Woodlands Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
A pleasing 1950s brick church of simple modern design with classical references; the previous church survives as a parish hall.
By the end of the ninteenth century the eastern side of Harrogate was expanding towards the village of Starbeck. In 1892 it was reported that over a hundred new houses had been built in the area. A separate parish was founded in 1910 and Fr Saxton from St Robert’s in Harrogate came to celebrate Mass in the Old Hall on the High Street in Starbeck. Fr Saxton had engaged the architect W. H. H. Marten to create a new Lady Chapel at St Robert’s in 1906 and now asked him to design a church for Starbeck. This church was opened in 1912 and was designed in Marten’s characteristic Arts and Crafts style. At first the church was served by priests from Harrogate but Fr Thomas Parkin came out of semi-retirement to become parish priest and he lived in a house in Woodlands Drive.
During the middle decades of the twentieth century, the surrounding area developed into a large residential estate and in 1955 plans were drawn up by the architect R.A. Ronchetti for a new church and presbytery. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Heenan and the building finally opened in 1957. The old church was converted into a parish hall and refurbished thoroughly in 1993 when new kitchen and W.C. extensions were added.
An elegant, simple modern design with classical details, constructed of Fletton-type bricks under a grey-blue tile roof. Of a basic cruciform plan form; the west, entrance front, presents a gable elevation with central porch doorway with brick pilasters to either side. Above there are three round arched window openings, the central one containing a statue of Our Lady. Massive squared pilasters rise on either end of the elevation up to the gable and meet the dressed stone projecting eaves. The apex of the gable is surmounted by a stone cross. The north and south flank elevations are of six bays with five round-arched windows arranged between squared brick pilasters.
The interior is a single volume with a shallow convex tile roof providing an acoustic baffle. Entry is through a single-storey vestibule with the organ gallery above. The church was designed to accommodate 300 and a central alley is flanked by simple wooden pews with a cross incised at the ends, painted blue. The internal wall is of exposed brick to dado height, above the surface is plastered and painted white. The sanctuary is raised up by a single step, the original altar rails now removed. A forward stone altar of plain design with a similar altar against the east wall. A restrained Gothic timber pulpit is by ‘Mouseman’ Thompson of Kilburn. The stained glass windows at the east end depict Christ in the centre with to the right St Wilfrid and to the left St Aelred. These were given to the church by Leo Francis Fattorini in memory of his wife Alberta Lucy and may be by Clokey and Co. of Belfast. The modern octagonal stone font with wooden cover was originally placed near the west end and has moved to its present position next to the sanctuary. In 1992 the Lady Chapel, sited in the northern transept became Blessed Sacrament chapel; the modern stained glass was added in 2001.
Architect: R. A. Ronchetti
Original Date: 1957
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed