Leeds Parish Church

The parish church of Leeds was built in 1837-41 by Robert Dennis Chantrell for Dr Walter Farquar Hook (vicar 1837-59), replacing the medieval church at a cost of £30,000. St Peter's is of national importance in the history of Anglican architecture as the largest new church since St Paul's Cathedral. More importantly, it was the first great 'town church' - intended to minister to the increasingly disillusioned working classes of the Industrial Revolution - to be erected since the formation of the Oxford Movement had helped move Anglicanism in a 'higher' direction, and the rapidly expanding literature on GothicGlossary Term architecture was enabling the style to be treated with greater respect and scholarship.

The cruciform plan, with an outer N aisleGlossary Term to the naveGlossary Term and chancelGlossary Term, follows the footprint of its medieval predecessor. Reconstruction and repair rather than rebuilding had been the first intention in 1837, but the older fabric was condemned as work progressed. Otherwise it seems inconceivable that Chantrell would not have reconsidered the plan. His main innovation was to move the tower from the crossingGlossary Term to the north transeptGlossary Term, thus opening up the vista from naveGlossary Term to altar and, at the same time, giving the tower greater prominence when seen from the town centre. Chantrell's chosen style of 'the transition from DecoratedGlossary Term to PerpendicularGlossary Term ... which has its peculiarities, though unnoticed by modern writers' is seen to effect in the tower's elaborate openwork battlements and pinnacles, so too in the W window's Perp traceryGlossary Term with a rich ogeeGlossary Term hood-mould.

The entrance is in the middle of the N side, under the tower. The chancelGlossary Term and naveGlossary Term are of equal length, four bays to the E, four bays to the W. They both have clerestories and tall aisles, and the chancelGlossary Term has a shallow apseGlossary Term. The outer N aisleGlossary Term, no higher than a cloister to allow lightGlossary Term to pass over it and into the clerestory of the inner N aisleGlossary Term, has straight-headed reticulated windows. Internally, the principles of formal ClassicalGlossary Term planning that Chantrell acquired while a pupil of John Soane are evident. One enters under the tower into a lofty, carefully contrived symmetrical space of almost Fonthillian proportions, with huge glazed doors to the left and right leading to the outer N aisles. Ahead on the N-S axis is the massive, sombre organ case, by Chantrell, occupying the whole of the S transeptGlossary Term. One passes between the ends of the E and W galleries to approach the crossingGlossary Term where the full E and W vistas open up to revealGlossary Term this majestic interior, as well as the dichotomy of the design. The E end of the church has real dignity, with the altar raised on six steps, and with generous space in the sanctuaryGlossary Term and in front of it for the new ideas of Victorian ritualism but the W end with its pews and galleries focused on the huge pulpitGlossary Term is still very much in the 'preaching box' tradition of the 18th century. CrossingGlossary Term and transepts are lierne-vaulted (in plaster), the apseGlossary Term is fan-vaulted (also in plaster). The naveGlossary Term and chancelGlossary Term ceilings have almost flat panels separated by substantial transverse beams embellished with arcaded decoration on their sides, actually the lower part of the largely concealed roof trusses. Piers of four shafts with fillets and four thinner shafts in the diagonals, and finely moulded arches. This is Dec, but the unusual panellingGlossary Term of the walls between the arches and the clerestory is Perp, and may have been influenced by similar features at Bruges Cathedral where Chantrell was working concurrently. The galleries extend around three sides of the naveGlossary Term and into the first two bays of the chancelGlossary Term, looking down on the choirGlossary Term stalls (originally proposed to reach the E wall, as did the congregation's pews below). Richly decoratedGlossary Term fronts, possibly papier maché, with canopies like those of chancelGlossary Term stalls and painted dark brown to imitate expensive wood. They are supported on cast ironGlossary Term columns and are slightly detached from the stone piers, to show, as Chantrell put it, 'they are merely furniture'. Cast ironGlossary Term too for some apparently wooden decoration, for instance, on pewGlossary Term ends.



Subsidiary space alongside the body of a building, separated from it by columns, piers or posts. Also (especially Scots) projecting wing of a church, often for special use, e.g. by a guild or by a landed family whose burial place it may contain.


Semicircular or polygonal end of an apartment, especially of a chancel or chapel. In classical architecture sometimes called an exedra.

Cast iron

Hard and brittle iron, cast in a mould to the required shape rather than forged. Compare wrought iron.


The eastern part or end of a church, where the altar is placed; usually set apart for the clergy.


The part of a cathedral, monastic church or collegiate church where services are sung.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.


An enclosed quadrangle in a monastery or by a church, surrounded by covered passages; by extension, any space so enclosed. Cloister garth: the area enclosed by a cloister.


In a church, the central space at the junction of the nave, chancel and transepts. Crossing arch: an arch spanning piers at a crossing. Crossing tower: a tower above a crossing.


A distinctive phase of English Gothic which developed at the end of the 13th century and continued into the later 14th; sometimes abbreviated to Dec. Named from its elaborate window tracery, which abandoned the simple circular forms of Geometric in favour of more varied patterns based on segments of circles. Dec tracery makes much use of ogee or reversed curves, which were combined in the 14th century to produce reticulated and flowing tracery composed of trefoils, quatrefoils and dagger shapes. Similar inventiveness is seen in the patterns produced by the lierne and tierceron vaults of the period, in the three-dimensional handling of wall surfaces broken up by canopy work and sculpture and in imaginative spatial planning making use of diagonal axes.


The style of the Middle Ages from the later 12th century to the Renaissance, with which it co-existed in certain forms into the 17th century. Characterized in its full development by the pointed arch, the rib-vault and an often skeletal masonry structure for churches, combined with large glazed windows. The term was originally associated with the concept of the barbarian Goths as assailants of classical civilization.


Compartment of a window defined by the uprights or mullions.


The body of a church west of the crossing or chancel, often flanked by aisles.


A double curve, bending first one way and then the other. An ogee or ogival arch, especially popular in the 14th century, is pointed at the top. A nodding ogee curves forward from the wall face at the top.


Wooden lining to interior walls, made up of vertical members (muntins) and horizontals (rails) framing panels; also called wainscot. Raised and fielded: with the central area of the panel (field) raised up. Also used for stonework treated with sunk or raised panels.


English version of late Gothic, developed from the 1320s, which continued into the early 16th century; sometimes abbreviated to Perp. Characterised by large windows with a grid pattern of mullions and transoms, with the mullions continuing to the head to the arch, which is often of flattened or four-centred form. This motif of panel tracery is used also for wall decoration, and on the fan vaults that were used for the most prestigious buildings.


Loosely, seating for the laity outside the chancel; strictly, an enclosed seat. A box pew is enclosed by a high wooden back and ends, the latter having doors. Churchwarden’s pew: an especially tall or elaborate pew for use by the churchwarden, usually placed at the west end of a church.


Raised and enclosed platform for the preaching of sermons. Three-decker: with reading desk below and clerk’s desk below that. Two-decker: as above, minus the clerks’ desk.


The plane of a jamb, between the wall and the frame of a door or window.


Used for the area around the main altar of a church.


Openwork pattern of masonry or timber in an opening, especially the upper part of an opening; most common in Gothic architecture. Blind tracery is applied to a solid wall. Plate tracery, the earliest form, introduced c. 1200, has shapes cut through solid masonry. Bar tracery, introduced c. 1250, has patterns are formed by intersecting moulded ribwork continuing upwards from the mullions. Bar tracery types include: curvilinear tracery, with uninterrupted flowing curves, typical of the 14th century (also called flowing tracery); geometrical tracery, typical of c.1250-c.1310, which uses simple forms, especially circles, chiefly foiled; intersecting tracery, used c. 1300, formed by interlocking mullions each branching out in two curved bars of the same radius but different centres; loop tracery (Scots), used c. 1500-45, with large uncusped loop-like forms; panel tracery, with even upright divisions made by a horizontal transom or transoms; reticulated tracery, early 14th century, with net-like patterns of ogee- (double-curved) ended lozenges; Y-tracery, used c. 1300, which branches into a Y-shape.


Transverse portion of a church.