Building » Horsforth – St Mary

Horsforth – St Mary

Broadgate Lane, Horsforth, West Yorkshire

Despite its unprepossessing exterior this is a delightful late Arts and Crafts church by Edward Simpson. The spacious and dignified interior has been enhanced by Peter Langtry-Langton’s successful reordering of 1972.

Until 1896 the Catholics of Horsforth attended Mass either in central Leeds or at Cragwood, Rawdon. At that date, a local man named John Moor rented a property, Pear Tree House, on Bachelor Lane, and Fr Charles Croskell of St Anne’s Cathedral arranged for Mass to be said there. It soon became evident that this building was too small and a plot of land was purchased on Broadgate Lane, with the intention to build a school with a chapel. This was realised through the generosity of a Mrs Helen Mahoney of Blarney, Co. Cork and the foundation stone of the new building was laid in March 1896. The school and chapel were opened in September that year.

In 1926 Fr John Curran commissioned Edward Simpson & Son to design a new church, to seat 600. The church was opened on Easter Sunday, 1928 having cost £12,000. The dedication was to Our Lady of Good Counsel, but it is more commonly known as St Mary’s.

The church was reordered in 1972 by Peter Langtry-Langton.  A new internal narthex was created and the sanctuary was adapted with a fine new decorative scheme.  A new altar and reredos were commissioned along with dalle de verre glass for the sanctuary and side chapel windows. Much of this work was carried out by Rob Hickling, who was working for Hardman & Sons at this time.


The exterior of the church has a somewhat bare, Arts and Crafts late-Gothic severity. It is built of local sandstone, with a slate roof and is of cruciform plan-form. The gabled west elevation has five bays, gradually steeping back on each side from the central bay, which contains a doorway with moulded stone hoodmould and original wooden doors. Above the door is a statue, painted white, of Our Lady. Above this is a group of three windows, the central one tall and narrow, with simple lancets to either side. The gently receding bays to the side each contain a single narrow window, with a smaller rectangular window below. Most of the windows on this elevation are covered with weathered polycarbonate sheeting, which adds to the gloomy external appearance. The north elevation has an aisle of seven bays length before it meets the projection of the transept. Similar elevation to the south, with the addition of a side entrance into the aisle and additions to the transept forming sacristies.

The interior is a spectacular contrast to the exterior; the internal space is huge but well balanced and with good simple Arts and Crafts detailing. The long seven-bay nave has been truncated at the west end to form an internal narthex through the insertion of a fine oak and glazed screen. This was installed in 1972 by Peter Langtry-Langton and the top of the screen is embellished by a decorative fibrous plaster frieze, painted bronze, depicting lilies and fleur de lys. The main section of the nave has central and single-storey side-aisles to the north and south. The interior has exposed brickwork throughout, with the exception of the window dressing, pillars and arcading, all of which are dressed sandstone. The side aisle arcades are formed by simple stone pillars which rise up to form the moulded arcading. The windows are simple lancets with plain glass quarries; the margin lights have an alternating pattern of pale yellow glass. The church is open to the roof, a wooded boarded, splayed barrel roof with a central recessed section containing braced king-posts.

The 1972 reordering reshaped the sanctuary, bringing it forward slightly in a splayed manner so that it projects forward of the two side chapels. There is an initial step up and then four more to the main sanctuary level. This whole area is covered in grey floor tiles, perhaps the least successful part of the scheme. There is a modern forward altar with brass detailing, but the sanctuary is dominated by the powerful reredos, designed by Rob Hickling and constructed out of fibreglass. This depicts a strikingly modern Christ with the symbols of the Four Evangelists. Under the reredos is a modern, relatively small high altar, again with metal detailing depicting grapes and wheat. Rob Hickling was also responsible for the dalle de verre glass in a range of pinks, reds and yellows in the east windows. To the right of the sanctuary is the first of two side chapels. This Lady Chapel has dalle de verre glass containing the letter M and fleur de lys.  The altar wall hanging is an interesting piece of 1970s textile work consisting of a number of woven panels with the colour progressing from a central deep  blue  through  to  turquoise. This is overlaid by a wooden fretwork painted picture depicting the Mother of Good Counsel and celebrating Our Lady of Genazzano, Petruccia de Nocera. The other side chapel is dedicated to St Joseph and contains dalle de verre glass in white and greens depicting lilies. The chapel is dominated by a large stone statue of St Joseph in the manner of Frederick Lawson.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Simpson

Original Date: 1928

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed