History of St Johns Church

How The Parish Church Came To Be Built





The Church was built in 1849 on land given by Mr. John Hirst of Clayton House at a cost of £1,900 and opened for worship on Sunday January 19th 1851. At the turn of the 19th century, the various “denominations” in the village were not strong enough to be able to afford to erect buildings of their own. The Baptists worshipped at Queenshead, the Churchmen at Thornton, the Wesleyans as far away as Birstall and Whichfield Chapel, Shelf and the Independents at Kipping. In 1819 the Clayton old village school was built by public subscription as a weekly and Sunday School, and as a preaching place for all denominations. The building was for many years the abode of "Brotherly Love", The Sunday scholars being taught alike by members denominations while on Sunday evenings worship was led by each in turn, the established church, Baptist, Wesleyan and Independent. The building now has the role of Branch Library, the old inscription from above the school doorway occupying a permanent place on an internal wall. Clayton, along with Allerton and Wilsden, had for centuries been served by the “Bell Chapel” at Thornton dedicated by St. James and part of the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Bradford. (Other chapels or chapelries were Wibsey and Haworth). Previous to 1848 Clayton had no resident clergymen, but in that year the Vicar of Bradford, Dr. Scoresby, appointed one of his curates, the Rev. W. Kelly, to take charge of the district. A lecture room, which served as a place of worship and Sunday School was provided by Mr. John Hirst of Clayton House in a building attached to his premises, and formerly used as a maltkiln. Previous to the opening of this mission room, the children had been meeting at the village school on Sundays and walked from there to the old Bell Chapel at Thornton. This mission room was opened for public worship by Dr. Scoresby in 1848 and here for nine years, first the Rev. W. Kelly and later the Rev. M. Galvin and finally, the Rev. Francis Earle carried on the Church’s mission work in the district.In 1849, the long talked of Church was begun in cons equence of a grant of £1000 from the Incorporated Church Building Society. The foundation stone, which was a corner stone of the east gable on the level of the east window, was laid on May 29th 1849 and the building was completed in 1850. Unfortunately, the £1000 endowment needed for the maintenance of a minister was not immediately forthc oming and so the church could not be consecrated. Howe ver, at the request of the Rev. F. Earle who had been appointed in December 1850 to a curacy in Wiltshire, Bishop Longley agreed to grant a licence to enable the Church to be opened for divine worship on January 19th 1851. The Rev. 0. Burnett, Vicar of Bradford preached in the morning and the Rev. F. Earle preached his farewell sermon in the evening. Eventually from a legacy and other sources a small endowment fund was raised and invested and the Church was at last duly consecrated on 25th August 1856, by the Bishop of Ripon, Dr. Longley, who afterwards became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Shortly afterwards the old vicarage was built on a site next to the Church. This was demolished in 1968 and replaced with the present modern House. In 1858 the Parish schools were erected on land belonging to the Lord of the Manor, Mr. 3. Atkinson Jowett, who conveyed the site to trustees.

Entry Through The Main  (South)  Door


 Parish  south door

 On entering the building the first thing which strikes the visitor to Clayton Parish Church is its wealth of marble, some of which is extremely rare and is in some instances now no longer quarried and therefore irreplaceable and also the beautiful glass mosaics. We begin our tour in the left hand corner as we enter and move around the building in a clockwise direction.

The Nave and Aisles

 The flooring here came in the main from Devon. The central passage of the Nave and North and South Aisles are laid with grey Petitor marble from Devon with bands of green Tinos and Skyros from Greece. The Dado which is the marble skirting which runs along the lower part of the North and South Aisles has a Cippoline marble plinth (from Euboea) with a background above of Greek Skyros, inlaid with other marbles to form the “four— leafed clover” and diamond shaped panels, etc.

The Baptistry


Parish Baptistry

The font which was originally situated under the tower was moved to its present position in 1913 and the baptistry was re—ordered in 1963. The octagonal font is of carved alabaster with a lead lined basin and stands on a stone base. Each of the eight sides bear an interesting and beautiful carved panel as follows: 1 A figure of a man bearing a swallow tailed narrow flag attached to a staff and surmounted by a cross. The index finger of the right hand is raised and pointing, and on a scroll underneath the figure are the words “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man!— John 19:5). Whether the man is Jesus or John the Baptist is open for question, but there is no doubt who Pilate was talking about when he spoke the words. 2 The winged ox — the symbol of St. Luke the Evangelist. 3 Three fishes forming a rough circle — the Greek initials of “Jesus Christ, God’s son, Saviour” make up the word “Fish” so early Christians who were often killed if recognised, used the symbol of a fish as a means of secret identity. 4 The eagle — symbol of St. John the Evangelist. 5 Lamb bearing the banner of the cross - “Agnus Dei” (The Lamb of God John I : 29). 6 Figure with “A Face as a Man” — emblematic of St. Matthew the Evangelist. 7 The figure of a dove with an olive branch — the symbol of baptism and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 8:11 and Matthew 3:16). 8 The winged lion - the symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist. Occupying the west wall is the fine mosaic of a guardian angel with a child in his arms, standing on a cloud, and the symbolic figure of a dove overhead. The whole style of the mosaic is Italian and indeed all the mosaics in the Church were done by Italian craftsmen. The artist of this one and the other one on the North side of “Ruth” was Mr. Gaetano Meo who was well known not only for his own work, but also for his artistic association with such other famous men as Rosetti, Burne -Jones and Richmond. His work may also be seen in Westminster Cathedral in London. The baptistry window has two lights, its subject being ‘Jesus and the Children’. In the light on the right, Jesus is shown holding a chubby little infant in his arms. Another child plucks his garment to claim his attention while at the same time offering him a flower. Near the apex of the light is the sacred monogram IHC the Greek capitals of the first letters of the name “Jesus”. At the bottom is the text from Luke 18:16 “Suffer little children to come unto Me and forbid them not”. In the left light, a woman with child in her arms stands facing Christ. The apex of the light is a chalice. Field flowers are seen in profusion round the feet of the group and birds fly over their heads (“The fowls of the air” and the “Lilies of the Field”). New additions to the baptistry are a portable font and candlestick which were dedicated and blessed on 9th .July 1978, gifts from the family of Mr. Arnold D, Briggs. These beautiful furnishings were carved in naturally seasoned English oak by the famous firm of R. Thompsons of Kilburn, Yorkshire. A font ewer in heavy polished brass is to be seen in the baptistry, which was gift of the Mother’s Union as a memorial to the wife of the seventh Vicar of the Parish, the Rev. A. Simmons, M.A.

The  War Memorials

Parish war mem
The war memorials consist of two great marble panels on the north and south sides of the tower base and a small mural tablet on the west side. The large memorial panels record the names of ninety—two men from the Parish of Clayton who gave their lives during the first world war, together with the 32 battles in which they fell. In striking contrast to these large first world war memorials is the small marble tablet in memory of men who perished in the second world war, recording the names of ten men who were connected with the Church and its organisations. A handsome vase in heavy brass stands on the ledge below the world war II tablet bearing an inscription “In memory of Sgt. Douglas B. Birkbeck, R.A.F. and all who served 1939—1945. Placed one at each side of the steps leading from the nave to the vestibule and close to the large war memorials are the original churchwardens’ staves. These staves are of wood painted black, and each bears ornamental symbols of crown and mitre with the date 1851. A modern pair of staves stand in front of the churchwardens pew near the south porch, these being of oak and brass topped, one bears a crown, the other a mitre. Underneath the tower above the small door which leads up the winding stairway to the clock and belfry are two small but interesting brasses referring to the clock. The clock was installed in 1879 together with the tenor and quarter bells, and was restored in 1933 when the dial on the west wall and Westminster chimes were added. Set high in the west wall of the tower is a unique and beautiful window. Two date scrolls can be clearly seen, these being BC 1491 and AD 1918. The lower portion of both lights show Egyptian infantry armed with bows, arrows and spears, and in the centre of the advancing infantry are Pharoah’s chariots drawn by magnificent horses. The Israelite fugitives are hardly in evidence although there is a suggestion of their presence between their pursuers and the pillar of’ cloud which is very conspicuous in the upper portion of the left light. The thrilling account of this Old Testament scene is told in Exodus The upper part of’ the window is given over to objects connected with the First Word War period. We discern five planes, two tanks, a field gun and some barbed wire entanglements. Some spectacular shell—bursts are also to be seen. The window was erected by Harrison Benn of Uakleigh, Clayton as part of’ the memorial to his son—in—law who was killed in France in 1915.

The West End Mosaic (North Aisle)

Parish ruth 

This superb mosaic portrays “Ruth” the Moabitess, gleaning the harvest field of Boaz her kinsman. The artist originally intended to produce the work in oils but tried a bold experiment of presenting the subject through the medium of tessalation and it was a complete sucess.

The North Side Windows

 “THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT” WINDOW (the window next to the “Ruth” mosaic) has two lights combining to form one picture. The Lord is seated on the hillside, speaking earnestly to the group of listeners around Him. Stretched across the apex of the two lights is a scroll bearing the quotation from St. Matthew 5 : 1 “And when He was set, His disciples came unto Him.” The glorious colouring of this picture together with the rocks, rock plants and typical sky help to create a most beautiful and impressive New Testament scene. 


"THE INCIDENTS OF THE SOUTHERN CAMPAIGN” WINDOW directly faces the worshipper coming into church by the south porch. The two incidents displayed took place probably on a journey from Galilea to Judea via Perea. The left hand light shows Jesus in the act of blessing the children (Matthew 19 : 14) “Suffer little children and forbid them not, to come unto me : for such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” The right hand light illustrates Mark 10 52 “and Jesus said unto him, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way”. The blind man Bartimaeus is pictured kneeling at the feet of Jesus, whose healing hand is held over the sightless eyes, while three spectators stand by. “THE PASTORAL COMMISSION” WINDOW — the middle one in the north aisle — has a setting comparable to a beauty spot in the Lake District. A scroll in the left light bears the wording of the divine commission “Feed my Sheep” John 21 : 17. Simon Peter is shown kneeling before the Risen Lord who stands, holding in his left hand a shepherd’s crook — the symbol of His care as the “good” and “Chief” shepherd, and with his right hand uplifted in teaching. The shield on the right displays the arms of the ancient Parish of Bradford. The left shield bears the Arms of the Diocese of Bradford. THE “MOTHER AND SON” WINDOW — second from the organ. The two lights each bear a figure set in a niche of elaborately carved stone work. The figure on the right is Elizabeth, the wife of the aged priest, Zacharias. On the left is her son, John the Baptist. Elizabeth holds in her hand an open book bearing the inscription “P’phetia Malachiae. Ecce ego mitto Angelum.” This is an old English script and approximates to the prophetical Latin of Malachi 3 : 1 “Behold I will send my messenger”. John carries a cross— topped staff, a labarum with the picture of a lamb, and inscription on the scroll reads “Ecce Agnus Dei”, (Behold the lamb of God). Above the principal figures in each light are two tiny angels. One in each pair blows a golden trumpet. Below these figures there are six initial letters — three in each light and four of them are surmounted by crowns. The initials are “E” for Elizabeth and “I” for John — there being no J. in Latin. THE “DOUBLE SERVICE” WINDOW — nearest the organ. The scripture quotation in the left light reads “I was a stranger and ye took me in.” Above is an aged pilgrim with staff and water bottle being received and welcomed by a householder at the portico of a palatial mansion. On the right above the text, “Naked and ye clothed me” is an aged poverty stricken wayfarer and two ragged children being succoured by a kindh earted lady.

The Organ

Parish organ
The valuable three manual organ was a memorial gift, this fact being recorded on a small brass plate just above the console which reads “To the Praise and Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Sarah, wife of Joseph Benn who died June 17th 1886: This organ is presented by Joseph Benn and Family”.

The Pulpit

Parish pulpit
The pulpit was the gift of Mr. Johnathan Barker in 1887. It is of lovely veined albaster, stands on a dark mottled base and has four octagonal pillars of dark green. On the front of the pulpit facing the congregat ion is a carved panel of white translucent alabaster the subject being Christ’s post—Resurrection command to St. Peter: “Feed my Lambs”, “Feed my Sheep” as recorded by St. John 21:15—17. The risen Lord is the central figure of the panel, and eleven disciples and three sheep make up the remaining figures in the group. Since 1953 this carved panel has been illuminated by means of fixed lighting placed behind. Around the frieze is a continuous vine branch, with leaves and small clusters of grapes.

The Chancel Screen

Parish chancel
The richly carved Chancel Screen was dedicated on September 9th 1934. Over the central opening are seven shields. The centre shield of the upper three bears a pelican with drops of blood on her chest " by whose blood we are healed". This arose from the ancient notion that the pelican fed her young with her own blood. The shield on the left bears the crossed keys of St. Peter and the Woolpack of’ the Arms of the Diocese of Bradford, and that on the right bears a lamb with pennon. A finely executed grape—pattern carving runs behind the shield, below which is a trelliswork of lighted candles. The four small shields on the lower part of the central tracery represent St. John the Baptist, St. James to show the historical connection with Thornton Parish Church, St. Peter symbolic of the derivation from the Bradford Parish Church, now the Cathedral and St. Edward indicating the former Mission Church.

The Lectern

Parish Lecturn
The Lectern is a handsome piece of work of eagle design and in heavy polished brass. It was the gift in 1887 of Mrs. S. Ridings, Clayton House.

The East Window

Parish east window

The east window has three main “lights” separated by substantial stone mullions. Each light is divided into two sections and each section has a subject to itself, so that altogether there are six scriptural subjects pictorially illustrated in the three large lights. In the circular design above these three lights are three inverted trefoils with pleasing designs of vine leaves and tendrils. In the centre of each trefoil pattern is a sacred monogram. Over each of the outer main lights is a trifoliated opening with a central heraldic design surrounded by leaves and tendrils as before. The design on the left represents the “Agnus Dei”; that on the right a pelican with her brood. The main centre light, upper section, depicts Christ holding in his left hand a cross while his right hand is upraised in blessing. A Latin title “Salvator Mundi” (Saviour of the World) is seen underneath. The lower section of the middle light has for its subject “The Ascension”. Our Lord is seen rising from the midst of a group of His followers. The left hand has in its top portion, St. Thomas. He is holding a joiner’s square since tradition says he was a carpenter. The figure in the lower section is St. Peter, his left hand holds a large key; the right hand is raised in benediction. The top figure of the right hand light is St. John the Baptist. In his left hand he holds a staff surmounted by a cross. From the staff streams a “Vexillum” of pennon, which is inscribed “Repent Ye”. His right hand with a beckoning forefinger is raised high. St. Paul is the subject of the bottom panel of this light. He is portrayed with the book of the Gospel in his right hand, while his left hand rests upon a sword hilt. The inscription running along the bottom of the window under the three main lights; and which cannot now be seen from the floor level because of the marble reredos reads as follows: “To the glory of God, and in memory of Thomas Hirst, Esq., of Low House, Clayton, who died on the XV day of July MDCCCXL; also of Sarah his wife died on the XXth day of March MDCCCLVII. ‘her children arise up and call her blessed Prov. XXXI, V. XXVIII”.

The Chancel

parish chancel
The wealth of marble installed in the church in 1914 and particularly that in the chancel and sanctuary serve as a permanent memorial to Harrison Benn, their generous benefactor, who personally selected many of the pieces at the quarries in Italy. The reredos or inner wall under the east window and behind the Holy Table together with the wings which entered the whole width of the sanctuary is composed entirely of marble of various types. The Latin text on either side of the Holy Table “SANCTUS, SANCTUS, SANCTUS, DOMINUS, DEUS OMNIPOTENS” (holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”) is from the Book of Revelation 4 : 8. Another text is inscribed on the North and South walls of the sanctuary and is a paraphrase of Isaiah 40 : 11 “HE SHALL FEED HIS FLOCK LIKE A SHEPHERD” “AND GATHER THE LAMBS WITH HIS ARMS.” The subject of the superb mosaic above the Holy Table is “The Good Shepherd” and the full glory of this wonderful Venetian glass—work is brought out when the two spotlights are switched on. On the middle panel of the South wall of the sanctuary is a marble Credence Table let into the wall, ornamentally carved and finished off below in a scroll work terminal. The purpose of the credence is to hold the sacred elements and vessels used in the Holy Communion. The Holy Table is of the finest white Carrara marble from the Tuscan Appenines of North West Italy with dark brown panels of rare Morocco Onyx. The seven five—pointed stars on the front of the table represents the five wounds (hands feet and side) of the Saviour. The massive slab of white Carrara marble under the Holy Table is a circular pictorial panel representing the “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”). The panel is composed of many different coloured marbles giving a striking effect. The Communion Rail which divides the Sanctuary from the rest of the Chancel is composed of the fine white Carrara marble with a heavy capping of dark green Tinos marble and is in itself a truly fine work of art, being composed of eight panels inlaid with precious marbles and minerals in the form of sacred monogram and Biblical flowers. First Panel — adjacent to the north wall (i.e. the left— hand side when facing the Holy Table). The two letters are Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and refer to the pre—eminence and Divinity of the Lord Jesus. Second Panel. This is an exquisite Rose representing the “Rose of Sharon” a metaphor frequently applied to Christ. Third Panel. A beautiful Lily which is metaphorically used to illustrate the Church of the Bride of Christ. Fourth Panel. Here is a variation of the “Chi rho” symbol — the monogram of Christ. Fourth Panel . This bears the monogrammatic name of the first three letters of the Greek Sixth Panel. The “Passion Flower” so called because of its fanciful resemblance to the things and people closely associated with the Crucifixion. Seventh Panel. The three rings or circles each having neither beginning or ending represent the Holy Trinity. Eighth Panel. Three stars or two stars and a sunb urst are imposed on the other. There are many figurative uses of the star in the Bible. The “Day Star” is a figure of the coming of Christ; the “Morning Star is Jesus Christ who brought the light of the Gospel Day; the star of the Wise Men which led them to the Saviour. A recent addition to the chancel furnishings is the beautiful Processional Cross of Coptic (Ethiopian) design which was given in 1973 in memory of Harold Whaley killed in action in Franch in 1918. This valuable piece is over 200 years old and stands at the end of a choir pew on the organ side.

The Memorial Chapel

Parish memorial
A striking work of art is to be seen above the Holy Table. This is the “Charterhouse” mosaic which was originally in the Chapel of Charterhouse School. It was the gift of George Thomas Clark (1809—1898), who was educated there and it remained in the school chapel from the date of its dedication in 1872 until its removal in 1937. In 1942, the mosaic came into the possession of an old Carthusian, and in 1948, it was restored and erected here in the side chapel in memory of two young parishioners who were killed in the Great War, and who had been educated at Charterhouse. The Reredos was rededicated on Palm Sunday, April 10th 1949. The subject of the mosaic is “The Last Supper” and our Lord is depicted standing and in the act of blessing the bread and the wine. The twelve disciples are seated round the table, and it is interesting to note that Judas is there with his back to the table and clutching his money bag, he is the only person in the group pictured without a halo. The small but rather beautiful Holy Table in the Chapel is oak like the Reredos, but with gilt lettering and ornam entation. It has eight shields with sacred symbols and a circular symbcl of Christ — The Lamb of God, and an inscript ion in Latin “ECCE AGNUS DEl QUI TOLLIS PECCATUM MUNDI” (Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world” — John 1.29.

The Two Chapel Windows

East — two lights. St. John the Evangelist occupies the right light. Both hands hold a book in front of his body, the right hand also holding a quill. Over the Saint is the reference IOHN XXI Ver XXIV (“This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true”. Underneath the figure is Lhe title “ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST”. In the left light is a female figure with the tit}è “ST MARY MACDALEN”, with both hands she clasps an ornamental vase. Overhead is the reference “JOHN XIII VER III”. This passage refers to Mary of Bethany, not to Mary Magdalen and the words “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and annointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. South — One Light. This lovely little window shows the risen Lord ascending into Heaven from Olivet. Note the olive trees in the foreground and Jerusalem in the lower background. The nail prints are visible in the feet and the right hand. As the Lord ascends, a choir of angels welcome Him to the Heaven of Heavens.

The South Side Windows

THE “SAMARITAN” WINDOW is a two light window and is nearest to the Memorial Chapel. The subject is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke X: 30—37). On the right hand side are pictures of the Priest and the Levite. In the left light we see the wounded Jew being tended by his Samaritan rescuer while the patient ass awaits its new burden. THE “TWO HOMES” WINDOW — entitled so because it depicts the two earthly homes of the Lord Jesus. In the right light the boy Jesus is seen with His right knee resting on a joiner’s bench and holding a tool which he strikes with a hammer or mallet. His mother sits nearby and has ceased her work of spinning to gaze intently at her young son. Underneath this picture are the descriptive words from St. Luke 2: 51 “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.” In the left light we see Jesus with Martha and Mary in the home at Bethany. Mary is kneeling at the feet of Jesus with her hands clasped in an attitude of rapt attention. Martha is standing near, and is holding a domestic water jar. Beneath this Bethany scene is the quotation from Luke 10:42 “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” THE “GOOD COMPANIONS” WINDOW — third from the side chapel and adjacent to the South Porch. On the right is the figure of the great Apostle to the Gentiles with the caption “St. Paul, the Untiring Missionary.” On the left is the figure of the accomplished Christian doctor, bearing the caption “St. Luke, the beloved Physician.”


There are several interesting memorial plaques around the church, however, the most ornate must surely be that erected by Harrison Benn to the memory of his son—in—law CoJ.in Napier Buchanan—Dunlop, DSO, a Major in the Royal Horse Artillery. He was killed in action during World War I in October 1915 at Vermelles, at the age of’ 38. Major Buchanan—Dunlop had served in the South African War of 1899—1902, and had been awarded the Cueen Victoria South African Medal with five bars, and the King Edward VII South African Medal with two bars. In the First World War, he won the Mans Star and the Distinguished Service Order. The two S.A. Medals, together with the Mons Star and D.S.O. figure on the memorial. The medals and decoration are not just copies of those awarded, they are the actual originals, the medal ribbons being protected by pebble glass. This memorial is in the South Aisle adjacent to the South Porch, it is massive and impressive, the upper part being a fine Venetian glass mosaic, the subject being Britannia mourning the loss of her soldier son. The striking figure of the helmeted Britannia stands before a roughly hewn battlefield memorial cross. Hung on the cross is a wreath of laurel. Britannia holds with both hands a sword in its scabbard, and her eyes are raised toward the .ip1ifted sword hilt, which is in the form of a cross. Behind her is a village going up in flames and smoke, the result, presumably, of an artillery bombardment. Thick smoke billows upward from the doomed village, glints of flames on the dark smoke contributing to a thrilling, and some might say, disturbing, picture. We do hope you have enjoyed looking at our Church and that this guide has been of assistance to you. May you have found true peace in the Lord.


This memorial is in the South Aisle adjacent to the South Porch, it is massive and impressive, the upper part being a fine Venetian glass mosaic, the subject being Britannia mourning the loss of We do hope you have enjoyed looking at our Church and that this guide has been of assistance to you. May you have found true peace in the Lord.