History of Haworth Church
The current St Michael and All Angels church in Haworth is the third building of religious significance to stand on this site, with the first Haworth Chapel dating back to the 14th and 15th Centuries. There is some belief that a religious building may have stood on the site before then, although there is no concrete evidence for this.
In 1317 the Archbishop’s registry at York shows a decree was issued commanding the rector and vicar of Bradford and the freeholders of Haworth to pay the curate of Haworth Chapel the salary due to him and in 1488 a new chapel was built. The tower base of this church still survives today and forms the oldest part of the existing church. The tower has been raised twice since and has had two clocks installed, the latest has 4 faces, one on each side of the tower.
In 1742 William Grimshaw, who was a close friend of John Wesley, became curate at Haworth. He was an enthusiastic and hard working curate, preaching as many as 30 times a week. He was also not averse to leaving his services and driving men out of the many public houses at the top of Haworth to listen to his long sermons. Haworth legend says that he even used a whip in order to encourage people out of the pubs into the church. Grimshaw attracted huge congregations with up to 500 communicants and in 1755 the church was enlarged to accommodate the many people who wanted to attend.
In 1820 Patrick Bronte accepted to living of Haworth and moved to the Parsonage with his family. He was a conscientious parish priest who walked many miles a day to tend to his large flock in the neighbouring villages as at the time many people would have come to the services in Haworth from the nearby villages. He baptised an average of 290 people per year, but due to the high mortality rate and the fact that the average life expectancy was just 22 years of age with 40% of children dying before the age of 6, Bronte also performed over 100 funerals per year. There are estimated to be 42,000 burials in the graveyard, many of the graves from the time of the Bronte family hold entire families including a number of infants.
In 1845 Arthur Bell Nicholls, who would later marry Charlotte Bronte, arrived in Haworth. He was appointed as a curate, and due to Patrick’s failing eyesight he soon took over the bulk of the official church duties. Patrick Bronte died in 1861 at the age of 84, having outlived his entire family and having served the Parish of Haworth for 41 years. He is still the longest serving incumbent of Haworth Parish Church.
In 1879 it was decided to take down the old church building and build a new one. This caused a national outcry as Haworth and the church had already become a place of Bronte pilgrimage. However, it was proved that the building was unsafe and unsanitary as water from that graveyard was seeping in through the floor, so the work went ahead. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on Christmas day in 1879 by Michael Merrall esq, a local mill owner, who contributed £5000 of the £7000 needed to complete the new building. A number of the stained glass windows inside the current church are dedicated to the memory of Michael Merral by his work force and his family.
In 1964 the Bronte Memorial Chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of Bradford. It was funded by Sir Tresham Lever Bart, a member of the Bronte Society. The communion table, chandelier and the Bronte memorial tablet are from the ‘Bronte’ church, before it was rebuilt.
The church of St Michael and All Angels continues to function as a living, worshipping congregation serving the people of Haworth and welcoming visitors from all over the world.