James Heath 1848 -1923


James Heath was born on the 30th November 1848 in Horton Parish Staffordshire, the second son of James Heath and Eliza Sims. James married Ann Heath. James Heath (The Church Builder) and his family outside his house in Spencer Avenue, Leek. I will divide the family into two rows as follows:Back Row: Harold Heath, Elsie Heath, Norman Heath Smith, George William Heath and Harriet Elsie Heath (daughter of James Heath) with husband, John Joseph Campbell Smith Front Row: James Heath with grandson Stanley James Smith, Helen and Charles Heath with son Reginald, Ronald Heath Smith (my father) and finally Ann Heath. This photo was taken shortly before Charles Heath and family emigrated to Canada. (Caption and photographs from DH Smith).


The following information is from the newspapers
29th September 1879 Staffordshire Sentinel
On Sale a pleasantly situated six roomed (Stone House) at Rudyard - apply to James Heath Builder Endon Stoke.
Monday 13th October 1879 Staffordshire Sentinel
On Saturday afternoon the new chancel of Endon Church was opened Divine Service being held at three. The little church was packed, including in the congregation several of the Leek and Stoke gentry. The Lord Bishop of the diocese the Ven Archdeacon Sir L.T. Stamer Bart, Rev. A.F. Beucher (rural dean) and the Rev. J. Badnall, took part in the service.
The new chancel is a very handsome erection, and with an organ chamber on the north side, has been built from the early part of the fourteenth century. It is 20ft 6in long and by 16ft in wide and is built entirely of stone, the interior of the roof by pitched pine, clear varnished. The cost of the chancel is about £550, nearly all of which is in hand, and the builder is Mr. James Heath, of Endon. The offertory at the service raised over £20. After the service there was a public tea meeting.
23rd March 1880 Staffordshire Sentinel. To let small Villa Residence Endon, within 10 minutes walk of Endon station. Apply James Heath builder.
Also in the same paper the Staffordshire Sentinel dated the 23rd March 1880. To be let or sold Rudyard pleasantly situated (Stone House) suitable for letting of front rooms to visitors. Apply James Heath Builder Endon.
Monday 2nd May 1881 to be let with immediate possession a House and Garden, pleasantly situated in the Village of Endon, suitable for a small family. Rent 2s. 6d. a week. To view the same and for further particulars, apply to Mr. James Heath, Builder, Endon.
The following is taken from Michael Fisher
The Diary Of A Victorian Stonemason.
The story of the building of All Saints Church is recorder in the diaries of James Heath for 1885-7. All Saints' was the biggest place of work Heath had ever undertaken, and he was full of enthusiasm for it. He was a deeply religious man, and although he had left the Methodist Church to become an Anglican, a strain of Evangelical piety runs through nearly every page of his diaries. On the day he signed the contract for All Saints' he wrote "May God in his great mercy and wisdom help me to complete this work to His Glory, my honour, and everybody's satisfaction. Amen".
He was also energetic and hardworking. He would often walk to Leek early in the morning from his Endon home, and spend up to ten hours on the site before returning in the evening.
The ground on which the new church was to be built steeply from west to east, and once the foundation stone had been laid on the 2th July 1885, the builders set about the task of constructing a large undercroft at the east end, to bring it up to the level of the western portion of the church. As winter approached work became progressively more difficult, and there were weeks when the site had to be closed down altogether. By the beginnining of February 1886 however improved weather conditions enabled the workmen to start laying the foundations of the west end of the nave. During the first two weeks of March, there was a series of very severe frosts, and the rapid thaw which set in on the 19th caused a good deal of damage. On the 21st James Heath arrived at the church to discover that one of the four brick arches of the undercroft had given away, and fallen in, carrying with it some scaffolding and stone from the chancel above. It appeared that the brickwork had been lifted by the frost from its wooden supports, and the sudden thaw had caused it to drop back quickly and give way. "God help me" wrote Heath. "It is dreadful. Never had such a Sunday before"
The damage was soon put right, and the fine Spring of 1886 enabled the builders to make good progress on the nave and aisles. On the 29th March, Norman Shaw visited the site, and he decided for safety's sake to replace all four of the brick arches over the undercroft. About this time Heath ran into difficulties with some of his workmen. One James Rhead, was imprisoned for deserting his wife and children and another was dismissed for "spending too long at the closet".
On the 29th June Heath wrote in his diary, "Our sawyer is boozing and leaves us very awkwardly placed for sawn stone. I am writing for another sawyer tomorrow.
In spite of these labour problems the church continued to take shape. The months of June and July saw the completion of the nave piers and at the beginning of July work started on the arches themselves. For each one of these a huge wooden support or 'centre' was constructed to the exact shape of the arch, and placed between the piers, from which the arch was to 'spring'. Over these centres the moulded stonework of the arch was laid with great skill and precision, and 'keyed' with a key stone at the apex. Once the cement had set, the centre could be removed leaving the arch standing free. By the end of July the builders were ready to tackle the two great arches under the tower. The larger of these has a span of just over 28 feet and Heath breathed a great sigh of relief when they were safely in position.


A Vision of Splendour

Thirty six years old in 1885, James was brother to the Moorland Poet George Heath, who had died some years previously, and lies buried in Horton churchyard. Though reared as a Methodist,
James had found a new spiritual home in the Church of England, and specifically at St Luke's Endon under the Revd. J Badnall whose preaching he greatly admired, and who appears to have recruited him as a Sunday School Teacher. Heath writes with all the zeal of a convert:
Sunday 23rd May 1886, "Morning school and church, Revd. J. Badnall preacher. Afternoon school and afterwards to my brother William's for tea and then to Endon Wesley Chapel for the Sunday School Sermons, but I cannot enjoy their service like the grand old Church of England Service after all".
Saturday 27th February 1886, "I go to John Glover's at Burslem and buy a piano for the use of my children. May they be led to stay at home and keep from bad companions".
Wednesday 14th April 1886, "Mrs Heath... is much shocked and astonished to find her sister Sarah and her husband falling out to the extent of blows on his side. I must say she is very aggravating with her tongue, but good in all other points. If they would only go down on their knees and pray for help, all would be well with them. God help them to do so,, for their comfort and souls' sake. Amen".
Monday 25th July, Day beautifully fine. I go to Compton by 10-37 train and find them almost ready for the Consecration Service. The chancel is beautiful. 2-15 p.m. Consecration Service by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, and a very imposing one it is, and a grand service by the Bishop. Thank God for permitting me to see and enjoy this day. Amen.
On July 26th the masons are not working today because I gave them a half day's holiday to enable them to go to the Service. They have got on the beer and are not now at work; dreadful, isn't it?

The death of Mr Jas. Heath of Leek.
Staffordshire Advertiser Saturday 26 May 1923.
Leek lost a prominent citizen last week of Spencer Avenue, head of the well known building firm of James Heath and Sons.
He was widely esteemed and contributed very largely to the enhancement of the town by the attractive, as well as substantial character of the work which his firm carried out of this All Saints' Church, will be an enduring monument to future generations of thorough and good taste which marked all that he undertook and he made it a labour of love to put his best in every respect into the designs supplied to him by Mr Norman Shaw, and when the additions now in progress are completed, the Church will be one of the most beautiful in the country.
Mr Heath was a son of Mr and Mrs Heath of Hallgate Farm, Gratton and brother of George Heath the "Moorland Poet". After opening a business at Endon, Mr Heath came to Leek in 1901 and established the business in Shoobridge Street, which he carried on until about 17 years ago when he resigned it to his son in law Mr J Campbell Smith, who is now in control of its operations.
He was a strong Churchman greatly enjoying the Ministry of the former Vicar of All Saints, the Rev W B Wright.
He was an ardent Freemason being Wor. Master of St Edward's Lodge in 1905 and P. Prov G.W. of Stafford as well as Chaplin of his lodge in 1873-4.
Warden of All Saints 1906-9 and was the council manager of the school as well as serving as a guardian for several years.
Also he was a director of Leek United Building Society.
James fell asleep on May 18th 1923 aged 74 years.
The coffin was carried by six workmen of the firm. On the coffin was a brass plate with the inscription James Heath. Fell asleep on May 18th 1923 aged 74 years
The funeral took place on Tuesday morning at All Saints Church and was conducted by the Vicar Rev W. G. Keyworth and Curate Rev A. E. Passey.
Choir Master Mr Fred Edwards
Organist Mr Ed Bayley
The hymns were
Now the labourers task is done
On the resurrection morning
And Chopins Marche Funebre
The family mourners were
Mr and Mrs J. C. Smith (son in law and daughter)
Mr E Smith and Mr S. J. Smith (grandsons)
Mrs G. W. Heath (daughter in law)
Mr and Mrs W Wood (nephew and niece)
Mr C. H. Heath and Mr John Heath (brothers in law)
Mr H. A. Heath and Mr F. E Aggas (nephews)
Miss Olive Tatton and Miss Gray.
Also other mourners attended representing St Edward's Lodge of Freemasons, Leek United and the Midlands Bank, and the Building Trade Employers.


By Denise Johnson