Building » Leeds – Immaculate Heart of Mary

Leeds – Immaculate Heart of Mary

Harrogate Road, Leeds 7

A late example of the revived Byzantine-Romanesque style, popular for Catholic churches between the wars. The external sale and massing are impressive, though the detailing somewhat spare. The interior, by contrast is a fairly intimate space, eschewing historical detail.

This was the first new parish to be established in Leeds after the Second World War. Before this, two Mass centres had been established at the northern end of what was then Holy Rosary parish, one in the Queen’s Arms in Harrogate Road and one at the Corner House social club, Moortown. In 1945 The Grange, a Victorian house set in 3.5 acres near the junction of Harrogate Road and Street Lane, was purchased and a new parish created. Fr Joseph McShane (previously at Holy Rosary) was appointed parish priest. Mass was said in The Grange (which also became the presbytery) until Fr McShane acquired two old army huts which were brought here and converted to a temporary chapel, opening in August 1946.

In 1949 Fr McShane purchased the Broomhill estate on Harrogate Road, consisting of a large stone-built house dating from 1838, set in five acres. Broomhill House became the presbytery, and The Grange was sold to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion for development as a convent and school (later a hospice). A large parish hall was built at a cost of £6,000, using volunteer parish labour. It opened in March 1956. The church, built in modern Romanesque style from designs by R.A. Ronchetti (architect also  of the nearby St Paul the Apostle, opened in 1953), was opened by Bishop Heenan on 12 March 1956. It cost £28,500, and was consecrated by Bishop Dwyer three years later on 16 June 1959.

In 1957-8 the substantial Lourdes grotto and Calvary group was added in the church grounds, again using parish labour and the builder Alberti of Manchester. In 1976 St Andrew’s Middle School (now Immaculate Heart of Mary primary school) was built on the land to the south of the church, from designs by Weightman & Bullen of York. In 1983 the sanctuary was reordered by J. H. Langtry-Langton & Partners, involving the removal of the original high altar, pulpit and communion rails. At the same time a narthex was formed by the enclosure of the underside of the gallery. In the 1990s various improvements were carried out by Fr Heskin, including the provision of an organ, and the replacement of flat felt roofs with lead.


A large red brick church in Modern Byzantine/Romanesque style. Nave, aisles, eastern and western transepts, short sanctuary. The liturgical west (geographical east) front has a double height gabled porch with a large crucifix over the entrance. Tall western transepts with a further entrance on the north side, and at the middle a polygonal bell tower, 50 feet in height, and articulated by angled buttresses and surmounted by an openwork belfry/cupola and copper dome. The brickwork is in Flemish bond, the roofs a combination of pantiles on the pitched areas and lead on the flat areas (concealed by parapets). The windows throughout are tall and narrow, with simple round arches. At the liturgical east end, a lower sanctuary, with a copper-clad half dome over the apse.

By contrast with  the ambitious  scale and  massing  of  the exterior, the interior is surprisingly small and intimate. Reached via the porch and narthex (the latter formed in 1983 by the enclosing of the underside of the western gallery with glass screens), it consists of a wide nave of five bays with piers and segmental arches giving onto the narrow circulation aisles. The architectural treatment is simple and modern, with exposed brick walls (plastered at clerestory level), and none of the Byzantine-Romanesque detailing found on the outside. The canted ceiling with square panels and inset lighting is modern, possibly belonging to the 1983 remodelling. At the west end, superimposed triple arcades, enclosed at the ground floor, open to an organ/choir gallery and additional seating area above. At the east end, a wide segmental sanctuary arch with low narrow openings on either side, communicating with the sacristies etc beyond. The walls of the sanctuary and apse are plastered and painted. The while marble forward altar carved with vines etc dates from 1983 and was installed in memory of Fr McShane. The tabernacle stand in the apse also belongs to this reordering, as do the openings on the north and south side of the sanctuary (the original granolithic font was relocated to the north of the sanctuary). Good original stained glass in the apse, designer/maker not established, depicting the Crucifixion etc, said by a parish representative to have been funded by the War Damage Commission. There is some  nineteen century stained glass in the aisles, reused from a redundant Anglican church. Plain seating in the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: R. A. Ronchetti

Original Date: 1956

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed