Wakefield Family History Sharing


Extracts from

Walkers History of Wakefield

2nd edition 1939 (privately printed)


Ministers of St John the Baptist, Wakefield


A paragraph in The Leeds Mercury for November 19th 1723, points out that "The town of Wakefield in Yorkshire is of late Years so much increased in trade, and consequently in People, that they are going to build a new Church there in all the modern Magnificence; Subscriptions having been already taken for that purpose amountint to several Thousands of pounds".  A petition signed by a large number of parishioners was addressed to King George II in 1726 asking for his consent to a license for the building of a new church.  The petition stated that in the town there were now 4,000 communicants and that the parish church, including the galleries would not accomodate more than 1,100 persons, that many families had no seats therin, either for themselves, their children, apprentices or servants.  One well disposed person offered to give £600 towards buildings the new church if the inhabitants would subscribe such a further sum as might be necessary for the work.  There was an immediate and generous response of £3,500 in subscriptions.  To further encourage the scheme the same donour offered £400 towards an alter-piece and for the endowment of the living.  There was a promise from the Duke of Leeds, lord of the manor, or 60 acres of common land to augment the living, which with the allotment of pews was estimated to produce about £130 p.a. for the minister.  The scheme, however, fell through, owing to the opposition of the Vicar of Wakefield, the Rev. Thomas Scott.  He insisted that he should be recompensed, accordingly for the loss of his parishioners if the scheme went through.

Sixty years passed with no new church being added to the skyline of Wakefield, until a Mrs Alice Newstead left the plot of land, upon which stand the church, in her will.  Alice had been born in May 1684 daughter of William Lawson, mercer of Wakefield.  Alice's first husband was Mr Higham of London.  On April 15th 1737 he took as her third husband Reynold Newstead of Wakefield.  Mrs Newstead survived her husband who passed away in December 1740 aged 61.  Alice died on January 24th 1776.  In the will was also £1000 for the support of the Minister - conditionally that the church be erected within eighteen months of her death.  If the condition was not applied the bequest would pass to relatives.  The condition was not complied with and therefore became invalid, but the nephew and heit-at law, the Rev William Johnson of Prescot and the devisee in the remainder of the estate, John Gill of Sandal agreed the sum of £1000 should be paid out of the estate for the maintenance of the Minister.

Land was purchased by Francis Maude and John Lee.  In 1790 a special Act of Parliament was obtained and a body of seven commission were empowered to cause a church and steeple to be erected upon the ground given and to cause vaults to made under the floor for the interment in lead coffins only of the dead, and to cause pews and galleries to be set out.  The Vicar of the Parish church was indemnified for loss by charging double fees for marriages and funerals that took place within, what was at first, a Chapel-of-ease.

Incumbents of St John's Church

Richard Munkhouse, was the first incumbent and was instituted July 25th 1795.  He held the living until he was preferred to the parish church in September 1805 and was succeeded by :

William Wood, 1805 and held the living until his death in 1825 and was buried at Sandal.

Thomas Kilby, son of John Kilby, Lord Mayor of York in 1804; Thomas was born in York in 1794. He was curate of Wakefield September 1824 to July 1825; of Alverthorpe from July until his induction to the Incumbency of St John's December 1825, where he remained until his death in  September of 1868

Edward Bell was born 1829.  He was instituted Vicar of St John's in 1868 and resigned in 1890 owing to ill-health.  He died in Poole on March 5th 1904, being dreadfully burnt as the result of upsetting an oil lamp.  He was buried in Longfleet Churchyard, Poole

F La Trobe Foster, son of the Rev. F de La Trobe Foster of Kempton, Bedfordshire. He was born July 6th 1853.  He was instituted May 1890 and resigned 1892 on accepting the Vicarage of Widcombe, Bath.  He died June 1910 in Bletchley, Kent where he had been Vicar

Charles Duncan Horatio McMillan, MA, was curate of Stanley and instituted to St John's March 1892, resigned June 1907 on appointment as Vicar of Malmesbury Abbey Church and he died in May of 1919

Edwin Watkin Hughes, MA, Curate of St Paul's, Huddersfield 1899-1905; then of Dewsbury from 1905-1907 and then instituted to St John's October 1907 but resigned 1919 on appointment  as Rector of Saxby-with Stapleford

Frank Stooke, BA.  He held several curacies before becoming Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of Wakefield in 1916; instituted as Vicar of St John's 1919 which he resigned in January 1927 on appointment to Old Warden.  He died in October 1933

William Arthur Sawtell, instituted March 1st 1927 and died November 28th 1927

Hrebert Linford Gwyer instituted Vicar of St John's March 8th 1928; Hon. Canon of Wakefield Cathedral; elected Bishop of George, South Africa 1936

Frank Alexander Lee, MA, Vicar of Cudworth which in 1924 he resigned to be become Vicar of St Johns April 1937


St John's Parish Records are available at the West Yorkshire Archive Service under the Ref WDP 45 baptisms 1795-1950, marriages 1795-1983, burials 1795-1865

To read fully the events read 'Wakefield its History and People' by J W Walker OBE FSA


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