Building » Ilkley – Sacred Heart of Jesus

Ilkley – Sacred Heart of Jesus

Stockeld Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

A modest Gothic Revival building by the Bradford architect Edward Simpson, with an ambitious and successful re-ordering of 1979 by Peter Langtry-Langton.

The recusant history of Upper Wharfedale is dominated by Myddleton Lodge, which is situated on the northern side of the river valley, overlooking the town of Ilkley. As a recusant house it acted as a base from which priests could go out and serve the local community. The Middleton family were also generous patrons both in their support and protection of the Benedictine missioners at Myddleton and the Jesuit missioners at Stockeld Park, Wetherby, and in endowing churches. During the eighteenth century, the upper rooms of the Lodge were used for Mass. By 1780 the number of recusants listed as living in Ilkley was 95.

In 1825 William Middleton built a chapel at Myddleton Lodge; he also endowed a school, which by 1851 had around fifty pupils. Ikley itself was developing as a spa town and the arrival of the railway in 1865 led to a considerable increase in population. Peter Middleton had already donated land on Stockeld Road in the town for the provision of a new church. A new building incorporating both a school and church was designed by Edward Simpson of Bradford. The plan was that of a rectangle with the chancel and nave to the east and an open schoolroom to the west. The stone for the building came from Bradford quarries. It was opened by Bishop Cornthwaite on 23 July 1879 with both Benedictines and Jesuits in attendance.

The decline in the fortunes of the Middletons led to the sale of the Lodge in 1904. Upon being sold again in 1922 it was bought by the Passionist fathers and the house chapel reopened and dedicated in 1929. In 1985 the Diocese of Leeds purchased the Lodge from the Passionists and the house became a Pastoral Centre.

The centenary of the church in 1979 was marked by a substantial reordering by Peter Langtry-Langton. This saw the former schoolroom turned into a narthex with a new stone porch added to the west end of the building; the central front arch is from St Walburga’s Church in Shipley. The side walls of the nave were removed and replaced with reinforced gently splayed walls pierced with vertical stained glass windows. The link with the presbytery was also improved and the sanctuary reordered.


The principal elevation facing Stockeld Road is the west front, rebuilt in the 1979 reordering. To the centre is a projecting gabled portico of coursed, irregular gritstone with slate roof. Three pointed arches with sandstone dressings. The central arch is re-used from St Walburga’s in Shipley and the stone has been re-dressed and carved.¬†Over this is a small niche containing a statue of Our Lady and the gable itself is surmounted by a small stone cross. To the rear on either side, the four-paned windows of the front elevation of the original school are visible. The south and north elevations reveal the later single storey splayed walls with four tall vertical windows.

Entry is via the 1979 narthex which was the schoolroom, now a kitchen and WC area. To the east three arches lead into the church; the two outer ones are now glazed. High above the central archway, up in the gable is the west window depicting the Sacred Heart, this and the other glass in the church designed by Robert Hickling of John Hardman Studios, Birmingham. A central aisle is flanked by simple wooden pews with carved trefoil details, some appear to be original and others made to match are placed on either side. The nave is open to the painted scissor-braced trusses of the roof. Two bays into the nave the side walls have been pushed out creating a fan-shaped area which has allowed the pews to be arranged around the sanctuary. The old and new roofs have been supported by a large steel beam negating the need for vertical aisle supports; instead a geometric stub arcade ‘hangs’ from the ceiling marking the extent of old nave wall. The lighting and stained glass produce a harmonious sense of space and colour. The south wall contains the Lady altar, re-using the slate of the original altar. Behind this a stained glass window depicting Mary, Queen of Heaven. The other windows in this wall depict the emblems of Our Lady, the Holy Family and the Holy Spirit. The opposite north splay wall has windows showing the emblems of baptism, the Passion, the Eucharist and the Holy Trinity.

The sanctuary has been brought forward slightly and now projects into the nave, to the right the stone, carved octagonal font on polished stone shafts. To the left, a new lectern has been created from the base of the original pulpit, the oak enriched by later carving. A new forward altar is carved from Bolton Woods stone from Bradford. The east end of the sanctuary is a canted apse with a centrally placed York stone podium upon which stands the tabernacle. Over this is an illuminated oak canopy formed from the original pulpit. This is surrounded by pairs of lancet windows containing more stained glass dominated by a rich, tranquil blue colour. These windows were altered and adapted during the reordering and some of the wall surfaces have been finished with a rough texture.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1879

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed