Thornhill Parish Church

Serving the local community


Welcome to the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Thornhill. You are in good company as there has been Christian worship on this site since Anglo-Saxon times.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, this building is grade one listed and is included in Simon Jenkins' book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”.

We are situated on the B6117 just 2 miles South of Dewsbury and we serve 7,500 people in the Parish.

Although we are hugely proud of our historical significance, we recognise  that it is both a duty and a joy to maintain the integrity of the past whilst accommodating the present and making room for the future. In the year 2000 the church was re-ordered in recognition of these thoughts as we installed a new kitchen and toilets, disabled facilities, an induction loop system, baby-changing facilities and generally a more adaptable system of furniture. Modern angels were etched into the glass doors of the new entrance lobby joining the impressive row of stained glass along the south side. The local school buried a time capsule at the west end of the church under the carved stone 'Be still and know' In the period 2011-12 a new lighting and sound system were installed and most of the monuments in the church were conserved. The windows in the Savile Chapel were conserved and a new East Window in the chapel designed and made by Jonathan Cooke was installed.

Our Church is a Grade 1 Listed Building in the heart of the Thornhill Conservation Area. It is mentioned in Simon Jenkins book 1000 Best English  Churches as a warm and   welcoming place.  This applies to our witness and worship as well as our building.


Thornhill Parish ChurchThornhill Parish Church

Statement of Significance

The church is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels and stands on the south side of the Calder valley, two miles South of Dewsbury. There has been a church on the site since Anglo-Saxon times. Since the late l4th century its history has been closely linked with that of the important Savile family. The church is of interest both as an historic building, for the important monuments and outstanding medieval stained glass which it contains and for its important place in the community today. It is a Grade 1 Listed Building in the heart of the Thornhill Conservation area. It is listed in Simon Jenkins’ book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”- as a warm and friendly building.

The development of the church

The church is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, but the fragments of Anglo-Saxon memorials - crosses and a grave slab - indicate that there has been a church here since at least the 9th century.  Fragments of stones carved in the Norman and Early English styles mark rebuilding or extensions in the l2th  and l3th centuries, the oldest surviving parts of the church are the 15th-century tower, chancel and chancel chapels. Inscriptions on the stained glass windows give  precise dates for the chancel and the chapels. The Savile Chapel on the north was first built in 1447 and extended eastwards in 1493.  The South Chapel was built in 1491 and the chancel was remodelled, 'clerestoried and arched' by 1499.

The nave of the church, probably an Anglo-Saxon or Norman structure modified and enlarged in the l3th century, was pulled down in the l8th century. In 1777 the medieval nave was rebuilt as a 'preaching box', in a mixed gothic and Classical style. The dedication slab of the 1777 nave survives, as does a photograph of the nave. The Victorians condemned the 1777 nave as 'Churchwarden's Gothic' and 'in poor style'. It was rebuilt (with aisles again) in 1877-9 by the architect G.E. Street. The style of the architecture which he used was the 14th-century Decorated style; this was chosen because it was the one style not represented in the building or among the fragments of architectural stonework. Street, also added the present south porch and vestry, the latter projecting beyond the cast end of the church. The 20th century added a fine organ in the North Aisle with a detached console.


Runic stones display in Savile Chapel

   (Part of display of runic stones)

see link to Collingwood's work on these


The building was restored in 2001 with a new stone floor, a re-display of the runic stones, a new entrance lobby and new kitchen and toilets. In the West Tower is a dedication slab with the carved words “Be still and know that I am God”. The new glazed entrance lobby has engraved glass representations of angels. Further conservation and roof repairs have continued until the present day (2013)

The GlassGlass Jesse window 

The medieval stained glass has been called the finest display in the north of England, outside the City of York.  In the Savile Chapel two windows in the north wall have glass of 1447, one with a crucifixion, and the other including the figures of Thomas and Lady Savile, along with a request for prayers for their souls. The third window in the same wall, of 1493, shows scenes from the life of the Virgin.  The east window of the chapel is a 'Resurrection’ window. The great east window of the Chancel, thought to be the work of French or Belgian craftsmen, shows another common medieval subject, the Tree of Jesse, illustrating the human descent of Christ from Jesse, the father of King David.  The glass here was restored in the year 2000 and protected inside and outside.

Picture: the famous Jesse Window

In 2010 our great concern was with the Savile Chapel windows and particularly the condition of the glass in the East window. Commonly called 'doom' but perhaps more accurately 'Resurrection' window. This window was removed  in 2011 for safe keeping as it is too distressed to return to its space.The window will be displayed in a specially constructed display case in 2013.  A new replica window was commissioned from Jonathan Cooke and is now in place. The windows on the North side of the chapel have just been cleaned and restored and protected by iso-thermal glazing, 

See the link below for a recent article on the East window. We do not think there was ever coke heating in the church as suggested in this article - we are almost on top of local coal mines and coal was delivered free as required.

Click here for vidimus page

Monument in Savile ChapelThe earliest monuments in the church are the 9th-century Anglo-Saxon stones displayed in the Savile Chapel, most are fragments of crosses, four with inscriptions. In the Savile Chapel are also several important tombs. An effigy of a knight in chain mail, thought to be Sir John de Thornhill (d. 1322). An alabaster tomb chest with eighteen 'weepers' (small kneeling figures) around it and effigies thought to represent Sir John Savile (d. 1481) and his wife. An oak tomb-chest set up in 1529 to commemorate alater Sir John (d. 1504) and his two wives. The tomb of Sir George Savile (d. 1614) and his wife Anne, marked by a massive Renaissance monument. An alabaster effigy of a later Sir George (d. 1622) carved by the famous sculptor Maximilan Colt.  A monument to Sir George Savile of Rufford (d. 1743). Also displayed in the Savile Chapel are three earlier medieval cross slabs found in 1990 when the monument of the earlier Sir John was dismantled for conservation. Two show pairs of shears, a common female emblem, and a third a pair of scissors, perhaps denoting a tailor. A huge programme of conservation, cleaning and restoration is now complete (January 2015).

Acknowledgment to WY Archives Services’ History of the church for much of this text.

click here for the above document

Report on the monument to Sir George and Lady Anne Savile 1614

click here to read

G E Street - architect of the restoration in 1880 ish

GEORGE EDMUND STREET was born at Woodford in Essex on the 20th of June 1824. He was the third son of Thomas Street, solicitor, by his second wife, Mary Anne Miliington. George went to school at Mitcham in about 1830, and later to the Camberwell collegiate school, which he left in 1839.

For a few months he was in his fathers business in Philpot Lane, but on his fathers death he went to live with his mother and sister at Exeter. There his thoughts first turned to architecture, and in 1841 his mother obtained a place for him as pupil in the office of Mr Owen Carter at Winchester.

Afterwards he worked for five years as an improver with Sir George Gilbert Scott in London. At an early age Street became deeply interested in the principles of Gothic architecture, and devoted an unsparing amount of time and labour to studying and sketching the finest examples of medieval buildings in England and on the Continent.

His first commission was for the designing of Biscoray Church, Cornwall. In 1849 he took an office of his own. He was a draughtsman of a very high order; his sketches are masterpieces of spirit and brilliant touch. In 1855 he published a very careful and well illustrated work on The Brick and Marble Architecture in the Middle Ages – notes of a tour of Italy, and in 1869 Some Accounts of Gothic Architecture of Spain, with very beautiful drawings by his own hand. Streets personal taste led him in most cases to select for his design the I3th century Gothic of England or France, his knowledge of which was very great, especially in the skilful use of rich mouldings.

By far the majority of the buildings erected by him were for ecclesiastical uses, the chief being the convent of East Grinstead, the theological college at Cuddesden and a very large number of churches, such as St Philip and St James at Oxford, St Johns at Torquay, All Saints at Clifton, St Saviours at Eastbourne, St Margaret’s at Liverpool and St Mary Magdalene, Paddington.

His largest works were the nave of Bristol Cathedral, the choir of the cathedral of Christ Church in Dublin, and, above all, the new courts of justice in London. The competition for this was prolonged and much diversity of opinion was expressed. Thus, the judges wanted Street to make the exterior arrangements and Barry the interior, while a special committee of lawyers recommended the designs of Alfred Waterhouse. In June 1868, however, Street was appointed sole architect; but the building was not complete at the time of his death in December 1881.

Street was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1866, and RA in 1871; at the time of his death he was professor of architecture to the Royal Academy, where he had delivered a very interesting course of lectures on the development of medieval architecture. He was also president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a member of the Royal Academy of Vienna, and in 1878, in reward for drawings sent to the Paris Exhibition, he was made a knight of the Legion of Honour.

Street was twice married, first on the 17th of June 1852 to Mariquita, second daughter of Robert Proctor, who died in 1874, and secondly on the 11th of January 1876 to Jessie second daughter of William Holland, who died in the same year. The architects own death, on the 18th of December 1881, was hastened by overwork and professional worries connected with the erection of the law courts. He was buried on the 29th December 1881 in the nave of Westminster Abbey.

It was his philosophy that an architect’s personal style was synonymous with his moral dignity. He believed he was a privileged servant of Almighty God, who had entrusted him with an individuality, the due expression of which was part of the Divine Plan. Early influences nurtured his love of medieval Gothic and the High Church. His religion was a necessity to him and he served God as a devout High Anglican.

In these days of railways and rapid travelling there is scarcely any excuse for stopping quietly at home. The most busy man finds some short holiday in the course of the year, and, if wise as well as busy, spends it not in quiet sojourn at some watering-place, but in active search of the picturesque, the beautiful, or the old, in nature or in art, either at home or abroad.

George Edmund Street

Reproduced with permission of St James’s Sussex Gardens, London



Set out below is a copy of the text of the list description of this
Grade I listed building (Church of St Michael & All Angels, Church Lane,Thornhill, listed 30/6/49).
Church.    Perpendicular west tower, probably C15, though the base may be earlier.    North chapel (Savile chapel) 1447 extended by one bay1493.   Chancel and South chapel 1490.     Nave vestry and some restoration work 1877 by G. E. Street in Decorated style.   Ashlar Stone slate roofs with roll-top copings to parapets.4-bay nave with clerestorey, north and south aisles, south porch, west tower.  3-bay chancel with clerestorey and north and south chapels, vestry added to east end of south chapel.    Aisles are buttressed and have tall 2 and
3-light traceried windows.    Gabled south porch has elaborate frieze to parapet carved with 8 angels and Christ in the apex.      Moulded doorway with 3 engraved colonnettes with foliage capitals. Ribbed and vaulted internally.    The square tower is in two tall stages with reducing diagonal buttresses. West door with moulded surround, west window probably C19.    8-light mullioned and transomed bell-chamber openings with 5-foiled lights and traceried heads crenellated parapet on corbel-brackets and 8 crocketted pinnacles. The north chapel east window is of 5 lights with cambered head. The tall chancel east window is much restored and of 6 lights Both have Perpendicular tracery.
Interior: Important collection of monuments to the Savile family in theSavile chapel:    long effigy of a cross-legged knight in chain-mail with shield and sword, has head under a canopy, the face restored, thought to be of Sir John de Thornhill (c. 1260-1322); a tomb chest with alabaster effigy to Sir Thomas Savile (d. 1449) and his wife, the chest is divided into 18 ogee-headed panels with weepers; an oak tomb chest, 1529, formerly under a four-poster canopy, with effigies to Sir John Savile (d.1503) and his two wives, Alice Vernon and Elizabeth Paston. 
The chest is panelled with elaborate quatrefoils; a large monument, between this chapel and the chancel, to Sir George Savile (d.1614) and his wife Anne, sister of Sir Thomas Wentworth.   Paired columns to each side support a segmental arch with large achievement and figure to each
side and to top.    At the foot of this on the north side is the
kneeling figure of their 2nd son, and on the chancel side a reclining
figure of their 1st son, holding a book and a skull, who died whilst
studying at Oxford; on the north side a dresser tomb to Sir George
Savile (d.1622) attributed to Maximilian Colt, an alabaster effigy in
armour with columns to left and right supporting an entablature with 2 cartouches, shield and crest, good detailing; in the north-east corner, a black marble sarcophagus on large square base, to Sir George Savile of Rufford (d.1743), signed by William Barlow.      The back supports a pediment and has scrolled support; a small alabaster baby lying on its back and holding a basin for a font, to the 2nd Lord Savile (d.1931) by Amy Lewis.   This was brought from Rufford Abbey in 1948. In the south chapel are C18 wall memorials to the Elmsall family and,an empty tomb recess in the south wall.  At the base of the tower is a good mid C18 wall memorial, consisting of a cartouche with supporting cherubs, and a skull and wings at the base.Much original glass survives.    In the Savile chapel a window on the north side has the name Thome Savill and the date 1447 (restored 1972). 
The east window of the chapel, a 'doom window' and very faded, hasthe name Wiliam Sayvile and the date 1493 (restored 1953).     The chancel east window bears the tree of Jesse, and was donated by Robert Frost, parson, and is dated 1499.   Considerably restored in the C19.  Other windows have fragments of early glass.    Set in the screen between the chancel and south chapel is a stained glass escutcheon of Phillip Waterhouse (d.1614) bearing the motto BEE FAST.
The chancel is arcaded on octagonal piers, with C19 oak screens.    The nave is arcaded on clustered piers.    North chapel roof is panelled and original.   Excellent chancel roof of C.1877 with traceried panelling and cusped and traceried bracings to the 6 irregularly placed tie-beams each of which ends in a well carved angel.    Nave roof is arched braced.  Octagonal panelled stone font with oak ribbed and crocketted cover c.1866.   Elaborate stone pulpit.   Organ placed in north aisle c.1981.

N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England, 1967.
B. Nuttall, A History of Thornhill (inc. The Church of St. Michael &
All Angels), 1970.

see also link to Savile papers in the National Archives

Rev John Michell  BD FRS   1724-1793

 Memorial to John Michell in tower of the church

Blue plaque to commemorate the work of John Michell.

Michel plaque

The plaque was unveiled by the Mayor of Kirklees Cllr Jean Calvert on the morning of Saturday September 8th.  The plaque was provided by 'Dewsbury Matters'  At the ceremony, Chris Butlin, from the Institute of Physics, gave an address ©. click here to view He was dressed in the style of Henry Cavendish (a friend of Michell )and spoke as if he was Cavendish -.

 There is also a pamphlet available written by Chris Butlin  click here to view  You may view this document but © copyright is retained ask permission to re- use  from

A talk by Chris Butlin and a power point presentation is available with  © copyright restrictions as above.  click here to view  

Dignitaries at unveiling 

l to r.

Cllr Ahmed;Chris Butlin;Margaret Watson, Mayor, Head Science College- David Powell, Lindsay Dew (Rector)

 Publications    Nuttall, Barbara, History of Thornhill and guide to the Church of St Michael and All Angels Published by Kirklees Cultural Services and Thornhill Parish Church .  ISBN 0 0900746 61 0  3rd edition 1995. NOW Out of Print  consult it here

Charlesworth,T A guide to the church of St Michael Thornhill 194? 3rd edition
only available on line without illustrations click here      see photographs here

Nuttall, Barbara  the Savilles of Thornhill- Life at Thornhill Hall in the reign of of Charles !.  Published by the Author 1986.  Price £5.00 P&P £1.50

Pearson, Brenda Thornhill Memories 2000-New reprint 2012 £3 + P&P £1.50
 reprint without
 photos  Click here to read  Photos to go with book click here

Woodland,Adam - History of the Savile Family to 1640  click here to read

 BELLS The peal of bells installed in the church were commissioned in 1980 you can view the text of the booklet minus picture here. 

Click here to view our latest booklet on the Bells 2010

PIctures may be seen in the photographs section of this site.

We also have various postards of the East Window and of the Church itself for sale.

contact e mail here  for further information or send cheque for above amounts to Brian Pearson, 66 Henley Avenue Thornhill Dewsbury WF12 0LN England  ( cheques payable to Thornhill Parish Church. )

The Organ   Click here to read the organ brochure and specification  Reprinted edition available £2.50 inc postage

Organ case 1981 Binnsorgan case Binns 1


BELLS - see under the 'Our Activities section for the publication about the bells and under the photographs section for the installation  in 1980

Rectory Park and Thornhill Hall  new publication 2010 by West Yorkshire Archaeological service for Kirklees Council
Read it here