Into the Second Century

The history of Britain since 1925 has been very varied. Two coronations, a world and several  smaller wars, economic booms and busts, nationalisations and privatisations, loss of Empire and closer relations with Europe,  emigrations and immigrations, festivals, jubilees and mourning.

Shipley was a small part of all these. In 1931 the majority of workers were in the textile and woollen industry, with commerce, metal workers and personal services next highest[1].  Like most of the north, the depression in the 1930s hit Shipley. Unemployment rose to 32% for 1932[2] – 3,400 out of work – about double the national average.  This was not much relieved by the opening of the Art Deco Glenroyal Cinema on Briggate in 1932[3] or the Coronation of George VI in 1936. As part of a scheme to relieve this unemployment,  a new Town Hall was built on the site of the former Manor House in 1932[4]. From a peak in 1931, unemployment fell to 13% in October 1937[5]. The population had grown since 1921 to 30,242 in 1931 and would peak at 32,680 in 1951[6],then falling back to about 28,200 today.  Housing stock increased.

Shipley survived the second world war, even the bombs in Heaton Woods and the VE celebrations.  As well as pageants and street parties for the Coronation in 1953, Shipley held a Coronation Water Festival at Hirst Lock with events on both canal and river[7].  In the early 1950s Shipley Council embarked on development of the centre of the town and extensive clearance of back-to-back housing. The area round Hargreaves Square  was cleared and a new small town centre was erected including a market square and bus station. The Kirkgate side was demolished and indoor market built, including a ‘Fine Fare’ supermarket and the distinctive clock tower. The new development was opened by Bruce Forsyth.  That 1960’s style of architecture is referred to as “brutalist”.   The Sun Hotel and the bank remained. Other back-to-back houses were cleared and low-rise flats erected. The ASDA supermarket, health clinic and swimming baths were erected on one of these sites, the rest of it becoming a park.

With the decline in the wool industry all the mills shut; some were demolished, some becoming used for other purposes, including conversion into dwellings. The engineering industry followed in decline. The four cinemas closed one by one. However, other, different, industry has set up in Shipley.  And a Tax Office was built. In 1974, under the local government reforms under Edward Heath as Prime Minister, the Shipley U.D.C. was abolished and Shipley came within the new Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

In 2001 Salt’s village of Saltaire achieved World Heritage Status.

By the early 1930s in the church, the 1867 clock was now unreliable, so Shipley U.D.C. provided a new one which was dedicated on 31st December 1935 by the Vicar of Shipley, Rev. E.B. Alban[8].  A magazine[9] gives a brief snapshot of parish life in 1937:

The number of communicants has increased from last year. 143 people are engaged on some form of church work. The magazine made a profit was able to give a grant towards the running of the Sunday Schools, at which there is high attendance. The church needed a new boiler and was redecorated. Various groups are running: Choir, Mothers’ Union, G.F.S., Missionary Working Party, Guild of King’s Crusaders (recently revived by the Curate), Tennis and Football clubs, Guides and the St Paul’s Players Drama Group). The Hirst Wood Burial Board reduced the overdraft to £379 despite spending £100 on extensions, development and improvements to the site.

September 1939 and Britain was again at war. There was little immediate effect or comment, however in June 1940 it was agreed not to ring the church bells on Sunday mornings and to reduce the Tuesday practice time in case “people not hear the air-raid siren.”[10] Later that year the vicar’s letter informed the parishioners that “The Church Council has decided to black-out the church so that evening services on Sundays can continue to be held at 6.30pm .. and we have had to incur the expense of approximately £25 on the provision of blackout curtains, etc.” In addition the Church clock chimes were suspended as they “may be confused under certain circumstances with the invasion alarm and this might cause difficulties.”[11] A ‘spotter’ would also be outside the church during services to alert the vicar to an air-raid warning in case this was missed with the singing or organ playing.  If bombs started to fall the service would be suspended to allow people “to take shelter in good places under the tower.”[12]

In November 1940, to help the war effort, the church had offered its railings to the ‘Iron and Steel Control’ but a year later the Vicar is complaining that they were still there[13]. The reply from the Ministry of Supply that  “.. it will be at least 3 months before they will be able to deal with your railings” did not satisfy him[14].

The East Window blackout curtains were removed in October 1944.  When VE Day came there was a Service of Thanksgiving and Intercession at 8.00pm that day and Communion at 8.00am the following day which was a public holiday. There was also regret by the Vicar that he could not get any Shipley firm to put a flag up on the tower[15].

1953 brought the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The parish was able to fly a flag on this occasion as it was lent a flagpole to be erected in the Churchyard[16]. The coronation was celebrated with a pageant on 31st May (Whit Sunday) at 2.30pm in the church entitled “The Coronation of an English Queen”. This showed “the principal parts of a Coronation Service of any English Queen.”[17] The Vicar, Canon Perrett, left in January 1954 and Rev. J. Keys Fraser took up the post in May. July 1955 the PCC accepted the bid from Wood and Wordsworth of Leeds to renovate and modernise the organ.  This was completed in October the following year[18]. Restoration of the organ was followed in 1957 by a more general restoration appeal.  As a first step, a toilet was installed. St Paul’s Churchyards had been closed in 1881, but all the tombstones were still standing. In the late 1950s these stones in the top (original) graveyard were cleared by the Council and the area grassed.  The headstones were placed round the edge of the churchyard or laid flat at the east and west ends and as a path. Some years later graves in the lower churchyard had the inscriptions logged[19] and were felled and the area grassed. The Council undertook the maintenance of both areas.

St Paul’s had used the services of Lay Readers as far back as Victorian times: there had been Mr T. H. Greenhalgh in 1886. Now, in 1960, 4 men were commissioned as Parochial Readers[20]. (They passed the Diocesan Reader exams the following year and one, Arthur Lawes, went on to ordination) Three more became Readers a few years later.  Rev. Keys Fraser left for Scarborough in  1964 and Rev. Philip H. Green was appointed. 

In January 1968 the Church started to use the modern-language ‘Series 2’ services. At the same time the two Sunday morning services were combined into a Parish Communion at 9.45am. After an experimental period of a year it was agreed by 64 to 6 to continue with Series 2[21]. Under Rev. Green a programme of re-ordering of the interior of the church commenced in 1970 to the design and under the supervision of  Mr. C.B. Martindale, architect.

The most important change to be made was the re-ordering to accommodate a nave altar. The front few pews were removed, the eagle lectern was shortened and moved behind the chancel screen. A slightly raised pavement with communion rails was installed to create a new sanctuary. A new altar was made from the wood recovered from discarded pews and covered by a figured cloth presented to the church by the Mothers’ Union. The altar was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Michael Parker, M.A., the Lord Bishop of Bradford on the 25th January 1971, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

The 1927  side chapel was cleared and made into a baptistery. The font was brought from the West door and placed in a central position in the area.  At the West end of the church all the rows of pews between the first pillars were removed and a wooden screen with glass panels was erected.  This formed a  room at the back of the church (a ‘narthex’ ) which is of sufficient size to be used for meetings and gatherings of the congregation. The framework of the screen and its doors were made from the wood of the pews removed and from the screen transferred from the former side chapel.  A false ceiling was added with the floor above being strong enough for to make a another room if required in the future. A kitchen was made in the North West side porch and new toilet facilities were provided on the South West side. The stairway leading to the bell tower was modified. A wooden ceiling and some lighting was added to the main West porch.

In 1971 four silver chalices which had become unserviceable were melted down and the metal used to make two new chalices, a ciborium and two well patens in memory of Elizabeth Stansfield and an alms dish was given by Mrs. Beryl Hardcastle in memory of the late William Ernest Hardcastle and George Donald Hardcastle, both former churchwardens. Subsequently the choir stalls were provided with 24 brass lamps in the form of candlesticks with red shades and the ceiling spotlights were removed and their sockets filled and levelled[22].

In June 1976 the church building listed as Grade II and was added to the Department of the Environment statutory list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest[23]. In 1982 major work was again undertaken on the organ by Laycock and Bannister of Crosshills[24].

Following approval by the Privy Council, the United Benefice of St Paul, Shipley and St Margaret, Frizinghall came into being on 1st March 1983. It had a Team Rector, a Team Vicar, one electoral roll and one PCC. Part of the reason for this move was that the clearance of back-to-back housing in the 1950/60s had removed many of the people to housing built outside St Paul’s parish, e.g., Baildon Coach Road,[25] replacing the houses with commercial developments. This reduced the population of the parish to about 4,500 and it was considered too small.  Rev. John Henson had become vicar in 1978 and he took the post of Team Rector. Whilst there would be one PCC it was decided that each church should have a ‘Church Committee’ to deal with things specific to that church. Over the period of the United Benefice there was effort put into joint activities, but with mixed success. Interest in the two congregations was generally low – a report of the 1987 AGM expressed ‘disappointment’ at the low attendance[26]. Rev. Henson left the parish in summer 1991 and in September the PCC again considered “the relationship between St Paul’s and St Margaret’s”  It was decided to “seek ways of developing the United Benefice” – specifically for clergy and readers to help out more at each church. In 1995, Rev. John Poole (John Henson’s successor) left.  The PCC report for 1995/96 says that it had been consulted by the Bishop and that, after considering options, it was finally agreed “to request that the current United Benefice should be discontinued”. In 1998 St Paul’s again became a separate parish. Its first vicar was Rev. Colin Penfold;  the Curate his wife, Rev. Dr Sue Penfold[27].

The state of the electric wiring was an issue raised by a Quinquennial (5-year) inspection. At the same time a new lighting scheme was proposed by a consultant to bring lighting up to modern standards. This  involved floods in the ceiling, uplighters for the walls and spots to highlight particular areas e.g., altar, preachers, choir and organ. A dimmer system would control the lights and enable flexibility of use. In 2003 the wiring was replaced, additional sockets supplied and the lighting system installed. The church was also redecorated. The cost, over £100,000, was met from the church’s resources and a congregation Gift Day. Unfortunately after six months a problem developed in the dimmer system causing lights to randomly flash.  All attempts to determine the cause and rectify it were unsuccessful.  Switching off the dimmers was finally the only solution.

The area by the font was developed into a Prayer Corner in memory of Michael Ryley, a former director of music and churchwarden at the church, which was dedicated in November 2005.  As part of conforming to the Disability Discrimination Act, the toilets were reformed, including one suitable for people in wheelchairs. Following long discussions, a phone mast was installed on the tower.  Rev. Colin Penfold left in November 2008. As part of the discussion about the next incumbent, the Parish stated that a woman priest would be acceptable.

Canon Sue Hope was installed in March 2009, but as half-time minister; her other time was as a Diocesan Evangelism Adviser. This arrangement picked up both the issue of the size of the Parish and the wider Deanery plan for deployment of clergy.  The Diocese took the opportunity to use the Vicarage to house and provide an office for the Archdeacon of Bradford.  A new, modern vicarage was purchased in an area just outside the parish boundary. The clergy team was strengthened by Rev. Helen Lealman as Assistant in 2010 and Rev. Sarah Sidique Gill as Curate in 2011. Sarah left in 2015 for a Team Ministry post and was replaced by Rev. Malcolm Hendry as Curate.

An Organ Restoration Appeal had been running for a while, boosted by the proceeds of a series of concerts in the church, and in 2010 another phase of work commenced.  The pallet motors and wind chest were renovated.  There is still work to be done.

2014 saw St Paul’s in yet another diocese: at Easter the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales was created from the former dioceses of  Ripon & Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford  under a new Bishop of Leeds. The Archdeacon of Bradford, who was due to retire, moved from the former vicarage and the new Bishop of Bradford moved in.

In the parish, another Quinquennial inspection declared that the roof needed attention as a matter of urgency. A proposed scheme was drawn up by the architect (Mr Mike Overton) and submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for consideration for funding. An initial grant of £18,100 allowed the scheme to be developed and costed, with necessary surveys on masonry, timber, windows and bats carried out. A survey for asbestos revealed a considerable quantity in the boiler house.  This had to be removed before any work could start[28]. It was done at the right time as in January 2015 the boilers broke down and had to be replaced. Tenders for the roof work were received and, following a reduction in the work to be done, Lloyd & Smith were contracted. Work on the South side of the roof (facing Kirkgate) was started in June 2015 and completed at the end of October, with a grant of £145,100 from HLF. Grants from the AllChurches Trust and the Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust and reclaim of VAT under the Listed Places of Worship Scheme assisted the funding, completed by the churches reserves and congregational giving. The grant from HLF also required a widening of the access to the Heritage.  A revision of the guidebook, church trail leaflets, Tour Guides, information on an expanded Parish Website and schools materials all helped this objective to be achieved. The total project cost was £215,000. The north side roof, guttering and stonework, north west corner roof and chancel roof will be the next phase of the project. This, it is hoped, will completed by the 200th anniversary of the Church.

After 190 years, St Paul’s is still an active church. Worship is a mix of formal Common Worship and informal.  Services are held every Sunday, sometimes as many as four. The latest is Sunday Extra, a service of informal worship at 11.30am. The Remembrance Sunday Civic Service is attended by many local people and town authorities. There are two Church Schools, Shipley C of E Primary and Wycliffe Primary with Church governors. Contact is maintained through visits, assemblies, visits to and services in the church and telling of Bible stories through the ‘Open the Book scheme’.  Music is important and St Paul’s has an excellent Choir, a Junior Choir, Churpies (1-6 years), a Music Group and the fine organ. Concerts are held regularly in the church (which has a fine music acoustic) and over the years various musicals have been performed. And the Church Pantomimes of the past are remembered with pleasure. Several church groups meet on a regular basis and the church is used weekly by uniformed organisations and other secular bodies.

On to the 200th.



[1]     GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Shipley UD through time | Industry Statistics | Persons of Working Age by Sex & 1931 Occupational Order, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: Date accessed: 07th January 2016

[2]     GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Shipley LabMkt through time | Work & Poverty Statistics | Claimant Count Unemployment, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: Date accessed: 07th January 2016

[3]     Bradford Timeline 1932,

[4]     Governance, Shipley West Yorkshire,

[5]     Shipley LabMkt, Claimant Count Unemployment

[6]     GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, Shipley UD through time | Population Statistics | Total Population, A Vision of Britain through Time. URL: Date accessed: 07th January 2016

[7]     It was filmed by Mr Eric Hall,  See SHIPLEY CORONATION WATER FESTIVAL (1953) film no: 3816 Yorkshire Film Archive

[8]     St Paul’s, A Brief History,1976, p, 5.

[9]     “Some Parish Facts 1937”, Parish Magazine, March 1938

[10]    Parish Magazine, June 1940.

[11]    Parish Magazine, October 1940

[12]    Ibid.

[13]    Parish Magazine, November 1941

[14]    Parish Magazine, December 1941

[15]    Parish Magazine, May 1945.

[16]    Parish Magazine, June 1953

[17]    Parish Magazine, May 1953

[18]    Parish Magazine, October 1956

[19]    A record of the inscriptions is kept by the Parish. Listings can also be found on  and from the Bradford Family History Society.

[20]    Parish Magazine, June 1960

[21]    Parish Magazines, January 1968 & April 1969

[22]    St Paul’s, A Brief History,1976, p, 6.

[23]    LISTED BUILDINGS IN SHIPLEY Kirkgate (north side) Church of St Paul Shipley.pdf  Accessed 20/05/2013

[24]    Parish Magazine, October 1981

[25]    “Higher Coach Road History”

[26]    Parish Magazine, May 1987

[27]  Sue later became Director of Ordinands for Wakefield Diocese and Blackburn Diocesan Director of Ministry and Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral.

[28]    The boiler house was decontaminated in 2014. The vault beyond the boiler house was sealed, for decontamination at a later date.

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