Acomb - Our Lady

Gale Lane, Acomb, York, North Yorkshire

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Post-war suburban church in brick Basilican style, with a handsome interior.

The former village of Acomb lies about two miles west of York city centre. It was still a rural area when incorporated into the city in 1937, after which it was rapidly developed with council housing and, after the war, with private housing estates. By the 1980s a quarter of York’s population lived in Acomb.

Acomb Council School was used for services from 1941. In 1953, a plot of land at the corner of Cornlands Road and Gale Lane was bought from the City Council for the purpose of building a Catholic church. The appointed architect was J.H. Langtry- Langton,  assisted  by  his  son  Peter,  then  still  a  student  at  Leeds  School  of Architecture. The builder was F. Shepherd and Sons of York.  The foundation stone was laid on 6 February by Bishop Heenan of Leeds, who returned to open the church on 25 March (the feast of the Annunciation), 1955. The total cost of the church, including fitting out, was £30,000; there was seating for 400 people. The presbytery was ready for occupation by October 1955.

In 1970 the Sanctuary was reordered (architects Weightman and Bullen, with C.M. Vis as project architect).  There was a further reordering in 1999, when the oak altar rails were removed and the sanctuary floor extended forward into the main body of the church. At about the same time, an octagonal parish room was built on the north side between the church and presbytery, in memory of Fr Patrick Kelly (architects Weightman & Brown).

A large church in Early Christian Basilican style, consisting of western narthex, nave, aisles and square ended sanctuary with flanking chapels. An intended campanile was never built. Grey stock brick laid in stretcher bond, Roman pantile roof. The main entrance is though the west narthex door, placed centrally within a slightly projecting bay. The stone Doric doorcase is set within a round arched opening of several brick orders, and contains an Italianate panel of the Madonna and Child in the tympanum, carved by David Hardy. The doorway was designed by Peter Langtry-Langton, its capitals copied from the Tower of the Winds at Athens.  The flank and east walls are simply treated, with toothed brick detailing to the window surrounds, single round arched openings to each bay of the aisles and the eastern chapels, and paired arched openings to the clerestory; triple windows to the sanctuary clerestory. The windows have metal glazing bars and margin lights; those on the exposed south aisle have been given  polycarbonate  protection.    The  east  wall  is  blank  (on  account  of  the  large internal reredos) but has a large blind arched recess into which is set a brick cross.

The entrance doors lead into a narthex area with channelled and rusticated bare brick to the lower two thirds and plaster cornice and ceiling above. Two pairs of oak glazed doors lead to the main space of the interior, which is brick faced in part (in the aisles) but otherwise plastered and painted, giving it a light character. Flat plaster ceilings and  scalloped cornices to  the  aisles.  The  main space  is  lent  a  strongly  Basilican character by the 14 Corinthian columns of the nave, surmounted by a strong entablature and crowned by an open timber roof. The columns have been given a marbleised/scagliola treatment (c1995 according to the parish), adding considerably to the rich effect of the interior.

There is a tall round arch to the sanctuary. The lower part of the sanctuary walls are lined with timber panels in faux marble, but the principle feature is the tall reredos, with an applied bronze Crucifixus and carved figure of the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove in a sunburst  above; projecting canopy over. Roll mouldings carved with vine scroll separated by fluted panels; a central scallop feature over what would originally have been the tabernacle of the high altar. The art deco character perhaps owes something to Velarde’s work at Bootle, although there are also shades of the influence of Leonard Stokes.

The present forward altar has coloured marble columns and a white marble carved pieta in the panel on the front. This, along with the tabernacle in what is now the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to the south and a statue of Our Lady under an Italianate architectural canopy (at the west end of the north aisle) came from the closed church of St Patrick, Hull. They were introduced as part of the 1999 reordering, at which time were also introduced the ambo and celebrant’s chair. An Italian statue of Our Lady originally acquired in 1955 was given to St Joseph’s, Green Hammerton at this time. The original oak confessionals were also removed; the former chapel to the north of the sanctuary is now a baptistery area and houses the stone octagonal font; beyond this an oak door leads to a small Reconciliation room.

The pews are made of English oak.

Diocese: Middlesbrough

Architect: J.H. Langtry-Langton

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed