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St. Matthias Parish Church

Commemorating those who died in WW1 and WW2

St. Matthias Diane Clarke (7) 2018.jpg

St. Matthias church was built as a memorial to the late Samuel Fox who died on 25th February 1887. [1]  Fox had planned the church before he died, and it was completed in his memory under the instruction of his son, William Henry Fox, at a cost of around £4,200.  The funds were raised by public subscription towards which Samuel Fox and Co. (Limited) subscribed £1,000 and Fox's son William Henry subscribed £1,000.  The public gave “liberally”.  On the day the church was consecrated, £1,000 still needed to be raised.

William Fox laid the foundation stone on the 8th March 1889 and the church was consecrated on Saturday 1st November 1890 by the Bishop of Beverley (for the Archbishop of York).  It had space for 550 worshippers.  The Church was called the Fox Memorial Church, and was in Bolsterstone parish; Stocksbridge did not become a parish in its own right until 1917.

In his sermon, the Bishop said that Samuel Fox had been “a good man, strict and upright in all his doings, and I understand that if he had lived he would have erected a church himself.  But I think it is better that the people themselves should have combined to raise the building, as thereby they will feel a deeper interest in it, and I trust will thus be led to make good use of it.  I know that handsome contributions have been made by his son and by the devoted vicar of the parish and his friends, but a large amount has come from the people as a mark of respect for their departed friend and benefactor.”


[1] Said to be St. Matthias Day but this falls on the 24th February.  It is on the 25th in a Leap Year, but 1887 was not a leap year.

St. Matthias Diane Clarke (7) 2018.jpg

Photo credit: Diane Clarke

The memorial takes the form of a carved oak reredos, which is the large ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of the altar.  It is attached to the east wall.  It has vine carving and linen fold panelling (a simple form of relief carving).  The reredos, which is of massive fumed oak (oak that has been smoked to change its colour) was described as a beautiful work of art.  Originally commissioned in 1920, it was carved with the names of the fallen of the Great War, but more names were added after the Second World War.  It bears the following inscription: “To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of the following parishioners, who laid down their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918.  Erected A.D. 1920, by the inhabitants of Stocksbridge, ‘Greater love hath no man than this.’  Henry Clapham Foster, Vicar; Charles Thickett and Willie Helliwell, Churchwardens.”


The Armistice of 11th November 1918 was signed near Compiègne and ended fighting on land, sea and air between the Allies and their last remaining opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with other foes. It was officially signed at 5.45am by the Allied Supreme Commander, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch and came into force at 11am on the 11th November 1918.  Fighting continued up to 11am that day, and 2,738 men died on the last day of the war.


The Clock Tower War Memorial was not finished until 1923, and up to that time services took place in the various churches, including St. Matthias.

Shortly after the Armistice, on the 17th November, a service of thanksgiving was held for the great victory.  The Vicar and wardens gave “a hearty invitation to all to come and thank Almighty God.  It is hoped that some of the public bodies in the town will attend officially.”  The service took place before a crowded congregation.

The following year, “with full recognition of the solemnity of the occasion, and in accordance with His Majesty’s wish the celebration of Armistice Day in Stocksbridge and district took place with all the decorum and dignity suitable to the occasion.”  At 11am the siren in Fox's was sounded, and complete silence was achieved.  Every person on the works was still.  At the end of the two minutes’ silence the siren was again sounded, and work was resumed.  Local school children attended a short service at St. Matthias.  The Union Jack was flown over the works and other public buildings in the district.

In July 1920, The Rev. H. C. Foster wrote to the local newspaper asking for help in compiling a list of all those who had given their lives in the Great War.  A War Memorial had been commissioned and the firm who were doing this wanted the names to be included on it as soon as possible so that the work of carving them on the panelling may be completed.  The memorial was to be dedicated on the 7th November.   The criteria were that those put forward were to have been inhabitants of the parish of Stocksbridge when they joined up.  Names already on the Bolsterstone War Memorial were not to be included.  A list of names already obtained was published, and people were invited to add more, letting Mr. Foster have their full name, regiment and date of death.  


There were 38 names on his list:

John Adams, Anthony Button, Arthur Button, Arthur Brailsford, Thornton Brookes, Fred Castledine, Lucy Castledine, William Curley, Winfield Crawshaw, Arnold Crossley, Donald Crossley, Frank Eastwood, Fred Fieldsend, Harry Finkill, Harry Firth, Walter Hey, George Howarth, Ernest Jackson, Robert Jackson, Thomas Keough, Alec Leather, Stanley Lester, Albert Liles, Harry Newton, Clifford Orchard, Spencer Race, John Raynes, James Roebuck, Douglas Shaw, Eric William Sheldon, Horace Smith, Alfred Sutton, Herbert Trickett, Bertram Vause, Percy Whittaker, James Herbert Withers, Joseph Adin Withers, William James Woodhead.

Four months later, on the afternoon of Sunday 7th November, in the presence of a large congregation, the Bishop of Sheffield unveiled and dedicated the War Memorial Reredos.  


The names which are carved on the panels were reported in the local paper as:-John Adams, Arthur Brailsford, William Bramwell, Thornton Brooks, Arthur Button, Fred Castledine, Arnold Crossley, Donald Crossley, William Curley, Frank Eastwood, Fred Fieldsend, Harry Finkill, Harry Firth, Harry Herbert, Walter Hey, Walter R. Hill, George Howarth, Ernest Jackson, Robert Jackson, Thomas Keough, Alec A. Leather, Stanley Lester, Albert Liles, Thomas Maycock, Harry Newton, Clifford Orchard, Spencer Race, John Raynes, James Roebuck, Milton Rodgers, Douglas Shaw, Horace Smith, Alfred Sutton, Herbert Trickett, Bertram Vause, Jack Wallace, Percy Whittaker, James H. Withers, Joseph A. Withers, William J. Woodhead, Alfred Wright [41 names].

NOTE: For some reason, four names on the original list were missing from the report of the second list: Anthony Button, Lucy  Castledine, Winfield Crawshaw, Eric William Sheldon.  This must just be an error in the newspaper's list.  The Bishop said that he was proud to notice also a woman’s name upon the memorial, which must be nurse Lucy Castledine, whose name is missing from the second list.  Seven new names had been added: William Bramwell, Harry Herbert, Walter R. Hill, Thomas Maycock, Milton Rodgers and Alfred Wright. 


Those present included the relatives of the fallen, The Members and Officials of the Stocksbridge Urban District Council, the Hand O’ Friendship Lodge of the R.A.O.B. [The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes] and Stocksbridge Fire Brigade.  The Processional hymn “O God our help in ages past” was sung by the congregation, after which the memorial was unveiled, and the Bishop read aloud the names inscribed upon it. 


He said that if people did not know where their dear ones were laid to rest, then this memorial was an abiding witness to their memory.  They could go and pray and find great consolation in thinking that God knew.  He spoke of the loss that he also had sustained in the loss of his own son, and that he was proud of the mothers of England because he had not known one that had repined [felt sad/complained/expressed discontent].  A collection was held, which raised £16 for the Church War Memorial Fund.

2m.  St. Matthias interior pre 1920 no reredos.jpg
St. Matthias Diane Clarke (9).jpg

The older photo was taken before the installation of the Reredos in 1920.  The colour photo was taken by Diane Clarke and shows the screen in place behind the alter on the east wall.

An Armistice Day service was conducted in 1921 at the church by the Vicar, the Rev. H. C. Foster, who gave “a stirring address.”  The observance of Armistice Day took place in Stocksbridge (the Clock Tower not having yet been built) “with all due decorum and solemnity.”  Union Jacks were flown at half-mast at Stocksbridge Works and elsewhere.  The Works buzzers at Stocksbridge and Deepcar announced the commencement of the two minutes of silence, which were reverently observed throughout the district.  When the time had elapsed the buzzers were again sounded.  An service was held at the conclusion of the silence, in the wire-drawers’ department in Fox's.  The hymn, “O God our help,” was sung, following which a fervent prayer was offered by Mr. Jabez Butcher.  The Lord’s Prayer was afterwards sung, and the hymn, “These things shall be,” concluded “a most impressive incident in the day’s work.” 


On Sunday 5th November 1922 a memorial service took place, on the 32nd anniversary of the church's dedication [it was actually on the 1st].  The service was reported as being “beautiful in its simplicity, and yet most impressive.”   About a thousand people turned up to show that those who had made the supreme sacrifice would not be forgotten.  Every available space in the church was filled, which was around double its capacity.  There was a march to the church headed by the Stocksbridge Brass Band, and a large procession which included members of the Stocksbridge Urban Council, officials, the R.A.O.B., Friendly Societies the Druids, Oddfellows, Foresters and Rechabites, members of the Stocksbridge Victory Club, and Working Men’s Club and Institute.  Among the congregation were many relatives of the fallen.  The Vicar of Stocksbridge read the names of the fallen, concluding with the remark “Let us see to it that their names are never forgotten.”  The Last Post was sounded by Mr. E. Batty followed by an interval of silence, followed by the National Anthem.  There was also an evening service, and collections were taken in aid of St. Dunstan’s (a charity founded by Sir Arthur Pearson in 1915 dedicated to helping war-blinded men, including those who suffered from “delayed action” blindness.


On Armistice Day 1923, the Clock Tower wasn’t ready, so the memorial service took place at the church.  Among those present were the members and officials of the Urban District Council, British Legion, Boy Scouts, Friendly Societies and others.  The Roll of Honour was read by Major McIntyre and the “Last Post” blown by Bugler E. Batty.  The band accompanied the singing and also played Sullivan’s “In Memoriam.”  The preacher was the Vicar, the Rev. J. G. Roberts.


The Clock Tower was unveiled and dedicated on Saturday 1st December 1923 at 2.30pm.

In 1924, services took place in the various churches, at the Clock Tower, and even in the cinema (when hundreds of people were unable to get in because of the crowds).  St. Matthias was crowded for the memorial service which took place after a procession which had started at Horner House, headed by the Stocksbridge Brass Band.  Councillor Joseph Sheldon placed a wreath on the war memorial reredos, which was covered by the Union Jack.  The vicar hoped “that the future would see the energies of men put to constructive use and not destructive purposes.  They must turn their swords into ploughshares.  Following in the wake of war was unemployment, strikes, doles, with their demoralising results.  The best way to perpetuate the memory of the brave was to work for peaceful, useful and productive ends.”

On Remembrance Sunday 1925 (it is always marked on the second Sunday in November), a united Armistice commemoration service was held at St. Matthias.  Long before the service was due to commence, the church was filled with well over a thousand people.  About half of them had to stand, but there were still a great many who were unable to gain admission.  The arrangements were made by the local branch of the British Legion. [1]  A large procession set off from Horner House along the main road to the church, headed by the Stocksbridge Old Prize Brass Band.  They were followed by the local branch of the British Legion, other ex-Servicemen, Fire Brigade, Ambulance Brigade, Boy Scouts, and representatives of various friendly societies, wearing regalia.  In the procession was Mr. Joseph Withers, of 291 Ford Lane, Stocksbridge, on whose breast were medals of his three sons, Sergeant-Major Oscar Withers, Corporal James Withers and Private Joseph Withers, who were killed [2].  In their memory and that of other brave lads of the district, Mr. Withers, along with Mr. Ben Wood, who lost a leg in the war, placed a beautiful wreath of laurel and red poppies on the war memorial reredos.  The tribute was from members of the Stocksbridge and District Branch of the British Legion.  Amongst the relatives of the fallen were also Mr. Castledine, whose daughter, Nurse Lucy Castledine, and son, Fred Castledine, lost their lives on active service, and Miss Kaye, wearing her father's medals [3] (he had been killed).  The Reverend Mason addressed the congregation, and said that when history was written up, an explanation would have to be given for this service of remembrance.  “They had worshipped too long at the shrine of brutality.  They saw it in the shape of present-day hooliganism, which was attempting to destroy instead of to build up.  Remembrance Day was a day for re-consecrating themselves; of thinking of the lads who gave their lives in Flanders, Palestine, and elsewhere; of the people who were being badly housed; and of the young girls hawking their honour on the streets.  Unless we rose to the occasion and remedied these things we had broken faith.  The time was wanted when everyone could have what was called a living wage, and then they would get what was good for the common weal.”  On leaving the church a procession was re-formed and marched to the Clock Tower, where the British Legion paraded with bared heads and the hymn, “Lead, kindly Light” was played by the Band.


On Armistice Day itself, the 11th, a memorial service took place at the Clock Tower, whilst children attended a memorial service in St. Matthias.  The Roll of Honour on the war memorial reredos was read out by the vicar and the National Anthem was sung at the close.

[1] Although the British Legion had royal patronage from its foundation in 1921, it did not receive the “Royal” prefix until 1971, on its golden anniversary (the 29th May)

[2] All three are named on the Clock Tower, but only James Herbert Withers and Joseph Adin Withers are named as being on the St. Matthias reredos

[3] I have been unable to find out who he was

Remembrance Services continued to be held at the church until it closed on the 12th July 2018.


This was recently (2021) removed from the church after it closed.  It contains the names of 35 men and women who died.  I will add more information after each name as I find it.


In memory of those who were Killed in Action or Died on Active Service whilst serving their King and Country

  • Dick Atkinson

  • Leonard Barraclough      

  • Frederick W. Broad

  • Richard Button

  • Edward Challis

  • Herbert Davies

  • Frank Dawson

  • Kenneth Gregory

  • Thomas Hanwell

  • Leslie Herbert

  • William Hoyle

  • Norman Jackson

  • Ernest Jones

  • Walter Kingley [this should read Hingley]

  • Vincent Lavery

  • Ernest Lowe

  • Barrington Marshall

  • Thomas H. Mate - Sergeant Thomas Henry Mate - see Fox's Memorial

  • Victor Mate - Sergeant Victor Hugo Mate - see Fox's Memorial

  • Wilfred Martin

  • Percy Milnes

  •  Jack Revitt

  • Ernest Robinson

  • Aubrey Rodgers

  • Albert Rolfe

  • Harry Rowley

  • John A. Sellars

  • Alec Shaw

  • Robert Shaw

  • Marjorie Smith

  • Mabel Turner - Leading Aircraftwoman - Beatrice Hetty Mabel Turner 2054945 W.A.A.F.  - see Fox's Memorial

  • Walter Wadsworth

  • Kenneth Walker

  • Denis Walton

  • William E. Webb

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends

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