Building » Leeds (Headingley) – Our Lady of Lourdes

Leeds (Headingley) – Our Lady of Lourdes

Cardigan Road, Leeds 6

A large hall-cum-church of the 1920s, perhaps of interest primarily for its 1959 internal remodelling by Derek Walker.

In 1890 Provost Browne of the Cathedral bought a cottage in Poplar Street off Burley Road, which became a Mass centre for Catholics in the Burley area, and shortly afterwards a new mission of the Sacred Heart was established. In 1905 Bishop Gordon invited the Jesuits to take over. In the early 1920s Fr James O’Brien SJ acquired a large house in Cardigan Road, the present presbytery, and in about 1925 plans were drawn up by J. Armstrong of Leeds for a new church hall next to this. Unfortunately work came to a standstill soon afterwards, due, in the words of the silver jubilee publication, ‘to the fraudulent activities of the architect’. Work resumed three years later, this time under the direction of Edward Simpson, and modified so that the building could be used as a chapel-of-ease to Sacred Heart as well as a parish hall. The building was completed in 1930, and was originally also dedicated to the Sacred Heart.

In 1932 a new choir gallery and organ were installed at the west end of the church. In 1939 the present parish hall was built as a Boys’ Club. In 1947 the Jesuits withdrew and in 1954 the Cardigan Road church became a separate parish with the additional dedication of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In 1959 the interior was radically reordered by Derek Walker ARIBA of Walker & Biggin. His account in the Catholic Building Review states:

‘The problem confronting the architects was to bring some order and serenity into a building which had been designed originally as a church hall…The solution was to strip away the existing sanctuary and start completely from scratch with the shell. The sacristies were placed at the back of the church enabling the sanctuary to be the complete width of the nave. Then lights were punched in the roof and side walls to give some natural light on to the altar. The floor of the sanctuary was lowered by some two feet and following this the roof was vaulted by a series of prefabricated trusses running across the nave; a directional emphasis was then given by timber slats fixed to the trusses and running to the altar. To add to this directional thrust given by the roof members, a rhythmic build up at the back of the high altar was given by a series of screens placed at right angles to the side walls of the sanctuary. These screens, in the spandrel shape of the barrel vault, were partially left open to retain the open atmosphere sought for in the sanctuary’.

This reordering scheme, and its fitting out with new artworks and furnishings, is described further below.

In 1995 a screen and narthex were provided at the west end of the church.


Large church-cum-hall, red brick laid in garden wall bond with stone banding and dressings, mansard slate roof. Large unaisled space with western narthex and eastern basement. The main west front has a projecting single-storey flat roof full-width porch containing entrance lobby and WCs etc. Rusticated piers framing the entrance and at the corners with Doric pilasters at the entrance. Statue of our Lady of Lourdes on the parapet over the entrance. Central Venetian window above, with stone aprons and banding, parapet and coping. Banding continues along flank elevations, with the bay divisions marked by stepped buttresses. One large mullion and transom window per bay. East elevation has Venetian window and smaller side lights, and windows to basement.

The character of the interior is dominated by Derek Walker’s 1959 reordering. There is a large lobby at the west end with ancillary facilities giving off, beneath a western gallery of 1932, enclosed in 1995. Large pipe organ of 1932 on the south side of the gallery. The main space of the church is a single volume, dominated by the barrel vaulted roof with timber slats, as described in Walker’s account, and the ensemble at the east end. On either side of the sanctuary, a structure of screens composed of metal grilles and stained glass panels (Christ to the left and Our Lady of Lourdes on the right), with figures in purples, lilacs, blues, yellows and white by Roy Lewis, then a student at the Royal College of Art. There are decorative frieze bands just above head height in the sanctuary screens, depicting angelic heads. The altar reredos is a smooth white plaster panel, originally accentuating the cantilevered slab and richly modelled base (with Christ and the Apostles) of a Hoptonwood stone altar, by the Leeds sculptor Jill Messenger. This altar and a life-size crucifix over the altar, also by Messenger, have now been removed and replaced with more conventional pieces. Also no longer present are the stainless steel sedilia and servers’ seating, stainless steel communion rail and mahogany and fibreglass gates, all designed by Walker. However  his  suspended  metal  canopy,  representing  a  crown  of  thorns,  survives above. To the right hand side of the sanctuary, recessed within the re-entrant screens, is a Blessed Sacrament chapel with polychrome enamel decoration to the tabernacle – a more recent addition.

There are no other furnishings of particular note. Hexagonal font of nineteenth  century character with painted quatrefoils on each face, plain benches presumably of circa 1930, geometrically patterned leadwork to the windows.

Heritage Details

Architect: J. Armstrong, Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1930

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed