Building » Morley – St Francis

Morley – St Francis

Corporation Street, Morley, Leeds 27

A fairly modest stone-built early twentieth-century Gothic church by Edward Simpson, with elaborate sanctuary furnishings post-dating the First World War. The church, presbytery and former schoolrooms form a good group on the edge of the Morley Town Centre Conservation Area.

Morley grew in the nineteenth  century with over forty textile mills. Mass was said at the Oddfellows’ Hall from 1889, served by priests from St Mary’s, Batley. In 1898 a mission was established and Fr John Hanlon took up residence in Cross Street as the first priest. He died in 1901 and his successor Fr Frederick Mitchell started building a church and schools in 1904 on adjoining land in Westfield Road, from designs by Edward Simpson. The church was opened on 30 May 1905. The original dedication was to St Francis de Sales, later changed to St Francis of Assisi.


The church is orientated north-south but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

Stone-built Gothic church with attached schools and presbytery. The church and schools date from 1905, architect Edward Simpson of Bradford. The sacristies are attached to the presbytery, facing the parking area at the back of the church, and are said by Fr Galvin to be later (possibly 1920s); they may also be by Simpson.

The church runs parallel with Corporation Road and consists of a nave of five bays with wide trefoil-headed three-light windows with a lean-to western porch (no longer in frequent use). The appearance of this elevation is currently marred by discoloured polycarbonate window protection, which obscures the tracery and gives the building an abandoned look. Prominent, steep slate roof with clay ridge tiles; raised parapets with stone copings at either end; there is a stone cross on the eastern nave gable and a raised bellcote on the western gable, containing one bell. There is no tower. The chancel is lower and narrower and consists of two bays, with two trefoil-headed clerestorey windows and plain windowless lean-to side chapels. At the west end, the single-storey former school buildings run at right angles to the main axis of the church, presenting a gable end with two large windows and stone stacks at each end. Shallower slate roof and raised ventilators on the ridge. Their rear courtyard elevation shows a return with half-timbering in the gable, and contemporary workshops/garages of similar character adjoining.

The current main entrance to the church is from this rear courtyard side. The interior consists of a wide aisleless nave and short chancel with side chapels. There is a western gallery in the nave, supported on timber posts and struts, with a panelled front with curved central projection. The gallery underside has been enclosed with glass to form a narthex area. Stepped five-window arrangement at east end, the organ concealing one window. Open scissor braced roof to nave and pink painted plaster walls. Oak benches with pierced trefoils in the ends. Parquet floor with carpeting to circulation areas. There is a good collection of early twentieth century and interwar stained glass in the nave windows, plus one more recent window commemorating Canon Austin Moran, priest at St Francis’ for 41 years. Tall moulded chancel arch with responds,  and on either side lower arches to the side chapels. Canted compartmented timber ceiling to chancel, lean-to roofs to chapels. The chancel is side-lit, with statues in the recesses in between. Paired arches on either side giving onto the side chapels. No east window but three large painted metal (?) panels in recesses depicting Franciscan saints. Similar panels over the doorways in the north chapel (Lady Chapel), of three-dimensional Art Nouveau character. The altars are all post-1918, commemorating the war dead – that in the Lady Chapel given in memory of R. Murraney (d. 1918), that in the south (Sacred Heart) chapel in memory of John Phillips (d.1916) and the elaborate marble high altar with crockets and finials and elaborate central tabernacle cover given by the people of the parish in memory of parish dead. The mensa has been moved forward to allow for westward celebration. The marble altar rails, which survive in front of the side chapels, were erected in 1921 by the parish to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Fr W. Dobson, parish priest at St Francis’ for 27 years. The octagonal font is also now located in the Sacred Heart chapel. In the north chapel there is a Lourdes grotto and a pulpit is placed before the north side of the chancel arch.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1904

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed