Building » Tadcaster – Immaculate Conception and St John of Beverley

Tadcaster – Immaculate Conception and St John of Beverley

Scarthingwell Park, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire

An interesting essay in mixed architectural styles that essentially attempts to recreate an Italian Romanesque private chapel. The Atkinson brothers are third generation architects in Yorkshire who designed many classical Catholic churches and although its form and scale might be based on Everingham, the detailing is quite original and of some quality. This church (with the walled garden to the north) is also all that remains to demonstrate the Catholic history of this site.

The Hon Henry Constable Maxwell-Stuart (later Lord Hawke) bought Scarthingwell Park in 1849 and established a mission in 1852, Mass being said in a hired room. The foundation stone was laid in January 1853 and the church opened by Cardinal Wiseman on 8 June 1854 (who also planted the Wellingtonia to the northwest).

The church was bequeathed to the Bishop of Leeds on the death of Henry Maxwell Stuart in 1945, and he invited a French house of Poor Clares to establish a Convent in the Hall. They added a chapel to the southwest corner of the church in 1948, with a separate entrance and staircase to the gallery. However, they didn’t stay for long and the Hall became a school. In 1960, the Hall was demolished, which is presumably the date of the present west wall and rectangular bell turret. The St Camillus Community Home for delinquent boys was then founded and administered by the diocese; this closed in the 1980s and it too was demolished. The Hall site (to the west of the church) is now the Highfield Nursing and Residential Home, which has planning permission to add an extra storey to the present two-storey buildings.

This tall, apsed essay in an Italian late-Romanesque style is said to have been inspired by the chapel at Everingham Hall, built 1836-9 by Maxwell-Stuart’s brother, Lord Herries. It is certainly of similar plan and scale, but the very different Romanesque style here is said to have been chosen to match that of the Hall to which it was attached. However, the small part of the ‘house’ that remains on the northwest corner flanking the west gallery contains a large late 18th century sash window of the sort visible in a pre-demolition photograph of the house from the south. The chapel cost £3,000-4,000 and is built of Huddleston limestone. The list description omits to mention the vestry to the northeast with an octofoil round east window; the Romanesque southwest porch is also of 1853.

As at Everingham (and in Italy) the restrained exterior belies the highly decorated interior, which was re-decorated by a local team directed by Father Moxon (1984-92); the only original finishes seem to be the stencilled apse, the stained glass apse windows by Wailes and fine central nave aisle encaustic tiles. The plasterwork is a curious mix of debased Classical acanthus and vine scroll, with Gothic details like the nailhead on the soffit of the transverse arches, the heraldic shields and the ribbing of the segmental nave and semi-circular west gallery ceilings. The entrance arch to the original southwest porch has Yorkshire Romanesque capitals and chevron. To either end of the gallery are cusped lintels that have a Moorish look and the stained wood gallery front itself has Gothick quatrefoils. As third generation architects, the Atkinson brothers were quite capable of designing in formal Classical styles and the mixture evident at Scarthingwell is interesting, perhaps dictated by their patron.

It seems that the family entered at ground level from the house and ascended to their pew by means of the delicate wooden spiral staircase to the southeast of the gallery. The Charles Allen organ on the gallery is dated 1854 and is highly regarded as an unrestored instrument of the period. Charles Allen also supplied the Everingham organ. The west entrance was blocked when the present front was built in about 1956, incorporating a tall rectangular bell turret with one bell on its southwest corner. The square stone box corbelled out from the apex of the west gable is the bottom half of the original bellcote.

The 1948 work is of poor quality, probably re-using stone from the site, with concrete lintels and sills and simple wooden frame windows.

The numbered loose pews are the only original furniture to remain. The present altar was made by the woodwork master of the Community Home and the pulpit comes from St Joseph’s in Sherburn. The French nuns bolted their crucifix to the apse wall; a small mid-late 19th century crucifix that may have come from the former high altar stands in their 1948 chapel, now used as a parish room. Two small Italian Baroque statues of a bishop (south) and priest (north) stand in large niches at the eastern end of the nave walls. The c1900 statue of Our Lady apparently by Grienewaldt of Paris is of painted metal. The small Gothic font under the west gallery comes from another church and sits on the encaustic tile floor.

Image Credit

Bill Henderson on – licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

Heritage Details

Architect: Thomas Atkinson

Original Date: 1853

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II