Neville Road, Osmondthorpe, Leeds 9
A large and little-altered modern Romanesque church of unusual plan, built in 1960 for the Oblate Fathers by the well-known Manchester firm of Reynolds & Scott. The interior is particularly impressive, both for its spatial qualities and for the quality and expense of the marble, hardwood and mosaic furnishings.
The church was built to serve Osmondthorpe, an area of interwar social housing. A 3.5 acre site was purchased from Leeds Corporation, and the parish placed under the care of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The presbytery and school were built first (in 1934), while a former army hut was brought to the site to serve as a temporary church. This was replaced in 1937 with a steel-framed building, also intended as temporary. In 1950 this was damaged by fire but subsequently repaired. Work began on a permanent and more worthy church in 1960. Designed ‘on traditional lines’ by the Manchester firm of Reynolds & Scott (job architect Gordon Thorne ARIBA) and opened by Bishop Dwyer in 1962, the church was designed to hold 600 worshippers. It lies over a geological fault, necessitating deep reinforced concrete piles.
An ambitious design in modern Romanesque style. The church is 155 ft in length and the campanile 90ft in height. Basilican plan, with nave, aisles, western portico and narthex, campanile, three pairs of transepts, sanctuary and flanking chapels. Six confessionals and a sacristy block give off the south side, former baptistery gives off the north side towards the west end. The church is built of Staffordshire red bricks laid in Flemish bond, with red sandstone stone (from the Hollington quarries at Rocester, Staffs) detailing. Welsh slate roof to the sanctuary, nave and transepts, copper roofs to the former baptistery, tower and western portico.
The west front is gabled, with the central third slightly recessed and faced in red sandstone, incorporating a large round-arched window. In front of this, a sandstone portico running almost the full width, with paired Tuscan columns and corner piers, a boxy lean-to copper roof over the entablature. Asymmetrically placed to the south side is the tall campanile. Of four stages, with flat buttresses at the corners and triple arched openings on each face at the belfry stage, containing a bell cast by Taylor’s of Loughborough; copper-clad pyramidal roof over. On the flank elevations, the lean-to aisle roofs are broken in each alternate bay by double height gabled transepts with large round-arched windows incorporating red sandstone mullions. Curved projecting baptistery to northwestern transept, with entrance porch alongside. Triple-arched clerestorey windows to the aisle bays, and at the east end three stepped windows on each side and shorter lower projection with narrow side lights and blind east wall.
The entrance leads into a narthex area with holy water stoups brought from the Benedictine Priory of St Catherine, Waterford, stated (somewhat unconvincingly) in the 1962 publication to be tenth century in date. In the narthex, as throughout the church, the quality of the detailing and materials is consistently high. Hardwood doors and screen of leaded lights of geometrical pattern separate this area from the main space. This consists of a nave of six bays (including the western gallery bay, over the narthex) with alternating groin vaulting (to the transeptal bays) and barrel vaulting. The walls and ceilings are plastered and painted off-white, the cornices and pilasters are painted white. Block hardwood floor to the nave. A wealth of West African mahogany fittings, including the canopy over the high altar (painted in scarlet, blue and gold, with a pelican in her piety, carved by Robert Bridgeman of Lichfield), doors to sacristies and confessionals, gallery front and nave seating. Mahogany also the ceilings to the side chapels and the former baptistery (now the location of the boiler). The floors and walls of the side chapels are embellished with gold leaf, marble and gold mosaic (e.g. in the window reveals). Widespread and lavish use of marble including Travertine for the dado, chapel and sanctuary walls and pillars, Rose de Ver in the nave columns (Perlato capitals), Perlato to the altar rails (with Siena inlay to the piers and pink Rosso octagonal columns), Travertine and Perlato producing a chequerboard effect on the chancel floor, Irish green marble to the columns on either side of the chancel, white Grecian marble to the main altar and tabernacle, with inlaid onyx panels. At the west end of the nave, in the gallery, organ by J. W. Walker of Ruislip (responsible also for the organs at Buckfast Abbey, the London Oratory and Ampleforth Abbey), its handsome classical case on either side of the west window, finished mainly in gold and white. The west window contains a large stained glass window, the design based on Murillo’s painting of the Assumption. This and all the marble, mosaic and stained glass in the church, including the good Stations of the Cross and the baptistery glass, is by Earley Studios of Dublin.
Architect: Reynolds & Scott
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed