West Lane, Keighley, West Yorkshire
An unusual re-use of an historic farm complex as a church and presbytery. The church itself is essentially a building of 1939 and not of inherent architectural importance but it is of historic interest and the remainder of the complex is of both architectural and historic significance.
The Briggs, a prominent local family, owned Guard House Farm from the 18th century or earlier. They were Congregationalists and their private cemetery still exists further east off West Lane, between North Dean Road and Lustre Street. The Council acquired the estate in the 1920s for the Guard House and Braithwaite estates developed over the subsequent decades. There were many Catholics in the area and Canon Russell, of St Anne’s church, hoped to acquire the Guard House but the Briggs’ were not keen to sell to the Roman Catholic Church. Whilst on holiday in Paris Canon Russell made a novena in the church of Our Lady of Victories and on his return he was able to purchase the Guard House. The Keighley News of 4 November 1939 reported that ‘The building of a new Roman Catholic school and church on the site of Guard House is being held up on account of the war, the Board of Education having suspended operations as far as the school is concerned. By skilful planning the coach house and granary have been remodelled and transformed into a chapel at which Mass was said for the first time last Sunday’ (29 October). The school did not open until 1960. Our Lady of Victories became a parish in 1945. The church was re-ordered in the 1990s when the altar was moved from the west wall to the north wall and the altar was reduced in size. New windows were installed in the 1990s and further renovations and alterations were made in 2001-2.
This is accurate regarding the former farm house (now the presbytery) but is inaccurate with regard to the barn and does not describe the church. The 1934 Ordnance Survey map (photo bottom right) shows that the original complex consisted of the main west/east range of house to the right and attached outbuildings to the left. Further outbuildings formed an L to the south. These must be the ‘barn, at right angles’ mentioned in the list description, but have largely been demolished and there are no ‘giant relieving arches’. Part of the main outbuildings were at some time incorporated into the house. The church stands to the rear, or north, of the outbuildings and extends beyond them. The coach house and granary, which are said to have been converted to the church, were largely detached from the house and outbuildings, but in the conversion were extended southwards to link up with the other buildings, i.e. roughly doubled in depth. Evidence for this can be seen in the west wall where there is a clear change in the masonry.
The church is a rectangular gabled building of stone under a blue slate roof. It has a low flat-roofed porch at one end. The church has large rectangular windows on three sides, but the west wall (which originally had the altar) is blind. The windows have been renewed in aluminium. The interior is a plain plastered rectangle with a shallow segmental curved ceiling. The original timber reredos has been placed against the long north wall, partly obscuring a window. The altar is set forward and has been cut down. The carved wooden Station of the Cross are said to have come from St Anne’s Keighley but this seems unlikely as St Anne’s has an older set. Octagonal wooden font and tabernacle stand and plain open-backed pews. Several statues including a plaster Virgin and Child, possibly Continental.
The presbytery has a round-headed staircase window and a good mid-Georgian staircase; open string with two turned balusters per tread and carved tread ends. Of the same period panelled doors and cupboards. Also some late-Georgian joinery.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1791
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II