Building » Driffield – Our Lady and St Edward

Driffield – Our Lady and St Edward

Westgate, Driffield, East Yorkshire

A fairly unusual church in its combined use of red brick and terracotta and neo-Norman design. Modest but nicely and consistently detailed and with striking internal arches. The architect Edward Simpson designed a number of Catholic churches in the north of England.

In the early 1880s there were about a hundred Catholics in Great Driffield. Mass was first said in a private house and subsequently in the Corn Exchange. Bishop Lacy visited the town in 1883, a visit which generated interest in building a church, an ambition realised three years later. The church was paid for by Lady Herries of Everingham Hall.


Norman-style church, built of bright red brick with terracotta dressings (yellow brick dressings to the presbytery), with clay tile roofs. The church comprises a gabled nave with a broadening or transept like projections and a narrower apsed sanctuary towards the road. Tall gabled bellcote on the west gable. Simple round-headed windows throughout. At the west end, two much taller windows, with a smaller one in the gable between. Continuous sill band and impost band linking the windows. The northwest porch projects only enough to give the entrance a stepped surround of three orders. Chevron, nailhead and other Norman-type decoration.

The interior surprises with its two great Norman-style arches of great breadth. The effect is of a crossing but there is no tower and only rather insignificant transept-like projections (deeper on the north side). The arches have three orders of columns with trumpet-like capitals, the arches with chevron, ballflower and billet moulding. Similar decoration around the window heads throughout, all done in yellow terracotta. Continuous billet frieze below the windows. The interior brickwork is painted, cream in the nave and a rather lurid turquoise in the sanctuary. Open altar on Norman-style arcades to three sides. This has been brought forward from the low stone wall behind. Communion rail, again designed as a Norman arcade, set between the arch from the nave to the ‘crossing’. Plain but substantial roof with scissor-bracing to the nave and with stop chamfer detailing to the sanctuary tie beam and diagonal beams. The church is largely carpeted over wooden floors. Plain open-backed pine pews. Large framed painted canvas of the Virgin and Child hanging on the west wall, probably a copy of a sixteenth century Italian painting. Stations of the Cross, round-arched wooden framed painted panels.

List description (the church was listed in 2015, following Taking Stock)


Summary: A small Roman Catholic church by Edward Simpson built in 1886 in Romanesque style utilising brick and terracotta. The presbytery is not included in the listing.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and St Edward, 1886 by Edward Simpson, is listed Grade II for the following reasons: * Architectural interest: as a small Romanesque style church with an impressive interior; its bold use of terracotta ornamentation and the wide chancel arch being particularly notable features; * Historic interest: the relatively modest exterior of the church could be interpreted as an illustration of the continuing sensitivity of Roman Catholics in small rural market towns in the 1880s, avoiding overt outward display after centuries of persecution.

History: The church of Our Lady and St Edward was constructed following a visit to Driffield by Bishop Lacy in 1883. At that time, worship for the 100 or so Catholics in the area was conducted in the Corn Exchange. The church was built to the design of Edward Simpson in 1886 and paid for by Lady Herries of Everingham Hall near Market Weighton. The presbytery, which forms a southern extension to the church, was added sometime between the survey dates of the 1910 and 1927 Ordnance Survey maps. The presbytery is not included in the listing. The relative modesty of the exterior of the church, its lack of a tower and general low height may all have been a result of limited funds. However the church is on a minor road, set well back from the street frontage with its most impressive external architectural elaboration (its entrances) being to the rear. This suggests a deliberate design approach to avoid overt public display, perhaps indicating continued sensitivity, decades after Catholic emancipation, in this small rural market town.

Details: Roman Catholic Church, 1886, by Edward Simpson. Romanesque style. MATERIALS: red brick mainly laid to English Garden Wall bond with yellow terracotta dressings, and clay tile roof. PLAN: Apse; chancel with shallow projection to the north forming a small side chapel; aisle-less nave. Projecting from the nave is a shallow north porch and a vestry linking to the presbytery to the south, the presbytery being excluded from the listing.

EXTERIOR: relatively modest. Elevations are divided with moulded red brick string courses at plinth, just below window sill and impost levels. Windows are lancets with simply moulded jambs and more ornate Romanesque round-arches in yellow terracotta. The glazing is also ornamental with each window featuring leading in blocks of chevrons alternating with square lattice. The roof is continuous over the nave and chancel, extending as a cat-slide over the small side chapel. Gables are stone coped: a gabled bellcote rises at the west end and a stone cross forms a final to the east end. A tall boiler chimney rises from the intersection between the roofs of the vestry and nave. The nave is of five bays with the north porch at the western end. This is simply gabled but has a Romanesque doorway of three orders with the yellow terracotta arch rings featuring dog tooth, chevron, and nail head ornamentation. The planked double doors are hung on ornate strap hinges. The west end has three lancet windows, the central being shorter but set higher. The single bay chancel projects slightly to the north, forming a side chapel, and has triple lancets to both north and south elevations. The apse, which is built in header bond and is smoothly rounded, has five evenly spaced lancets. The vestry extends as a low cross wing from the eastern two bays of the south nave wall. It is lit by two lancets on the east side which break the eaves line and are accommodated by a plain verged gable. The west elevation has a Romanesque doorway.

INTERIOR: The chancel and sanctuary arches are wide, each being supported by three orders of stone columns, the three arch rings being decorated with seven bands of Romanesque ornamentation formed with yellow terracotta including chevrons, nail heads, dog-toothing, billets and diaper patterns. Window and doorway reveals are deep, their round-arched heads also featuring a selection of yellow terracotta ornamentation: those to the nave showing variation between windows and those in the apse being identically detailed. Just below the window reveals there is a billet string course and a moulded string course links the windows at impost level. The roof structure is exposed, with arched braced principal trusses supported by shaped corbels, the common rafters being scissor-braced. The semicircular apse roof has an arch-braced kingpost. There is no division between the chancel and the small side chapel to the north. The main entrance to the church has a modern, inner porch: this is not of special interest. One of the two doorways to the vestry now forms the entrance to a confessional.

FITTINGS: stone high altar with arcaded front. A low stone arcade also forms an altar rail beneath the chancel arch. The small side chapel has no fixtures. The nave contains simple oak open-backed bench pews with kneelers. Affixed to the nave walls are the Stations of the Cross, being painted panels in round arched wooden frames. To the west wall there is a large framed painted canvas of the Virgin and Child, thought to be a copy of a C16 Italian painting.

STAINED GLASS: the nave windows contain blue and purple coloured glass accentuating the arrangement of chevron and square lattice leading. The only pictorial stained glass in the church is in the three central windows of the apse. The right hand lancet contains an image of the Virgin and Child, the left hand one an image of St Edward, in memory of Lord and Lady Herries, founder of the church. The centre lancet showing Christ’s crucifixion is in memory of Edith Mary Forster. These windows are dated between 1893 and 1919.


Books and journals: Pevsner, N, Neave, D, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire – York and the East Riding, (1995), 441

Other: “Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough: An Architectural and Historical Review” Architectural History and Practice Ltd. March 2008

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1886

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II