SAINT OSWALD’S Church has been at the centre of life in Guiseley for hundreds of years.

The parish of Guiseley was formed in the 12th century and at that time included Esholt, Yeadon, Rawdon and Horsforth.

The first church on today’s site was built in about 1150. Further rebuilding and additions followed, with a tower, columns and arches added to the old church in the 14th century, and more work carried out over the years.

These images, from the Aireborough Historical Society online archive, give a fascinating insight into the church and its congregations during the 20th and possibly 19th centuries, as well as showing some of the people with links to it.

Among those who have shared a connection with the church over the centuries perhaps the most famous are the Brontes.

On December 29 in1812 the Rev Patrick Bronte married Maria Branwell at St Oswalds Church. Their daughters - Charlotte, Emily and Anne - became internationally renowned literary figures.

The important part played by St Oswald’s Church in the Bronte family story can be seen in a plaque in the building which reads: “At this rail on Monday 29th Dec. 1812 Patrick Bronte Minister of Hartshead was married to Maria Branwell. Among the most famous writers of our country are numbered their three daughters Charlotte, Emily and Anne.”

The Saint who gave his name to the Guiseley church is remembered with a stained glass window. St Oswald, who lived from about 604 to 642 was King of Northumbria. A devout Christian, he promoted the spread of Christianity in Northumbria and was described by the historian Bede as “a Saintly King”. He died at the Battle of Maserfield.

A lesser known figure, but still influential locally, was Rev James Francis Howson, who was Rector of Guiseley from 1906 to1934.

He paid £3,000 from his own funds to refurbish the old rectory, as well as making improvements to the church and bringing about the restoration of the cross in Towngate in 1913.

He also revived the celebration of St Oswald’s Day with a pageant and open air services.

He died in 1934 at the age of 77 and his ashes were buried in the churchyard of St Oswald’s.

An atmospheric picture from April 1946 shows a man guiding a bell over the tower parapet. The picture was donated to Aireborough Historical Society by Brian Haigh.

In two other photographs taken in 1946 members of the congregation can be seen taking part in the ceremony of “clipping” the church.

‘Clipping’ is thought to come from the Anglo Saxon word clyppan, meaning to embrace or clasp. In Guiseley the ancient tradition has usually taken place in July. St Oswald’s is one of only a handful of churches in the UK to still hold the ceremony.

The Aireborough Historical Society website says: “During a special children’s service the congregation would leave the church followed by the choir and the Rector, they would begin to circle the church whilst singing or reciting the St Oswald’s song until they had surrounded the church when hands were joined to form a continuous circle.”

An undated photograph shows Guiseley Rectory, with St Oswald’s Church on the left.

The Rectory dates back to 1601 and was built by Rev Robert Moore. A manor house had previously stood on the site and it is believed stones from that building were used in the construction of the rectory. The old rectory was sold in 1978 and was replaced by a new building.