There is evidence for civilisation in Brierley from at least iron age times, undoubtedly the seam of coal that ran near the surface in Brierley that fueled it's rise in the industrial revolution held appeal from much earlier times. There is an entry for Brierley in the Domesday book which seemingly mispell's the villages given name at the time. Breselia (most likely misspelled as 'Brerelia' as all further documentary mentions of the village are for 'Brerelia'). There is evidence of inreased interest in the area in Saxon times with earthworks still visible on the outskirts of the village and there have been dwelllings in the area from that date. An excellent history of the village can be found at BrierleyYorshireEngland.net
St. Paul’s Church in Brierley was built in 1869 for George Savile Foljambe, Lord of the Manor of Brierley, to the designs of John Wade in the Gothic Revival style. It was built as a chapel of ease to the medieval church of St Peter in Felkirk, local population had grown exponentially with the increased coal mining in Brierley and the surrounding areas, whether there was a place of Christian worship in the village before 1869 is unknown.
Mr Foljambe provided half the cost of the new church, and the rest was donated by other local principal people, the land for the church and old church school was given by Rev John Hoyland, vicar of Felkirk. The first curate was Rev Godfrey Pigott Cordeux. The church stands in a small churchyard, which is full, the last burial taking place in 1953, a larger cemetery is located behind the church.
Having a middle pointed style, the church was built of local sandstone and the roofs covered in Burlington slate, and is quite lavishly detailed, with carved corbels at the base of the roof trusses and carved label stops to windows.
Brierley survived the World Wars without material damage but the men of the village faired worse, the names of the fallen from the two major conflicts of the 20th Century are inscribed on a memorial in the grounds of the church.
The World War I memorial reads:
To the Glory of God and in memory of the men of this village who gave their lives in the Great War 1924-1918.
Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
A further memorial was added after the Second World War, this reads;
Also the Second World War 1939-1945.
A further mention should also be made for the last name on the roll call, RAF Volunteer Reserve Pilot Robert Barker Wilson 191471, who died aged 21 in a tragic non-combat accident May 29th 1945, at the time of his death his parents lived in sight of the church, opposite Brierley Hall. His grave is in the cemetery to the rear and he is remembered in one of the stained glass windows.
There has been little alteration to the church over the years, apart from the insertion of stained glass into the south windows. After the new Parish of Grimethorpe with Brierley was created in 2005, a small re-ordering scheme was carried out which included the removal of some pews and choir stalls, to improve the flexibility of the building. The tower and clock were restored in 2008. In 2009 the hand painted canvas panel ceiling was restored and the church was fully re-carpeted.
Move forward to 2019 and the Church has just been through a fairly major renovation and modernisation programme with the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, this included repairs to historic features, the removal of a few pews to make the workable space more useful and the much needed inclusion of permanent indoor toilet facilities, which will allow us to do many more events including the community now and provide much needed respite for occasions such as school services with St Paul's School. Find out more about the programme on our Heritage Fund page.
We hope the Church continues to be relevant in village life for years to come and welcome all to come and experience one of the most historic sites in the village of Brierley.