St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005


Introduction »
Letter from the Bishop »
St Augustine of Canterbury »
Brief History of Catholicism in Leeds »
Birth and Growth of a Parish »
The New Church »
Out with the Old - In with the New »
Memories and Parish Events »
Parish Clergy »
Priest’s Housekeepers »
Sisters of Charity of St Paul the Apostle »
St Augustine’s School »
The New School at St Wilfred’s Circus »
Future Memories of St Augustine’s School »

Groups and Confraternities »
A Few of the Many Parishioners »
The Parish Today »
Random Photo Gallery »



We had our first meeting to plan for the parish centenary in January 2005 and decided to publish a book about the parish and dedicate it to all those who have gone before us. It would be a tribute to them and a memento for the rest of us. It would also be a way of recording memories of the past, many of which have already become lost.

Since Vatican II we are frequently being told by members of the church hierarchy that the church is the people, not the buildings. With this in mind we wanted to produce a book primarily about parish life and the people of St Augustine’s past and present and have it ready for sale in July. Easier said than done; with a parish as large as St Augustine’s which in its heyday in the 1960s had approximately 3,000 parishioners, we had set ourselves a near impossible task.

A sub group of volunteers for the book emerged. Fr. Michael agreed to contact past clergy, Dot Cordy to search archives, Gillian Kerrigan offered to do some typing, Maggie McDaid and Margaret Dyson offered to take charge of advertising. Maureen O’Hara, Mary Kirton, Bernie Feeney and Margaret McCarthy agreed to contact various individuals to gather photographs and information and we would put it together. We were then fortunate to be offered the services of a professional editor, Gillian’s son-in law Jonah Asbury, who was able to give us direction and advice and offered to do the final editing. Latterly we are thankful for the advice and practical assistance of Fr. Paul Williment who is a computer ‘whiz’ and has prepared lots of material for publishing.

The submission of information was very slow at first and as our deadline approached we realised we hadn’t given ourselves enough time. However it was never meant to be a comprehensive account, as this would be near impossible, and we were limited to the information we were given. Putting it together has been interesting and fun and also at times quite stressful.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed in any way, especially those whose contributions didn’t make it into the final version of the book – restrictions of space and time meant that we couldn’t include every piece of information we were so kindly given. And finally, we hope you enjoy reading this book which we can only describe metaphorically as ‘peeping through the keyhole’ at the parish of St Augustine’s over the last one hundred years.

Maureen Leahy and Margaret Newman



The Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury
27th May 2005

Saint Augustine is the Apostle of England. Pope Saint Gregory the Great sent him and a number of companions to evangelise the Angles in 596. Christianity had already reached this island in Roman times but the churches had been destroyed after the fall of the Empire in the fifth century. Now Saint Gregory wished to begin a new mission to this, our homeland.

It is good to reflect on the courage of these monks. They knew that it was very dangerous for them to venture over the English Channel. They had no idea how they would be received. In fact, after starting out, they actually stopped en route, so fearful were they, and St Augustine returned to Rome on their behalf;
St Gregory had to instil fresh courage in them before they could continue.

Despite their own personal weakness, the Lord gave them strength and they soon established a monastery in Canterbury. They began once more to shape their days according to the rhythm of monastic life: prayer, study and manual work. Gradually, their prayers and the example of their life began to have a profound effect on the Angles among whom they lived. In the next generation, a monk from that monastery,
St Paulinus, travelled up north to the Kingdom of Northumbria in order to extend the mission.

These missionaries were motivated by an overwhelming desire: they felt propelled to draw others into that intimate friendship with Christ in which alone we discover the purpose of our lives. Now that task falls to us. Our country has a rich Christian heritage but many of our fellow citizens, indeed many members of our own families, do not prize being members of the Church. The Lord is calling each of us, according to our different vocations, to contribute to the great work of bearing witness to the gospel in our beloved nation.

Like Saint Augustine, we may feel unequal to the task. Let us take courage from the example of your forbears in this parish. When Father Coffey was appointed the first parish priest in 1905 he had to celebrate Mass in the chapel of the recently established school. A temporary church was built in 1908, but it was not until 1936 that the church that we see today was opened. Only the Lord knows how many sacrifices the Catholics in this area had to make in order that a fitting church might be built for the celebration of Holy Mass.

It is right that you should be proud of your heritage. It is right too that you should take pride in your own faithfulness to the Church. I have no doubt that in the years to come we shall have to face together a number of challenges. Today’s celebration reminds us that such challenges are nothing new, and that if we entrust ourselves and those whom we love to the care of our Father, we will have no cause to fear.

With a blessing

Yours sincerely

The Right Reverend Arthur Roche
Bishop of Leeds