Building » Leeds – Holy Rosary

Leeds – Holy Rosary

Chapeltown Road, Leeds 7

A large interwar church in a stripped modern Early Christian style, forming a good townscape counterpoint to the Grade II-listed former synagogue. The interior has been much altered and contains no furnishings of great significance apart from the original baldacchino.

A church and schools of the Holy Rosary were built in Barrack Street in 1886 to accommodate the rapid growth of the Catholic population in the Sheepscar area. With housing expansion between the wars this church soon became inadequate and in 1927 architects were invited to submit plans for a new church. However, it was not until 1935 that work began on the present church, built from designs by W. H. H. Marten FRIBA in collaboration with G. Alan Burnett ARIBA. This was on a new site, the former garden of Ashbourne House in Chapeltown Road (which became the presbytery). The ground falls sharply towards Chapeltown Road, allowing for the creation of a parish hall beneath the new church. The completed church, which was designed to seat 500 people in the nave and transepts and cost £12,300, was opened by Bishop Pollit of Leeds on September 30 1937. At this time the parish was also created.

By the 1980s demographic shifts had led to a decrease in the Catholic population in the parish, and the church was reordered accordingly. In c1987 the nave was subdivided, leaving a smaller worship area accommodating 3-400, and new parish facilities were installed at the west end of the former nave. The east end was reordered, the Lady Chapel turned into a day chapel, the font brought from the narthex area to the sanctuary area and a new hot air heating system installed. This work was undertaken by Patricia Brown of Weightman & Brown architects, York.


A large steel and brick church in a stripped modern/Early Christian style. The church is constructed with steel girders on stanchions which carry the ground floor over the former parish hall in the basement (now dance rehearsal space). Bolted to this floor are steel principles which are carried up the walls and form roof trusses, which taper to the centre. On these are constructed, in hollow brick slabs and concrete, the floor and the roof, the latter originally finished in rock asphalt and the former in oak blocks. The chapels, aisles and narthex are floored in terrazzo. The external walls are built in solid 18 inch thick brick walls, externally faced in light antique 2.5 inch bricks from the Askern Brick and tile Co., laid in English garden wall bond with painted reconstructed stone dressings.

The church consists of nave, processional aisles, transepts, chancel with flanking chapels and entrance narthex. It is raised over a large basement.   A flight of steps leads up to the front entrance doors, which have a wide, square bolection moulded concrete surround surmounted by a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary. Above and behind this is a large round-arched window, its diminishing brick courses offering modulation around the metal framed opening, in which is set a large cross. Superimposed pilasters  of Art Deco character on either side rise to the shallow pitched parapet at the apex. To the right of this entrance front, the staircase enclosure to the gallery, with one round-arched window, lower and slightly more set back, the west elevation of the north aisle. The northern (presbytery garden) return elevation has blank walls to the aisles and paired arched clerestory windows to the (originally seven) bays of the nave. Lower two-bay square-ended sanctuary, with triple arched clerestory windows in each bay and blank east elevation. Similar treatment on the south side, supplemented by an entrance porch to the south aisle at the west end and an entrance to the former Lady Chapel area at the east end (now provided with a wheelchair ramp).

The narthex area has some good solid doors with leaded glazing, holy water stoups etc and leads into the main body of the nave, now subdivided. Steel trusses piers, as described above, with shallow pointed arches marking the bay divisions. Plain unmoulded round-arched openings to the narrow circulation aisles. The three western bays of the nave are now converted to a parish social area, separated from the remaining worship area by a solid, full-height subdivision. However, the western choir gallery and handsome organ case remain in situ. Clear leaded glass to all the windows. Four nave bays remain as part of the worship space, the eastern two of these bisected by a larger arch marking the side chapel areas. High relief polychrome Stations of the Cross are placed around the walls of the nave above arch level. Big sanctuary arch. The sanctuary is dominated by the original arched baldacchino, of coloured marbles. The original high altar has been removed, and the baldacchino now houses the tabernacle, placed on a pedestal, presumably of c1987. Crucifix on the east wall. The simple forward altar is of Darley Dale stone and was acquired from a redundant convent chapel at Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds. The font is placed in front of the sanctuary area, having been relocated here from the narthex in the 1980s reordering. Plain seating to the nave, red carpeting throughout.

Heritage Details

Architect: Marten & Burnett

Original Date: 1937

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed