St. Michael and All Angels

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An Introduction to St. Michael and All Angels’ Church – Great Houghton

The church was originally a private chapel and was built by Sir Edward Rodes, the High Sheriff of Yorkshire who stood out conspicuously as a Parliamentarian, on the commencement of the civil wars, even though his brother-in-law was Lord Strafford and a Royalist.

It was built about 1650 and was adjacent to Sir Edward’s home, ‘The Old Hall’, and used for worship by his family and tenants of his land.

Sir Edward served under Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Preston, and after the Restoration became High Sheriff of Yorkshire. It is said that Cromwell visited Sir Edward and was pleased at the simple design of his family chapel, the ‘Chapel of Ease’.

The Rodes family were great patrons of nonconformity, and the ‘Old Hall’ and the church must have been well known throughout the country as a haven for persecuted clergy of the period.

Sir Edward, whose coat of arms appeared in stone on the east gable of the church, died on the 19th February 1666 and is buried in Darfield Church. The coat of arms was moved to Darfield church at a later date. The space where it lay still remains.

The first religious ceremony in the chapel was the baptism of one of the younger sons of Sir Edward by Mr Edward Bowles of York, one of the most eminent Presbyterian clergy of his day.

Richard Taylor was the first officiating minister as Chaplain to the Rodes family; he had been prevented by the Act of Uniformity from exercising his ministry in public.

Mark Trickett of Thurnscoe ‘whose pulpit performances were much applauded’ also preached at the chapel.

Jeremiah Milner became minister in 1672, and on his death in 1681 was succeeded by Nathan Denton, who on his death in 1720, was probably the only survivor of the 1662 conformists. 1662 was the year of the introduction of the revised Book of Common Prayer. Some 2000 Anglican clergy who would not subscribe to the new book were ejected from the Church of England.

Oliver Heywood records seven visits to Houghton between 1665 and 1681; one of these in 1668 was to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder plot of 1605 by a ‘solemn fast’ on Wednesday 4th November followed by ‘some time spent in thankfulness’ on Thursday 5th November.

At the beginning of the 19th Century a Mr Hodgson, the minister of Doncaster, came over to preach once a month and had a good congregation. After a period of disuse the chapel was ‘Episcopally licensed in 1849’ and in 1853 was opened for worship.

About 1890 the sanctuary was the width of the aisle only and there were no choir stalls. The installation of the choir stalls and the extension of the sanctuary to the full width of the chapel took place during the period of 1894 – 1906 when The Revd. B.T. Barnes was in charge. It was about this time that reference was made to ‘St Michael and All Angels’

In 1906 the chapel came under the jurisdiction of The Revd. A. E. Sorby and between April and October of that year the plaster was removed from the interior walls and certain other improvements were made.

On the 24th November 1908, the Earl of Crewe – who owned the chapel at that time, conveyed the building to the church of England to serve as a ‘Chapel of Ease’ in the Parish of Darfield. One of the clauses being ‘for the celebration of divine service in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the church of England as by law established’. The official title then became ‘Houghton Magna – Chapel of Ease’, which can still be seen on the memorial within the church.

As there was no record of the building ever being dedicated, this ceremony was performed by The Right Reverend G.V. Gerard CBE MC MA Assistant Bishop of Sheffield on the 17th December 1960, the dedication being – ‘St Michael and All Angels’