Bridge Street, Otley, West Yorkshire
The site where the present church stands was from early medieval times the location of the Archbishop of York’s manor house, since demolished and destroyed. The Archbishop developed the town from the early 13th century onwards and granted the right to hold a fair and market. Otley was home to the English martyr, Francis Dickinson and nearby Weston the birthplace of another martyr, Matthew Flathers. Before the building of the present church, Catholics had to travel to Ilkley to hear Mass at Myddleton Lodge.
In 1836 Thomas Constable bought the Manor House, which had been built in 1783 in the grounds of the former medieval manor. Thomas was a lawyer by profession but had been educated at Ushaw College and was a Catholic. He adapted a side pavilion of the building into Clitherow House and this served as his offices. When the 1847 potato famine brought many immigrants from Ireland, Thomas Constable took great interest in their welfare, even turning his dining room into a ward with 10 beds. Hundreds of Irish immigrants came to Otley and settled into a refugee camp on the east side of the town known as the Irish Fields.
Constable decided to build a church in the grounds of the Manor House for the benefit not only of his family but also for that of the growing Catholic community in the town. He first wrote to Bishop Briggs concerning the building of a chapel in July 1845. He commissioned Charles Francis Hansom the architect used by the Middleton family at Sicklinghall, to build the church. It cost £4000 and was opened on 24 June 1851 by Bishop Briggs of Beverley. By 1867 the parish had increased so much in size that Hansom was called back to add an extension to the west end costing £700. The church was altered in 1934 and a photograph taken prior to these works shows a magnificent wooden rood screen, since removed.
In 1943 Thomas Constable’s daughter Mary, Lady Mowbray and Stourton gave the church to the Diocese. Her daughter in turn, The Hon. Charlotte Stourton gave the Manor House to the Diocese.
Major alterations were carried out in 1970-72. The sanctuary was re-ordered and a new entrance porch and stairs to the organ loft constructed at the west end. The original entrance on the south front was blocked up and turned into a store room and the font removed from the baptistery to the sanctuary and the former turned into a confessional. These major works were financed by the sale of a plot of adjacent land to a housing trust. Further works to the sanctuary were carried out in 1992 and 1995.
Raised up from the street, the church is constructed of stone with a graduated green Westmorland slate roof; the building is in the revived style of the English 14th century. The eastern boundary facing Bridge Street has a stone wall with to the right a single storey link section leading to the presbytery. The eastern gable wall is dominated by a Geometric window with dressed stone tracery; under which is a war memorial to the fallen of the Great War in Portland stone, with additions from the Second World War. A canopied niche in the gable contains a statue of Our Lady. The easternmost 2 bays of the south elevation are stepped back delineating the chancel, the remaining 5 bays of the nave contain windows with pairs of decorated lancets topped by a quatrefoil. Each bay is separated by a stepped stone buttresses. The two separate single storey extensions originally housed the main entrance and the baptistery. The entrance is now located in the modern addition to the west, which wraps around the external stone staircase tower with its pyramidal stone roof. The 2 bay, 1861 extension is clearly visible on the northern elevation with its small single lancet windows and paired windows above lighting the organ gallery. There are a number of decorative carved stone gargoyle and figurative heads on the building.
The interior is reached via a porch containing 2 pictures of the martyrs, Blessed Francis Dickinson and Blessed Matthew Flathers, installed in the sanctuary in 1934 and removed to their present position in 1970-2. The modern narthex contains new stairs to the organ gallery; in 1992 a separate Lady Chapel was formed. The lofty nave has an open roof of arch-braced scissor truss form, now painted black. The simple, plain wooden pews form a central aisle, the white painted plaster walls contain terracotta Stations of the Cross added in 1934. The north wall has a carved and decorated mural monument to John Constable (died 1891). The baptistery was converted into a confessional in 1970-2 and the font moved first to the rear of the church and then in 1992-3 to its present position.
The sanctuary has a fine coffered ceiling decorated with paterae and is raised up by 2 steps. The forward altar and pulpit were installed in 1994 to replace those of the 1970s re-ordering and stylistically are more in harmony with the original carved stone reredos. The reredos itself has been altered with the central section now containing the tabernacle once more and a new carving of a pelican in her piety above. The most striking element of the sanctuary is the modern stained glass window of 1994, designed by Ann Southeran it depicts the risen Christ in a garden with the banner of resurrection behind him. The original glass from the east window was relocated to the west window above the refurbished gallery.
Architect: Charles Hansom
Original Date: 1851
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed