Building » Leeds (Gipton) – St Nicholas

Leeds (Gipton) – St Nicholas

Oakwood Lane, Gipton, Leeds 9

An advanced design by Weightman & Bullen, comparable in some ways with their slightly earlier church of St Ambrose, Speke (Archdiocese of Liverpool), notably in the roughly square plan, high level glazing, and adjoining openwork campanile. The austere character of the exterior somewhat belies the refined nature of the interior, where the quality of light and space complements its advanced liturgical design. The building has been little altered since it was built in 1961, and houses a number of furnishings of good quality.

The parish was created in 1940, when the first parish priest, Canon Holdright, purchased a seven-acre marshy site from Leeds Corporation. The intervention of war and subsequent planning and fundraising delays meant that the church was not built until 1961, to an innovative modern design by Weightman & Bullen of York (contractor M. Harrison & Co. of Leeds).The building cost £46,000 and the furnishings a further £16,000. The school was opened in the following year.


A large church of innovative modern design by Weightman & Bullen, 1961. Approximately eighty feet square in plan, with chapels and confessionals giving off the south aisle, western narthex and baptistery, the latter surmounted by a campanile. Predominantly glazed upper walls to the north, south and west sides, plum coloured brick walls below and at the corners, with projecting burnt headers on the north side. The east wall is blind. The external roof pitch rises from west to east, towards a high ‘tower’ raised over the sanctuary, lit by a clerestorey window on its west side. At the west end, to the west  of the entrance, a single-storey chapel (formerly the baptistery) from which rises a tall (about 70 ft) openwork reinforced concrete campanile, a modern interpretation of a traditional Romanesque design, in six stages and surmounted by a shallow pyramidal roof and illuminated cross. On the south side, the attached sacristies, covered walkway and presbytery form a courtyard.

The main worship space is roughly square in plan, with ample high level windows on the west, north and south sides. Concealed lighting from the clerestory windows in the sanctuary tower cast light onto the altar and reredos wall, the latter some 50ft in height and covered with white and gold Swedish mosaic. The marble altar has a grey-green slate frontal, incised with three gilded crosses and raised on three steps; the sanctuary is paved throughout in white Sicilian marble. The tabernacle behind the altar and against the east wall is raised on a marble pedestal, and has elaborate gilt doors. The timber crucifix above this is part of the original design but an angled canopy originally suspended over the altar has been removed at some stage. The original communion rails are in situ, a simple modern design of black and gold Italian marble with brass cladding to the uprights. At the north side of the sanctuary is a large white marble pulpit with incised gilt lettering. At the south end is the font, a tapering design in black and white marble with a polished copper cover with jewelled studs. This has been moved from its original location in the baptistery, where it was surmounted by a tall spindly cross (now truncated) incorporating a small engraved depiction of the Baptism of Our Lord and chains leading to concealed gear for lifting the cover.

The main seating area of the nave has a woodblock floor and good quality simple hardwood seating. Tapering reinforced concrete piers and frame carry a raked, folded fibrous ceiling which rises towards the east end, intended to give the effect of foreshortening the nave and thus bringing the altar closer to the congregation. Originally this ceiling was painted white and gold, complementing the reredos wall in the sanctuary, but is currently painted in maroon and white. Clear glass to the continuous high level windows on the north and south sides, abstract coloured glass, mainly shades of blue with some red, on the west side. An aisle gives off the south side, with two side chapels to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, at the east and west ends, separated by confessionals. The Sacred Heart chapel to the side of the sanctuary is lit by thick dalle de verre glass in blues, reds, purples and greens, by Pierre Fourmaintraux of Whitefriars Ltd. The side altars originally had unpolished black marble statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady by John Bunting, art teacher at Ampleforth College.

At the west end of the church, west of the entrance narthex, is a weekday chapel, square on plan and originally the baptistery. This also has thick abstract dalle de verre glass by Fourmaintraux on all sides. Originally there was a wooden parquet floor with a lower white marble floor around the font, but the space is now levelled and covered by green carpet squares. At the centre there is now a portable altar incorporating a crucifixion panel, in the style of Earley Studios of Dublin. The central space is marked by four  reinforced concrete piers, the substructure for the campanile structure that rises above the chapel. There is a good set of oil painted modern Stations of the Cross on the north side of the nave.

Heritage Details

Architect: Weightman & Bullen

Original Date: 1961

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed