Birstal (St. Peter)
BIRSTAL (St. Peter), a parish, partly in the union of Bradford, and partly in that of Dewsbury, wapentake of Morley, W. riding of York, 7 miles (S. W.) from Leeds, on the road to Huddersfield; containing 29,723 inhabitants. This parish comprises by computation about 13,000 acres, and includes the chapelries of Cleckheaton, Drighlington, Liversedge, and Tong, and the townships of Gomersal, Heckmondwike, Hunsworth, and Wyke; the soil is various, but generally fertile, and the lands in the agricultural districts are in a good state of cultivation, producing fine crops of grain. The surface is beautifully diversified with hills and valleys, watered by numerous rivulets, and the scenery is in many parts picturesque; the substratum abounds with excellent coal and freestone, and at Hunsworth with iron-ore. The village of Birstal is situated in the township of Gomersal, at the base and on the acclivity of an eminence commanding a fine view of the adjacent district. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in the woollen and worsted manufactures, which are carried on extensively in the various townships, and in the making of cards for machinery; the chief articles are woollencloths, blankets, and worsted stuffs. A savings' bank has been for some years in active operation. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £23. 19. 2.; net income, £289, with a good house; patron, the Bishop of Ripon; impropriators, the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. The church is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a lofty square embattled tower, and contains numerous monuments. There are ten other churches and incumbencies, which are described under their respective townships; and also places of worship for Wesleyans, Independents, Moravians, and Methodists of the New Connexion. A free school, now merged in a national school, was endowed by the Rev. William Armitstead, in 1556, with a rent-charge of £5, for which, with a bequest of £100 from Mrs. Murgatroyd, the master instructs several children gratuitously. The school is a spacious building, erected in 1819, at an expense of £1200, principally defrayed by William Charlesworth, Esq., of Brier Hall, a native. Dr. Priestley, equally distinguished for his discoveries in chemistry and his controversial writings, was born at Fieldhead, in the parish, in 1733.