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

The New Church

The foundation stone of the new church was laid by Dr Thomas Shine, Bishop of Middlesborough, on 15 October 1935, assisted by Rev. P. Leonard, parish priest, Rev. B. Scannell, Rev. F Moverley, Canon E.E. Levick (Ripon), Canon E. Wilson(Boston Spa) and the Rev. J. V Clenaghan. The church was to be built in modern brick with reinforced concrete pillars and with an elevated sanctuary. Bishop Shine said in His address: “Here Jesus Christ will be the centre of your efforts and the object of your worship, and that Divine Being whom you worship will show you the true relationship between the temporal and the eternal. We who are the heirs of the faith which St Augustine preached, are continuing his work with the same feeling of responsibility.” The ceremony was preceded by a luncheon at Harehills Palais de Danse, at which many parishioners and clergy of the diocese were present. Fr. Leonard presided.

Dr. Shine, Bishop of Middlesborough lays the foundation stone on 15th October 1935

The new church under construction 4 May 1936

The New Church is Complete
The new Church was finally completed in 1936. Modern in conception, the building struck a new note in church architecture in the city. The brick exterior did not follow any traditional style of architecture; the almost complete lack of ornamentation inside gave a striking but dignified effect. The new church was considered one of the most beautiful churches not only in the Diocese but in the whole country so much so that it was awarded a Bronze Medal by the Architects’ Institute in 1936. The Architects were Messrs. Chorley, Gribbon and Foggitt of Leeds and the chief Contractors Messrs. J. T. Wright and Sons, Ltd., also of Leeds.The new Church with Lady Chapel, two small side Chapels, (one dedicated to Our Lady the other to the Sacred Heart), Baptistry, Clergy and Choir Sacristies and a west gallery was built to seat 800 in the nave and a further 200 in the gallery at a cost of £21,000.The organ, a 3-manual made by the famous Woods Wordsworth firm of organ makers came from a redundant church in Leeds. Extras for the new church were a Tabernacle (£40), Stations of the Cross (£70) and Bell (£80). Seating and railings were to be considered later. The statue of The Sacred Heart which stood in the front entrance porch was taken from the old church. It is now in St Augustine’s school.The first Mass was held at 7am on Monday 29 September 1936.

Extract from the “Architect. & Building News” 18th June, 1937

The Church has been designed so that all worshippers may have a clear and unobstructed view of the High Altar which is raised well above the level of the nave floor. A central aisle and two side aisles give ample access and afford adequate processional ways. A stepped gallery is provided at the West end of the nave, reached by a staircase adjoining the main entrance in Harehills Road.

The interior gives an impression of space and height and has good natural lighting from tall narrow square-hedged windows. Ornament and colour are sparingly used. The walls are left the natural colour of the laster and are divided up by the grey piers, beams and roof principals of reinforced concrete.

Flooring in green and black has been laid in the nave and aisles; the Sanctuary and Chapels being paved with stone. The Altar furnishings, the green and gold carpet of the Altar steps, and the Stations of the Cross provide the main notes of colour in a simple impressive and dignified interior.

Externally, the building, without following traditional lines, expresses its purpose successfully. Brick has been used throughout as a facing, the plain walls being relieved only by the long narrow windows and V-shaped buttresses between them. The roof is covered with Roman tiles of bold and distinctive character. The recessed main entrance from Harehills Road is approached by a wide flight of steps and on a corbel immediately over the main entrance is a stone figure of St Augustine, his hand raised in Benediction.” (This was sculpted by George W Milburn & Son-and is in memory of Mgr. Collingwood and cost £100)

The Opening of the New Church.

The new church was solemnly opened by the bishop Dr Henry Poskitt on 15 December 1936 in the presence of Rev. Dr Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool In his sermon, Dr Downey described the church as an abiding witness in stone to the faith of Catholics of the district and the outward symbol of their own living witness. The bishop was assisted by Canon W. C. Hudson (Barnsley) as assistant priest and by Rev. Barry Scannell (Birstall) and Rev. F. Moverley (St Augustine’s) as deacon and sub-deacon respectively. The choir sang a plain chant accompaniment. Tickets for the ceremony could be obtained at the presbytery after Mass (1/-).

Following the opening service, a luncheon was held at the Hotel Metropole at which Fr. Leonard paid tribute to the loyal support he had received from his parishioners during his seven years in the parish.

The inside and outside of the church in 1936.

The lines accross the outside picture were for the trams

Left: The altar rail & pulpit
Centre: The statue of St Augustine above the main entrance was erected in memory of Mgr. Collingwood
Right: The original altar with the large crucifix above.

Left: Opening of the church by Bishop Dr Henry Poskitt on 15 December 1936
The Altar
Right: One of the Stations of the Cross

When the new church opened, Mass attendance rose from a figure of 1478 in April 1936 (Clayton Hall) to a figure of 1931 in the September of the same year. The average weekly collection for that year was £41. The attendance continued to rise over the next two years to 2,199 in April 1938. Other statistics for that year were as follows:-
Baptisms 101 Confessions (males) 598
Converts 20 Confessions (females) 644
Marriages 42 Confessions (total) 1,242

New Parish Boundaries
In 1939, three years after the church was built, and because of the great housing developments and the spread of the Catholic population outward, the Parish boundary was redrawn and parts were incorporated into the new parishes of St Nicholas to the east and The Immaculate Heart of Mary to the north.

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