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A Halifax church with a story to tell
All Souls Church in Halifax
The ornate and beautiful interior of All Souls Church, Haley Hill in Halifax

All Souls Church in Halifax is one of the town's lesser-known landmarks, a gem that has sadly seen better days.

As part of his search for West Yorkshire's hidden history, BBC Radio Leeds' John Millward has paid a visit.

Showing him round is David Nortcliffe from Calderdale Heritage Walks - a great fan of this grand old building.

David explains: "It was designed by an expert, George Gilbert Scott. When it was all done Scott said, 'It is my finest church'.

Spire at All Souls
The spire at All Souls intentionally dominates the surrounding area

"That's quite something from the man who designed cathedrals and designed on the continent as well. The proportions, the quality, everything is of the best."

All Souls was commissioned by Victorian philanthropist Edward Akroyd. He was was an industrialist who saw it as his duty to improve the conditions of his workers and their families. He came up with a scheme for workers' housing right next to his Haley Hill factory.

Akroydon, Akroyd's model village, was built with the support of the fledgling Halifax Permanent Building Society which, much later, was to become the Halifax. He also went on to found what was to become the Yorkshire Bank.

At Akroydon's heart was to be All Souls and, with George Gilbert Scott as its designer, it was clear that it would be a case of nothing but the best.

David explains: "Scott was used to working in quality materials and he brought with him a team of the very best people of his day.

"Stone carvers, iron workers, tiling, mosaicists, stained glass windows - they're all the big names of that mid-19th century period.

"There's even ornamentation where you don't need ornamentation!"

Tiled floor
Even the floors at All Souls show an amazing attention to detail

All Souls certainly is a cavernous but beautifully ornate place. Even on a day when the sun fails to shine over Halifax, the church still manages to conjure up some colour.

As David explains: "This is a dull day and the window I'm looking at in the transept never actually gets the full light on it because that's the north side so the sun never shines directly through there.

"But even in these circumstances, we're still seeing quite a jewelled effect."

Sadly, though, for the church's enthusiasts such as David, it has not actually played host to a service for several months.

Now being looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust - it is a Grade I listed building - its future is unclear.

David believes All Souls is a special place worthy of protection for future generations: "It's a matter of weighing up its quality, which is undoubtedly there.

The is not just the story of a church, it's part of the story of Edward Akroyd in the community.
David Nortcliffe

"The is not just the story of a church, it's part of the story of Edward Akroyd in the community.

"His house is still there. His model village of Akroydon is still here. There's an awful lot to tell the story of how that one man influenced life in Halifax for 40 years."

BBC Radio Leeds' John Millward is visiting West Yorkshire's hidden historical gems each day on the breakfast show with Andrew and Georgey. Listen out from 6am to 9am every morning on 92.4 FM.



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