The Story of St. Stephen’s being a History of the Parish Church of St. Stephen, Steeton-with-Eastburn.
The Village of Steeton
The Township of Steeton is situated on the old Keighley and Kendal Turnpike road, being 3 miles to the north of Keighley and 6 miles south of Skipton. Steeton is an old settlement and is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1080-1086 A.D. under the ancient name of Stiverton. The name of Steeton is derived from its first Saxon possessor being called Stephen – hence Stiveton or Stephen’s town.
The De Stiveton family were lords of the manor of Steeton during the 12th to 14th centuries. In the 13th century the Prior of Bolton granted a charter to Elias de Stiveton to hold Divine Service in his chapel at Steeton. This chapel was believed to be a domestic oratory situated near the Manor House. The best known member of this family was Robert who was a Knight in the service of King Edward I. He went on two crusades to the Holy Land. He died in 1307 and was given a magnificent funeral service at Bolton Priory. His memorial effigy can be seen in Kildwick Parish Church.
The old village of Steeton centred around the High Street, which formed part of an old highway between Keighley and Skipton. There was a Toll Bar situated at the bottom of Steeton Bank and an Inn called “The Pack Horse”. This inn was known to be in existence in 1799.
The Poll tax returns of 1379 listed 58 inhabitants at Steeton, by comparison Keighley had 109 and Skipton 127 inhabitants.
The Mother Church of St. Andrew’s, Kildwick.
Until Christmas 1881, the villages of Steeton and Eastburn were in the parish of Kildwick. Known as the Lang Kirk of Craven, Kildwick Church is one of the oldest foundations in England. There is evidence that there has been a church at Kildwick from 950 A.D. Remains of Saxon Crosses dating from the 10th Century were discovered during restoration of the church in 1901.
The Old Saxon Church was destroyed by the Scots in 1317. From the ashes of the old church were rescued the Norman Font, the ancient oak chest, the remains of several Saxon Crosses and the De Stiveton Memorial. Most of the present church was built about 1320 A.D. with later additions.
It is recorded that the church of St. Andrew’s at Kildwick was given by Ceclilia de Romille to the Canons of Embsay where she had founded an Augustinian Priory in 1122 A.D.
The Priory was later transferred to Bolton in 1154 A.D. Kildwick church was under the authority of the Priors of Bolton until the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, when the patronage passed to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford.
The Church registers date from 1575 and contain many entries relating to Steeton and Eastburn. Here are a few extracts from the Burials:-
John Parkinson, commonly called Lord of Eastburn, who lived for 100 years and almost five more;
John Allerton of the parish of Bradford, having fallen from Hawkcliffe Hill at Steeton in Kildwick Parish, had his neck broken;
A certain Thomas Johnson, a native of the Kingdom of Scotland having fallen from Hawkcliffe Rock at Steeton;
David Wilson, Keeper of the Turnpike Bar in Steeton.
Most of the Ancient stained glass windows were destroyed by the Puritans during the Commonwealth period. This ancient glass included the East Windows which contained a memorial to Canon Whixley the last Vicar of Kildwick to be Canon of Bolton Priory. The present East Window was erected in 1854.
The Birth of the Church in Steeton
In 1843 the Rev. John Turner Colman Fawcett was appointed Vicar of Kildwick, where he was to remain for the next 24 years. During that time he saw the daughter church of St John, Cononley built, and he planned to build churches at Sutton and Steeton. In 1860 he obtained a curates licence for Steeton.
On 23rd August 1869 a lease of land at Carter Royd in Steeton was granted by John Wilkins to the Rev. Henry Salwey, Vicar of Kildwick (1868-1875). A temporary wooden structure was erected on this land. The building was set apart for divine worship on the afternoon of Sunday 10th October 1869 by the Rev. H. Salwey. A Sunday School was also held in the building. On 11th October 1878 a meeting of subscribers of the Steeton Church Fund was held in the Wooden Mission Room. Those present were: Rev. William Mitchell (Curate of Steeton), John Clough, James Bairstow, William Bairstow, Walter Bairstow, Mrs Mitchell, Mrs Todd, Mr W.H. Fox, Miss Mary Bairstow and the Rev. Herbert Todd (Vicar of Kildwick). The result of this meeting was to form a Building Committee for the purpose of building a permanent church in Steeton.
The wooden building was used for church services until the present church was consecrated in April 1881. Some time after this, the wooden structure was removed to near the new church and was used as a schoolroom until the present Sunday School building was opened in December 1896. Part of this wooden church still survives and is being used as a joiner’s workshop in Crosshills. The remainder of the building was in use on a farm at Whitley Head, but was dismantled several years ago.
The Building of St. Stephen’s Church 1880-1881
In the Autumn of 1879, a piece of land called Little London adjoining Elmsley House (now known as High Hall) was bought for £500 from Mr Garforth’s Trustees. The site was ¾ of an acre in extent and was to be used for building a permanent church in Steeton. Messrs. T.H. & F. Healey of Bradford were appointed to be the Architects for the new building. The Foundation Stone was laid by the Rev. Herbert Todd, Vicar of Kildwick, on February 28th 1880. The stone can be seen inside the church at the base of the chancel arch on the south side of the church, near the lectern. The cost of building the new church, including the purchase of the land, was about £3,700. The tradesmen appointed to construct the building were as follows:
Mason: John Rhodes of Baildon.
Carpenter and Joiner: Robert Wade of Silsden.
Plumber and Glazier: T. Lambert of Haworth.
Plasterer: Thomas Riley of Sutton Mill.
Slater: Thomas Thornton and Son of Bingley.
Painter and Decorator: J. Hindle of Steeton.
Clerk of Works: G.H. Elliot of Lightcliffe.
The style of architecture is Early English, and the church is built entirely of stone, which was mostly obtained from Strikes Delf, above Sutton. The church would have accommodation for about 270 people when it was first built. The principal feature of the church is the tower and spire which together rise to a height of 96 feet, on each face of the belfry stage are two light windows. Lucarne lights are placed on the cardinal bases of the spire. The tower contains one bell, but it has been arranged so that it will hold a full peal of bells.
The edifice forms a double rectangle and consists of a nave 60 feet by 22 feet, a chancel 30 feet by 18 feet, a south transept 16 feet by 12 feet and a vestry on the north side of the chancel. The tower is situated at the south east side of the church above the organ.
Since the building of Airedale General Hospital in 1970 the vicar of St Stephen’s has also been the chaplain of the hospital chapel.
The Vicars of St. Stephen’s Church have been:-
Charles Ingram William Boynton M.A.
1882 – 1888
Thomas John McNulty M.A.
1889 – 1893
Alfred Clarke B.A.
1893 – 1914
William Seely M.A.
1914 – 1928
Douglas Frederick Coles B.D.
1929 – 1940
Edward Kemble Wicks
1940 – 1945
1945 – 1958
John Milton Granville Jones B.A.
1958 – 1966
George Henry Lindsay Bowman
1966 – 1976
John Michael Bearpark M.A.
1977 – 1994
Keith Robert Owen M.A.