Building » Clifford – St Edward King and Confessor

Clifford – St Edward King and Confessor

Chapel Lane, Clifford, West Yorkshire

An outstanding church of striking neo-Norman design. Inspired in some respects by Durham Cathedral, designed by Joseph Hansom from plans drawn up in France by an otherwise-unknown, dying draughtsman named Ramsey. The Romanesque detailing is applied consistently to the internal furnishings. Some stained glass attributed to A.W.N. Pugin. 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  Hazelwood  Castle,  the  family  seat  of  the  Vavasours.  By  the early  19th 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 Hazelwood Chapel around 1832. Mr and Mrs Ralph Grimston purchased the Wesleyan chapel in the village, formerly located where the present church tower stands, and it was converted and dedicated to St Francis Xavier on 24 December 1841 and Fr Edward Lambert Clifford was appointed priest.

The congregation rose quickly with a total of 200 reached by 1843.  The chapel of St Francis Xavier became too small and it was decided to buy the whole site and build a larger church. £1000 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 some drawings for a church on a tour of France.    These were purchased by a local man from Clifford, 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 £4222. Much of the building costs were met by the Grimston family, and the church opened on 24 May 1848. It was consecrated on 24 May 1859 with 6 bishops present, including Archbishop Wiseman. 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 by Pope Gregory XVI to Sir Edward Vavasour. The building of the church tower was started in March 1859 but suspended when Fr Clifford left the parish. Work began again in 1866 but to the designs of the architect George Goldie; this work cost £1000 and was paid for Mr Ralph Grimston. The tower was completed in 1867.


The  interior was  re-ordered  in  1991,  when  the  Sanctuary was  opened  up  by  the removal of some columns and arcading.  These were repositioned on the side walls of the Lady Chapel. The font was moved and the pulpit taken from the nave and rebuilt at the front of the Sanctuary.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the church an extension was built onto the sacristy, from designs by Peter Langtry-Langton.  The foundation stone for this was laid by Mgr Provost John Murphy V.G. on 24 May, 1998.


Church. 1845-48 by J. A. Hansom after a design by a Mr. Ramsey; tower 1859-66 by G. Goldie. Sandstone plinth to ashlar magnesian limestone, green slate roof. West tower, 7-bay aisled nave and chancel with small east Lady Chapel having north vestry and south side chapel. In Romanesque style. Tower: 5 stages. Offset clasping buttresses rise 4 stages; square stair-turret to south-west corner becomes cylindrical above 2nd stage. Open-sided 1st stage with round arches on 3 sides, vaulted soffit over blind arch into nave. 2nd stage has 2-light window to west with central shaft, scalloped capitals and shield beneath continuous, round-arched hoodmould; matching single-light windows to north and south. Inscribed panel and string course beneath 3rd stage having two, shafted single-light windows in projections which have foiled openings in gablets which rise across a corbel table and deep offset into the 5th stage to be flanked by small, paired windows. Stair-turret terminates in Lombard frieze and dome. Tower has corbelled eaves to a pyramidal ashlar roof with ribs and apex finial. Nave and chancel: south aisle has chamfered plinth and pilaster buttresses between each bay having single-light windows with shafts and hoodmoulds. Gabled porch to bay 3 has 3-order arch beneath statue niche and cross. Block corbels to the aisle eaves; ashlar copings to each end. Clerestorey: pilasters between 2-light windows with shafts, scalloped capitals and trefoiled heads. Block corbels to the eaves; shaped kneelers and ashlar gable copings with east cross. The north side is the same. East end has recessed, circular window with radial shafts and is flanked by vesicae. Lady Chapel to east has some carved eaves corbels and zig-zag frieze to hipped roof; apsidal east projection has round-headed slits and leaded conical roof surmounted by statue of the Virgin Mary. Gabled north vestry with west door under hoodmould and unshafted 1-light windows. South side-chapel has blind arcading and windows in east gablet.

Interior 3-bay arcade under west organ gallery in tower. Aisle arcades mostly with plain cylindrical piers and rough octagonal capitals to roll-moulded and chamfered arches under hollow-chamfered hoodmoulds. Three eastern bays are linked by arcading on a plinth wall to form the sanctuary; its westernmost pier to north having scale-carving and palmette capital, the opposite pier carved into a bold helix under capital carved with figures, animals and emblems of the evangelists; both of these piers have ‘turtle’ bases. Within the sanctuary the arcade hoodmoulds spring from angels holding shields. East end: 3 stepped arches on round piers with fillets and with carved capitals and linked hoodmoulds; the vessicae above have ornamental stepped hoodmoulds with pendant bosses. Within the Lady Chapel is a 2-order arch into the apsidal projection having billeted, carved and lettered ornament under hoodmould; semi-domed niche within has Carrara marble statue of the Virgin Mary signed ‘Hoffman Rome 1844’. Screen of intersecting arcading into the southern side chapel.

Romanesque font; octagonal stone pulpit with arcaded sides; altar has sarcophagus behind arcaded sides and arcaded reredos surmounted by 6 massive candlesticks. Stained glass: some attributed to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (Lady Chapel and north aisle); some other glass by Lusson and Bourdant of Paris and Mons, dated 1854. Joseph Maxwell of Boston Spa bought the design for £50 from Ramsay then dying of consumption on an estate in Traquair, Scotland; the design was passed onto Joseph Hansom for execution. Foundation stone laid October 1845 and opened in 1848 although not consecrated until 1859.

Heritage Details

Architect: Joseph Hansom (from a design by Mr Ramsey). Tower by George Goldie.

Original Date: 1848

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II