Final moments of Stanley’s St Peter’s Church

This is the moment demolition work started to reduce a historic village church to rubble.

Stanley St Peter’s Church, which has stood empty for around 11 years, was knocked down this week.

Stanley St Peters church

Stanley St Peters church

Villagers said their final goodbyes to the building on Sunday with a commemorative service led by Rev Bill Henderson.

The derelict church first closed in 2001, when it needed around £1m of maintenance work to make the building safe.

Wakefield Diocese tried to find a new use for the Grade II-listed building, but a deal with a prospective developer fell through and a decision was taken to demolish the building following a public consultation last year.

Paul Dainton, who was among campaigners who fought to preserve the church and its contents, said: “This fantastic building has been totally destroyed. No part of the building is being preserved.”

The church dates back to 1822, when it was built at a cost of £12,000.

On February 18, 1911, it was struck by a disastrous fire which destroyed most of the building and left only its bare walls standing.

But it was rebuilt and the new church of St Peter was consecrated by the Bishop of Wakefield in July 1913.

More recently, the church was hit by controversy over the disappearance in March 2012 of 16 oak carvings called misericords, which were the only set in the world to depict the 16 stages of creation.

The misericords, carved by HP Jackson in the 1920s, were thought to have been removed when contractors were given access to the building after it was set to be demolished.

Some of the carvings turned up on eBay and others were traced to an antique dealer in London.

Historian George Parfitt, who runs the website and also campaigned to save the church, said: “I think it’s really sad. I just wanted them to keep the building.

“A hundreds years from now I think people will be asking questions about why they knocked it down.”

Plans being drawn up to create a lasting legacy to the church included landscaping works, new seating and a new home for the church war memorial.