Nursery Lane, Ovenden, Halifax, West Yorkshire
A bold and distinctive 1960s church of considerable character by an architect known for his Catholic churches in the Yorkshire area.
Ovenden is now a northern suburb of Halifax but was a separate settlement. In 1921 a former Anglican chapel in Nursery Lane was purchased, a small stone building with a steep roof. St Malachy’s became a parish in 1933 but it was not until 1960 that the by then inadequate church was replaced with the present building with seating for 580.
The church has the altar facing northwest but in this section all references will be to conventional orientation, i.e. as if the church faced east.
A large and tall church in a stripped down round-arched style. Local sandstone and blue slate roof. Aisled nave with transept-like projections at either end and apsed sanctuary. The church has a monumental quality in its bold massing. The west front has breadth to it as either side of the gabled end of the nave are very tall staircase towers. On the side elevations these are matched by gabled projections at the eastern end. In between the tall aisles have parapets and, on the north side, a central projecting element with just a slight gabled form in the centre. The windows are immensely tall and round-headed, either singly, in pairs or in a stepped tripartite arrangement. The clerestory is has groups of four round-arched windows. The apse has an even run of eleven round-headed windows, almost full height, with recessed panels at the base. The elevations are handled symmetrically. Big round-arched entrance into a recessed porch, the arch springing almost from the ground and with alternating moulded voussoirs as large distinct blocks.
The interior is of equally immense scale owing to the lack of arcades, the nave being open into the aisles with the clerestory supported on beams, the soffits of which are given a very shallow arched form and supported on broad pilasters of vaguely Classical form at each end. Much smaller similar arches open from the east end of the aisles into chapels which also open into the sanctuary. A (structural) cranked beam defines the junction of nave and sanctuary. The architect had intended columns for the nave but was asked by Bishop Dwyer to remove them. The roof is pitched and divided into panels with a bold pattern of decorative designs. In the rounded apse the applied decoration has an almost Moorish character. Continuous sill to the clerestory windows with a wavy line below. Plain west gallery beyond the aisles. Round arch to the north projection in which is set the confessionals with a Calvary over. The sanctuary has brightly-coloured contemporary stained glass, possibly by Clokeys of Belfast. Altar, tabernacle stand and communion rails of distinctly 1950s/60s character, the latter with metal panels between banded piers. Side chapels (Sacred Heart and Our Lady) with marble altars in front of a plain round arch with sculpture figures in front. Open-backed pews with arched ends, some with an extra pullout seat. Organ at the northwest corner with pipes both in the gallery and towards the aisle. Large pendant light fittings (designed by the architect) in the form of tall cylinders of white glass in a light metal framework. Veined black marble font, round bowl on a tapering pedestal with four fins and a circular base.
Architect: J. H. Langtry-Langton
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed