Building » +Leeds – Cathedral Church of St Anne

+Leeds – Cathedral Church of St Anne

Great George Street, Leeds 1

  • Image copyright Alex Ramsay

  • By Mtaylor848 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

St Anne’s is unique in England as a cathedral built in the Arts and Crafts Gothic style. Almost square on plan, it was in one phase between 1902-4, replacing an earlier cathedral built in the 1830s and demolished in 1904 to make way for road improvements. The fitting out of the building by the architects Eastwood and Greenslade  is  of  a consistently  high quality, and gives the building an overall stylistic unity. This quality has been respected in a major recent reordering by Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams Architects.

After the Reformation the Catholic faith was sustained in Leeds by local recusant families, notably the Killingbecks of Allerton Grange and the Leighs at Middleton. After the passing of the Second Relief Act in 1791, Fr Albert Underhill, a Dominican priest, built a small chapel in Lady Lane in the town centre. By 1836 this was proving inadequate  for  the  growing Catholic  population  and  a  large  new  Gothic  Revival church dedicated to St Anne was completed in 1838 at the top of what is now Park Row. The architect was John Child, who had also been responsible for the design for the first St Patrick, Leeds (1831-2). The church was a prominent local landmark,  with a spire of 148 feet,  and  is recorded in Atkinson Grimshaw’s  atmospheric  painting  of  1882,  Park  Row  by  Moonlight. Its finest internal features were the elaborate and colourful high altar and reredos, designed by A.W. Pugin and installed in 1842, and a pulpit designed by J.F. Bentley, 1897, alabaster and incorporating a central opus sectile panel of Christ and Disciples.

With the creation of the Diocese of Leeds in 1878, St Anne’s became the cathedral. In 1899  Leeds  Corporation  compulsorily  purchased  the cathedral, presbytery and parish schools (which had been opened in 1841) for a realignment of the junction of the Headrow and Park Row. In compensation for this, the corporation provided a new site nearby on the corner of Cookridge Street and Great George Street. Bishop Gordon’s choice of architect was between three Yorkshiremen: John Kelly (architect of  St Patrick,  Leeds  and  Holy  Family,  Leeds,  but  then  nearing  retirement), J.F. Bentley (then working on the designs for Westminster Cathedral) and the London- based but Leeds-born architect John Henry Eastwood. Both Bentley and Eastwood were founder members of the Guild of St Gregory and St Luke, established to raise the standard of design and furnishings in Catholic churches. Eastwood was chosen, and with his assistant Sydney Kyffin Greenslade prepared over 600 drawings, now held in the diocesan archives. As originally intended, the new cathedral was to have a prominent tower at the southwest corner facing towards Cookridge Street, but threatened litigation from adjoining premises concerned about loss of light meant that the tower was moved to a less imposing position on the north side. The contract was awarded to William Cowlin & Sons of Bristol and the foundation stone laid by Bishop Brindle of Nottingham on 26 July 1902, the Feast of St Anne. On 29 April 1904 Mass was said for the last time in Child’s old cathedral before demolition of that building got underway. Eastwood’s new Arts and Crafts Gothic-style cathedral opened for worship in the following month, and was formally opened by Bishop Gordon on 16 June 1904. The cathedral was finally consecrated on 18  July  1924,  when relics  of  St  Tranquillinus  and  St  Victoria,  brought  from  the Catacombs in Rome, were sealed within the high altar.

When Eastwood’s building first opened, only the most immediately necessary furnishings were in place. Pugin’s high altar and reredos were saved for re-use, as was Bentley’s pulpit. Otherwise, furnishings were added over time as funds permitted, many of these through the efforts of  Canon Thomas Shine, who was Administrator from 1908  until  1921,  when  he  became  Coadjutor  Bishop  of  Middlesbrough  and embarked on a church building programme in that diocese. Much of the design flair is Greenslade’s. His high altar and reredos were installed early on, but the designs for the furnishing of the sanctuary were not prepared by Eastwood until 1907, and fundraising for these only got underway from 1910.  From 1912 the sanctuary and Lady Chapel walls were painted with murals by the Italian artist Cesare Formilli. Eastwood’s bishop’s throne, with a great Gothic canopy, was installed in 1913. About the same time the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour was installed, designed by Eastwood  as  a memorial  to  the  first  Administrator,  Canon  Croskell.  The  War Memorial chapel was fitted out in 1920. In 1928 Formilli’s wall paintings on either side of the reredos were replaced with versions of the same design in mosaic, made in Venice  under  Formilli’s  directions.  In  1930  the  canons’  stalls  were  added,  from designs by Eastwood.

After his appointment in 1951, Bishop Heenan instigated various simplifications to the design and furnishing of the interior, in tune with the austerity of the time. Formilli’s paintings (but not the mosaics) were removed from sanctuary, as was the canopy over the bishop’s throne. Bentley’s pulpit was moved from the nave to the entrance of the sanctuary and new hanging lamps installed in the nave. 1954 saw the Golden Jubilee of the Cathedral, which on 10 January was the setting for the first ever televised High Mass in this country.

More radical changes were made for the Cathedral’s Diamond Jubilee, during the time of Bishop Dwyer and Administrator Thomas Murphy. This was the period of the Second Vatican Council, with its renewed emphasis on active congregational participation in the liturgy. In 1963-4 the Cathedral was reordered by Weightman and Bullen at a cost of £40,000. Two flights of steps and a low screen were removed from the entrance to the sanctuary, and replaced with a single flight in Swedish green marble and low marble altar rails. Bentley’s pulpit was retained but adapted. The altar was detached from the reredos to allow for westward celebration and the sanctuary repaved with travertine and marble. Eastwood’s cathedra, stalls and screens were replaced with new oak fittings in a diluted Gothic style. In the nave new paving was laid and the original chairs replaced with hardwood pews. New gates of a vigorous Arts and Crafts character were installed at the entrance to the baptistery.

In 1987 the external stonework was cleaned and repaired and the boundary railings reinstated to Eastwood’s design (the originals having been removed in wartime). In 1991 the cathedral was re-roofed and the building floodlit. Most of these works were grant aided by English Heritage under its Cathedral Grants scheme.

In 2003 the new Cathedral Hall was built at the northeast corner of the site, from designs by Damond Lock Grabowski and Partners.

More recently, a major internal reordering has taken place, initiated by Bishop Konstant and Administrator Mgr Peter McGuire, but revised and completed under Bishop Roche and Canon McCreadie, Cathedral Dean (architect Richard Williams of Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams Architects).   The works lasted over a year, and the Cathedral was formally reopened by Bishop Roche on 13 November 2006. In 2007 the Pugin altar and reredos were conserved and restored, with a grant from English Heritage.


See list description, below. This contains a mis-spelling of Weightman & Bullen, and incorrectly dates their work. The description of the interior ought to be revised to take account of the recent reordering. Weightman and Bullen’s communion rails and Bentley’s pulpit have been removed and a new sandstone altar and ambo introduced at the entrance to the sanctuary, approached from the nave by curving steps. A new cathedra in the style of Eastwood and Greenslade has been introduced at a higher level behind this, flanked by other clergy seating, and prominent in axial views from the nave towards the sanctuary and restored reredos. The 1960s screens to the sanctuary aisles have been removed and new seating for the choir provided behind the clergy seating and below the reredos. In the nave, a York stone floor with underfloor heating has been installed, and new benches have replaced the 1960s pews. The font has been moved from the former baptistery, minus its base, to the west end, where new glass doors have also been introduced within a new lobby designed to be in keeping with Eastwood and Greenslade’s work. Reconciliation rooms of a contemporary glazed design have been introduced adjacent to the south transept. The Lady Chapel has become the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and Pugin’s reredos conserved and restored. The Stations of the Cross, dating from 1912 and painted by Cesare Formilli, have been cleaned and better displayed.

Internal features and furnishings of note not mentioned or inadequately described in the list description include the following:

  • The font, now located at the west end of the nave and doubling as a stoup, from the old Cathedral. Late 19th century, Gothic. Hexagonal with carved sides, lacking its base.
  • Statue of the Sacred Heart, 1922 by Formilli, in the former baptistery. The arts and crafts-style railings to the former baptistery are from Weightman & Bullen’s reordering, 1963-4.
  • In the chapel adjoining the baptistery, the pieta, 1913 by Boulton of Cheltenham, modelled on Michelangelo’s pieta in St Peter’s, Rome.
  • War Memorial, 1920, by Formilli. Above the altar is the foundation stone, laid on 26 July 1902.
  • Chapel of St Joseph, designed by Eastwood and executed by H. H. Martyn of Cheltenham, 1904, with a stone altar frontal and oak and gilded reredos.
  • Chapel of the Sacred Heart, designed by Greenslade and executed by Nathaniel Hitch, 1904, marble altar incorporating an alabaster panel of the Last Supper; reredos with Sacred Heart, Moses and Crucifixion.
  • Sanctuary reredos designed by Greenslade and executed by Flint Bros of Clapham, 1904. Central gilded relief of the Coronation of the Virgin, flanked by 8 statues of Yorkshire saints.
  • Mosaics around the reredos made in Venice under Formilli’s direction. 1928.
  • Above the entrance to the Lady Chapel, a large statue of Our Lady Immaculate by Boulton of Cheltenham, 1933.
  • Tall Gothic shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, 1913, designed by Greenslade and executed by H.H. Martyn & Co. of Cheltenham, 1913, in south transept.
  • Stained glass: The only one of Eastwood’s designs to be realised was the east windows. Glass in the south transept, depicting the Temptation and Transfiguration, was installed before the Second World War, brought by Canon Shine from another church. Crucifixion (1927) and Resurrection (1929) in the north transept by Kayll and Read, who also provided the delicate patterned glass, installed in the rest of the church in 1931.
  • Shrine of St Urban, with Greenslade’s reliquary, surmounted by a painting commemorating Yorkshire martyrs, by Richard Lomas, 1988.

List description (Cathedral, presbytery, walls, railings & gates)


Roman Catholic cathedral and presbytery with boundary walls, railings and gates. 1902-04 with C19 remains. By JH Eastwood and SK Greenslade; re-ordered 1960 by Wakeman and Bullen. Cathedral: Ketton stone ashlar, coursed Horsforth sandstone, slate 2-pitch roofs; presbytery: cream and red brick, steeply-pitched slate roof with diamond motif to brick stack between bays 1 and 2 and deep eaves; stone boundary walls, cast-iron railings and gates. Arts and Crafts Gothic Revival style.

PLAN: on an almost-square trapezoidal site which slopes up from west to east, the Cathedral having a wide 4-bay nave, north and south aisles and short transepts, 4-bay chancel with organ on north side and octagonal sacristy to south, 2-stage north tower, a ceremonial west entrance, and south entrance from St Ann Street; 2 storey with attic and basement presbytery and offices on the north-east corner of the site, entered from Great George Street.

EXTERIOR: west elevation: porch with 7 steps to low double gates with cross and scroll motifs and paired panelled doors under arch surmounted by a large stone Crucifix with flanking figures fronting the west window of 3, 6, 3 lights; flanking buttresses. South facade: steps up to deeply-recessed paired panelled doors under a round arch, left; 2, and 3-light windows with elaborate tracery under deep segmental and pointed arches; sacristy with single-light windows and octagonal roof projects right, boundary wall has ashlar coping surmounted by plain bars, thicker standards with splayed finials and overthrow at entrance. North facade: 2-stage tower with plinth, narrow windows and niches, 2-light louvred belfry windows, clasping square buttresses, pyramid roof; presbytery left: steps up to round-arched stone porch right, 4-panel door, top 2 panels glazed, small-pane cross windows of 5 lights, a canted bay to left of entrance. North side boundary wall and railings similar to those on south side, fronting presbytery but interrupted along range fronting transept.

INTERIOR: cathedral has elaborate font on north side; side chapels with statues and altars, short transepts, high chancel with organ on north side. Roll mouldings to nave piers, ornate niches high on plain walls, the 3 flanking the chancel arch having statues, shallow pointed arch to roof; east end mosaic with figures rising to small east window above fine carved and painted reredos. Fittings from the earlier church include reredos in south chancel chapel designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, completed by 1842, Decorated details, cresting and 9 figures; pulpit by JF Bentley, 1897.

HISTORICAL NOTE: the first church was built in 1838 and became the cathedral of the new Roman Catholic diocese of Leeds in 1878. JH Eastwood was a founder member of the Guild of St Gregory and St Luke devoted to the improvement of church craftsmanship.

(A History of Modern Leeds: Yates, N: The Religious Life of Victorian Leeds: MUP: 1980-: 256; Pevsner, N & Metcalfe P: The Cathedrals of England).

Listing NGR: SE2994733908

Heritage Details

Architect: J.H. Eastwood and S.K. Greenslade

Original Date: 1904

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II*