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Church of St John

A Grade I Listed Building in City and Hunslet, Leeds

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Latitude: 53.8001 / 53°48'0"N

Longitude: -1.5423 / 1°32'32"W

OS Eastings: 430243

OS Northings: 433856

OS Grid: SE302338

Mapcode National: GBR BKK.8J

Mapcode Global: WHC9D.8RT3

Plus Code: 9C5WRF25+33

Entry Name: Church of St John

Listing Date: 26 September 1963

Last Amended: 5 January 2023

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1375157

English Heritage Legacy ID: 466039

ID on this website: 101375157

Location: The Leylands, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2

County: Leeds

Electoral Ward/Division: City and Hunslet

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Leeds

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Leeds City

Church of England Diocese: Leeds

Tagged with: Church building English Gothic architecture

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Church of St John the Evangelist, 1632-1634, founded by John Harrison with C19 alterations by Norman Shaw, Temple Moore and other locally notable architects.


Church of St John the Evangelist, 1632-1634, founded by John Harrison with C19 alterations by Norman Shaw, Temple Moore and other locally notable architects. Late Gothic Perpendicular style to the exterior and Caroline Gothic (Jacobean) style to the interior.

MATERIALS: well-dressed Woodhouse Moor sandstone ashlar. Grey-slate roof coverings. Decorative and finely carved wooden fixtures and fittings, leaded stained-glass windows.

PLAN: an east-west aligned church situated to the west of New Briggate. Double-naved on plan with a south porch, square north extension and west tower with attached north vestry room.

EXTERIOR: the church's west end has a flamboyant five-light tracery window in a triple chamfered window surround with an ogee hoodmould ornamented with animal headstops. It has a moulded plinth and parapet coping which match the west tower. The embattled three-stage west tower is by John Dobson of Leeds's (1830s). It has three-stepped angle buttresses with shaped capstones to the first stage and gable capping to the second, which rise to tall crocketed pinnacles. The ground-floor has a pointed two-light west window with curvilinear tracery set in a triple-chamfered surround with a hoodmould and a slit stair window above. The second stage has a clock face in a 12-cusped circular surround and a square frame, and hoodmould, to each elevation and the third stage has belfrey openings with curvilinear tracery in roll-moulded arches and ogee hoodmoulds with floriated stops. Attached to the north side of the tower is a rectangular (1866-68) extension with a half-hipped roof. It has three two-light square headed mullion windows to the west, a blind north elevation and a catslide extension to the north.

The principal entrance to the church is through the south porch by Norman Shaw (1866-1868). It has a double chamfered plinth, stepped angle buttresses a moulded eaves and an embattled parapet with winged gargoyles to the corners and a celtic finial to the shallow apex of the south elevation. The pointed double-chamfered entranceway has a moulded hoodstone contiguous to the string band and hexagonal columns and moulded capitals to the jambs, within which is set a two-leaf iron and wooden gate. Above the entrance is a large stone inscribed sundial. The returns (east and west) have square headed windows with two-light arched and cusped tracery.

The seven-bay south nave elevation has a chamfered plinth and an embattled parapet (1868-1868) and is supported by stepped buttresses, the angle buttress to the west rising to a crocketted pinnacle. Across the elevation are five flat headed Perpendicular windows (1866-1868) which contain four arched and cusped tracery light, and moulded hoodmoulds over. Above the central three windows are unusual small arched and cusped leaded lights (1866-1868). The sixth bay to the east contains a double-chamfered arched door, with a hoodmould, and a pointed Jacobean strapwork panelled door. The six-bay north elevation broadly matches the south, but with five windows, four buttresses and a bracketed stone eaves with no embattled parapet (removed 1801). At the east end is a single-cell extension with a moulded parapet, a two-light window to the west and matching window to the north.

The eastern chancel is double-gabled with moulded coping and celtic cross finials to each. Each gable end has a pointed five-light tracery window, with moulded hoodmoulds and carved animal headstops, and small arched and cusped leaded lights above (matching the north and south elevation). Where the roof junctions meet is a stepped buttress, with a gabled capstone, below a moulded stone hopper.

INTERIOR: the interior is a rare Gothic survival with detailed studies written on the church and its fittings (see Douglas and Powell). The double-nave is one unified space divided by a central arcade of pointed arches supported on octagonal piers, some plain and others partly moulded, with capitals carved with acanthus leaves and ball ornament. The open oak timber truss roof with moulded tie beams, each with a central hanging fretted and gilded drop pendent, is supported on wooden corbels in the form of angels, musicians and hermaphrodite figures. Between the rafters and purlins are eleven-bays of moulded plaster panels with strapwork mouldings of roses, oak leaves, acorns, vines and other plants. The stained glass predominantly dates to the C19 by a variety of artists including C E Tute, Hardman, Victor Milnor and Burlison and Grylls.

FITTINGS: the church contains a suite of contemporary fittings, including finely carved woodwork.

The reredos is a composite piece with mosaics by Salviati either side of a Continental carved panel. At each end of the reredos is a corbel from the roof. The early to mid-C17 chancel table has bulbous legs and a strapwork frieze with little heads of men. The chancel stalls, alter rail and organ case are by Shaw, with the 1885 organ by Abbott of Leeds.

The original screen extending across the nave is heavily carved with a panelled dado, tapered arcade balusters with carved ornamentation and Ionic capitals and an entablature. The entablature has an elaborate frieze of flowers and hearts mixed with vines and sprinkled with grotesque figures and carved human and lion brackets either side of the screen entrances supporting the heavily moulded and projecting cornice. In both aisles the screen is topped by elaborate strapwork cresting (removed 1860s and restored 1890-1891) with the Royal coat of arms (one the arms of King James I and the other Charles I as Prince of Wales). The former Temple Moore panels are relocated to the west wall. Above the screen semi-circular wooden arches rise to the tie-beams with strapwork spandrels.

The eclectically detailed pulpit with tester is an 1880s reconstruction with replacement balusters, stair rail and wall board. The pews with turned finials, cresting and carved ends have been adapted from old panelling, and some of the panelling around the Harrison chapel is made up of doors from the original pews. The font is a design by Norman Shaw.

Other fittings include three brass chanderliers, a wooden cross, and a portrait of John Harrison.

The interior contains a variety of monuments, including the tomb of John Harrison.


The history of this church is well understood from Douglas and Powell's, and Ellis Stock's history and descriptions of the church. It is recommended these are referenced for a detailed study of the church and its fittings.

The church of St John the Evangelist was built and endowed in 1634 by John Harrison (1579-1656), a wealthy Leeds woollen merchant and philanthropist, to serve the spiritual needs of a rapidly expanding population in the C17 parish of Leeds which the church of St Peter could no longer support. Harrison was a generous benefactor and in the 1620s he laid out a new street (first known as New Street) as an extension of Briggate, the northern end of which marked the extent of the town proper, and he also built the former almshouses, the Town Grammar School and a Market Cross in Briggate. The new C17 church was built at the northern end of New Street with the area around it a suburb for wealthy residents of Leeds. Both are first shown in a highly schematic sketch plan from 1710 and the church is first illustrated in Thoresby's Ducatus leodiensis (1715) with written reference to New Street as having been built by Harrison with the rents appropriated for pious uses. Although no architect is known it is suggested the original wood carving was the work of Francis Gunby who also worked at Temple Newsam.

John Cossins' map of Leeds from the 1720s shows the church, with its double-gabled nave, strapwork ornamented south porch and west tower, and the surrounding area in more detail. In 1738 a new vestry was built in the middle of the north wall (no longer in situ) and in 1765 John Blayds (1730-1807) funded the insertion of a gallery over the west end and over half of the south looking towards the pulpit in the centre of the north wall. Various Georgian alterations took place with the south wall partially refaced in 1791, the north wall refaced in 1801 with the removal of its crenellated parapet and the south porch removed or rebuilt. Internally the church pews, pulpit and readings desk were reordered. Various architects were involved with the church repairs Thomas Johnson (around 1762-1814) in 1801, Thomas Taylor (1777/1778-1826) in 1816 and John (Jeremiah) Dobson of Leeds. In 1810 and 1838 the west tower and west nave wall were altered and rebuilt, latterly by John Clark (1798-1857), and the tower bore little resemblance to Thoresby's 1715 illustration.

By the 1860s the trustees of the church decided the church's deteriorating fabric and internal arrangement were no longer viable and schemes were drawn up to rebuild the church until Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) and George Gilbert Scott (1839-1897) advocated for its retention and restoration. George Gilbert Scott produced a survey for the trustees and Shaw was employed to restore and repair the church between 1866 and 1868. The works included the external replacement of the old porch and vestry, roof and stonework repairs, alterations to window tracery and the levelling and re-working of the burial ground. Internally the plaster was removed to expose stone walls, a new font installed, the galleries taken down, the screens and pews altered, the floors repaved and the internal space re-arranged. The church closed on the 1 February 1867 and re-opened on Sunday 2 February 1868.

Although the restoration was a substantial achievement it was more heavy-handed than intended and Shaw returned in 1884 to undo some of the work, supported by the vicar John Scott (a cousin of Sir George Gilbert Scott), including replastering and whitewashing the internal walls, refixing relocated monuments, repairing the pulpit tester, reinserting woodwork and providing new choir desks. The repairs were facilitated by the return of a substantial amount of carefully preserved woodwork rescued by Scott's church warden John Henry Wurtzburg in the 1860s. From 1888 Temple Moore (1856-1920) continued to alter the late-C19 work, which included restoring the screen and fitting an altar and reredos in the Harrison Chapel. The high altar reredos was given an oak setting incorporating Salviati work and the chancel floor relaid. In the 1890s a second altar was installed, with communion rails from Kettlewell church.

Across the C20 repairs and improvements were made which included the painting of the figures under the roof brackets and electric lighting in 1903. Bainbridge Reynolds (a distinguished metal worker) made fittings incorporating hanging light bulbs probably to Moore's designs (now removed). The church became redundant in the 1975 and was vested into the care of the Redundant Churches Fund (now Churches Conservation Trust) the following year.

Reasons for Listing

The church of St John the Evangelist, 1632-34, founded by John Harrison with C19 alterations by Norman Shaw, Temple Moore and others is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a striking and rare example of a C17 late Gothic Perpendicular style church with a double-naved plan form and Caroline Gothic (Jacobean) style interior;
* for the delicately detailed and high quality woodwork of the open oak timber truss roof, with its gilded drop pendents and carved wooden corbels, and the strapwork mouldings to moulded plaster panels;
* for the range of decorative and finely carved wooden fixtures and fittings, incorporating work by Salviati and woodwork it is believed by Francis Gunby;
* for the variety of leaded stained glass window by C E Tute, Hardman, Victor Milnor and Burlison and Grylls.

Historic interest:

* as a Jacobean church built and endowed in 1634 by John Harrison (1579-1656), a wealthy Leeds woollen merchant and philanthropist;
* for the range of church repairs undertaken by various nationally and locally known architects, including Richard Norman Shaw, Thomas Johnson, Thomas Taylor, John (Jeremiah) Dobson of Leeds and John Clark (1798-1857);
* as a church surviving today through the advocacy and work of Richard Norman Shaw and George Gilbert Scott (1839-1897).

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