University Chapel - Leeds

St Mark’s Avenue, Leeds 2

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Late Gothic Revival church built as a convent chapel, its unremarkable exterior belying an interior of some quality. The church has particularly good stained glass by Harry Clarke of Dublin.

The church was built as at the convent chapel of the Sisters of Notre Dame, who arrived at 7 St Mark’s Avenue in 1898. In 1900 they moved into no. 5, and in 1904 new school buildings were opened as the Notre Dame High School for Girls. The present church and attached convent building were built in 1927-29 on the site of no.7, from designs by Henry C. Smart. The design is said to be a copy of one of the Order’s former novitiate houses at Ashdown Park, Sussex (information from Robert Finnigan). The chief feature of the interior is the stained glass, by Harry Clarke of Dublin and completed in 1930. The chapel was consecrated by Bishop Cowgill in 1931.

In 1972 the sanctuary was re-ordered and a new high altar installed.

In 1989 Notre Dame High School became a Sixth Form College, and in 1995 the two remaining Sisters left. The chapel became diocesan property in 1988 and now serves as the university chapel.

Church and convent buildings in hard red brick laid in Flemish bond, Portland stone dressings and slate roofs. The church in Early English Gothic Revival style. This description focuses on the church rather than the convent building, although the latter is contiguous and contemporary.

The church is raised over an undercroft (classrooms) and is approached by a flight of steps from St Mark’s Avenue at the junction with the convent building. Spare Gothic detail, projecting north and south chapels, canted east end, corbelled eaves and steep slate roof with parapet and cross on east gable.

At the top of the stairs is a gabled entrance porch with a statue of the Virgin and Child in a canopied niche. This leads into a hallway, with the chapel giving off to the left (east). The interior is a single unaisled space, with side chapels to the north and south and a short apsidal chancel. Timber wagon roof to nave with carved wooden angels at the springing of the ribs marking the bay divisions, timber ribbed vaulting to side chapels. The internal walls are plastered and lined to simulate ashlar. Short nave of three bays, then two arcades to the side chapels (Sacred Heart to the north, Our Lady to the south). Two pairs of triple lancet windows to the side chapels, the wall planes articulated with columnar shafts and arcading. In the sanctuary, blind trefoil triple arcading to the westernmost bays, then paired lancet windows to the apse. Timber vaulted roof.

The chief feature of the interior is the richly-coloured stained glass in the sanctuary, by Harry Clarke of Dublin, on Marian themes. The sanctuary floor, lower part of the walls are of multicoloured marble; these with the altar and tabernacle stand all presumably belong to the 1972 reordering. Good marble and stone altars of Italian Gothic character to the side chapels, with stained glass roundels over, possibly also by Clarke. Stone Stations of the Cross set into the nave walls beneath the windows. At the west end, a finely carved and panelled gallery and organ.  There is a forward altar in the nave and the seating is arranged in collegiate fashion.

Diocese: Leeds

Architect: Henry C. Smart

Original Date: 1927

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed