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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/432

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424


NOTES AND QUERIES. [9 th s. XL MAY so, 1003.


"An oratory, temporarily, for the town of Hep- tonstall. On the twentieth day of the month of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and eighty-two, a licence was granted to the residents and inhabitants of the town of Heptonstall, in the parish of Halifax, that for twenty-four days, to be counted continuously from the date afore fixed, masses and other divine offices may be allowed to be celebrated in oratory or places set apart for divine worship, by lawful chap- lain or lawful chaplains, beyond the chapel of Heptonstall, lately polluted by a violent effusion of blood, so that no prejudice be raised to the detri- ment of their own parochial church." In another passage we are informed that this shedding of blood polluted the burial-ground as well as the chapel : " capellara, cum cimi- terio ejusdem" This was, therefore, no common murder, but the wholesale slaughter of a sanguinary fray ; neither was it a case of sacrilege, which would be merely robbery by night or in an unguarded hour by day, and scarcely attended with an " effusion" of blood. Horrible the affair must have been when it was deemed requisite, for a tem- porary period, to celebrate mass and other divine offices beyond the precincts of the consecrated building until such times as sanctity should be restored. Possibly the vestments and eucharistic vessels were also defiled. The tale of it seems to have been promulgated far and wide beyond the bounds of the parish, for in another passage it is spoken of as " notoria polluta."

We can but conjecture the nature of this fray. It may have been a clannish feud, yet circumstances hardly support this supposi- tion. There were no great rival families in that neighbourhood, with their numerous retainers and followers, as there were in the mediaeval cities of Italy, who fought out their disputes in the clash of arms. The well-to-do parishioners, yeomen and farmers, were anything but warlike, and not given to engaging in broils. From time immemorial the inhabitants have been of a peaceable disposition, quietly following their own special avocations. Neither can we suppose that it was political. There was nothing in the state of public affairs at the time in that part of Yorkshire to warrant such a conjecture. The last battle of the Wars of the Roses had been fought ten years before ; and had there been any outbreak of hostilities between the partisans of the rival houses of York and Lancaster, it is scarce likely they would have chosen a church for the combat.

Probably it was in some way connected with religious fanaticism. Heptonstall was only half a dozen miles distant from Lanca- shire, where bitterness of feeling was deep- rooted and widespread. Refugees, fleeing


from the persecution of their opponents in creed, may have sought shelter within these walls and implored the protection of the priests. It was an out-of-the-way church in the wild Yorkshire hills, not very fre- quently visited by travellers traversing those heights of the lofty Pennine range. The enemies of these refugees armed, beyond doubt may have discovered the hiding place, and put to slaughter the men they were in pursuit of. It is certain that numbers were engaged, and probable that the refugees also were armed, and so the struggle was of a fierce and fatal nature, as they fought both in the chapel and the chapel burial-ground. This conjecture of religious fanaticism is the more probable when we bear in mind that the stormy times of the Reformation were fast hastening to upheaval and ecclesiastical revolution.

Outside the village, some distance lower down on the slope of the hill, there is a spot, in that age far from human habita- tion, known to this day as Hell hole, that is. grave-pit. Here, in all likelihood, deemed un worthy of interment in consecrated ground, were buried the corpses of the men who had desecrated the sacred edifice.

The church of St. Thomas a Becket, un- fortunately roofless and in ruins, was one of quaint beauty and unique architecture. It consisted of a tower, surmounted with an embattled parapet, two naves, and two chancels, with north and south aisles. Dor- mer windows and a sanct bell-cot added to the picturesqueness of the edifice. There is hardly a doubt that it was built and endowed by Earl Warrenne, lord of the manor, about the middle of the thirteenth century.

The village of Heptonstall town in early ages was situated in a lonely part of the country, perched on the summit of a very high hill, and stood on the site of a Roman road which ran from Cambodunum to Colonia, the modern Colne, in Lancashire. It was on the skirts of the great forest of Hard wick, a hunting-ground of the Earls Warrenne. This forest extended from Todmorden on the west to Hebble brook, at Halifax, on the east. The scenery on the mountain heights is wild and stern, at some points beetling with rock, imparting a rugged grandeur on every hand, whilst the denes, or valleys, are lovely sylvan solitudes of crag and scar, of wood arid water.

For a full account of Heptonstall see 9 th S. iii. 61. F.

LATIN : ITS STUDY AND TEACHING. It may be worth noting, as the literary papers seem