Building » Skipton – St Stephen

Skipton – St Stephen

Gargrave Road and Castle View Terrace, Skipton, North Yorkshire

A good example of an early Gothic Revival Catholic church in archaeologically correct Early English style. Fine collection of furnishings, including a reredos designed by A. W. Pugin.

The Tempest family’s private chapel at Broughton Hall, about three miles from Skipton, provided Mass for local Catholics during penal times and until St Stephen’s was opened on 15 September 1842, although it is also recorded that Mass was said in an upper room in Albert Street, Skipton, in the early nineteenth century. In 1835 a Mr Lane of Manchester drew up plans for a church at Skipton and building work began in 1836. The delay in opening the new church was caused by a dispute of ownership between Charles Tempest and Fr Michael Trappes and Bishop Briggs.

There is some uncertainty as to the architect. Mr Lane was paid £15 for plans, but drawings surviving at Broughton Hall are signed by James Flint, while others refer to the architect as Richard Love. Of the three, Richard Lane is the only one known to have practiced as an architect.

In 1850 Andrews & Delauny architects of Bradford were commissioned to enlarge the church and build a presbytery and school. The enlargement extended the church eastward and added the transept-like projections, with the church re-opening in 1853. St Stephen’s School, at the foot of the hill on Gargrave Road, was opened in 1854.


The church has the altar facing north but in this report all references will be to conventional orientation, i.e. as if the altar faced east.

The list description (below) is inadequate and is incorrect in ascribing the building to A. W. N. Pugin (who did however work for the Tempest family at Ackworth Grange). Sandstone ashlar with slate roof, a simple rectangle with west porch, south chapel, corresponding north sacristy and raised parapet, like a bell-cote, on the east gable. Early English style with mostly single lancets and prominent buttresses. The west front has a shafted two-light window with blind lancets to either side and a circular window in the gable. The gabled porch is entered from the north and south and has a pair of attached lancets facing west with a statue in a niche above. The east end has a stepped trio of lancets and a vesica-shaped window in the gable.

The interior has an undivided nave and sanctuary, without aisles and with the arch to the south chapel incidental rather than disrupting the basic rectangular space. Internally the windows are shafted. West gallery, with pretty open Gothic balustrade, added circa 1850, and the organ added in 1874. Crown post roof with semi-circular arched trusses decorated with nailhead. Six skylights flood the interior with light.

The sanctuary is richly decorated with a Caen stone reredos designed by A.W.N. Pugin (who died in 1852). Lively figures set in attenuated trefoil-headed niches, either side of the crocketed and pinnacled tabernacle. The altar was brought forward in 1975. To the left of the reredos an alabaster shrine to Our Lady, rich with sculptures, reliefs and an elaborate canopy of ogees, crockets and gables. To the right of the altar is an alabaster shrine to the Sacred Heart, equally elaborate, with a sculpture of Christ set in front of a mandorla and beneath a canopy supported on thin marble shafts. Wooden Gothic communion rails similar to the balustrade of the west gallery. The nave has seven prominent statues of saints on corbels, and framed Stations of the Cross added in 1889. The mosaic floor dates from the 1930s. On the north wall of the nave a triptych shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, added in 1885. The benches date from 1924. The south chapel is variously known as the Lady Chapel and the Tempest Family Chapel. At its entrance is an octagonal stone font and against the south wall a Gothic stone altar. The Tempest family memorials include several brasses and there are two further brasses on the north wall of the church, all of some quality. Stained glass in most windows, of good quality, and mostly by Hardman.

List description


1836, possibly by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Sandstone church without aisles, but with south-east baptistery and west porch. Early English style, with pointed lancet windows divided by statues. Richly carved reredos. Triple east lancets and 3 altars. Stained glass by Hardman. A west organ gallery. Listing NGR: SD9874151938

Heritage Details

Architect: Probably Richard Lane

Original Date: 1836

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II