North Street, Keighley, West Yorkshire
Important as an early church by Pugin (albeit that his early works were often rather dull), and in the vanguard of the emerging Gothic revival. Pugin’s church was retained and turned around when the church was more than doubled in size in 1906-7 by Edward Simpson. Important also for its richly finished interior of 1908-15.
Before 1835 Catholics in Keighley had to walk some 8 or 10 miles over the moor to Myddleton Lodge at Ilkley to hear Mass. There was a brief time during the 1820s when a French emigrant priest said Mass in Keighley, but in 1835 a permanent mission was set up in the town and an upper room in Queen Street used. The land on North Street was purchased from the Duke of Devonshire in 1838 and the presbytery built (it has a date stone of 1838). The church was opened on 21 November 1840 and is one of the first churches by A. W. N. Pugin, then heading the Gothic revival in England, and was illustrated in his Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England. It was described in Kelly’s Directory as ‘by far the handsomest building in Yorkshire’. Building had not been straightforward as in December 1839 the unfinished belfry collapsed into the nave. By 1886 there were plans to enlarge the church but funds did not permit this for twenty years when, on 30 June 1906, the foundation stone for the extension was laid. The architect for the enlargement was Edward Simpson of Bradford and the enlarged church opened on 24 September 1907. The church was doubled in size and turned around so that Pugin’s sanctuary became the entrance and Pugin’s west wall was taken down and the church extended westward with transepts and a much larger sanctuary (with side chapels) facing west. The presbytery was linked to the church at the same time.
The church has the altar facing west but in this section all references will be to conventional orientation, i.e. as if the church faced east (as Pugin’s original church did).
The list description (below) is very brief and not entirely accurate with regard to a new west end. Period illustrations of Pugin’s church show a five-bay nave, whereas now there are six, suggesting that the nave was extended one bay further east in 1906-7. Pugin’s sanctuary remains and his sacristy became the baptistery in 1907. The church now comprises nave and north aisle, lower western (entrance) bay with north baptistery, broad twin-gabled transepts, sanctuary embraced on both sides by chapels and sacristies, and chapel and confessionals on the north side of the nave. The church is built of coursed squared sandstone throughout, with Welsh slate roofs.
The nave has single lancets between tall buttresses, the transepts have immensely tall three-light windows with early 14th century style tracery. The sanctuary has three similar but smaller windows on the north side but has two storeys of ancillary accommodation, with domestic-style mullioned windows, on the south side. The east wall is blind. The west entrance is reached by a flight of 12 steps as the site slopes down towards North Street. Paired entrances beneath flat arches with a kind of inverted castellation. Trumeau between the doors rising to the apex of a semi-circular arch springing from well below the top of the doors and with square blocks around the arch, a decidedly Edwardian motif. Portland stone sculpture of St Anne and Virgin (1912, cost £25). On the north side of the nave a marble statue of the seated Virgin and Child, a fine art piece and one that ought not to be out of doors.
The interior is dominated by Simpson’s sumptuous sanctuary, contrasting with the plainness of Pugin’s nave. The decorative work was largely carried out 1908-15. The sanctuary is raised up six steps, accentuating the dramatic effect. The windows on the north side are matched by traceried openings on the south side into the organ chamber. Arcades below the windows with depressed four-centred arches. Canted panelled roof with coving and small quasi-hammerbeams on corbels. Full-width reredos (1915, cost £1,210) with statues in niches, pinnacled Gothic canopies and mosaic panels. Blind windows above with decorative mosaic panels (1925, cost £525), Christ in Majesty etc. Stone and marble High Altar, moved forward, with mosaic panels in sunken quatrefoils. Alabaster altar rails (1908, cost £135) and retaining walls behind with blind arcades with marble shafts. Open pulpit (1910, cost £150), alabaster, a Gothic arcade with ogee arches. Gothic panelled timber choir stalls (1915, cost £190). Equally rich side chapels; small, with Edwardian Freestyle entrance arches, alabaster communion rails and marble-lined walls. Carved altars and integral reredos, that in the Lady Chapel, in Caen stone, with fine relief sculptures against drapery background.
The transepts have lofty two-bay arcades and read as a widening of the east end of the nave. The octagonal piers have attached octagonal shafts with shaft rings on the nave side. Octagonal stone font placed at the east end of the nave. Various statues on pedestals around the church, including angels with outstretched wings either side of the sanctuary arch (1915) and statues under tall pinnacled canopies at the east end of the nave, Saints Patrick and Joseph (1912, cost £105). The north nave aisle is part of Simpson’s work and has round-arches dying into the imposts. Pugin’s sanctuary arch is now an arch into the entrance bay and is enclosed by an oak screen of 1930, extended upwards in a plain glazed grid. Paired Stations of the Cross, relief panels set within heavy alabaster frames (1919, cost £371). Nave pews are plain and not special apart from the westernmost pew with poppyheads and Gothic panelled ends. Black and white veined octagonal marble font in the entrance bay. The Baptistery is now used as a shop. The west window is Pugin’s east window and is of 1841 by Willement. Three other stained glass windows (not attributed), in the baptistery, a nave lancet and in the north transept.
Architect: Augustus Welby Pugin; extensions by Edward Simpson
Original Date: 1840
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II