In the last of our talks we were enthused by a very knowledgeable Alex Cockshott, a well known local historian, who gave us a wealth of information on the development of Ilkley, St. Margaret’s Church, and in particular our stained glass windows and plaques.

Alex began by telling us how, in 1867, William Middelton of Myddleton Lodge, sold land in and around the town to pay off family debts, and the population of Ilkley had grown to 2000. So it was that Ilkley’s artisan community grew with the influx of professional and business people, and listening to Alex it was apparent there were many philanthropists among them.

To meet the needs of this growing community St. Margaret’s Church was built in 1879 on land donated by William Middelton, with a condition; it should be completed within 12 months, using stone from the local quarry. No prizes for guessing to whom the quarry belonged! Alex told us that on completion, the Church was described as having a ‘grandeur of space’. Music was essential to the worship and the venue became highly desirable for musical events. I am sure the visionary’s of 1879 would be pleased with St. Margaret’s today.

The windows were originally all plain. The first stained glass to be installed was, in 1894, the William Morris designed window above the door connecting the Hall. Alex highlighted this window as one which attracts many visitors interested in stained glass. It was given, at a cost of £98, by the children of the Church, as was a second window (also with a plaque) where the choirs sit.

We went on to explore something of the lives of local residents who supported the Church in various ways and who provided the building costs, totalling some £15,000. She gave a very extensive history of one John Thomas Hemingway (1857-1926), owner of the well known Lutyens designed and built ‘Heathcote’ on Kings Road. The Incarnation Window is dedicated to the memory of him, his wife Emma Jane and their son Harry. Hemingway relatives and namesakes held their re-union at St. Margaret’s in 2006 and The Hemingway ‘one-name study’ is fascinating and certainly worth ‘a Google’.

Frederick William Fison (1847-1921) also had strong links. Originally a mill owner, he went on to represent Doncaster in the House of Commons. He commissioned a rather splendid plaque in memory of his son Hugh Valentine Fison. Hugh had died of enteric fever in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1902, having previously fought at the battle of Omdurman under Kitchener in 1898. The plaque is on the south wall under the window of the Prophets.

It was quite revealing to discover the ‘who’ and ‘why’ behind various features of our Church and the strong links, from the outset, both inter-denominational and with the wider community. As with the previous talks, it made us realise how much we have taken for granted in our beautiful Church, and the generosity of those who had a vision over a century ago and which we continue to enjoy to this day. 

Thank you to Alex Cockshott for sharing her extensive local knowledge, to Fr. Bernard for organising these unique events and for today’s delightful afternoon tea provided by Betty Gribbin and Anne Chary.

Jane Sheldon and Val Banks