Leeds - Cathedral Church of St Anne

Great George Street, Leeds 1

title= title= title= title= title=

St Anne’s is unique in England as a cathedral built in the Arts and Crafts Gothic style. Almost square on plan, it was in one phase between 1902-4, replacing an earlier cathedral built in the 1830s and demolished in 1904 to make way for road improvements. The fitting out of the building by the architects Eastwood and Grendslade  is  of  a  consistently  high quality, and gives the building an overall stylistic unity. This quality has been respected in a major recent reordering by Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams Architects.

After the Reformation the Catholic faith was sustained in Leeds by local recusant families, notably the Killingbecks of Allerton Grange and the Leighs at Middleton. After the passing of the Second Relief Act in 1791, Fr Albert Underhill, a Dominican priest, built a small chapel in Lady Lane in the town centre. By 1836 this was proving inadequate  for  the  growing  Catholic  population  and  a  large  new  Gothic  Revival church dedicated to St Anne was completed in 1838 at the top of what is now Park Row. The architect was John Child, who had also been responsible for the design for the first St Patrick, Leeds (1831-2, see photo in summary report). The church was a prominent local landmark,  with a spire of 148 feet,  and  is recorded in Atkinson Grimshaw’s  atmospheric  painting  of  1882,  Park  Row  by  Moonlight.  Its  finest internal features were the elaborate and colourful high altar and reredos, designed by A.W. Pugin and installed in 1842, and a pulpit designed by J.F. Bentley, 1897, alabaster and incorporating a central opus sectile panel of Christ and disciples.

With the creation of the Diocese of Leeds in 1878, St Anne’s became the Cathedral. In 1899  Leeds  Corporation  compulsorily  purchased  the  Cathedral,  presbytery  and parish schools (which had been opened in 1841) for a realignment of the junction of the Headrow and Park Row. In compensation for this, the Corporation provided a new site nearby on the corner of Cookridge Street and Great George Street. Bishop Gordon’s choice of architect was between three Yorkshiremen: John Kelly (architect of  St  Patrick,  Leeds  and  Holy  Family,  Leeds,  but  then  nearing  retirement),  J.F. Bentley (then working on the designs for Westminster Cathedral) and the London- based but Leeds-born architect John Henry Eastwood. Both Bentley and Eastwood were founder members of the Guild of St Gregory and St Like, established to raise the standard of design and furnishings in Catholic churches. Eastwood was chosen, and with his assistant Sydney Kyffin Greenslade prepared over 600 drawings, now held in the diocesan archives. As originally intended, the new Cathedral was to have a prominent tower at the southwest corner facing towards Cookridge Street, but threatened litigation from adjoining premises concerned about loss of light meant that the tower was moved to a less imposing position on the north side (see photo top left). The contract was awarded to William Cowlin & Sons of Bristol and the foundation stone laid by Bishop Brindle of Nottingham on 26 July 1902, the Feast of St Anne. On 29 April 1904 Mass was said for the last time in Child’s old Cathedral before demolition of that building got underway. Eastwood’s new Arts and Crafts Gothic-style Cathedral opened for worship in the following month, and was formally opened by Bishop Gordon on 16 June 1904. The Cathedral was finally consecrated on 18  July  1924,  when  relics  of  St  Tranquillinus  and  St  Victoria,  brought  from  the Catacombs in Rome, were sealed within the high altar.

When Eastwood’s building first opened, only the most immediately necessary furnishings were in place. Pugin’s high altar and reredos were saved for re-use, as was Bentley’s pulpit. Otherwise, furnishings were added over time as funds permitted, many of these through the efforts of  Canon Thomas Shine, who was Administrator from 1908  until  1921,  when  he  became  Coadjutor  Bishop  of  Middlesbrough  and embarked on a church building programme in that diocese. Much of the design flair is Greenslade’s. His high altar and reredos were installed early on, but the designs for the furnishing of the sanctuary were not prepared by Eastwood until 1907, and fundraising for these only got underway from 1910.   From 1912 the sanctuary and Lady Chapel walls were painted with murals by the Italian artist Cesare Formilli. Eastwood’s bishop’s throne, with a great Gothic canopy, was installed in 1913. About the same time the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was installed, designed by Eastwood  as  a  memorial  to  the  first  Administrator,  Canon  Croskell.  The  War Memorial chapel was fitted out in 1920. In 1928 Formilli’s wall paintings on either side of the reredos were replaced with versions of the same design in mosaic, made in Venice  under  Formilli’s  directions.  In  1930  the  canons’  stalls  were  added,  from designs by Eastwood.

After his appointment in 1951, Bishop Heenan instigated various simplifications to the design and furnishing of the interior, in tune with the austerity of the time. Formilli’s paintings (but not the mosaics) were removed from sanctuary, as was the canopy over the bishop’s throne. Bentley’s pulpit was moved from the nave to the entrance of the sanctuary and new hanging lamps installed in the nave. 1954 saw the Golden Jubilee of the Cathedral, which on 10 January was the setting for the first ever televised High Mass in this country.

More radical changes were made for the Cathedral’s Diamond Jubilee, during the time of Bishop Dwyer and Administrator Thomas Murphy. This was the period of the Second Vatican Council, with its renewed emphasis on active congregational participation in the liturgy. In 1963-4 the Cathedral was reordered by Weightman and Bullen at a cost of £40,000. Two flights of steps and a low screen were removed from the entrance to the sanctuary, and replaced with a single flight in Swedish green marble and low marble altar rails. Bentley’s pulpit was retained but adapted. The altar was detached from the reredos to allow for westward celebration and the sanctuary repaved with travertine and marble.   Eastwood’s cathedra, stalls and screens were replaced with new oak fittings in a diluted Gothic style.  In the nave new paving was laid and the original chairs replaced with hardwood pews. New gates of a vigorous Arts and Crafts character were installed at the entrance to the baptistery.

In 1987 the external stonework was cleaned and repaired and the boundary railings reinstated to Eastwood’s design (the originals having been removed in wartime). In 1991 the Cathedral was re-roofed and the building floodlit. Most of these works were grant aided by English Heritage under its Cathedral Grants scheme.

In 2003 the new Cathedral Hall was built at the northeast corner of the site, from designs by Damond Lock Grabowski and Partners.

More recently, a major internal reordering has taken place, initiated by Bishop Konstant and Administrator Mgr Peter McGuire, but revised and completed under Bishop Roche and Canon McCreadie, Cathedral Dean (architect Richard Williams of Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams Architects).   The works lasted over a year, and the Cathedral was formally reopened by Bishop Roche on 13 November 2006. In 2007 the Pugin altar and reredos were conserved and restored, with a grant from English Heritage.

Diocese: Leeds

Architect: J.H. Eastwood and S.K. Greenslade

Original Date: 1902

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II