Building » York – English Martyrs

York – English Martyrs

Dalton Terrace, York, North Yorkshire

A good and fairly complete 1930s church of the traditional Early Christian style popular with interwar Catholic churches, with most of its original fittings and furnishing remaining. The church is almost identical in design to the same architects’ St Vincent de Paul, Hull. With the contemporary presbytery, the church makes a powerful and positive contribution to the conservation area in which it stands.

The mission began in 1881, with worship in a room in St. Mary’s Court, off Blossom Street. In 1889 the congregation moved to 17 Blossom Street, where it occupied the upper story of a school building. This served until the present church and presbytery were built in Dalton Terrace (church opened on 4 May 1932). The architects were Williams & Jopling of Hull, who at the same time built St Vincent de Paul, Hull, to a very similar design, but smaller. The church and presbytery were built at a cost of about £12,000; the church seated 520 people.

The sanctuary was reordered by Weightman & Bullen in 1967, when the high altar, altar rails and pulpit were removed. A new forward altar was introduced, with parquet flooring to the chancel and seating around the apse, and a new terrazzo floor in the nave alleys.


A large church in early Christian style, constructed of red brick laid in English garden wall bond, with brick and stone dressings and pantile roofs. It consists of a nave with clerestorey and chancel under a continuous roof, with plain brick apse projections to the  chancel  and  flanking  chapels.  -There  is  a  tall  Italianate  campanile  to  the southwest, linked to the church by the baptistery. The clerestorey has seven round-headed windows on each side and (as with all the windows to the church and presbytery) has attractive geometrical leaded lights. The main entrance is on the west front, in a stone surround carved with martyrs’ palms etc. Over the doorway, the stone carved arms of Pope Pius XI. and above this a mosaic panel with a female saint inscribed REGINA MARTYRUM. The entrance is framed by orders of arched brickwork and surmounted by a dentil cornice and gable. On either side, lower arched orders of brickwork with smaller, flat-headed windows.  There is a further entrance on the garden-facing side of the campanile, now reached by a wheelchair ramp. The square  campanile  is about  80  feet  high  and  is  of  four  stages,  with  flat-headed windows on each side to the lower stages. It has rebated corners and corbelled turrets at the top of the third stage, upon which sit martyrs’ crosses composed of creased tiles. The corniced octagonal bell stage has ribbed corners and four paired openings, each with a stone central shaft with carved capital. Above this, a pyramidal pantile roof topped with a cross.

The interior has moulded arches without piers to the single bay chancel, painted red to evoke the blood of the martyrs. Plain half-domed apse painted blue and side-lit with narrow windows. The seven bay arcades of the nave have round ashlar piers and cushion capitals, and moulded red brick arches with linked hoodmoulds.  Above this, the wall surface is plastered  and  painted. A  sill band  runs below  the clerestorey windows. Timber wagon roof on corbels to nave and chancel. At the west end there is a rebated round arch spanned by a choir/organ gallery, the frontal inscribed TE MARTYRUM CANDIDATUS LAUDAT EXERCITUS. Below, a central pair of doors flanked by piers with capitals, enclosing the underside of the gallery to form a narthex and repository. The aisles have strutted lean-to roofs and windows with patterned leaded glass, the timber given a polychromatic paint scheme of Art Deco character. The north aisle has a Lady Chapel at its east end, with a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham; giving off this aisle are confessionals with handsome oak doors and square glass panels (some confessionals have been removed to create a shrine or display area  for  various  martyrs’  relics  and  mementoes).    The  south  aisle  has  a Blessed Sacrament chapel at its east end, and at the west end a curtained off and disused baptistry area with a fine carved stone font and iron gates. The benches are original, of Austrian oak, moulded tops to the bench ends. According to an old unpublished parish guide, the Stations of the Cross were carved by G. W. Milburn of York.  They are octagonal, with low-relief carving somewhat in the manner of Eric Gill.

There is a handsome contemporary presbytery attached to the church, with an open loggia link on the ground floor. It is built with similar materials and detailing to the church. There are two parish halls; the small hall was built first, and the large hall later (in the 1950s).

List description (the church and attached presbytery were listed in 2015, following Taking Stock)


Summary: Roman Catholic church with attached presbytery designed in Early Christian style in 1931-2 by Williams and Jopling of Hull. The later rear extensions to the presbytery and the rear boundary wall are excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of the English Martyrs and attached presbytery is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Style: well preserved and executed example of the Early Christian style of architecture popularly employed in the inter-war period, incorporating subtle Art Deco influences; * Architectural interest: for the quality of the design, especially in terms of massing and composition of the church, campanile and presbytery; * Detailing: craftsmanship, quality materials and good design result in an impressive structure without the need for too much embellishment.

History: The first congregation of the Roman Catholic Church of the English Martyrs started meeting in a room in St Mary’s Court, off Blossom Street in 1881. The congregation later moved to 17 Blossom Street in 1889, where it occupied the upper story of a school building. This remained the church’s meeting place until the present church and presbytery were opened in 1932. The church was built to a design by Williams and Jopling of Hull at a cost of about £12,000 and could seat 520 people. The same architects also built the Church of St Vincent de Paul in Hull (Grade II) in the same year, to a very similar design to English Martyrs although on a smaller scale. The sanctuary was reordered by Weightman and Bullen in 1967, including the removal of the high altar, altar rails and pulpit. Instead, a new forward altar was introduced, as was parquet flooring to the chancel, with a new terrazzo floor in the nave and aisles.

Details: Roman Catholic church, 1931-32 by Williams and Jopling of Hull in Early Christian style. MATERIALS: thin red brick, mainly in English Garden Wall bond, with brick, tile and stone dressings. Barrel tile roofs. PLAN: the church is orientated with its entrance (west) front aligned with the road to the south west, with its ritual east end to the north east. The church has a nave with side aisles. The chancel is a simple apse, the aisles also having apses for side altars. The ground floor of the west end of the nave is partitioned off to form a narthex, above which, open to the nave, is the organ gallery. Confessionals are housed in a projection from the north aisle. Attached to the south aisle is a campanile that also forms a south porch. Adjacent, in the angle between the narthex and the west end of the south aisle, is a baptistery. Extending from the eastern end of the south aisle there is a loggia linking to the presbytery. The presbytery has a central entrance plan, orientated with the church to face the road.

EXTERIOR Chancel: this is expressed externally as a simple apse lit by two small slit windows to the sides. Nave: this is of seven bays with a round-arched clerestory window to each bay. All windows to the church and presbytery are leaded and glazed with colourless glass in a geometric Art Deco style and have slanting brick sills. The rainwater hoppers are inscribed with the date ‘1932’. Aisles: these are single-storey with four bays to the south and seven to the north, with windows matching those of the clerestory. The confessionals are expressed externally as a flat-roofed brick extension to the north aisle which has six slit windows. The apses to the aisles are blind. Entrance front: the nave has overhanging eaves with dentilated cornice and three stepped, round-arched recesses, the central of which has two orders. The main entrance is approached up two stone steps at the base of this recess and comprises double wooden rectangular doors within a square stone surround carved with martyrs’ palms. Above this, also in stone, are the arms of Pope Pious XI. The upper part of the arms overlay the lower section of a square brick and tile frame, within which is a colourful mosaic of the Virgin Mary holding crosses and inscribed REGINA MARTYRUM. Above the mosaic panel is a round-headed, three-light stepped window. The infill between the window and the brick orders consists of herringbone brickwork. The smaller side recesses also have herringbone infills these being pierced with rectangular flat-headed windows. There are two further rectangular flat headed windows, with stone shields above, on the ground floor either side of the main entrance. The left return has an engaged stair turret with slit window, giving access to the organ gallery. Campanile: this is of four stages, the lowest forming a porch to the church which has an elliptically pointed arch formed with graduated voussoirs that is infilled above impost level with vertically set tiles incorporating a Latin cross in relief. The lower three stages are undivided, being defined only by the placement of simple square headed slit windows. The corners of the campanile are rebated and culminate in corbelled platforms at the bottom of the octagonal fourth bell stage. On these platforms sit crosses constructed of stacked tiles encased in strips of copper. The remaining four faces have paired round-headed openings with a central stone shaft with carved capital. Above these openings is a pyramidal pantile roof, surmounted with a stone cross.

INTERIOR Chancel: The apsidal chancel is defined by a round chancel arch of three simple recessed orders without piers or bases, the apse being white plastered and unadorned except for a simple gold band. Nave: White plastered and painted nave with round-arched clerestory windows and a timber barrel-vaulted ceiling. The purlins are painted in a decorative polychromatic design and there is a simple moulded sill band below the clerestory windows. Aisles are separated from the nave by arcades of stilted arches of moulded rubbed red brick and plain stone columns with large cushion capitals. Each face of the capitals are bordered with foliate carving; a few capitals also have carving to the central panels, suggesting that at one time the intention was to have each capital fully carved. The wooden roof-trusses and ceiling panels of the lean-to aisles have been left with the timber exposed and are simply decorated with some incising and polychromatic painting. Aisles: The north aisle has a lady chapel at its east end with a stone altar and statue of Our Lady of Walsingham; leading off this aisle are two blocks of confessionals in moulded wood surrounds with heavy wood doors also with small square leaded glass panels. The block of confessionals to the west has been converted into a shrine and display area and the doors removed. The south aisle has a Blessed Sacrament chapel at its east end; the west end has a baptistery with a contemporary carved stone font. There is a further single wood and glazed door leading from the south aisle to the loggia. West end: The west gallery and narthex is defined by a triple round arch similar to the chancel arch, the gallery being supported above the narthex by engaged pilasters with cushion capitals. The gallery has a painted front with the text ‘TE MARTYRUM CANDIDATUS LAUDAT EXERCITUS’. The double doors to the narthex are of dark wood with small square leaded glass panels set in a plain square-framed opening.

FITTINGS: Fixed wooden benches of Austrian oak which are stepped to work around the columns and have moulded tops to the bench ends. Simple stone-slab altar to chancel with crucifix set on the wall of the apse behind. The gallery also functions as an organ loft and houses a small organ.

LOGGIA: the church is connected to the presbytery by a three-bay, two-storey loggia with a round-arched arcade below and three slit windows above. The central two columns are stone rather than brick and their capitals are inscribed with the Chi Rho.

PRESBYTERY: this is of three bays and two-storeys with a hipped roof and tall chimney stack to the south side. The main façade is symmetrical with Venetian windows to the ground floor of the flanking bays. Above each Venetian window is a three light, flat-headed window, the central light of which is double the width of the outer two. The central bay has a large, square, stone-framed recessed doorway on a stone plinth, decorated with the stylised letters ‘E’ and ‘M’ in the upper corners. Above this is a round arched stair window. The later rear extensions to the presbytery (as delineated on the map) are excluded from the listing.

BOUNDARY WALLS: these are of thin coursed red brick in stretcher bond topped with polygonal capping bricks. Openings (a smaller opening to the presbytery and a larger to the church) are marked with taller brick gateposts, also topped with polygonal capping bricks and have ironwork gates. The rear boundary wall is excluded from the List entry.


Other: Architectural History Practice, Taking Stock (Diocese of  Middlesbrough), English Martyrs, 2008

Heritage Details

Architect: Williams & Jopling

Original Date: 1932

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II