St Wilfrid's, York
|St Wilfrid's Church, York|
St Wilfrid's Church, York
|Heritage designation||Grade II listed|
|Height||147 feet (45 m)|
|Parish||St Wilfrid, York|
|Diocese||Diocese of Middlesbrough|
|Province||Archdiocese of Liverpool|
|Priest(s)||Rev. Fr. Richard Duffield Cong. Orat.|
|Assistant priest(s)||Rev. Fr. Stephen Brown, Cong. Orat. Br Adam Fairbairn, Cong. Orat. Br Henry O'Connell, Cong. Orat. Br David Chadwick, Cong. Orat.|
A church dedicated to St Wilfrid has stood in York since medieval times. Catholics call it the "Mother Church of the city of York". It is in Gothic Revival style. The arch over the main door has the most detailed Victorian carving in the city. The present church was completed in 1864 and is considered to be one of the most perfectly finished Catholic churches in England, rich in sculptures, paintings and stained glass. In 2013, the church was entrusted to the Oratorian Fathers.
In 1585, the parish could not support itself (possibly due to the large number of churches in York). The church became redundant and was demolished. It was eventually built over and the parish united with St Michael le Belfry. St Wilfrid's parish was revived by York Catholics in 1742 when they established their Mission in Little Blake Street. The Mission was founded by the Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District of England, Edward Dicconson.
A Catholic priest's house was established at number 7 Little Blake Street (now Duncombe Place), known as Chapel House. In 1760, the first public place of worship for Catholics opened in York. The chapel continued until 1802 when another chapel was built on the opposite side of the street (on the present site). At this time there were still strong anti-Catholic feelings, so the chapel was hidden from the street by its presbytery. The chapel could hold 700 people and the Catholic population continued to increase in York.
A church dedicated to St Wilfrid has stood in York since medieval times. The original site of the church was on land now occupied by the Judges Lodgings in Lendal and part of the Assembly Rooms behind in Blake Street.
In 1848, plans were drawn up to build a new church. The funds, however, were diverted to build a much needed church in the Walmgate area for the large number of Irish Catholics who settled there during the Potato Famine. St George's Church was built and it became the Pro-Cathedral of the Catholic diocese of Beverley.
In 1859, York Corporation were planning a new approach road to Lendal Bridge. This prompted Dean Duncombe to apply to the corporation to continue the route by the chapel and towards the Minster. The old narrow lane (Lop Lane or Little Blake Street) was replaced with a wide thoroughfare. The houses on the opposite side to the chapel were demolished and the road widened to create Duncombe Place, named after the Dean.
St Wilfrid's Church, as it stands today, was to be built on the site of the old chapel. The foundation stone was laid in April 1862 by Bishop Cornthwaite. The architect of the building was George Goldie, son of a prominent parishioner Dr. Goldie. George Goldie was baptised in St Wilfrid's chapel. He also designed St Wilfrid's Primary School nearby, but died in 1887 before the school was built.
The church was designed in a Gothic Revival manner, a copy of 13th–14th century style. The arch over the main door has the most detailed Victorian carving in the city.
The Church was completed in 1864, costing around £10,000, and was opened by Cardinal Wiseman in June of that year. It was considered to be one of the most perfectly finished Catholic churches in England, rich in sculpture and paintings and stained glass. It became the Pro-Cathedral Church of the Beverley Diocese. This was short lived as Beverley diocese was split to make the Dioceses of Leeds (south of the River Ouse) and of Middlesbrough (north of the river). Nevertheless, St Wilfrid's still stands as the "Mother Church of the city of York".
Part of the porch way, believed to belong to the original St Wilfrid's Church, was found under the floor of the Assembly Rooms during the 19th century renovations.
In 1945, Middlesbrough Diocese bought a 16th century house in the Shambles. Number 35 is now the shrine of St Margaret Clitherow. It is a pilgrimage site for Catholics from all over the world. Mass is celebrated here regularly every Saturday at 10.00 am and it is open to visitors during the week.
The altar rails at St Wilfrid's were very fine and were of particular note. They were made in 1948 by Wilfrid Dowson, from Kirkbymoorside, who was responsible for some work at York Minster, as well as the Queen's Gates at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. The rails were removed in February 2007.
The tower is some 147 ft high and is visible around much of York. The design of the tower makes it appear as though St Wilfrid's is taller than the Minster in the background; it is only when a person has passed Wilfrid's that they can see the Minster is taller. The tower holds a fine peal of ten bells, with the heaviest eight dating from 1938. Two lighter bells were added in 1995 to create a peal of ten.
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