Building » Barnsley – Holy Rood

Barnsley – Holy Rood

George Street, Barnsley, S70

A fine Gothic design of the turn of the twentieth century by the Bradford architect Edward Simpson, prominently located on a corner site and creating a strong visual presence in the townscape. The stately and little-altered interior is richly fitted out in marble and alabaster, with notable contributions by Gabriel Pippet of Solihull and A. B. Wall of Cheltenham, amongst others. 

The arrival of the French émigré priest, the Rev. Vincent Louis Dennis from revolutionary France was an important development in the revival of Catholicism in Barnsley. He started a mission, with Mass celebrated in private houses until 1804, when premises over a stable in Quiet John’s Yard were acquired, to become the first chapel. Fr Dennis died in 1819 and the mission was without a regular priest for a while. Local Catholics, principally a hand-loom weaver, William Rigby, raised funds to build a classical chapel, which opened in Nelson Street in 1824. In time this became too small to serve the growing Catholic population in the area and another church became necessary. The Rev. John Rigby acquired a site and a church was built in 1832, including a school in the basement. A school followed in Dodworth Road in 1858-9, built from designs by M. E. Hadfield of Sheffield.

Continued growth meant that in course the 1832 church too became inadequate, and in 1894 plans were initiated by the Rev. John Hill to build a replacement, designed by Edward Simpson of Bradford and his son Charles. At the start of the twentieth century the school buildings of Dodworth Road were demolished and the stone used for the building of the new church. The foundation stone for this was blessed and laid by the Right Rev Dr R. Brindle, Bishop of Nottingham on 14 September 1903 and the church opened in 1905. Bishop Cowgill of Leeds consecrated the church on 10 May 1919.


The church is described in some detail in the list entry (below), and repetition is unnecessary. However, there are some omissions which might be mentioned:


  • At the east end, a simple classical stone front of a porch, said to be from the church of 1832, is reused as a rear sacristy or office entrance.

Nave and aisles:

  • The walls are built of red Leicester brick laid in stretcher bond
  • The nave and the aisles are laid with Terrazzo marble flooring whilst the flooring under the seating is oak laid in pitch blocks
  • Fittings of note include the opus sectile and alabaster shrine of the English Martyrs, and further shrines to St Teresa of the Child Jesus, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (by Burns Oates & Washbourne of London) and Our Lady of Sorrows (by S. J. Durrant of Dyson, Cawson and Coles, architects of Barnsley).


  • Three steps lead from the nave to the sanctuary, with the upper two steps of Rouge Royal marble; sanctuary flooring is laid in a diamond pattern with Swedish green and white marble
  • Above the arcade are carved heads of the founders of the religious orders (St Francis of Assisi, St Dominic, St Benedict and St Ignatius Loyola) and the great Doctors of the Church (St Gregory, St Augustine, St Alphonsus and St Thomas Aquinas)
  • Windows are decorated with emblems of the Passion and Blessed Sacrament.

Lady Chapel:

  • Two white marble steps lead to the altar, which rests on four granite pillars
  • The reredos contains a marble image of the Madonna and Child
  • Above the door are four copies of angels by Fra Angelico, in opus sectile
  • In 2011 a window was installed in memory of Pope John Paul II.

Sacred Heart altar:

  • This was relocated from the old church and Gabriel Pippet designed the new reredos.

List description


Roman Catholic church. 1905 by Edward Simpson of Bradford assisted by his son Charles. Squared, coursed stone with ashlar dressings. Welsh slate roof. Late Victorian Gothic style. North-west tower. 5-bay nave with 4-bay lean-to aisles and a south-west baptistry, 2-bay transepts, 2-bay apsidal chancel with 3-bay south chapel. The square tower becomes octagonal with tall single-light louvred belfry openings and stone spire with gargoyles and moulded bands. West portal with 2 cusped doorways and a carved crucifix in tympanum. Large 6-light west window with Decorated tracery and quatrefoil in head. 5-sided baptistry with hipped roof. Aisles are plain to lower half, buttressed to upper half with small 2-light windows with cusped heads and small trefoils. South transept windows are tall, of 3-lights with Perpendicular tracery. North transept windows are shorter and of 4 lights. 2- and 3-light chancel and south chapel windows.

Interior: 6-bay arcades, the aisles being transverse vaulted in brickwork and with stone ribs. Bays 5 and 6 form the crossing and the 2-bay transepts are similarly vaulted but taller. Elongated, octagonal piers with attached colonettes. Arch-braced hammer-beam panelled roof to nave and chancel. Two traceried recesses to each side, alternate with the confessionals, contain 2 marble sculptures: a Pietà and St. Patrick, and 2 stone sculptures of St. Michael and St. Anthony. Above these is a blind, traceried frieze into which are set 14, tessellated, stations of the cross, the work of the artist Gabriel Pippett of Birmingham, which were erected by the congregation as a 1st World War Memorial. The bays of the apsidal east end are marked by slender, pale green and dark green marble colonettes. 4 sculpted heads to each side. The elaborate, traceried, and pinnacled altar and reredos is the work of R. B. Wall of Cheltenham: a carved panel altar frontispiece of the Last Supper, and 2 panels in the reredos of the Finding of the Cross, and the Exaltation of the Cross, flanked by two similar panels of Christ carrying the Cross and Abraham leading Isaac. Holy Rood in recess above. Organ gallery at rear with ambulatory under. Lady Chapel to south lined in white marble with opus sectile pictures on walls.

An example of Simpson’s later work compared to his many Roman Catholic churches in High Victorian style. Listing NGR: SE3427906132

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1905

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II