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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Tong - St. James' Parish Church

The parish of Tong was formed from the parish of Birstall[1].

The stone built church, not far from Tong Hall and near the gates of Tong Park, was rebuilt in 1727 by Sir George Tempest of Tong Hall. However, traces of Perpendicular work remain and Craddock, writing in 1933, suggested a restoration in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. He suggests that there may have been a "rude chapel on the spot before the Norman Conquest. Certain is it that one was built there in Norman days. To this the high arch and piers of the Tower .... still bear witness. Perhaps we may date it 1140-1150"[2].

Interestingly, evidence to back this up was found in 1979 when the then vicar, Rev. Alan Kitchen, decided to deal with damp in the church. There were some remarkable finds underneath the floor, including some pre Norman Conquest discoveries. Two burial grounds were found, one dating back to the 17th century and perhaps into the 16th. A Norman nave and chancel, dating from possibly 1140, were uncovered and underneath was evidence of two single cell churches, thought to be pre 1066 in date[3].

Arthur Mee mentioned the box pews; a high one for the squire complete with fireplace and lower ones, with iron latches, for the rest of the congregation. A three decker pulpit rises above them[4].

Church interior at the end of the nineteenth century.
The view from the nave of the rood screen, with the chancel and east window behind it.

The church registers date from 1550. They begin with the marriage of "William Stringfellowe and Marie Pickard were married the third of May Anno predicto" [the year aforesaid]. The first baptism is of "Elizabeth Walker the daughter of Walker was baptised the xviiith of March Anno predicto"[5].

There are several early burials, the first three being:

"Se. xpopher [Christopher] the sonne of Willim Stringfellow was buried ye xxxth [30th] of May 1551"[5]. [Se. or S. are abbreviations of Sepult - i.e. buried.]
"S. uxor [wife] Johannis Morwell sepulta erat xviith [17th] die Octobris Anno 1551"[5].
"S. uxor [wife] Ric. Goodall of pnew Sepult xviiith [18th] January Anno dm 1551"[5].
[Assuming the burials are in order in the register, and they may not be as they were copies from an earlier book according to Craddock, this could be 1552 as the record is immediately after the two previous entries and would have been an old calendar date.]

The registers also record the 1681 burial of "Walter Hoole Senr who had been Clarke at Tonge 60 years was buried June the 6th"[5].

Occupations are often given in the 18th century register, with the most common being that of labourer. We also find occupations one would expect in a thriving village: agricola, barber, blacksmith, carpenter, collier, farmer, husbandman, innkeeper, joiner, maltster, mason, miller, nailer, roper, tallow chandler, tanner, shoemaker/ cordwainer, wheelwright, and yeoman. Others reflected local industry so there were card makers, clothiers, linen weavers, stuff weavers and stuff makers whilst some were perhaps higher up the social scale as they were described as gamekeepers, gentlemen, ministers and school masters[2].

To the right of the church gates are the old stocks and mounting stone (see the top image).

The web mistress has a personal interest in Tong, as many Stead and Hargreaves ancestors as well as a few Walkers were christened or married in the church; they were eventually buried in the churchyard.

Perhaps the most notable burial, because he was one of the longest lived, was that of Richard Stead, Yeoman, buried here in 1816 aged 91[5]. His great grand daughter, Rhoda Dorcas Stead, was christened in the church two years before. The earliest record for a member of the Stead[e] family in Tong is that of "Robert Steade was buried the xviijth [18th] of Aprill Anno Domini 1572"[5].

In 1590 we find "John Wilson and Lettice Hargreave were married the xxth [20th] day of September in the year above written"[5]. In 1800 "Laurence Hargreaves Sadler Aged 75 June 25th Buried"[5]. Laurence was the last of my direct Hargreaves line to be buried in the churchyard.

Some of their descendants, including Rhoda Dorcas, were buried in Tong Cemetery. Others were buried at Westgate Hill Wesleyan Methodisth] and some at Pudsey Fulneck.

1. "Tong Church and Stocks". Fairbanks Copyright, Bramley & Pudsey, Stationer. Printed in England. Not posted. However, a message reads: "Dear Father We went into this church yesterday it is much nicer inside than out, then we went into Tong Hall we had a walk all round the grounds afterwards round the house we saw some things from 2 or 3 centuries ago it was lovely".
2. "Tong Church" [interior] F. Frith & Co. Ltd., Reigate, No.41860. First published in 1898. Unused.
Postcards in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Kelly's Directory of Yorkshire, 1881

[2] Rev. H. C. Craddock M.A. "A History of the Parish of Birstall" (1933) SPCK

[3] "Bradford Telegraph and Argus", 1979, by Peter Dobbie. With thanks to Anne Hennessy.

[4] Mee, Arthur Mee, Arthur (ed.) (1936) "Yorkshire - The West Riding", The King's England Series, Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London. Extract from the late Alice White of New Zealand.

[5] Tong St. James' Registers published on microfiche from the Wakefield Archive. Their ref 50D90 1/1/1 Tong St. James Registers for the earliest records shown above. In addition, Dr. Don O Asquith of California carried out a very considerable amount of research of the Stead family, using the Tong Bishops Transcripts, when we both began researching our respective ancestors in the parish.

[6] Westgate Hill Wesleyan Methodist burials from research by Kenneth Hargreaves.

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