St. Paul's Church, Alverthorpe

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Alverthorpe is believed to have had its name derived from AElfhere’s (AE is a diphthong) outlying farmstead and has been recorded from 1199 as Alvelthorp, Alvirthorp(e), Alverthorp, Alluerthorpe,
Allerthorp(e), Allathrope, Alerthorpe and Ollerthorpe.

In 1815 the battle of Waterloo took place in Belgium, was won by the allied forces against the French forces led by Napolean and brought to an end the Napoleonic Wars which had wrought havoc throughout Europe for more than 22 years with only a temporary lull between 1801 and 1803.  They had involved a sixth of the population, 3 attempted invasions and a cost of £1,500 million pounds to our country.

In the midst of this time of fear and uncertainty the Industrial Revolution was also taking place. Benjamin Clarkson (of Alverthorpe Hall) recalled during his boyhood, local problems where Luddites sought to destroy the new industries – factories and machinery.  He especially remembered  the night of a warning - given in advance of an attack - when their approach was heard tramping across the nearby bridge and a stone with note attached was hurled through a window in his father’s Mill in Alverthorpe Road. Shortly afterwards there was a mass arrest which led to 14 Luddites being hanged in York.

After the victory at Waterloo, movement gathered pace for the building of new churches  to commemorate the victory.  Following a meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Liverpool’s Government passed the Church Building Act in 1818 to provide for  new churches to be built in places where the existing accommodation was inadequate.

The Church Building Fund was set up with the sum of one million pounds to oversee the building of new churches which led to each of them being known as ‘Million’ churches. The administrators of the Fund were able to invest the money and seek subscriptions during the time of building and also reclaim taxes on building materials, all of which increased the number of churches built.  Unexpectedly in 1824, Austria repaid a War Loan (the Government had in fact written it off) of two million pounds to the Government who in turn gave a further half million pounds to the Fund which enabled plans to be drawn up for an additional number of churches.

Locally 3 new churches were built. Alverthorpe and Stanley were in the original allocation and Thornes was added after the Austrian repayment, although it was only partially funded.

Since Stanley’s church was built before ours and dedicated to St. Peter, Alverthorpe Church (which was proposed to be St. Peter’s – and even named as St. Peter’s on local maps drawn at that time) was dedicated to St. Paul.

The reason for choosing Alverthorpe as the site for a new church was the expectation of building new mills and factories due to the proximity of the packhorse route – only in recent time have the panier flags which formed part of that route been removed on Batley Road. The local beck was capable of providing water power and this led in turn to an expectation of a substantial increase in the local population to work in the new industries.

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