The Parish Church of the Holy Cross, Airedale


History of Holy Cross Church, Airedale, an extract from One Road In, One Road Out, a people's history of Fryston (pp 7,8) by David Waddington. (see bibliography for full details and isbn number.) 

Holy Cross Church, Airedale, is actually built from the stone of Fryston Hall. Fryston Hall was sold and the land disposed of, roughly about 1905, but the building still stayed there and became semi-derelict, though the army used it and it wasn't until our first vicar, the Reverend John Daly, came and he saw the possibility of making a brick or stone building and went along and asked about this stone. Again, this was done by local workmen and women and children - we all pushed a barrow! - and this stone was taken, literally bit by bit through the woods on horses, carts, barrows, the lot, and placed at its new site at Holy Cross; and Holy Cross still retains the portico that was once the Italian portico at Fryston Hall. (Ex-Fryston woman).

The extraordinary thing, which is hard to believe really, was that the fellow who became Bishop here, Jimmy Seaton, had been my Principal at Cudstone, my theological college, and it was he who had sent me (Father John Daly) to the Tyneside to get ordained up there. The first person I buried was a coalminer. He died of starvation at the end of 1926. It was the General Strike. I was ordained just as the General Strike was over. I thought at one moment that I would have to cycle from Oxford to Durham but, fortunately for me, though unfortunately for the miners, they broke the strike sufficiently to run trains. Working on the Tyneside, I loved the people, the Geordies. The old ladies would say, "Where are you going next, hinnee?" And I'd answer, "Well, I'll go anywhere the church wants me to go. If they want me to go to Timbuctoo, I'm ready to go to Timbuctoo; but I do hope they don't send me to Yorkshire!" I thought they were too tough - I shouldn't know how to stand up to them! But it was one of those queer things, because that's when Jimmy Seaton chose to call me down to Airedale to build this church. The Lord just took over. I don't want it to sound a silly, sentimental sort of reason, but that's how it seemed, looking back. I'd certainly got no bright ideas of my own. One thing after another just occurred.

For example, one lad, a Rover Scout, said that he'd show me round and took me to see a family who lived in the woods at a place called Ferry Fryston. Walking through a bit of copse, I espied what was obviously a big house and was told that it was Fryston Hall and that no one had lived there for a long time, I was immediately interested because the stone looked good and we'd obviously got to get some stone if we wanted to build a church. So, I reported it to the Bishop and, a few weeks later, he said, "You can have it for 300," which was exactly the amount of money we had managed to raise. Having blown the whole of our 300, we still needed someone to pull the building down.

Fortunately, a lot of people helped us out once we got on with it. There was a fellow called Elliott, who was the manager of Glasshoughton, who said, "There's a truck in the yard if you'd like to use it," and, In the first few weeks, he provided the driver and petrol to run it. After a while, the driver was needed at the mine so I became the driver. They were big, big pieces of stone, but we tried to move them without chipping them. Some of them were approaching two tons and we only had a one-ton truck. On one occasion, we were going along with certainly more than one ton on the back and the front wheels came off the ground and our load slid onto the floor! These types of thing tended to happen, but we were generally okay because we took our time. We used over 600 tons of stone, but we also needed to put In 400 tons of reinforced concrete because, as they explained, the church needed to be built on a "raft" as the coal had been taken away underneath. For this we needed broken brick. Again, Mr Elliott sent me a chit saying they were going to lower a 100ft chimney and we could take what we wanted as long as we looked sharp about it. So, I used to go off in the one-ton truck straight after the seven o'clock Holy Communion and load a ton of broken brick on with one of the lads who'd volunteered to help me.

Then we needed a machine for breaking the brick and mixing it with the cement and I think that's where Jim Bullock first came in. All this was 1932, of course, but, not so long ago, we had a "do" down at Fryston and Jim said he remembered that, if ever I was coming near the pit, the whole pit was cleaned up - everything cleared away otherwise there was a danger I might walk off with something I could use for the church! (John Daly, The Bishop of Warwick).

In 1949, J. Pope-Hennessy, the biographer of Richard Monchion Milnes, wrote of the lamentable post-war condition of Fryston Hall and of its modern relationship to the Holy Cross Church, Airedale:

"Through the gate and on up the drive to the Hall, the country seems to open out. It becomes undulating but stark. On either hand lies parkland gone to waste, grass rank with tares and dandelions and stained with pit dust.... The muddy road winds on over hilt, over dale towards the crest of a low rise upon which a line of buildings show light against a background of dark evergreens. On getting nearer, you find that this line of buildings is the front of the old stables of Fryston Hall.... Some hundred yards to the right of the old stables, a raw patch of earth, raised like a stage above the level of the fields, marks the site of Firyston Hall. Only the cellars remain of the Milnes' house at Fryston, for the rest has been taken down and carted off to Airedale, where the stones are now incorporated in a Baptist church. The site of the house is fenced in with rusted barbed wire; its surface is covered with a litter of broken pots and bottles, fragments of tile, brick and shard, pieces of chalk and sandstone." (From: Monckton Milnes. The Years of Promise: 1809-1851")

 Copyright Guy Etchells 2000
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