark the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee that Mr Edward Simpson, J.P., the new squire at Walton Hall who had long felt the need for a more commodious building than the one his father had helped to provide, a building where additional services might be held and Holy Communion administered, erected the first Church building on the present site on The Balk.

Early Pre-fabrication

The site on The Balk, part of the Waterton Estate then owned by Mr. Simpson, was chosen by Bishop Walsham How who drove out to Walton for this purpose the last day but one before he left the diocese. An eminent ecclesiastical architect at that time designed the building which was constructed in sections in London and transported by rail to Walton. The plumbing, the woodwork, pews, screen, and other fittings were all made by local craftsmen. The Font was carved by Mr. William Ogden, a local monumental mason who also carved the pinnacles on the tower at St. Helen's Church.

The inside of the church was painted dark grey with pale green walls, the screen and pulpit being dark brown. It had and still has a vestry, an organ, a bell and was lighted by gas. The roof of the church was originally red and is still remembered and regretted by many parishioners as a colourful landmark which unfortunately in course of time became black.

As to its furnishings and ornaments, all the frontals (which are now stored in the vestry) were given by Mrs. Edward Simpson, the wonderful embroidery on some of the frontals was the work of Mrs. Rowlands whose husband was at one time Curate of Sandal and later Vicar of St. Catherine's. Various members of the Simpson family gave the cross, the chalice and the paten, the altar vases, the solid brass candlesticks.

An entry in The Sandal Magazine for January 1898 reads:

"An iron church has been erected and furnished in commemoration of the Queen's Jubilee, and for many years we believe it will admirably meet every requirement. This church will be opened and dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield on Monday evening, January 10th, at 7 o'clock. To enable the people of Walton who wish to be present to obtain seats, tickets will be given to those desiring, which will admit them between 6.30 and 6.45pm. After 6.45pm the doors will be open to everybody, as far as accommodation will allow'.

The church was dedicated on Monday evening, 10th January 1898, by the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt.Rev.Dr. Eden. Long before the service was due to commence the church was crowded, many people having to stand. The Vicar of Sandal Magna, (Rev.R.N.Hurt) and his two curates, (the Revs.L.Bush and H. Brownrigg) also took part.

In 1911 the vicar and Churchwardens of Sandal acquired on behalf of the parishioners of Walton, the site on which the Church was built. In the July issue of the Parish Magazine of that year the following paragraph appears under the heading Walton.

'The parishioners will be glad to hear that the site upon which the present church (the old iron building) stands has been purchased by the Vicar and Churchwardens out of funds provided from the Special Legacy Fund and Permanent Church Fund. The Church and its contents have been presented to the parish by Mr.Edward Simpson. Although a formal expression of gratitude will be made to Mr. Simpson by the Vicar and Churchwardens yet we take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Simpson and his family for this very generous and handsome gift. The church and its ornaments are far above the average of temporary buildings of a similar nature. We must show by our attendance and care of the building that we appreciate the gift at a very high value'.

The Special Legacy Fund referred to was a legacy made by the afore-mentioned Mrs Coldwell of Beechwood House in 1886.

The Permanent Church Fund was in existence throughout the twentieth century and was from time to time added to, and in 1963 was made part of the Fund towards the building of a permanent church.

There have been many times during the last eighty years when no curate of Sandal Magna has been available for duty in Walton. But on such occasions Lay Readers, and also laymen and women (at the time of writing Walton is greatly indebted to lay people) have always come forward to help so that, in spite of difficulties, at least one Service every Sunday has been held in the Church since 1898.

On the occasion of St.Paul's Golden Jubilee in 1948, the then Bishop of Wakefield, The Rt.Rev.Henry Macgowen, who preached at Walton during the week-long celebrations, said that in view of the important part taken by the church both in the medieval life of the village and in its modern development, it was surprising that Walton did not possess a more permanent building. The parishioners there and then decided that matters had to be put in hand to take care of this state of affairs.

A permanent building

The corrugated iron structure was erected in 1898 in the hope that it might serve the people of Walton for 25 years. After constant use of sixty five years the time had come to act. In the intervening years the Permanent Building Fund had been added to although somewhat spasmodically; it was as though the very idea that the familiar church, so loved and cared for, should one day be pulled down and replaced by another, was repugnant to its faithful congregation. Sufficient unto the day......They left well alone.

In 1963 the first phase of St.Paul's history was drawing to a close. The cost of repairs were becoming a constant drain on the finances of the parish. Although St.Paul's was classed as only a Mission Church, it had always been self-supporting except in the matter of the stipend of its curate and even to that a contribution was made.

The Permanent Building Fund formed the basis for the congregation to increase it: part of the Annual Bazaar money went into it, members of the Mother's Union contracted to pay a monthly contribution, and 'Brick' money was collected by two members of the village community. Larger sums were given and other promises were made so that with a sum in the bank of nearly £2000, the Churchwardens and Church Committee, with the approval of Sandal Magna P.C.C. and with the architect's plan ready to hand, decided that the moment for building at any rate part of the New Church, had arrived.

St. Paul's Church in Today's society

Since 1963, Walton has changed. On the site of Thornhill House and garden an estate of houss and bungalows now stands. A new estate at the top of Brooklands Hill (the Grove Estate), and at the bottom of the hill new houses in and around Brooklands and on both sides of Shay Lane. The Balk has many residences, as has the land to the rear of Walton Hall.

New houses mean residents and St.Paul's congregation have rejoiced that many newcomers have joined their fellowship. The time had come to implement the scheme that was in the minds of those who built St.Paul's Mission Church in 1898, namely, to replace it with a more permanent building. To find the money to do this was a heavy responsibility but the Church people of Walton shouldered it gladly, convinced that it was their duty to continue the work begun centuries ago in the village and they dedicated themselves to that end.

The main structure was completely surrounded by properly built walls, the old corrugated iron building was removed and a new tiled roof finished this the 'permanent dream' of over sixty years. The roof had to the West end a small tower built into it to house the original bell which rang out the call to worship every Sunday.

The main structure of the Church was completed at a cost of '£12,000. The whole interior was modernised providing the pleasant bright and most attractive place of worship that we have today.

In the early nineties the wooden bell cote was found to be leaking so badly that it was removed and the roof tiles continued to the West end without break. Between 1988 and 1996, new blue chairs were purchased together with new light oak kneelers to the front row. In 1996 a new altar table was constructed and a new carpet laid to the whole floor.

In the early nineties The Walton Church Development Fund was set up to continue the development of St.Paul's to continue work and vision for the church which our predecessors have already begun.

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© Sandal Magna PCC 2016.
Registered Charity Number 1131795.


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