Building » Halifax – St Bernard

Halifax – St Bernard

Range Lane, Halifax, West Yorkshire

A good example of the work of Edward Simpson who ran his practice from Bradford and was active during the period 1870-1914. It is in the tradition of the big, rather austere, urban churches of James Brooks and his imitators. Conceived on a grand scale but with sparseness and heaviness of detailing. All the more dramatic for its precipitous siting. The austerity of the interior is relieved by the lighter Gothic furnishings.

The Haley Hill district of Halifax grew considerably in the 1880s and a school for the area (also designed by Edward Simpson) had been opened in 1873. In 1894 the site in Range Lane was acquired and the foundation stone of the present church was laid on 13 July 1895. Progress was slow and the church did not open until 24 February 1897. In 1909 a fire destroyed the sacristy and damaged the church. A new side altar was introduced in 1910, another in 1911 and in 1913 the sanctuary was extended and a new organ provided. An alabaster war memorial altar was added in 1919 by Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham. Sanctuary blessed 1913. Dedicated 17 June 1986.


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.

The church consists of an aisled nave with tall clerestory, sanctuary with polygonal end, sacristies at the northeast corner and transept-like projections at the west end. It is built of local sandstone with a blue slate roof. The west front is powerful because of its austerity, with just one large seven-light window set high up (and a number of very small windows), and with the steep fall of the land, almost a storeys’ height in the width of the church. The front is given extra width by gabled transept-like projections and lean-to projections beyond. On the north side there is a full storey below  the  church  of  largely  unrelieved  brickwork. The aisles have small  trefoil-headed windows and the clerestory, tall lancets set in pairs. Vesica shaped windows to the transeptal projections. One similar window set high up at the east end, with cusped surround. The sanctuary has two-light windows with Y-tracery set high up. On the north side the sacristies are built up vertiginously against the church with a broad gabled bay and a gabled dormer with attached chimney.

The interior is lofty and spacious, an impression enhanced by the placing of all significant windows at high level. Gothic arcades with octagonal piers and chunky octagonal moulded capitals. The mouldings of the arches die into the imposts and the hoodmolds stop on pronounced blocks. Canted and panelled nave roof with heavy tie beams on corbels. Panelled lean-to aisle roofs. The sanctuary has a timber vault the ribs on exaggerated stone shafts, almost completely round, with stiff-leaf capitals and bulbous bases on corbels. Chancel arch with odd block-like responds with Gothic canopies facing north and south. Big square blocks to the hoodmoulds, looking as though carving of them was intended. West gallery with Gothic organ case on the south side.

The church has some rich fittings. Large painted and gilded Gothic altarpiece in the sanctuary. It is not clear whether this was introduced in 1902 or 1913. It is said to be the work of Buissine of Lille. The painted scenes depict the Annunciation, Nativity,  Adoration of the Magi and the Resurrection. Sculpture of Christ in Majesty at the apex. The altar has been moved forward, beneath is the figure of Christ lying in the tomb. Pinnacled Gothic screen to either side forming a corridor giving access to the sacristy. Similar stalls and reading desk. The sanctuary is raised up steps and has a marble pavement. Remnant of marble altar rails. Sacred Heart altar within an arch at the east end of the south aisle, with Gothic joinery, dating from 1911. At the east end of the north aisle the altar of Our Lady of Lourdes, top-lit and also with Gothic joinery, as a substantial canted projection, the upper parts raking and with tall pinnacles. In the north aisle towards the west end an altar to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, set in a recess with side windows and a broad arch springing from low down. Painted and gilded altarpiece. Matching recess opposite with alabaster communion rails and war memorial altar with sculptures of saints and the Deposition under Gothic  canopies and with inscription tablets. By Boulton & Sons of Cheltenham, 1919. Plain open-backed pews. Stations of the Cross carved in deep relief and in heavy integral wooden frames. Mobile timber font with Gothic tracery in sunk panels. Brass light pendants which look as though they were designed for gas, with four arms around a decorative central element and suspended from the apex of the nave arches.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1895

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed