Building » Sheffield (Ecclesall) – St William of York

Sheffield (Ecclesall) – St William of York

Ecclesall Road, Ecclesall, Sheffield, S11

A church which has grown from a modest stone-built chapel of 1905. It was significantly enlarged in the interwar period and underwent a major remodelling after the Second Vatican Council. All phases involved architectural practices of regional significance. It is the 1970s remodelling which now prevails, with a dramatically-lit internal space and some furnishings of note.  

From 1767 Sheffield Catholics attended Mass in a chapel attached to a dwelling owned by the Lord of the Manor, the Duke of Norfolk. After the Second Relief Act, in 1816, the Duke paid for a larger chapel to be built, but this soon became too small to meet the needs of the growing congregation. St Marie’s church replaced the chapel in the city centre. A chapel-of-ease opened in 1863 to serve the Crofts area on the south side of the city. The architect Matthew Hadfield remodelled a former independent chapel which was blessed and opened by Bishop Cornthwaite on 11 January 1863.

The Crofts area had become deprived by the early twentieth century and this led to plans by Sheffield City Council to redevelop the whole area. The compensation received allowed for the purchase of land by the brickworks at Banner Cross for a new church. This was designed by Charles Hadfield and his son Charles Matthew Hadfield; the foundation stone was laid on 26 November 1904 and the church formally opened on 8 June 1905.

The Ecclesall Road area continued to expand and it became necessary to remodel the church; this was undertaken Hadfield & Cawkwell in 1925. The church was turned around on its axis, and a new interior was created with the addition of a nave and aisle, while the former nave and chancel formed the sanctuary and sacristy. This allowed for an increase in seating capacity from 100 to 400. The builders were D. O’Neill & Son and the work cost £3,000.

The mission became an independent parish in 1931 and a year later the presbytery and a parish hall were built.

Further radical changes took place after the Second Vatican Council, in 1970-1. John Rochford & Partners of Sheffield were appointed to expand the church after planning permission was refused to build a new church on a site acquired along Ecclesall Road South. The internal structural divisions were removed, allowing for a reconfiguration of the internal space, under a new roof structure. The result, in Evinson’s words, ‘is a tour de force of well-lit space’. The approximate cost was £30,000.

In 2002 the parish hall was replaced by a parish centre designed by Globe architects. This was blessed and opened by Bishop Rawsthorne of Hallam on 1 November 2003.


The stone-built church of 1905 is on a rectangular plan in a simple Gothic style. The remodelling and reconfiguration of the church in the 1970s has resulted externally in a new church, also stone-faced and with a copper-covered roof. This forms a bluff gable end towards the Ecclesall Road, where there is a prominent concrete cross tied to the church by a concrete beam. The church is entered through a large lobby area via the parish centre where memorial glass and a statue of St William from the previous church have been reset.

The interior is a dramatic space, dominated by the timber ceiling. The roof is in two halves, raised on the north side to provide clerestory lighting. The walls are mainly plastered and painted white. The white marble steps of the sanctuary complement the Swedish green marble of the altar, tabernacle stand and font pedestal (all of 1972).  Fittings of note include the crucified figure of Christ behind the altar, designed by John Petts, which is made from mild steel rods and strips, and vibrant abstract stained glass windows: the Resurrection, by James Atkinson Crombe, Tree of Life, by Paul Quail (1987) and the Holy Spirit, by Sally Pollitzer. The Stations of the Cross (1981) are by the Maltese artist Carmel Cauchi. The bench seating is of c.1971.

Heritage Details

Architect: M. E. Hadfield & Son; Hadfield & Cawkwell

Original Date: 1905

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed