ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY
Roman Catholic Church, Harehills Road, Leeds, LS8 5HR.
A Brief History of St. Augustine's Church

Harehills in 1890 was almost a sheer expanse of agricultural land-a mere place-name on the outskirts of Leeds.

Harehills Road was then a mere cart track; Ashley Road a bridle path and Compton Road a footpath skirted by a beck. Foundry Lane meandered through the fields to Seacroft.

The nearest Catholic church was St. Patrick’s, but within a few years of the opening of St. Patrick's, the Parish began to extend towards Harehills in the North, and Crossgates in the East. When the need of a school at Harehills became urgent and children were in danger of losing the Faith, the Canon A. J. Collingwood, Vicar General of the Diocese seized the opportunity of fulfilling a long cherished ambition-to build a Church and School dedicated to the Apostle of England.

Canon A. Collingwood.

St. Augustine's School was the first of the Parish buildings to be erected, thus making sure from the outset that our children received a Catholic education. On 1st October 1897, Mass was said for the first time in the School Chapel. The school building was completed 18 months later and was solemnly opened on 10th April 1899 with 53 children attending the school.

St. Augustine's continued to be served from St. Patrick's and didn’t become independent until July 1905, when it became a Mission in its own right. Fr. James Coffey, Assistant-Priest at St. Thomas's, Goole (and a native of Tipperary) became the first Parish Priest.

Due to the rapid growth of immigrant families from Ireland settling in the area, the school was too small to accommodate the growing number of children in need of a Catholic education. Initially Fr. Coffey’s application to Leeds City Council to extend the school was refused because they wanted to fill the vacant places in the local council school. As this was a denial of the rights of parents, which the Education Act of 1902 ostensibly protected, the challenge was taken up and a Parents' deputation waited upon the Committee and later on the City Council.Eventually, after a heated debate, the Council approved of the extension. Fr. Coffey had also negotiated a site fronting Harehills Road for a Church.

The Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury a temporary structure of timber and corrugated iron, on a brick foundation was opened in 1908, and later extended.

The Interior of Church in 1908

After the first War, the new Presbytery at the side of the Church was built as a memorial to the young men of the Parish who had fallen on active service, and .the terrace house which Fr. Coffey occupied in Roundhay Road, became a Convent for the Sisters who taught at the School.

Fr. Coffey died in November, 1929, and was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Leonard.

From the outset Fr. Leonard concentrated on plans for the building of a bigger Church, and had the consolation of seeing the foundation stone laid by Dr. Shine, Bishop of Middlesborough, in October, 1935. The church was completed in 1936 and cost £21,000. It was solemnly opened by Dr. Poskitt, in December 1936, in the presence of His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool.

Extract from the "Architect. & Building News"-18th June, 1937

The new Roman Catholic Church of St. Augustine's, stands at the junction of Harehills Road and Milan Road, and replaces the old temporary structure of wood and corrugated iron. The increasing needs of the Parish and the need for increased accommodation for worshippers, led to the erection of the new building which consists of a Church seating 800 people, a Lady Chapel, two small side Chapels, Baptistry, and Clergy and Choir Sacristies.

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 of the Church in 1937.

 

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.

The Outside of the Church

 

New Parish Boundaries

Three years later, in 1939 due to the great housing developments then taking place in the Gipton area, part of the Parish was cut off and was incorporated in the new parish of St. Nicholas, Gipton while another portion at the Roundhay end of the parish, became part of the: Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Consecration of the Church on 19th June 1952

When the debt of new church was fully paid for by the parish, The Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury, was solemnly consecrated by His Lordship Bishop Heenan, the bishop of Leeds, with forty five priests in attendance at the ceremony. (subsequently Cardinal Heenan.)

“The Consecration of St. Augustine's Church, in June, 1952, was the fulfilment of a long cherished hope, a fitting climax to work begun 55 years ago and sustained throughout the years by the ardent faith of a united people.” Fr.Charles H. O’Flaherty(parish priest)

Fr. Charles H. O'Flaherty.

For a more detailed history see centenary book »

LIST OF CLERGY WHO HAVE SERVED IN THE PARISH

Parish Priests

From

To

Died

       

Fr. James Coffey

1905

1929

24th Nov 1929

Fr. Patrick Leonard

1929

1942

21st Dec 1942

Fr. Charles H. O’Flaherty

1942

1956

3rd July 1985

Fr. John Adrian Craig

1956

1963

3rd Dec 1963

Fr. Michael V. O’Donavan

1963

1970

29th Sept 1970

Cannon Charles Murray

1970

1981

24th Jan 1988

Monsignor Gerard P. Spelman

1983

1989

18th March 1990

Fr. Sean Durcan

1989

1996

 

Fr. Michael Anthony Kelly

1996

2010

 

Fr. Anthony Jackson

 

 

2010

2012  

Curates

From

To

Died

Fr. Andrew Kelleher

1920

1926

5th July 1961

Fr. Patrick F. Scannell

1926

1936

22nd Feb 1962

Fr. Bernard Blackburn

1935

1936

10th Sept 1965

Fr. Francis Moverley

1936

1943

12th Nov 1985

Fr. Joseph Dolan

1936

1942

 

Fr. Patrick J. Reeves

1942

1948

8th August 1982

Fr. Paul Hennelly

1943

1951

29th August 1976

Fr. Anthony Cluderay

1948

1951

19th August 1989

Fr. Eugene Daly

1951

1954

24th March 1979

Fr. Peter Walmsley

1951

1954

2nd August 1998

Fr. Bernard Battle

1954

1955

 

Fr. Gerald P Spelman

1955

1960

18th March 1990

Fr. Edward. McSweeney

1957

1962

 

Fr. Thomas J. Kenny

1960

1965

 

Fr. John Tomblin

1962

1967

 

Fr. John O’Hara

1965

1966

 

Fr. J. Bryan Sharp

1966

1968

 

Fr. Paul Moxon

1967

1968

 

Fr. Morgan

1968

1970

 

Fr. Matthew Dwyer

1968

1971

 

Fr. Adrian O’Connell

1970

1973

 

Fr. Michael A. Kelly

1971

1976

 

Fr. Kevin Griffin

1973

1978

 

Fr. Anthony Fenton

1976

1982

 

Fr. John F. Nunan

1978

1983

 

Fr. Michael Hutton

1981

1985

 

Fr. John Clarke

1985

1989

 

Fr. Michael Wiley

1987

1989

6th Sept 1991

Fr. Nicholas Farrell

1988

1991

 

Fr. Paul. Varey

1991

1992

 

Fr. Christopher Willis

1992

1992

 

Fr. David Massey

1992

1994

8th Sept 2003

Fr. Benjamin Griffiths

1994

1995

 

Fr. Gerald Thornton

1995

1999