Airedale - St Edmund

Queen’s Park Drive, Airedale, Castleford, West Yorkshire

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A  representative  example  of  post-War  design,  built  just  before  the Second Vatican Council. A portal frame construction forming a single worship space, which retains much of its character and original furnishings. Its  particular value is as part of the civic centre of this essentially post-War community.

Airedale was originally a mining community outside Castleford and was greatly expanded after Second World War slum clearances in Castleford and Pontefract. In 1944, Mass was first offered in the adjacent Magnet public house by Canon John Cromford  from  the  mother  parish  church  of  St  Joseph  Castleford.  Later  the Methodist Hall was used and then a 300-seat army hut purchased for £100 and brought from Scarborough by the men of the parish on two trucks.

In 1958, Father Michael Daly was appointed to create the new parish of St Edmund and he commissioned a Wakefield architect, Philip B. Beard to design a church to the Bishop of Leeds’ instructions: no arcades (consider portal frame construction), seating with a central aisle, two confessionals, a porch/narthex and copper roof. Work began in August 1960 and although a Christmas Mass was conducted in the church in 1961, it was only formally opened on 21 February 1962. The fear of mining subsidence led to three tiers of ramps being laid, which presumably took some time to  construct.  Although  the  Catholic  Building  Review  in  1959  suggested  that  the church was to be built in ‘sand faced bricks’, the decision seems to have been made to use stone cladding instead. With the presbytery, the church cost £43,000, and seats around 370.

The population continued to expand and in 1972, a large parish hall was begun, to the north of the church and it was planned to build a school too.

In 1996, all the copper roofs were replaced with blue slates; the mosaic background to the crucifix was removed from the rear wall of the sanctuary; a suspended ceiling added to the nave and new lighting installed, at a total cost of £105,350.

The church is aligned southwest to northeast, but liturgical compass points are used.

Both St Edmund’s church and presbytery are built of brick with stone cladding with ashlar dressings surrounding the timber windows and doors and blue slate roofs (replacing the original copper finish) with incongruous Victorian tile crestings and finials  dating  from  1996.  The  church  is  a  six  bay  portal  frame,  the western  bay recessed for the west gallery over a glazed narthex and with transverse single storey additions forming a baptistery (north) and covered porch (south). An additional narrower frame provides an eastern sanctuary bay. Midway along the south side a flat roofed building provides two confessionals, a large sacristy and the link to the presbytery. A small, probably lead covered spirelet and cross sit on the roof above the front of the west gallery (possibly a distant echo of the contemporary Coventry Cathedral).

The top two thirds of the west facade to Queen’s Park Drive are glazed within a stone frame that projects over the glass and iron double west doors flanked by windows. The side walls are of white painted render between red brick buttresses protecting the steel frames, the large three-light windows being placed at an angle at the western end of each bay.

Inside, the sixty-foot span worshipping space is almost square with a gently pitched ceiling and dominated by the strongly coloured glass of the huge west window depicting the Creation (signed Clokey, Belfast). All other glazing is of obscure white glass, using alternating reeded and patterned panes.

All the furnishings are of 1961 with polished brass (or copper?) altar rails, font cover, candlesticks and tabernacle. The sanctuary steps and three eastern altars make much use of a grey marble but the main altar (now brought forward from the east wall) is faced with a white marble with crimson veining and the side altar frontals are of a pink  mottled  marble.  All  altars  include  brass  indents  and  the  original  wooden Crucifix is also framed in polished brass. It originally stood against a mosaic background (possibly pink) but this started to fall off and was replaced with plaster painted dark pink in 1996. The lino tile floor is also original, grey with darker grey insets.

Diocese: Leeds

Architect: Philip B. Beard

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed