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 Inter-War 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.

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).

The sanctuary was reordered by Weightman and 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.

Heritage Details


Original Date: 1932

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed