Historic church set to close in Thornhill Lees

Historic church set to close in Thornhill Lees

ANOTHER church in Dewsbury – Holy Innocents in Thornhill Lees – is due to close because there are too few members to keep it going.

The last service – one of thanksgiving for what has gone before – will be held there on Sunday September 15 at 4pm, conducted by Bishop Tony Robinson. 

An open day will be held the day before from 12noon to 4pm, when the church records and memorabilia will be on view, and car parking will be provided at Headfield School nearby.

The church building is to be sold and will be boarded up to protect it, and it is understood the building cannot be bought and used as a place of worship ever again.

The joint parish of Thornhill Lees with Savile Town will be dissolved, as will Ravensthorpe, and a new and larger parish created known as the Parish of Ravensthorpe with Thornhill Lees and Savile Town.

The churchyard cannot be closed because it is not yet filled, and so will remain open for burials, but when it is filled and closed, the new parish will be responsible for its upkeep. 

The closure of this once-thriving church will leave two neighbouring villages – Savile Town and Thornhill Lees – with no physical Christian presence at all. 

So many of these hallowed places have now closed, some without even a mention, like St Peter’s in Earlsheaton a few months ago, and Thornhill Wesleyan Chapel, shortly before.

It is many years since the vibrant church in Savile Town, St Mary’s, with its own vicar, vicarage and church school, closed.

The Savile Town Methodist Church with its resident minister and its huge manse on Orchard Street, closed more or less at the same time.

St Matthew’s in Westtown closed many years ago but is now being used for a good purpose, and its beautiful grounds are kept in impeccable order. 

Holy Innocents in Thornhill Lees was built in 1858 and when it celebrated its centenary, the vicar, Fr Philip Slater, wrote the following message in the church magazine for June 1958: “Our great forefathers over the past hundred years have enriched our church, built it up stone by stone and cared for its fabric.

“They loved every stone, they loved to see it forming shape, and they did it all for the glory of God and for the welfare of the souls in this place.

“When they passed on to more glorious courts, they handed on this treasure to us, this blessed spot, this House of God.

“The generation that follows us will look back to this year of 1958, and when they read of our joyous celebrations, they will see we kept alight the torch our forefathers handed down to us.

I wonder what Fr Slater would think today when there is no-one now able to pick up that torch and carry it forward.

The present small band of worshippers who have struggled to hold it aloft for too many years can no longer carry it.

The final chapter in Holy Innocents’ history has been written, and I am sad that it has fallen to me to write it.

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