The church records contain a list of all Baptisms, Marriages and Burials fro m 1597, but the OLDEST BRASS in the church (mounted on a hinge next to the pulpit) records deaths in 1506.
17th century Family memorial Brasses
The memorial brasses in the chancel take us back to around the time of the Civil War 1642-1646 to years which were turbulent for both Church and state. Not many miles from this place, at Marston Moor, Cromwell's Roundheads defeated the Royalists in a decisive battle in1644. Here in Ilkley and throughout the country, there were families with divided loyalties- the Watkinsons and the Hebers to mention just two. It is to their brasses that we are drawn, to give us a glimpse of life in the Parish 350 years ago.
The Heber family came to Ilkley in1619, the year before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in The Mayflower. Reginald Heber became Churchwarden here in1632 and erected for himself and his seven children, a high box pew (similar to the Watkinson pew ) in the nave. Alas the brasses tell the tragic story of a black fever ( a forerunner of The Great Plague that was to decimate the population of England) that was to kill three adult members of the family, John, aged28, Christopher, aged 26 and Leticia aged 18. within two months.
Each memorial brass is inscribed with inspirational words of scripture:
John had fought with the Parliamentarians in the Civil War and his brass bears a crown (paradoxically) along with the family crest and motto. "Here lyeth the body of Captaine John Heber ,sonne and heire who died 9 Aprill l1649 age 28 yeares. I have fought the good fight and I have finished my course, I have kept the Faith. Henceforth is laid for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day... Timothy 4.7,8
Christopher died a few days later on 8 May 1649 and his brass bears these words from Romans8.38,39:For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other creature be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
Reginald's daughter, Letitia died on 22nd April at the youthful age of 18 and her inscription quotes the prophet Job chapter 19 v 25,26: "I know that I shall rise again in the Resurrection of the last day, for I am sure that my Redeemer livest and though after my death worms destroy this body, yet I shall see Thee my Lord and my God in this flesh"
Their father died in1653, aged 73 and his brass bears the family's crest along with these words from the book of Revelation chapter 14 v 13: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, they cease from their labours and their works follow them"
His grandson, alas died at the early age of 2 years 3 and 5 days in 1687 (see brass behind Vicar's stall)
The Watkinson family memorial brass is now located beside the Watkinson Family Pew and lists seven deaths during the same period of time. 1648-1671
There is no doubt that life was tough in those far off days, with war, plague and famine. For the poor the times were particularly grinding, but out of those dark, turbulent times, there were born the Authorised Version or King James Bible (1611), The Book of Common Prayer (1662),the spread of Christianity to North America via the Pilgrim Fathers, the building of St Paul's Cathedral (1675), Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress91678) along with other signs of hope ,freedom and tolerance.
Our parish church links us to the past and in many ways is like a book. telling the story not only of the Christian faith but more especially of the lives, joys and sorrows of the people, who over the years have met here to find strength in adversity or to give thanks at times of family or national celebration. It links us to the present and points us to the future. What will unborn generations say of our stewardship and faith at the beginning of the twenty-first century Anno Domini? We too are history in the making!
The Hodgson Brasses
The Heber Family Brasses
The Watkinson Brasses
The Bolling Brass
The Beeston Brass - North Aisle
The Tatham Brass
The Snowden Brass Tablets