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Report - Mount St. Mary's Irish Famine Catholic Church, Leeds - July 2011

jST

LLS.
Regular User
#1
July seems to be turning in to the month of the church, this one being a enormous Catholic church of Cathedral-esque proportions just behind the Urban Gash Saxton Gardens development.

Interestingly, due to the large Irish population in Leeds, this church was devoted to those suffering the effects of the potato famine of the mid 1850s. To quote Alan Partridge:

Alan Partridge said:
‘At the end of the day, they will pay the price for being a fussy eater. If they could afford to emigrate, they could afford to eat at a modest restaurant.’
Visited with Mr.C & Mr.F on a horrid rainy afternoon, however, once inside this rather decrepit church, the light of the heavens shone down upon us. Props to SammyDoubleWhammy for the pointers.

Here’s some history stolen mercilessly from another source.

After the reformation it was not until the early part of the nineteenth century that there became a renewed interest in the Catholic faith. In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed, and in 1850 the Catholic hierarchy was restored in England with the country being divided into dioceses, each with a Bishop.There followed the construction of many fine churches and cathedrals.Mount St Mary's is one of the architectural treasures of the city of Leeds. It is a grade two (starred) listed building dating from 1852.

The laying of the foundation stone was an act of faith in itself as the founders of the church, the missionary order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate had little idea as to where the money was to be found to complete the building. The church stands high on the crest of Richmond Hill and can be seen from many parts of the city. The slope below the church had been known for hundreds of years as 'the Bank'.For many, Mount St Mary's is the Famine Church, the original chapel was established at a time when Ireland was only beginning to recover from the Great Hunger brought on by the failure of the potato crop in successive years from 1845 to 1851. Hundreds of families, many of them suffering from the effects of starvation and 'famine fever’, found home in what became Mount St Mary's parish.

The story of how the church came to be established in the first place, on the initiative of men from the neighbouring St Saviour's Anglican church who were received into the Roman Catholic Church is more than just a footnote in English Church history. These were the people who persuaded the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to establish a chapel in Richmond Street, the Bank.Since their foundation by the Sisters Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Mount Saint Mary's stands in a district of Leeds traditionally known as 'The Bank'. This high ground dominates Leeds and had originally been used as farmland but by the late 1840's it had developed into an industrial area densely packed with mills and workshops whose tall chimneys billowed out smoke which all but obliterated the sun and choked the air.By this time, The Bank also became home to a large community of Irish Catholic families who had emigrated to Leeds to seek work building canals and railways and as millworkers. There were only about fifty Catholics living in Leeds in the 1780's but the Irish brought this to 10,000 by the 1850's. The majority of the new Irish Catholic community lived on The Bank. They were in the main very poor, their housing was quite appalling and without sanitation, disease and near starvation was commonplace.

The town authorities regarded the Irish merely as a source of cheap labour and did little or nothing for their physical or spiritual welfare.In 1851 a group of The Bank's Catholics had a chance meeting with Father Robert Cooke, a missionary from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. They explained the plight of their community and this led to Saint Mary's Mission being opened by the Oblates. The first Catholic Mass was said on The Bank on October 22nd 1851.The Mission was set up in the 'Spitalfield Tavern', a disused public house which then stood at the bend in the road where Richmond Street today meets Ellerby Road.

By 1857 The Bank's Catholic community had not only established a thriving mission but also, despite it being desperately poor, had raised sufficient money to build and occupy Mount Saint Mary's church. Father Robert Cooke OMI knew that a local Catholic school was essential to the work of Saint Mary's Mission, this at a time when there was no legal requirement for children to attend any form of school. He looked to the Sisters Oblates of Mary Immaculate to support this work and they sent four Sisters to establish a convent and school on The Bank.

Their convent was at first in temporary accommodation in a small Orphanage at Hillhouse Place, a building which although now empty still stands.By 1858 the Sisters had raised enough funds to build a convent next to Mount Saint Mary's Church. It was not big enough to hold the steadily expanding school that moved out of the old orphanage into a few cottages adjacent to the new convent. The cottages must have been in poor repair as they collapsed in 1861 and the school worked temporarily in a cloister of the new church. More fundraising by the Sisters soon produced the £800 needed for new school buildings that were erected next to the Convent.
Here’s a few pics.

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Details.

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Cheers for looking. :thumb

 

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