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St Luke's Church, Eccleshill, Bradford, UK

Bringing the good news of Jesus to the people of Eccleshill.
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The History of St Luke's Parish Church Building.

The idea of building a church at Eccleshill seems to have come from Rev'd William Scoresby (Vicar of Bradford and Arctic Explorer), who planned it and the school in the 1840's as part of his effort to 'help the poor of Eccleshill'. The site of the church building was originally part of a meadow known as Shoulder Broad, adjoining the Dudley Hill and Killinghall Turnpike Road, and running alongside Harrogate Road. A corner of the meadow was given by George Baron, of South Cave, near Hull. The churchyard was consecrated on 7th February 1842, and the school building also dates from this year. The church building was consecrated on 28th March 1848 - both ceremonies conducted by the Bishop of Ripon.

Dedicated to St Luke, the new church was designed by Walker Rawstorne in what was described as "the Perpendicular Gothic style of the 14th Century". Its steeple, furnished with lantern and spire, formed what was considered to be "a pleasing feature of the landscape." The cost was 2,650 and the building was "calculated to hold 820 persons". (For a photograph of the building in 1948, showing the original steeple, please see below.)

The new church building had a gallery on each side as well as one at the west end. The font stood by the west door on the building's north side, and there was a small sanctuary (not the present chancel). The windows were of plain glass, and the high straight-backed pews were painted green. There was a stove for heating, and gas lighting. There was originally no organ.

When the church was erected the public house opposite with its four bow windows (a former coaching station) changed its name to the "Ring of Bells" - in spite of the fact that the new church had no bells! (Its former name was the "Hammer and Anvil" because of its proximity to the blacksmith's shop opposite in Harrogate Road, and its former name is remembered in a window at the side of the main entrance, which shows a hammer and an anvil.)

The new parish of St Luke Eccleshill was officially constituted by Order in Council in 1858. The Rev'd Edward Mercer, a native of the Isle of Man, became the first Vicar. He stayed until 1890.

On Easter Day (31st March) 1861, pew rents were abolished and St Luke's was declared "free and open for all comers".

The first organ was installed in 1862 on the north side of the building.

The appearance of the interior of the building, and the differences from the present day, can be seen in these two photographs (right).

The top photo, taken in 1912 shortly before the chancel was rebuilt and the organ moved to the south (right-hand) side of the building. Notice how the chancel arch is narrower and shaped differently from the present arch, although the east window is the same. The pulpit is not the same as the present one, which now stands on the north (left-hand) side of the arch.

For comparison, the bottom photo, taken in 1948, shows the new chancel arch and rooms built onto the sides of the chancel. The organ has been moved to its own chamber which has two arches (one into the chancel and one into the nave) to allow sound to travel. A new pulpit stands on the other side of the church, and the entrance to the choir vestry is now clearly visible. This photograph was taken before the present narthex area was built, so the pews extend to the back of the church building: the photographer was standing under the gallery. Also the building is now carpeted.

The interior in 1912 before rebuilding

 

The interior in 1948

Although the Centenary Book (see footnote) says "a large renovation scheme was carried out, including the building of a new chancel with choir and clergy vestries and organ chamber...", it is difficult to avoid the impression from the two photographs that the East Window of 1874 and the wall in which it is placed were retained unchanged in the new chancel; and therefore that the chancel was not "new" so much as modified at the sides. We would be grateful for any clarification of this point.

The present east window dates from 1874, and is a memorial to Col. George Stott-Stanhope, who resided at Eccleshill Hall (where Hutton Middle School later stood) after he had retired from service in Madras. Subsequently he built a larger house: "The Park" in Ravenscliffe Wood.

During the last years of Mr Mercer's long ministry the north and south galleries were removed, an improvement in that much more light entered the building. The original pews, which must have been extremely uncomfortable, were replaced by "more commodious seats of pitch-pine", and wooden floors were laid. These alterations cost 400, and the building was re-opened on 15th September 1887. The preacher, the Vicar of Leeds, afterwards became Bishop of Chester.

Mr Mercer died on his 70th birthday on 18th December 1890, and his ashes were interred in the churchyard. Four years later, under the next Vicar, Thomas Gleave, the organ was replaced by the present instrument (although it has been enlarged twice since), which then stood in the north side of the building. Stained glass windows were added in 1904.

The present chancel was added to the building in 1912, incorporating the east window of 1874. The organ was moved to a chamber on the south side of the chancel, and was reconstructed and enlarged. The oak reredos (woodwork on the east wall of the chancel) and communion table were presented in 1914, probably because the floor levels had been raised and the reredos was necessary to restore the appearance of the chancel. (A complete picture of the Last Supper in the window is now hidden behind the reredos.) Also in 1914 the choir stalls were installed. The chair in the sanctuary, traditionally used by the bishop at confirmation services, commemorates Emily West and dates to 1917.

In 1918 the stone font was moved from its original location in the north-west corner of the church (where the kitchen is now) to a position in the centre of the porch (which thus became a baptistery).

From the west, 1948

Also in 1918 a clock was installed in the tower as a memorial to those who had died in the First World War.

This clock can be seen in the photograph (right), which also shows the detail of the tower and the spire rising from it. Despite the louvres in the tower there was only ever one bell present (although there was a loudspeaker system which allowed a recording of bells to be played before services). The photo appears in the centenary book and we think it dates from 1948. Note also the hedge bordering the path to the main door, which also appears in other photographs dating from this period. We do not know when the hedge was introduced and removed.

From the east, 1948

This photograph (right) is enlarged from an aerial view which also dates from 1948: the hedge can also be made out in it. To the left (south) can be see the school, and the old vicarage where the rear school playground is sited. (The circle around the church building is part of the original photograph which we have not been able to remove.)

The lych-gate over the entrance from Harrogate Road commemorates the dead of the Second World War (1939-45). In commemoration of the centenary of the church's opening, the organ was rebuilt and enlarged in 1948. A centenary booklet (see below) was also produced, which contains many photographs of church people of this time, and also a few photographs of the building, which are reproduced on this page.

Perhaps the biggest change to the church building took place in 1961, when, because of structural weakness and poor foundations, the tower had to be demolished. Movement had taken place, and the addition of iron strapping failed to halt the deterioration. The present open-work tower was completed in 1975, designed by Ernest Fairs (still a member of the congregation). The coat of arms of coloured fibreglass were made in Eccleshill and are those of St Luke and the Diocese of Bradford. At the same time modern toilets were added in the north-west corner of the building. The organ was also overhauled in 1971.

In 1984 it was decided to construct a "narthex" (an internal room) under the remaining gallery at the back of the nave. This was for two reasons: that the building could be better used during the week, and that the church should have a room of its own which could be used if the school building was unavailable. The narthex is divided from the worship area by a sliding folding screen which can be opened when necessary, and it can be heated separately. A small kitchen was also added.

The church building was fitted with new carpets in the 1990's, and the choir vestry was refurbished, making it available for small meetings and services. Since then the church has made various improvements to allow greater access: a ramp for wheelchairs and pushchairs, accessible toilet for wheelchair users, handrails for the chancel steps, amplification and a hearing loop for those hard of hearing, refurbishment (completed in 1998, new "Common Worship" service booklets in large print (14 point), service and hymn books in Braille, the use of Makaton sign language in action songs, ... . In these ways there has been a real effort to make the building and worship both attractive and useful to those who seek God.

The church building is open for worship regularly and for special events and you are very welcome to visit. We also invite local schools and other groups to visit the church building by special arrangement for a tour and a taster of worship: please contact us if you are interested.

Please ask for any further details of events and services.

We are grateful to A H Robinson's guide booklet, published in 1985, for much of the information on this page: the booklet is now out of print, but a copy can be inspected at the vicarage. We are also very grateful to Doris Scriven for the loan of a copy of "The Centenary of Eccleshill Parish Church 1848-1948", privately printed and published, from which the photographs are taken. (The booklet was edited by the vicar of the time, Canon L Thomas, but through modesty he did not allow his name to appear as the editor!) We welcome comments from readers to correct or clarify any of the details on this page.

 

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This web page was first posted in January 2003, updated on 10th May 2004 and revised on 22nd February 2010.