THE congregation of a Dales church will be paying tribute on Sunday to a Yorkshire literary icon whose ashes are interred in its churchyard.

Parishioners at St Michael and All Angels church in Hubberholme will be dedicating a display in its Bell Tower to the memory of J B Priestley, one of the greatest British authors and dramatists of the 20th century.

John Boynton Priestley, born and bred in Manningham, Bradford, adored the Dales and Hubberholme in particular. He died in 1984 at the age of 90, in Stratford-upon-Avon.

And in 1986 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the church which reads: "He loved the Dales and found 'Hubberholme one of the smallest and pleasantest places in the world.'"

In Sunday's Holy Communion service, the congregation will again recognise Priestley's love for the village by incorporating a dedication to the display, material for which was provided by the Priestley Society and the author's stepson Nicolas Hawkes.

The service will be led by the the Rev James Theodosius, who is priest-in-charge of Hubberholme, as well as Kettlewell with Conistone, Arncliffe and Halton Gill.

Back in 1986, the plaque was unveiled by Priestley's widow, his third wife Jacquetta Hawkes, herself a prominent writer and archaeologist. She died in 1996 at the age of 85.

And she had had to press firmly to place her husband's ashes at St Michael's. Everyone in the village was more than willing to accede to her wishes because of his well-known and oft-expressed affection for Hubberholme.

But legal problems had arisen because Priestley had not actually been born, lived permanently or died in Hubberholme parish.

But the go-ahead was eventually given by the Chancellor of the Diocese of Bradford almost exactly a year after the initial approach had been made to the vicar and churchwardens by his widow.

Reporting the 1986 plaque unveiling, the Craven Herald reporter quoted Ms Hawkes as saying that she and her husband had a retirement fantasy where they would move to Hubberholme and run the George Inn, the pub just across the bridge from St Michael's, at which they were regular visitors.

And at the same event, the author's son Tom Priestley addressed the service before the plaque was unveiled.

The Herald report of his words read: "Mr Priestley said that his father enjoyed to the full the richness of ordinary life, but retained also a sense that there was something more 'beyond'.

"These two elements came together in Hubberholme. Here the author "relished" painting the winter sky, pointing up to it with a finger that was both charred from pushing tobacco into his pipe and dented from constant typing over the years.

"This was also a place where Priestley found the landscape was balanced, as well as varied and beautiful.

"He had travelled all over the world, but Hubberholme remained his favourite spot as he enjoyed its smallness, the great age of its buildings, and its peace.

"Mr Priestley quoted a work of his father's 'The Other Place', in which a man had a vision of paradise and tried to find it again on earth.

"He failed to find it, but came closest to doing so in Hubberholme."

J B Priestley's literary reputation survives intact today. His play An Inspector Calls is often to be found on the school curriculum, while his early novel The Good Companions, from 1929, has been almost continuously in print since.

In 1934 he published the travelogue English Journey, an account of what he saw and heard while travelling throughout Britain in the depths of the Depression.

Priestley had volunteered to fight in the First World War, an experience which greatly coloured his political preoccupations, and in which he served as part of the 10th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington's Regiment in France.

He was badly wounded in 1916, when he was buried alive by trench-mortar fire, and spent many months in military hospitals.

After the war he was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and by the age of 30 had established a reputation as an essayist and critic.

As Britain struggled with the aftermath of the Depression in the 1930s, Priestley became deeply concerned about the consequences of social inequality, and in 1942 set up a new political party, the Common Wealth Party. Its aims were to press for increased ownership of land, greater democracy and a new political morality. He also broadcast frequently on the BBC during the Second World War years.

In 1945, at the end of the war, the Common Wealth Party merged with the Labour Party, and Priestley was highly influential in developing the idea of the Welfare State.

During the 1950s he came to believe that further world wars could only be avoided through cooperation and mutual respect between countries, and so became active in the early movement for a United Nations.

And as the nuclear arms race between West and East began to escalate in the 1950s, he helped to found CND, hoping that Britain would set an example to the world by a moral act of nuclear disarmament.

Today, though, Priestley's name continues to resonate far beyond a little churchyard in Hubberholme thanks to his literary creations.

Stan Barstow, another great Yorkshire writer of the second half of the 20th century, perhaps summed up Priestley's achievement most succinctly before his own death in 2011: "Abundant life flows through J B Priestley’s books. He was the last of his kind. He produced work of dazzling variety and rich profusion. I still treasure his work and salute the memory of the remarkable man who made it."