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A History of Silsden Church 

1712 - 2012

by Brian Turner

Although 2012 marks the tercentenary of the founding of Silsden Parish church the story really begins in the year 1711, in the reign of Queen Anne. Silsden was then a village of about 600 inhabitants, most of whom were employed in agriculture. The main route through the village followed along Sykes Lane, St. John’s St, Kirkgate, Briggate, Bridge St and North St up to Tannery Corner.
Silsden was then part of the Skipton Castle estate, the Earl of Thanet being the Lord of the Manor. It was also in the parish of Kildwick, Kildwick being the only church between Skipton and Keighley. For Silsden people to get to Kildwick was not easy. There were no roads suitable for wheeled horse-drawn traffic, only bridle paths for walkers and those able to go by horseback. Canals and railways were yet to be thought of.
But someone did think that it would be a good idea for Silsden to have its own place of worship. Who it was, we do not know, but we do know that in 1711, four representatives from the village approached the Earl of Thanet to ask for permission to buy land suitable for the building of Silsden’s own church. These four, all described as Yeoman, were Henry Stark and Frances Stark junior of Silsden Moor and Edmund Horsfall and Peter Cowling, of the village of Silsden. It was no light request that these four made, for the providing of a church meant more than just a building, it also meant the furnishings - a communion table, font, pulpit, reading desk, seats, bell, books and other things - an annual stipend and a churchyard.
Light request or not, permission was granted for the building of Silsden’s own church. The land earmarked for the building of this church and for the churchyard, belonged to the Jennings family, a long established Silsden family who had their own coat of arms. They lived at Jennings hall which stood where the old Vicarage now stands. In March 1711, the land was purchased for 10 shillings. On this land was a barn, similar to that at East Riddlesden Hall, measuring 14 yards 6 inches by 8 yards 18 inches. This barn stood on the site of the present church and it was this barn which was converted to become Silsden’s first place of worship.
A public subscription was set up to raise the money needed for the conversion work which was to cost £66. We do not know for certain what the church looked like on the outside, there being no drawing or painting and certainly no photograph for us to see. But we can assume from written documents that have survived, that the outside of the barn was little altered. It was rectangular in shape with the door in the middle of the South wall, with rectangular windows on each side, with plain glass.
As one entered the door, with three decker pulpit could be seen facing you. The body of the church was filled with box pews which were rented. Other seating was provided by galleries on each side, ie the East and West ends of the building. There was no organ, the music being provided by a few instrumentalists under the West gallery.
Under the East gallery was the altar. Heating was provided by a stove below the pulpit. There was no lighting, so that the one Sunday service was held in the afternoon.
At the West End of the building was a bell loft (or chamber) in which hung just one bell. This was the bell which can be seen just inside the main door at the West End. On the bell can be seen the inscription “AP 1659”. AP stands for Anne Pembroke known generally as Lady Anne Clifford, who was Countess of Pembroke, as well as Dorset, Montgomery and Westmorland. It originally hung in the Chapel at Skipton Castle, one of Lady Anne's residences. It was given to be used in Silsden’s new church by the Earl of Thanet.
Although I have referred, so far, to the building as a church, it was, strictly speaking, a Chapel of ease, attached to the parish of Kildwick. The vicar of Kildwick was still the vicar of Silsden and the first incumbents at Silsden were known as perpetual curates, the first one being David Clark. He, like his successor Jonathan Jackson, are both recorded as being schoolmasters, a means of supplementing their incomes. Jonathan Jackson, ministering to the people of Silsden from the 1728 to 1766, is our longest serving incumbent. He was followed by George Benson who was here until 1814. Nothing more is known about our first three incumbents.
The church is dedicated to Saint James and the reason for this is that the new Chapel of ease was consecrated on the feast day of Saint James, July the 25th ,in 1712. This day was an annual holiday for the people of Silsden, the day on which the Lord of the Manor of Skipton visited the village and matters of dispute, requests, complaints etc were settled. The rest of the day was given over to sports and other means of enjoyment.
In 1712, Kildwick and Silsden were part of the large diocese of York. Thus it was, that the new Chapel of ease was consecrated by the then Archbishop of York, John Sharp, who had been born and bred in Ivegate in Bradford. The cost of entertaining the archbishop and those who came with him was £12, which was paid by the Earl of Thanet. 

Brian Turner, 20/03/2022
Hello and welcome to our church. If you are a new visitor, we have a page for you to get to know us and learn more about planning a visit.
Click here to see more.

Planning your Visit

A Warm Hello 

The following information is specifically for those planning a visit, so that you know, beforehand, what to expect on a Sunday morning.

Where and When

We meet at the Church Building (details here) for our Sunday Services with one at 9:30am and another at 11:00am.  When you arrive, you should be greeted by someone on our Welcome Team who will be wearing a Welcome lanyard.

We serve tea, coffee and biscuits in the hall between the services.  It is a great way to meet people, or simply take time to find your bearings. We ask for a small contribution towards the refreshments. If you are coming to the 11.00 service refreshments will be available from about 10.15 onwards.

Accessibility: There is wheelchair access through the Community Hall, and a sound loop for anyone who needs it. Please let one of the Welcome Team know on your arrival and they will help you to get set up. There is a disabled toilet at the back of church as well as in the hall.

Our Services

The 9.30 service is a formal Holy Communion led by either David or Susan. We have an organist on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month, other weeks we use videos created by St Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church. The service lasts about 50 minutes. All of the service is broadcast onto a TV at the front of the church. It is uploaded to Youtube.

The 11.00 service is a less formal gathering and will be different every week. Music is provided by videos on the screen, or by a keyboard player. There will be readings, a talk, sometimes there is congregational participation. We try to have members of the congregation involved as much as possible. The services are put together by David or Susan or another group within the church - for example one of the home groups.

At the end of both services we share news and notices, usually about what’s going on in the life of the church - plus a Birthday slot with chocolate for the birthday person!

images: Services

What about my kids?

Unfortunately at the moment we do not have enough children attending the services to make Children's Work viable, although we would love this to change.
We have a table and chairs at the back of church with a box of toys and activities available. There are also bags for younger children containing a toy, some crayons and paper, and a couple of books.


Getting Connected

Small Groups

While Sundays are a great way to meet new people, it is often in smaller gatherings that you can really get to know someone. Being part of one of our small groups allows you to make new friends, share together and support each other. We have several groups that meet throughout the week. Check out Small Groups and see if there’s one that you could join, or we can put you in touch with a small group leader who will be more than happy to invite you along to their group.

Serving and Volunteering

If you want to get involved in the life of the church and help us make Sundays run smoothly, you can sign up to serve on a team. 

Other Ministries
Get in touch with us to plan your visit
If you would like to come and visit the church beforehand you are more than welcome! Get in touch and we can arrange a time that suits you.
Email Address:
Comments / Questions or anything you would like to say?

Next, we will contact you by email to say hello and help arrange anything necessary for your visit.


David - COPY   Susan-Griffiths - COPY
Rev David Griffiths   Rev Susan Griffiths
We hope that whoever you are, you will feel at home at our church.

Best Wishes

David and Susan
Val Goddard, 24/08/2012