Postcard showing alter bread being made.

John was appointed a deacon in 1833 by Archbishop Vernon Harcourt and made vicar of Horbury by his father the following year. He took up his post at St Peter's Church on 16th November 1834, coming to Horbury at the very rise of the Oxford Movement, himself one of its strongest supporters; he would stay for nearly 65 years. In 1836, Horbury passed from the Diocese of York to that of Ripon. One of the Bishop of Ripon's first acts was to make John Sharp an honorary Canon. Within two years, Horbury became part of the new Diocese of Wakefield. He often said that he served in one parish but three dioceses.

William was also ordained but, unlike his older brother, did not choose a celibate life. He married Laura Harriet Goodenough, daughter of Rev Robert Philip Goodenough and Cecilia Markham, at Heath on 4th April 1839. Laura came from a prestigious ecclesiastical background, her paternal grandfather being Samuel Goodenough, Rt Rev Bishop of Carlisle, and her maternal grandfather William Markham, Archbishop of York.

Meanwhile John Sharp was making a name for himself amongst the wealthier parishioners of Horbury by ordering the removal of the 'horse box' type' private pews which filled the body of the church. This was a very unpopular move and resulted in legal action from which John Sharp emerged the victor, although local legend says he was ordered to sell part of his furniture to pay the legal expenses! I am told the pews in the church today were made from the wood of the old box pews. He gradually built up a large, loyal congregation of mainly local, working class people, having found church attendance to be in decline when he arrived.

The well-known author of the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers", Rev Sabine Baring-Gould, served under John Sharp as a curate from 1864-7. He lived at the vicarage of St Peter's alongside John Sharp. After his death, Baring-Gould reflected on the life of his former boss. He wrote a letter published in the Ossett Observer on Saturday 13th June 1903.

"I should never call him a striking preacher. His sermons were good, homely discourses, rather inclined to be long; there was no originality in them, but nevertheless none the less likely to be helpful. To sum him up, I know no man who so fully answered to the description of Nathaniel,“an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile."

He also gave an insight into life in the vicarage:

"His forbearance extended to his kitchen. We curates at last complained that we were tired at supper with cold "chape" and rhubarb jam, which we had had for nine months without any change, night after night; and thus only was he stirred to ordering hot rice pudding on alternate evenings; he would not have noticed the monotony but for us."

Baring-Gould was alluding to the way in which John Sharp devoted his life to serving God and the people of Horbury throughout his many years in the parish. He didn't however confine his efforts to St Peter's church alone.

On the 4th January 1849 a conveyance of land was transferred to John Sharp, by his father Samuel and Rev Henry Forre, rector of Thornhill, and their successors in order to build St Peter's school. This would be a Church of England school built largely on Fuljambe Close. The school was to be "for the education of children and adults or children only of the labouring, manufacturing and other poor classes in the Township or Chapelry of Horbury.”In an address given by John Sharp in 1890, he explained how St Peter's School had come into being.

When he first began to remedy the fact that there was no church school, only a small endowed school which barely taught the '3Rs, several Dame Schools and the old Sunday School run jointly with the Wesleyans (something he could not reconcile himself with) he came up against the prejudice that "If you educate them they'll want to get their livin' wi' their coits on and not be fit to do a day's wark! "He pointed out the necessity of helping people make the best of the faculties which God had given them. The battle was a hard one. There was only one man in the parish who would help him. Mr W. Stewart, solicitor of Horbury. Between them they started a night school for about 30 young men. This was held in the vicarage with labour and cost split between the two men. It was so successful in its first year that it was repeated with increased numbers and people began to agree that education wasn't such a bad thing after all.

When a day school was started in a little hired building only Mr. Stewart came forward again but they eventually got far enough to justify a purpose-built school. People were still dismissive of their efforts. "What a silly fellow to think of building a big place like that! Where will he get bairns to fill it?" But it did fill, and several extensions were required over the next few years. The original building cost £1,200, most of which he had to "scrattle up as he could from friends outside.”

Colourised postcard showing the Town Hall & garden which is now home to the town's war memorial.

Following the ceremony there was a garden party given by Cllr. Harrop at his home, Cliff House. This was by all accounts a rather lavish affair with refreshments served from a marquee and musical entertainment provided. Cllr. Harrop was presented with a gold medal by his fellow councillors in recognition of his services at the Coronation festivities. At this time, Cllr. Harrop had given 18 years service to the Council, seven of which had been as Chairman. On one side of the medal were effigies of the King and Queen, and on the other the arms of Horbury set on a black band on a white inlaid plaque.

A little over a year later on 2nd October 1903, the townspeople of Horbury gathered once again, this time to witness the official opening ceremony of the new building. The "Wakefield Express", dated 5th October, carried a full report:

"The event and its leading features will long be remembered in the township, for most of the inhabitants, whether their attitude had been one of hearty support of the building scheme, or of criticism of the expenditure, seemed to take a keen interest in the ceremony itself. Not only were the Council Offices decorated with flags and adorned with a suitable motto, but flags were also flying from many private houses."

The programme of events was divided into three parts. First there was a private luncheon in the Co-operative Hall, which was followed by the actual ceremony at the Town Hall. Finally, a reception for over 200 guests back at the Co-operative Hall. The luncheon and reception were both hosted by Cllr. Joshua Harrop CC, Chairman of the Council.

“Somewhere between twenty minutes and half past three, the procession from the Co-operative Hall, consisting of the Councillors, Common Land Trustees and other guests at the luncheon made their appearance. As they passed along, a gleam of brightness was lent by the Mayors of Wakefield and Ossett, each of whom wore his official chain.”

Waiting to greet them at the Town Hall was Mr. W. Hanstock, the architect, who presented Cllr Harrop with a gold key. Cllr Harrop then declared the building officially open. As many people as possible joined the dignitaries upstairs, where Cllr. Harrop, Mr. Brotherton MP, Mr. Milnes Gaskell, Mr John Barker and the Mayor of Ossett took up their positions on the balcony, above "…a sea of upturned faces.”

In his speech, Cllr. Harrop spoke of the ratepayers' expectations of the Council now they had their new offices:

“Perhaps the ratepayers might expect better work from the Councillors. All he could tell them was that he and his fellow Councillors would be both very pleased and proud to do all they could to further the progress of Horbury. He knew what a monumental spirit prevailed in the township and that some of the ratepayers thought the Council had expended more money than was warranted for a township like theirs. Well, he did not think the expenditure was unwarranted. The Council had now put up a decent building and the cost, he believed, was below the estimate.”

He finished by telling the assembled crowd that there would be a brass plaque mounted in the entrance commemorating the Horbury men who gave their lives in the recent war. This was the Boer War (1899-1902). Facing this plaque would be another bearing the names of the present Council. "A little bit of vanity", he said.

Mr. Milnes-Gaskell spoke next. He told them that they had spent £4,000 or about a pound per head of the population on the building and land. "It was not a building for a future Chicago, but meant for the present needs of Horbury and what would be, possibly, the natural increase during the next few decades." He went on to reminisce about his late friend, Canon Sharp. "When he first came into that neighbourhood, an inhabitant of Horbury could not pass across the boundary that divided it from Ossett without being assailed with stones and a similar reception awaited the inhabitant of Ossett who was bold enough to go into the township of Horbury! Those times were past, but still, he thought, a certain jealousy existed between individual townships and parishes in the West Riding.”

Alderman Brotherton MP, asked that the audience take his presence "as a token of the goodwill of Wakefield." Alderman Fothergill, Mayor of Ossett, congratulated them on having such "grand Council Offices." He said they had no Town Hall but he hoped the day would come before long when they could invite Horbury's representative to the opening of a new Town Hall in Ossett. (This would become a reality nearly five years later on the 2nd June 1908.)

Next, a special Council meeting was held to receive the new stained glass windows from the Trustees of the Common Lands Trust. Mr. W. T. Race presented the windows on the Trust's behalf.

The assembled company then made their way to the reception at the Co-operative Hall, which had been tastefully decorated for the occasion. Music was provided by Dunnill's string band, with contributions from, amongst others, Mr. H. E. Cookson, principal baritone at Bradford Parish Church.

Towards the end of the reception, Cllr. Thornton moved a vote of thanks to Cllr. Harrop for his generous hospitality. This was seconded by Cllr. Neil and Cllr. Sykes and was carried "with great heartiness.”

The first Council Meeting at the new Town Hall offices took place on the 30th September 1903. The Council adopted the coat of arms of John de Horbury, who was a steward of the Manor of Wakefield for John de Warenne, Lord of the Manor of Wakefield, at the beginning of the 14th century. The council added the Latin motto "Pro bono oppido", which means "For the good of the town." They set three silver towers upright on the black band instead of lying across i in accordance with heraldic practice.

The Opening Ceremony

Thomas Leeke was subsequently charged with holding all five parts of the Hall, suggesting that further division of ownership, if not structure, had taken place. The Leeke family originated in Halom, Nottinghamshire and were close friends and associates of Sir Gervase Clifton, once Lord of the Manor of Wakefield in the late 17th Century. In 1749 part of Horbury Hall was surrendered to John Ellis of Horbury, dry salter.

Horbury Hall subsequently came into the possession of John Scholefield (1760-1850), Horbury Attorney at Law whom, by the time of his death, was the owner of 72 acres of land and the second largest owner of land in Horbury. In 1791, John Scholefield married Elizabeth Bayldon, the widow of the builder of Carr Lodge, Horbury. John and Elizabeth had one child, Margaret, and in 1827 she married magistrate William Walker Battye of Skelton Hall, near Richmond in North Yorkshire. They had four children including Richard Battye (born 1834) who became a Barrister at Law. Thus Richard Battye was John Scholefield's grandson.

In 1866, Richard Battye, of Skelton Hall and Crosland Hall, Yorkshire, married Frances Bibby, the daughter of James Jenkinson Bibby, the High Sheriff of Shropshire and an enormously wealthy man who had founded the Bibby Shipping Line. In 1867, Richard and Frances had their first child and only son, Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye, who went on to an Eton education and a career in the 13th Hussars where he rose to the rank of Captain. He thus became well known as "Captain Battye."

Captain Battye's father and grandparents died between 1869 and 1873, leaving 331 acres of West Riding land and property to his widowed mother, Frances. This included land in Ossett, including Sowood Farm, and in Horbury including Hallcroft, Nether Hall (subsequently the Shepherd's Arms), and Horbury Hall. Many of the Horbury land and property ownerships had once belonged to John Scholefield who was, of course, Captain Battye's great grandfather.

Thus, to most Horbury residents, all that was known was that Horbury Hall was owned by a Captain Battye, who lived in London. It was also known that he also owned the Shepherds Arms and houses in Dawson's Yard. His tenants were required to pay their rents to the landlord of the Shepherds Arms each week.

Captain Battye's mother, Frances, died in 1921 and Captain Lionel Richard James Scholefield Battye of 64, Cadogan Square London died on 15th May 1947 and the huge estate which he inherited was subsequently sold.

In February 2016. the Land Registry, recorded that the property known as 13, 15, & 17 Church Street, Horbury, known to most as Horbury Hall, was acquired in September 1978, and is still owned, by David John Harold Michelmore and Catherine Elizabeth Ord Michelmore. In April 2016 the property appears to be unoccupied but seemingly remains the registered address of Building Conservation Services and the Consultancy for Conservation and Development. Their website 2 proudly proclaims that "Several hundred projects have been undertaken in the UK for the conservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments". The website adds that the Conservation and Development Team's Principal is David Michelmore B.A., M. Phil. and helpfully adds that David Michelmore is a "specialist in the conservation of cultural heritage."

Wakefield historian W.S. Banks wrote that Horbury Hall was "much cast down" in 1869. Sadly, in 2016, the Grade I Listed 15th Century Horbury Hall 3 is much more cast down than it was almost 150 years ago.


1. "Bartlett's Wakefield and Horbury - The collected local histories of Kenneth Smith Bartlett" - Museum Digitisation Service (2006) by Phil Judkins. 
2. Building Conservation Services web site.
3. British Listed Buildings - Horbury Hall web site.

Thanks to Alan Howe, Ossett for his major contribution to this history of Horbury Hall.


Stephen Wilson, April 2016 (updated January 2023)


In many respects Queen Street hasn't changed much over the last hundred years. The shops may have changed but apart from some of the white buildings in the middle of the left hand photo above & Harrap's Yard, where the garden now stands, being demolished in the slum clearance, the majority of the buildings remain.

'Stan Barstow Gardens', named in honour of the Horbury-born author, now occupy the site of Harrap's Yard.

The foundation stone laid by Cllr Arthur Horsfield on 4th January 1905.

View towards St Peter's Church

The tithe was a very unpopular tax and the system gradually ended with the introduction of the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, so that the tithe could be paid as a rent charge. Tithes were abolished altogether with the introduction of the Tithe Acts of 1936 and 1951 in the British Parliament.

The 1848 Tithe Records for Horbury(1) show that John Francis Carr of Carr Lodge House, Horbury was a major land and property owner in the town. For example, James Moulden rented from Carr a house, garden, warehouse, croft, stable, cow house, pig sty, yard and out kitchen amongst other property. Abraham Roberts rented four cottages and a shop from Carr.

The Horbury tithe barn was a large four bayed, timber framed structure constructed most probably in the 15th century. The tithe barn remained in church ownership until 1850 when it was purchased by William Stringer of Horbury from Canon Sharp. Stringer had the eastern half of the barn (Bay 1 and 2) converted into two cottages and the other two remaining bays were used for a variety of purposes over the years, including use as a weaving shed, rag warehouse, stable and even at one time, as a greengrocer's shop.

In 1904, the two western most bays were destroyed by a fire. This was the part still being used as a barn. The two badly damaged bays had to be destroyed(2). Remnants of the old tithe barn can be seen from the car park on Tithe Barn Street, which at one time used to be a graveyard. The remaining two bays of the tithe barn are now numbers 14 and 16 Tithe Barn Street.

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