Horbury vicars

Rev. Ralph Blakelock (1841-1900)


Ralph Blakelock was born on 2nd September 1841, the son of Samuel Blakelock and Sarah (nee Farrar). He was baptised at St Peter's, Leeds on 30th September 1841. Their address was Guildford Street, Leeds and Samuel was described as a cashier.

The 1861 census shows that Ralph, now 19 years old, had a sister, Mary age 17. Their address is Red Hall Court, Leeds. Samuel is described a secretary to the Leeds Building Society, he and Sarah employ 38 year old Ann Smith as a cook, and also a housemaid Ann Hargrave, aged 15 years. Ralph is described as a 'Bibb Clerk College London'. We can just make out from his gravestone that he studied at Lincoln College, Oxford.

By 1871, Ralph, aged 29 years, is lodging with the family of John Hutton, an ironstone miner in East Coatham, Kirkleatham, North Riding (District of Redcar & Cleveland today). He is described as a "priest of the Church of England without cure of souls". 

By the census taken in 1881, Ralph Blakelock has moved to Horbury. He is now MA Curate of Horbury. 39 year old Ralph is lodging with the family of Robert Robinson Ogilvie, master tailor, on Cluntergate. Rev. Ralph Blakelock was part of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. He was friends with Canon Sharp, the vicar of Horbury (1834-1899). In fact, Blakelock became the first vicar of St John's Church, Horbury Bridge, which was consecrated in 1884. 

Rev. Ralph Blakelock died on 9th February 1900, aged 58 years and was buried on the 12th February 1900 at Horbury Cemetery. His friend Canon John Sharp would be buried next to him just over 3 years later.


Rev. Ralph Blakelock's grave, Horbury Cemetery.

St John the Divine, Horbury Bridge where Ralph Blakelock was the first vicar.

Rev. John Garlon William Love


As his memorial states, John Garlon William Love was vicar of Horbury from 1914-16. Not a long time, considering only a few years earlier Canon John Sharp was the vicar of Horbury for nearly 65 years, but he occupies a plot in the corner of Horbury Cemetery, which seems to be exclusively populated by clergy. 

John Garlon William Love was baptised at St Anne's Church, Westminster, London on the 23rd January 1858. He was the son of George Alfred Love and his wife Maria. In the 1881 census, 23 year-old John is working as a a footman for the Ingram family in Chailey, Sussex. James Ingram, solicitor is head of the large household. 

John G. W. Love studied at Wadham College, Oxford, where he gained a BA in 1888 and his MA in 1892. He became a curate at St Agnes Church, Toxteth Park, Liverpool in 1891. However, the census of the same year shows him boarding at the Old Vicarage, Burgh le Marsh, Lincolnshire. He is described as curate of Burgh and Winthorpe. 

The next census we find him in is 1911. 53 year old John is now a clerk in Holy Orders, living at St Michael's Vicarage, Wakefield, a property of 13 rooms. Living with him in the same property is 27 year-old boarder, Reginald Stanley Lound, also a clerk in Holy Orders. They have two servants, 47 year-old widow Annie Young, working as a cook and 18 year-old Phyllis Annie Young, a housemaid. 

When the Rev. Love died on the 5th April 1916, his address was given as the Vicarage, Horbury. He was buried in Horbury Cemetery on the 8th April 1916.(1) 

A photo from St Peter & St Leonard's Horbury, Anniversary Brochure 1794-1944

Rev John Garlon William Love's grave, Horbury Cemetery.

A photo of St Peter & St Leonard's Horbury, showing the old vicarage to the left.

Canon John Brown Hill (1865-1951

Canon John Brown Hill BA was vicar of Horbury from 1916 to 1933. He was born on 21st December 1865, in Lochmaben, Dumfries, the son of Ebenezer Brown Hill and his wife Elizabeth (nee Ball). It would seem John was the son of a vicar since their address in 1871 was Free Church Manse, Lochmaben. 

The Clergy List for 1897 tells us John gained his BA at Durham in 1894 & became curate at Shelton, Stoke on Trent the same year. In the 1901 census, John is living at the lodging house of John Swales at 15 Henry Street, Brighouse. By the 1911 census he was the vicar of Church of the Holy Innocents, living at the 10 roomed Thornhill Lees Vicarage. With him was his sister Mary Esther Barnes Hill, a 37 year old single lady and also two servants, Ellen Shear and Joanna Johnson.(2)

I assume he left Horbury when he left his post at St Peter's Church in 1933. An article published in the Leeds Mercury 22nd January 1929, states, "The vicar of St Peter's, Horbury hates confetti." It doesn't name the vicar, but this would have been John Brown Hill. 

"Action by Vicar of Horbury - The Vicar of St. Peter's, Horbury hates confetti 'it is a silly thing' he says 'and is horrible the way it spreads about the ground." He has placed a ban on its use in the precints of the church and churchyard, and weddings at Horbury must in future be confettiless.

The people of Horbury, however, are addicted to the habit. Their parents threw it, their grandparents did so, and as far as they know, it has always been thrown. It is a custom and it has given them pleasure. They have attended a wedding, thrown their bag of confetti, and gone away feeling the
nuptial knot has been well and truly tied. So faithful are they to the custom that the vicar has found it a difficult task to break them from it. He has tried in the past. He has told them from the pulpit and has spoken against it at weddings.

Now he has launched a more determined campaign in the parish magazine 'We must repeat', he says 'that it cannot be allowed. On a wet day the wretched stuff clings to the ground and defies every effort to clean it away, and the church officers have something else to do than tidy up a mess which ought not to to exist.'

In future, confetti is strictly forbidden to be used in church grounds."

He must however, have had a great affection for Horbury because after he died in Hereford in 1951, aged 85, and he was buried in Horbury Cemetery.

A photo from St Peter & St Leonard's Horbury, Anniversary Brochure 1794-1944

From the 'Leeds Mercury', dated 22nd January 1929. From British Newspaper Archive website.

Church of the Holy Innocents, Thornhill Lees where Canon Hill had been vicar.

Rev. Henry Robert Manders (1856-1909)


As his headstone states, Henry Robert Manders was the first vicar of St Mary's Church, Horbury Junction. He was born in Newry, County Down, Ireland on 1st July 1856. His parents were Richard and Caroline (nee Roe).

The first time he appears on a census in England is in 1891, having come to Horbury in 1890. The foundation stone for St Mary's Church was laid by Lord Halifax on the 23rd April 1892. Prior to the church we know today, there had been a Mission Church in Forge Lane, started in 1887 by Canon John Sharp, vicar of Horbury.

On the evening of 4th July 1890, the institution of Rev. Manders took place at the Mission Church, performed by the Bishop of the Diocese. In his address he said that it was usual on these occasions to introduce a stranger to the congregation but Rev. Manders had been working in the parish for three years, so he was already "a well-tried friend to them all.”

The Parish Magazine, reporting on the event, gave an indication of his character. "We could say a great deal about Mr Manders' work & the affection with which he is regarded by all who know him but we know that he would be the last to wish for any such expression of feeling, or indeed that anything personal should be written about himself.”

The 1891 census shows 34 year-old Henry living at the vicarage in Northgate, alongside Canon Sharp, then 84, assistant curate Bernard Moultrie 32 and servants Hayna Clayton, cook, Elizabeth Haigh, housemaid and Clara Cromeck, kitchen maid. Henry is described as incumbent of St Mary's, Horbury Junction.

In the following census of 1901, Henry is living at St Mary's Vicarage, Millfield Road. He has a cook/domestic servant, Annie Cadwallader. Rev. Henry Robert Manders died aged 52 on the 11th April 1909 and was buried at Horbury Cemetery, close to his old boss Canon Sharp, who had died 6 years previously.(3)

Rev Manders' grave, Horbury Cemetery.

St Mary's Church, Horbury Junction.

Rev. Alfred William Brown Watson


You just never know what you'll find when you start to look behind the name on the gravestone. The Rev. Alfred William Brown Watson was born on the 11th March 1860, in Mexico! His parents were Robert Brown Watson and Ellen Sophia Morphy. His Scottish born father had begun work in Mexico in partnership with Graham and Low in 1850, and in 1857 he married Ellen Sophia at the British Embassy, Mexico City. Over the next 8 years, Robert and Ellen had five children, including Alfred. In 1867 the family moved to England and a further three children were born.

The 1871 census records Alfred as a 10 year-old boarder, at school in Cheshire. The next census, in 1881, shows the Watson family living at 'Sudworth', Mount Road, Liscard, Cheshire. Robert is described as a Mexican merchant and 21 year-old Alfred as an undergraduate of Oxford University. The university's Alumni records tell us Alfred entered St John's College on the 13th October 1879, aged 19 and was awarded his BA 1883 and an MA in 1886. 

The U.K. Clergy List for 1897 gives a potted bio of Alfred's ecclesiastical service to date: Curate at St Paul, Bow Common 1883-5; St Agnes, Kensington 1885-6; St Michael and All Angels, Chiswick, Middlesex 1886-8; Chaplain to the Forces from 1888; Aldershot 1888-93; Egypt 1893-4; Cairo, Egypt from 1894. By 1891, Alfred is part of the Garrison staff at Aldershot, as a Clerk in Holy Orders. A military record dated 1892 states 'Chaplain to the Forces 4th Class'. By 1902, another record states 'Chaplain to the Forces 1st Class'. Indeed, during the Boer War (1899-1902), he was principle Church of England Chaplain to the Forces.

I am unable to find an entry for Alfred in the 1901 census but from a record of the United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Registers, we can see that Alfred joined Grecia Lodge in Cairo in 1893. I assume he was in Egypt during 1901.

By the 1911 census, 51 year old Alfred has returned to England and is the Parish Priest at St Mary's Church, Horbury Junction. He states on the census return that he is an army pensioner. Living with him in the vicarage are husband and wife Henry Martin and Eliza Ann Jesney. Eliza is 40 and working as the housekeeper at the vicarage; her 50 year old husband is a labourer at the wagon works. The census reveals the vicarage is an 8 roomed property.

Only 2 ½ years after taking up his post at Horbury Junction, Rev. Alfred William Brown Watson died at the vicarage on the 24th February 1912, age 51. He had suffered an apoplectic seizure. He was buried near several other clergy in Horbury Cemetery. His obituary informs us that he took part in the Dongola Expedition in 1896 and was twice mentioned in despatches. Whilst serving in the Sudan in 1899, he was promoted & whilst serving as military chaplain in South Africa, was again honourably mentioned in despatches. He took part in a special mission to the Coptic Church in Egypt and prior to his post at St Mary's, was rector of St Mary the Less, Jeppertown in the diocese of Pretoria, South Africa.

This obituary (4). for the Rev. Alfred William Brown Watson appeared in the local press:

"The death occurred suddenly on Saturday morning, following an apoplectic seizure, of the Rev. Alfred William Brown Watson, M.A., for the past two and a half years vicar of St. Mary's, Horbury Junction.

During nearly thirty years' ministerial life, Mr. Watson was for 17 or 18 years an army chaplain, serving in Egypt and South Africa, and during the Boer War was principal Church of England chaplain to the Forces. He took part in the Dongola Expedition in 1896, was twice mentioned in despatches, was promoted for services in Sudan in 1899, and whilst serving as military chaplain in South Africa was again honourably mentioned in despatches.

He had taken part in a special mission to the Coptic Church in Egypt, and prior to his appointment to Horbury Junction was for a few years rector of St. Mary the Less, Jeppertown, in the diocese of Pretoria, South Africa.

A photo of Rev. Watson from Ancestry.co.uk

Rev Watson's grave, Horbury Cemetery.

A photo of Rev Hill in uniform from Ancestry.co.uk


1. Church of St Peter & St Leonard Horbury, Anniversary Brochure 1794-1944
2. Ancestry.co.uk 
3. Horbury Parish Magazine (Annual edition 1890)
4. Obituary "Leeds Mercury", February 1912


Helen Bickerdike  July 2018