A LOCAL historian has been tracing her own family connections to a church that is at risk of permanent closure.

Jane Ainsworth was already aware that her family had some connections to Hoyland’s St Andrew’s Church, however after reading in the Chronicle that the church was ceasing services on March 31 before hosting consultations on its future, decided to dig further.

Through this research she discovered that not only did her great-grandfather Charles Firth - a painter, plumber and glazier who lived from 1838 to 1892 - help to build the church, but her great-great-grandfather, Dr William Smith Booth - an apothecary, chemist and druggist who lived from 1809 to 1880 - donated the font and lectern.

She told the Chronicle: “A glass bottle, inscribed with the date by Charles Firth and containing a parchment scroll listing ‘names of the principal personages’, was deposited into a cavity in the foundation stone laid by Countess Fitzwilliam on Easter Tuesday 1889.

“My Firth family won a lot of contracts for public buildings in the area, especially schools, and they were highly thought of.

“Charles’ work for St Andrew’s appears to be the most high profile and largest job of all.

“Unfortunately, soon after completing this contract, my great grandfather developed Bright’s disease, a chronic condition of the kidneys, and he died on February 25 in 1892, aged 53.”

Jane has inherited some Firth stained glass that Charles engraved his name into, and calls it one of her ‘most treasured possessions’, however is unsure of the situation with the font and lectern her other ancestor donated to the church.

With the recent developments affecting the church, Jane’s interest has been piqued and she hopes to find the fate of her family’s donations.

She added: “As I am not religious and I don’t attend services at St Andrew’s I don’t feel it would be fair to comment on the consultation about services.

“But I believe that for churches to survive and the important buildings to be maintained and opened, they need to have more uses than just for services.

“I like the reconfiguration of Wakefield Cathedral and it is sensible to remove uncomfortable pews and replace them with chairs that can be stacked for multiple functions.

“These days disabled toilets and access plus proper kitchen facilities are needed for meetings and events.

“I know these things can be resisted which is why consultation is required then keeping people informed.

“I would make a stipulation and that is that significant heritage should be kept even if relocated, especially the font so important in family history.

“There has been far too much taking fonts to use in gardens, St Peter’s being one, or chopping up headstones to make footpaths, like at St Mary’s.”