Building » Howden – Sacred Heart

Howden – Sacred Heart

Knedlington Road, Howden, East Riding of Yorkshire

A relatively modest design by the nationally-known Catholic architect J. A. Hansom. The main interest now lies in its plain but cleanly expressed exterior. The roofs inside are nicely detailed, but the only fittings of interest are the altar and stained glass at the east end of the south nave aisle.

It seems that a mission was begun here in the late 1840s by Fr Robert Cooke and Fr Ambrose Camburini, Oblates of Mary Immaculate. A temporary chapel was built by Fr Cooke after he was refused permission to use the town hall; by 1850, 150 Catholic families are recorded. The present church designed by J.A. Hansom was begun in 1850 and opened on 3 July 1851. It was then in the Diocese of Beverley, later the Diocese of Middlesbrough, and transferred to the Diocese of Leeds in 2004. When built, it was on the outskirts of the town, its closest neighbour a police station of 12843 by H. F. Lockwood. Possibly in the 1930s, a small grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes was created in a north aisle window embrasure. Around 1980, the area beneath the west gallery was enclosed to create a porch and meeting space. At the same time, the western aisle bays were separated to create a kitchen to the north and toilet to the south and some pews were removed from the back of the nave. The attached three-storey presbytery has undergone a number of extensions and changes, most recently to provide a parish centre on the ground floor, accessible from both the church and the former front door.


See also list description, below. Although the church is aligned north-south to fit the corner site, the compass points used here are ecclesiastical, with the main altar at the east.

The simple plan and lack of sculptural detail suggest that money was tight; indeed, the hood stops to the west door that would have been the only sculpture on the building were never carved and remain plain blocks. Nonetheless, the building has a clear outline and when first built, the clean yellow/white bricks would have been quite dramatic. Apart from the western bay on the north where the northwest turret obscures  one  quatrefoil, all six clerestory bays have paired quatrefoil windows echoing the paired aisle windows.

Internally, the roofs are well-proportioned and neatly designed. The nave arcades are supported on round columns (not octagonal as in the list description), with a complex corbel for the east responds and an octagonal respond to the west beneath the timber gallery. The arches emerge from tall broaches on round moulded capitals, an early fourteenth century feature that Hansom uses elsewhere. The five apse lancet windows are set within delicate blind arcading. There is no chancel arch, but the apse has four radiating timber ribs springing from corbels that rise to a traceried truss on the chord that echoes those of the nave. The nave trusses rise from wall shafts that sit on stone corbels. The aisle roofs have arched trusses behind each nave column, so continuing the high level visual interest.

The sacristy and link to the presbytery are accessed from a door at the east end of the north aisle and from the chancel. A blocked door in the sacristy may have given access to a pulpit. The three-light window at the east end of the south aisle is almost completely obscured by a large reredos behind what is now the Sacred Heart altar. The tall central canopied niche is flanked by six niches with angels. The well carved stone frontal to the altar depicts the Virgin Mary, flanked on the left by a Victorian gentleman with his seven sons and on the right by his wife with nine daughters (including a baby). These may be Francis Burnett and his wife, who are commemorated in the adjacent aisle stained glass windows. Pevsner states that the stained glass of the ‘apse and Lady Chapel by Barnett of York, 1852’. The apse windows are of that date, but the south aisle chapel windows must be at least thirty years later. Perhaps the Burnett family were instrumental in the foundation. All other windows have twentieth century obscure glass, but some clerestory windows have an etched or painted foliage motif to them. The modern timber altar may incorporate some nineteenth century stall fronts, but otherwise the only piece of furniture of note is a late seventeenth century chair in the chancel that appears to be mainly original.

List description


Church. 1850-52 by J A Hansom. White brick with ashlar dressings, slate roof. 6-bay aisled nave with western bellcote, apsidal chancel. Gabled west front: trefoil-headed double-leaf door in pointed arch held on round shafts with plain capitals, flanked by trefoil-cusped single-light windows with 2 tall trefoil-cusped lancets and a trefoil above. To left: octagonal 2-stage staircase turret with narrow square-headed windows, string course between stages, band of trefoils to top and pyramidal roof. To right: stepped buttress with gablet. Aisle west windows: 2-light trefoil-cusped windows with quatrefoils punched through the spandrels. Aisle bays articulated by stepped buttresses with gablets. Paired trefoil-headed lancets to aisles. Paired quatrefoils to clerestory except for a single one to westernmost bay. 3-stepped trefoil-cusped lights with quatrefoils above to east window of south aisle. East window to north aisle obscured by presbytery. Chancel: string course and 5 trefoil-cusped windows. Interior: arcades of pointed arches on octagonal piers. This church is aligned north-south so the points used in the description are ecclesiastical rather than cardinal. Neave D, Howden Explored, 1979. Pevsner N, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding, 1972.

Listing NGR: SE7454627956

Heritage Details

Architect: J. A. Hansom

Original Date: 1850

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II