Storrs Hill Road, Ossett, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
A seemly and well-proportioned cruciform church decorated with simple elements within its external brickwork.
In 1875, Fr Richard Cooper SJ, the rector of St Austin’s Wakefield, bought a two-storey joiners’ workshop and builders’ yard on this site to serve the growing population of Ossett. By removing the intermediate floor of the workshop, he created a rectangular chapel seating 200, which opened on 2 December 1877. Ossett became a parish in its own right in 1910. After the present church designed by Charles E. Fox opened in 1933, the old building became part of the parish school. After a new school was built to the north of the site beyond the Weaver’s Arms, the upper storey was removed and it was refurbished as the parish centre, seen on the left on the main approach to the church. It is not known when the square, two-storey stone presbytery behind was built; it is probably of early twentieth century date, following the creation of the parish.
The site was apparently part of a mill dam and in the early 1980s, the church was underpinned. About the same time, an area was partitioned off at the west end to form an internal entrance lobby.
The church is of cruciform plan, with a small gabled bellcote attached to the west side of the south transept. It is built of red brick with white pointing, slate pitched roofs and some stone framing to the transept windows and west doorway. The overall style is a simplified Italian Romanesque, with tall, thin, round-headed windows and simple internal brick pilasters supporting the roof. There is a continuous external plinth and moulded brick eaves course, much use of ‘soldier course’ brickwork (for instance on each gable) and decorative use of raised brick crosses.
The west facade is a measured design, with a tall central recessed round brick arch over the central west window, flanked by thinner recesses around the lower windows either side of the square stone west doorcase (now painted white). There is a blind oculus above each side window. A large golden cross on a globe is attached to the gable, rising from a raised brick cross. The gable kneeler stones appear to be cast stone. The prominent foundation stone to the north has also been painted and is quite weathered; oddly, its Latin inscription contains no date. The (over) large platform across the whole facade in front of the west door has four steps and a disabled ramp to the south side.
The three-bay nave has thin, tall round-headed windows within recesses alternating with raised brick crosses. The two transepts have lower roofs to the nave, but they are higher than the chancel beyond. Both have eastern extensions, that on the south forming the Sacred Heart Chapel flanking the east end of the nave. That on the north is of three storeys, with a gallery over the sacristy lit by a large porthole window and a partly underground boiler house with its chimney rising up against the east gable of the nave. Both transept gable ends have three round-headed stone framed windows (the central larger than the other two) enclosed by a recessed brick round arch. The north transept window stonework includes the letters SJ. There is a large round window on the west side of the north transept, with a panel indicating the gallery floor within, but a brick buttress supports a gabled bellcote on the south transept.
The north and south walls of the chancel have a row of five segmental-headed windows under the eaves and a raised cross (with equal arms) below. There is no east window, but a raised brick cross and a blind roundel in the gable. At ground level is what looks like a gabled porch on cast stone columns, but is a shelter for commemorative plaques to ‘children who died before coming to birth’. There are small diamond-shaped plaques of different coloured marble set into each wall of the chancel at mid-height.
Once beyond the west draught lobby, the whole interior is open to view. The ceiling is three sided, but the (steel?) trusses rising off exposed brick pilasters have been panelled into six sides; they divide the nave into seven bays. The eastern bay has a lower six-sided unpainted ‘ceilure’, otherwise the ceiling is decorated with alternating multi-coloured and plain panels. Each nave bay has a round wall arch enclosing the window. The equivalent arches in the second and third bays from the chancel arch on the south are open to the Sacred Heart Chapel, supported on a stone moulded pier and filled with a modern wood and glass partition. The same arches on the north are only open at gallery level as the sacristy is below. Like the chancel arch, these arches have no mouldings. The chancel arch is flanked by two plain niches and simply ceiled in three cants. The only architectural decoration to the chancel is a shallow moulded stringcourse below the high windows, now doubled in size by cable trunking. The large crucifix attached to the east wall may once have hung in the chancel arch. Michael Middleton has recently supplied the wooden altar, lectern and font and will shortly deliver a tabernacle in the same simple style.
Architect: C. E. Fox
Original Date: 1933
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed