Building » Bradford – St Francis of Assisi

Bradford – St Francis of Assisi

Norman Lane, Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire

An interesting church of some architectural and artistic merit. Interesting as a conversion (although the Simpson work was not distinguished) and for the spatial qualities of the new church, with dramatic lighting inspired by Toledo Cathedral. Good stained glass and other fittings.

About  2½  miles  northeast  of  Bradford,  Eccleshill  expanded  considerably  in  the 1920s, becoming a suburb of the city. With the expansion came the need to serve the Catholic population there, within the parish of St Mary, to which the first church of St Francis was opened as a chapel of ease in 1928. St Francis’ became a separate parish in 1938. Edward Simpson’s church was a conventional rectangular building with a gabled porch. To this, in 1974, Peter Langtry-Langton added a much larger square building, forming a T, with Simpson’s church as the head of the T.

The church has the altar facing roughly west but in this section all references will be to conventional orientation, i.e. as if the altar faced east.

Built of local stone and Welsh slate, the consistent use of materials helps to unify the two very different buildings. Simpson’s church now forms the head of the T-plan. Its original entrance front towards the road has a gabled porch, simple lancet windows and a coped gable with kneelers and intermediate kneelers part way up the gable. The remaining long wall has broad shallow arched windows and is now largely pebble- dashed, whilst a lean-to addition obscures the other short wall. The other long wall has been removed for the extended church or is obscured by additions. A number of the windows of the old church are now blocked. Langtry-Langton’s church has a bold butterfly roof with the counterpoint of a wedge-shaped ‘tower’ rising from one pitch of Simpson’s roof, glazed to the west to throw light onto the sanctuary. The pitches of the butterfly roof are reflected in the sloping tops of the side windows. At the west end is a large flat-roofed entrance lobby approached from north and south and the west wall of the church above this has continuous clerestory glazing. The porch has a bold swept fascia and angled columns set in front of the wall. Paved area in front of the entrance. The presbytery is attached to the west and has an unequal gable picking up the pitch of the church roof.

Inside, the western clerestory lights a narthex, with a glazed screen looking into the church.  Against  the  south  wall  a  marble  altar  and  reredos,  of  Gothic  character, brought from elsewhere. The main worship area is an impressive T-plan space with the sanctuary in the centre of the head of the T, with a steeply sloping roof and dramatic lighting from the ‘tower’ lighting. The ‘tower’ is expressed internally by a hanging arch with open spandrels and a strong grid of uprights. The dramatic light effect is accentuated by the gloom of the rest of the church, lit through dark-toned stained glass. In order to carry the load of the tower and the roof of the Simpson church with a large part of its wall removed, heavy concrete beams are introduced. Side chapels on either side of the nave, open both to the nave and to the ‘transepts’ formed by the head of the T. The sanctuary has a curved reredos or rear wall with alcoves to either side. Marble altar and tabernacle stand, the former originally with a solid bronze Last Supper (by Willie Sutcliffe), cast from an ancient Italian wood carving and now stored in the confessional. The figure of Christ (originally behind the altar but now in the north transept) is by John Ashworth of L.A. Studios. In the four north  transept  windows  good  stained  glass  by  Rob  Hickling  of  John  Hardman Studios. The other, striking, stained glass is by Jane Duff. Organ case against the wall of the south transept. Stations of the Cross, relief panels in heavy painted frames, from the original church.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson, altered and extended by P.H. Langtry-Langton.

Original Date: 1928

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed