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URC Heckmondwike
Longcauseway Church
Ravensthorpe with Hopton URC

We’re part of the Yorkshire Synod of the URC

Norristhorpe United Reformed Church
Norristhorpe Lane,
West Yorkshire. WF15 7AN.

A member of the Spen and Calder Enterprise

Worship: Sunday 10.45am

Minister: Vacant

Church Secretary: [email protected]

mob:0774 520 9270

Norristhorpe is a village in the township of Liversedge in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England, and is historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Its original name was Doghouse (Doggus), to which those who were brought up in the village still make reference.

Norristhorpe has a Primary School,[Norristhorpe Junior & Infants School (photo)] and is located on School Street, Norristhorpe [WF15 7AW].The Chapel has a good and active relationship including hosting events for certain year groups. They cater for children between the ages of 4 and 11, with a capacity of 419. The OFSTED Report in 2019 classed them as ‘Good’.

There was a Methodist chapel, built in 1906 and located on Huddersfield Road near the junction with Norristhorpe Lane, but was closed in 2004 and is now a private house. This makes Norristhorpe URC the only church located within the village.

Just up the hill from the Chapel is the Rising Sun Public House. Run by Claire and Robert,it has a light and spacious bar area and cosy lounge areas with exposed brickwork and real fires. The beer range is mainly from Yorkshire but with guests from regional and national sources. There is a large well maintained beer garden with ample seating and extensive views over the valley towards Mirfield and Emley Moor, plus a covered smoking shelter.

There is a Norristhorpe Football Club which boasts ‘ANY AGE, ANY ABILITY… YOU CAN PLAY FOR US!’ They provide the opportunity to play football for children of all ages and abilities, in a safe, friendly and enjoyable environment. They deliver age-appropriate coaching to support long-term player development in a challenging but supportive environment where children can learn from their mistakes without undue pressure or anxiety.

History of Norristhorpe U.R.C.

‘The First Twenty Five Years’

In 1869 Mr. & Mrs. Cordwell lived at Norris House, in the village of Doghouse (Doggus). Although they were members of Upper Chapel, Heckmondwike, they felt the need for spiritual oversight in the village. After consulting several others, an Upper Room was acquired on land opposite the ‘Rising Sun’. It was an old weaving shed with rats, mice and cobwebs. Vigorous cleaning and the purchasing of forms and a desk heralded the opening of Doghouse Congregational Church on Sunday 31st October 1869.

Within two years the officials had increased to include the minister, secretary, the treasurer, two Sunday School Superintendents, and 16 teachers. The decision was made to build a House of God. At Easter in 1871, Mr. G. Kelley of Prospect House, laid the foundation stone. The opening service was on Thursday 8th February 1872. It started before time, as all the seats were taken.

The church was still under the care of the Upper Chapel, but two years later it became the Norristhorpe Congregational Church. The name of the village had been changed and Mr. Fearnley became the first minister from 1869 – 1877.

In 1884, ten years on, the memorial stone was laid by Mrs. George Kelley for the foundation of the schoolroom (now the car park, Playgroup and Playgroup playground).

In 1894, the Manse was built at a cost of £500. This replaced the ministers’ house on Pleasant View which was near the Rising Sun and the building of the new manse was again made possible because of the generosity of the Kelley family(see photo).


So, Rev J Fearnley had seen the growth of the church over 25 years of faithful and devoted service. It is with gratitude that we remember him as the Founding Father. (taken from Historical Survey in the Centenary Brochure. Thanks to Mr. Stanley Simon).

The work continued apace, the congregation grew and the spiritual life of the community was enriched. Even during the First World War the Chapel grew although sixteen young men associated with the Church or Sunday School lost their lives in the conflict. A Memorial plaque is a feature on the left-hand side of the Chapel (see photo).

In 1922 it was found that the gable end of the church building was insecure. It was largely due to the vision and enthusiasm of Rev C J Guilford that the Church overcame the problem by actually extending the building to form the chancel and to include the rooms below the Church. This work was carried out during the ministry of Rev W H Clark at a cost of £2,500. A memorial pulpit was also installed through the generosity of the ‘past and present’ students of the United College, Bradford. The base of the pulpit is constructed of stones from the building at Southfield which once housed the famous ‘Heckmondwike Academy’ founded by Rev James Scott of Upper Chapel in 1756, for the training for training of Congregational Ministers(see photo).

Declining congregations between the wars and after the Second World War was a similar picture in many churches but still the work went on. Service in the community was given willingly. Children’s work continued through Sunday School and Pilots (a non-uniformed organisation for those aged 7 – 14). Mid-week activities included a Women’s Guild; Wives Group; Bible Fellowship and a Walking Party as well as many social gatherings.

In the Centenary Brochure of 1969 the following comment is noted: ‘Founded in the year 1869 it has known days of triumph and days of almost despair, but throughout its history it has never ceased to proclaim its message and to try to meet the needs of the District which it serves.’

Then in the early 1990s the fellowship were once again challenged with the deterioration of its building that required major work. The then minister, Rev Walter Ford, wrote to members as well as to the wider community for their support: ‘Due to the failure of the foundations at the Norristhorpe Lane end, it will be necessary to completely rebuild the front gable wall. In the process it will be necessary to remove the gallery and make some alterations to the vestibule. All this work will cost a considerable amount of money, far more than we have available.

‘As the Church on Norristhorpe Lane we have served the village for 122 years and now, with the alterations in mind, we are offering to the village anew community centre. The scope for community activities will develop as we extend our redevelopment. This can only be done with the help of sympathetic friends who may be able to help by making a donation, no matter how small …… our target is to raise £30,000 to cover the first stage of the work. All our members are committed to this and great endeavours are being made to raise funds.

‘The Church is not just a one day a week concern and so we look to greater activity with young and old alike. The scope offered by a refurbishment building is tremendous. With comfortable rooms and easy access we could accommodate Day Centres, Luncheon Clubs, Meetings for every age group, Youth Club, Young Peoples’ Organisations and almost anything else the local community would like.

‘We do not see these as Church activities but rather community related. We have a building which needs to be used and this is being offered for all to share.’


My wife and I came to Norristhorpe in Autumn 1961 having spent almost 15 years in Africa, firstly in South Africa, then in Ghana. In both countries, I had combined educational and ministerial work and it was therefore no surprise that I was able to do the same on our return to England.

I obtained a job as Assistant Education Officer for the County Borough of Huddersfield and was looking round for somewhere to live. Rev Ernest Herbert, minister of Hillhouse Congregational Church, told us that Rev Roy Chapman was leaving Norristhorpe. I went over to meet the Deacons and, without having to preach ‘with a view’, the call was made and accepted.

It was the start of a very happy time for Peggy and myself. Our two older children, Alison and Philip were in Missionary Boarding Schools in Kent, Judith was with us at the Manse, attending the primary school in Norristhorpe.

My first job in Huddersfield broke new ground for me, working with the elected members of the Education Committee and with a small team of Officers, but it left me time at weekends and in most of the evenings to prepare for two services, almost every Sunday.

It would have been impossible to serve the church properly without Peggy’s help. Not only did she start the Young Wives Group, a Brownie Pack and help to initiate the Over 60’s Club, but she also undertook the occasional visiting. Before we left she was elected to the local council. Truly ours was a joint ministry as it has always been.

One of the anxieties I had had was when I learned that there was a Church President, an office which I had not met before and which I thought might usurp my ministry. How wrong I was. No-one could have been better that Stanley Simon in gently guiding me and helping extend the spiritual life of our friendly Church. When London headquarters raised the question of Lay Presidency of Holy Communion, I immediately asked him to Preside at the next Communion Service while I sat in the congregation.

He was not the only one in the church whose Christian witness shone through his life. There are dozens whom Peggy and I remember with gratitude for their support and friendship. Many have entered into eternal life, but others remain our friends in Christ Jesus.

I wonder how many can remember the Annual Church Meetings which were such jolly occasions, finishing up with fish and chips; the Bank Holiday car journeys to the Dales in the four or five cars; the Pantomimes in the now demolished hall; the Missionary Meetings in the District.

We left Norristhorpe in 1966 to work in London and Pratts Bottom, but our affection and thankfulness to God are still offered to the congregation on top of the hill.

Aubrey and Peggy Lewis

(an excerpt from the  125th Anniversary Souvenir Booklet ‘Letters to Norristhorpe’)

[a recent photo of the church fellowship (April 2022)]

To see what is going on at Norristhorpe URC, click here