Building » Clifford – St Edward King and Confessor

Clifford – St Edward King and Confessor

High Street, Clifford, West Yorkshire

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • AHP

  • AHP

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

An outstanding church of striking neo-Norman design, designed by Joseph Hansom from plans drawn up in France by an otherwise-unknown, dying draughtsman named Ramsey. The Romanesque detailing is applied consistently and extends to the internal furnishings. Good stained glass by A.W.N. Pugin and others. Built by the mill-owning Grimston family, the church dominates its village setting. Its later tower by George Goldie is a landmark in the surrounding countryside.

After the Reformation the Catholics in the Clifford area were served by the private chapel at Hazlewood Castle, the family seat of the Vavasours. By the early nineteenth century the number of Catholic families in Clifford was growing, due mainly to the efforts of Mrs Ralph Grimston, who had been educated at the Bar Convent in York. The Grimston family had settled at Clifford in 1831 and built a flax mill and made a point of employing Catholic workers, who were often discriminated against. Mass was first said in a private house by Dr Tate from Hazlewood Chapel around 1832. Mr and Mrs Ralph Grimston purchased a Wesleyan chapel in the village, located where the present church tower stands, which was converted and dedicated to St Francis Xavier on 24 December 1841. Fr Edward Lambert Clifford was appointed priest.

The congregation rose quickly, with a total of 200 reached by 1843. The chapel became too small and it was decided to buy the whole site and build a larger church. £1,000 was collected by subscriptions and private donations and the land and house which now is the presbytery were purchased. It is said that the design for the new church was purchased from a young man named Ramsey who lived on the Traquair estate in Scotland. Ramsey was dying of consumption and had produced drawings for a church while on a tour of France. These were purchased by a local man, Joseph Maxwell, and shown to Fr Clifford and were then passed onto to J. A. Hansom to work up into practical plans. Hansom was working at Ampleforth at the time and it is claimed that he did not spend much time at Clifford, and that the credit for the building work should go to the local stonemason and builder George Roberts. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 13 October 1845 and the estimated cost was £4,222. Much of the building cost was met by the Grimston family, and the church opened on 24 May 1848. During the construction the remains of the child martyr, St Domitia the Second were placed under the high altar. These were taken from the Catacombs in Rome and presented to Sir Edward Vavasour by Pope Gregory XVI . The church was consecrated on 24 May 1859 in the presence of Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster and the Bishops of Nottingham, Northampton, Beverley and Clifton. The building of the tower was started in March 1859 but suspended when Fr Clifford left the mission. Work restarted in 1866, to the designs of the architect George Goldie; this work cost £1,000 and was paid for Mr Ralph Grimston. The tower was completed in 1867.

The sanctuary was reordered in 1990-1, when the levels were changed, the high altar brought forward and some of the arcading between the piers removed (repositioned on the side walls of the Lady Chapel). The font was moved to the sanctuary area from the baptistery at the west end and the nave pulpit relocated to the front of the sanctuary.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the church an extension housing parish rooms was built onto the sacristy. This was opened by David Konstant, Bishop of Leeds, in February 1999.

In 2018 the blocked arch at the west end was opened and new west doors installed.


See list entry, below.

Below the Blessed Sacrament chapel (at the east end of the south aisle) is a vaulted crypt, accessed externally on the south side of the church. This is the burial place of members of the Clifford family and (more recently) Bishop Gordon Wheeler of Leeds (d.1998).

In the church there are two windows designed by A.W.N. Pugin and made by the Hardman firm: St Anne and St William, both in the north aisle. There is other good stained glass by Lusson and Bourdon (of Paris and Le Mans), and George Mayer of Munich and London. The west end is dominated by a gallery sitting on top of a three-bay arcade. This contains the organ (first installed in 1863, rebuilt in 1959 and replaced by the present instrument in 2011). In the Lady Chapel at the east end, Carl Hoffman’s 1844 marble statue of Our Lady, acquired by Fr Clifford and Joseph Maxwell in Rome, is placed within a central apse.

Entry amended by AHP 15.06.22

List description

The church was upgraded to Grade II* in December 2022, with a revised and expanded list entry. This can be seen at

Heritage Details

Architect: J. A. Hansom (from a design by Mr Ramsey); George Goldie.

Original Date: 1848

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*