Mirfield

 

Ancestors: Bottom, Backhouse, Barker, Blakeley, Dinnis, Firth, Foxe, Gaunt, Goodere, Gibson, Haton, Hepworth, Jessop, Lee, Messenger, Mitchell, Oldroyd, Rhodes, Sheard, Sykes, Wilcocke, Wilson

Following the Norman Conquest, Mirfield and Hopton were among 214 manors, mainly in Yorkshire, that were given to Ilbert de Lacy who had been responsible for much destruction and the subjugation of those who resisted the Norman occupation. Ilbert fortified his manor at Mirfield with a motte and bailey, using the mound and moat already in existence from earlier fortifications.

A village in the Wapentake of Agbrigg and honour of Pontefract, Mirfield was in the Saxon parish of Dewsbury until 1261. On Christmas Day 1261, the Lady of Sir John Heton of Mirfield was waylaid and robbed when going to mass at the parish church of Dewsbury and her attendant was murdered, at Ravensbrook. Sir John was in Rome at the time of this event and, when he heard of it, he petitioned the Pope to sanction the creation of a chapel at Mire-field, which, in time, became the parish church of St Mary.

The present St Mary’s Church stands on ground that was originally within the bailey of the medieval Mirfield Castle. A 13th century chapel replaced the original building. The church was re-built in 1826, retaining the old tower and when it that church in turn was demolished to build the present church in 1871. The new church was built on the site of Castle Hall.

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St Mary’s Church

The tower was preserved and left standing beside the new church.

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Old tower

The motte of the castle is still to be seen behind the church, but it is very overgrown with trees and cannot be seen clearly except from very close up.

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Old Motte with tower of church just visible.

Unfortunately, the old graveyard is in a very poor state of preservation, with graves overgrown with foliage and scattered between trees.There are many stories of Robin Hood and he is said to be buried at Kirklees Priory, the gatehouse of which still exists. The grave still exists too, situated behind the Three Nuns Pub on the Leeds Road, but it has been vandalised.

Mirfield stands to the north of the river Calder, with Hopton to the south.The land around the town must have been forrested in the past, as coal was to be found there. The mining industry flourished in and around Mirfield through the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

Baines’ and Pigott’s directories of the early 19th century describe a thriving town with a miscellany of trades, including maltsters, woollen manufacturers, shopkeepers and traders in addition to professional persons, clergy, attorneys surgeons etc and gentry.