22 May 2023

Saint Peter’s Church
in Harrogate town
centre is part of the
Major Churches Network

Saint Peter’s Church is a landmark building in the centre of Harrogate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Peter’s Church is a landmark building in the centre of Harrogate, on the corner of Cambridge Street, Cambridge Crescent and Cambridge Road, a short stroll from the war memorial and Betty’s Tearoom in the heart of Harrogate.

During our week in Yorkshire earlier this month, two of us visited Saint Peter’s Church, which is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture, and boasts exceptional 19th-century stained glass. The tall striking tower is a prominent sight and makes it impossible to miss this church.

Harrogate became a popular spa town in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the growth in population was stimulated by the arrival of the railway in the 1860s. The Victoria Park Company began to develop the open agricultural land between High and Low Harrogate in 1860 to provide the town with a new centre.

It became obvious that a new church was needed in this part of Harrogate, to serve both the growing population and the needs of the town’s authority. A new parish was formed out of the parish of Christ Church, High Harrogate.

Mary Anne Fielde offered her house as a vicarage, with a garden large enough for building a new a church and school too. The school was the first part of the building project, beginning in the mid-1860s. The school was also a place of worship until the new church building was built.

Sadly, Mary Anne Fielde died before the foundation stone was laid on 21 April 1870. The church was then built in stages as funds became available.

Inside Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate, designed by the Yorkshire-born architect John Henry Hirst (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Saint Peter’s Church was designed by the Yorkshire-born architect John Henry Hirst (1827-1882) of Bristol, who also designed Cambridge Crescent and Prospect Crescent in Harrogate. Hirst designed the new church in the Decorated Gothic style, with elements from mediaeval French architecture. The design was executed by the architect George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who was born in Hull. Bodley also gave the Golden Gates in the church.

Bodley was influenced by George Gilbert Scott and William Morris, and his work includes All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, Queens’ College Chapel, Cambridge, and repairs to Jesus College Chapel, Cambridge.

The chancel and temporary nave of Saint Peter’s were opened on 7 September 1871, and the new church was consecrated on 3 October 1876.

Further important additions were made in 1885, 1890, 1910, 1921 and in 1926, when the great tower was completed to a design by AA Gibson, who respected Hirst’s original concept.

A carving of the head of an archbishop by William Pashley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Inside, Saint Peter’s displays much of beauty and high craftsmanship. The splendidly broad nave contains stone carving by two outstanding Victorian sculptors, Harry Hems and William Pashley of Harrogate and Leeds.

The eight carved heads by Pashley in the nave depict Archbishops of York and of Canterbury. Pashley also designed the roundels over the front and rear doors. Pashley’s other works at Lichfield Cathedral and Leeds Minster are widely admired.

However, the stained and painted glass is Saint Peter’s greatest decorative glory, and is both rich and artistic.

This glass, made by the London firm of Burlison and Grylls, who also designed the rose window in Westminster Abbey, embellishes the chancel, transepts, chapel and aisles of Saint Peter’s, and is a glorious sight. The large east window above the altar was given by Mary Anne Fielde.

The stained and painted glass by Burlison and Grylls is Saint Peter’s greatest decorative glory (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A striking three-light stained glass window by Burlison and Grylls depicts the Army of Heaven in the Book of Revelation. A man wearing a red cloak and a papal tiara is carrying an upright sword and is seated on a white horse that is trampling a dragon in flames. They are surrounded by knights mounted on horseback carrying tilting spears. The knight at the left in the front row knight looks directly at the viewer and is a photographic likeness of Aubrey Coombes.

In the tracery, five angels carry ribbons with a quotation: ‘He was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war’ (see Revelation 19: 11).

The inscription below reads: ‘To the glory of God and in loving memory of Aubrey Cecil James Coombes 19th (Public Schools Batt) Royal Fusiliers who fell at Cuinichy, France,/ 28th December 1915, in the Great War, 1914-18, aged 24 years. This window is the gift of his parents, James and Edith Coombes, Harrogate.’

Much of the interior woodwork as produced by the Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson studio of Kilburn, with his trademark carved mice adorning surfaces in the Lady Chapel, the entrance porch, and at the altar rail.

The bronze war memorial was designed by William Walker. It include the names of Captain Donald Simpson Bell (1880-1916) and Private Charles Hull (1890-1953), both from Harrogate and awarded the Victoria Cross for valour during World War I.

The great organ was built by the internationally celebrated German organ builder Heinrich Edmund Schulze (1824-1878).

The first vicar of Saint Peter’s, the Revd Lundy Foote (1842-1925), served for 50 years before retiring in 1922. Three of his sons are depicted in the south aisle window nearest the entrance.

The ornate reredos behind the high altar designed by Bodley is a memorial to Canon Foote, and there is a bronze memorial in his honour under the right-hand angel, behind the gilded gates

The High Altar and Bodley’s reredos in Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Foote provides an interesting link with many places I know in Ireland. The Foote or Foot family were descended from John Foot who settled in Dublin after the Battle of the Boyne. His son, Geoffrey Foot (1704-1773), a custom’s officer in Ringsend, married Jane Lundy and their son, Lundy Foot (1735-1805), bought the land at Footmount, at the foot of the Dublin Mountains, in 1766. Later this was the Augustinian retreat at Orlagh, at the top of Ballycullen Road.

Lundy Foot established a business as a tobacconist and snuff maker in Dublin. One enthusiastic author claimed that in 1800 Lundy Foot’s snuff was as famous in Dublin as Guinness is today. The business was later acquired by PJ Carroll.

Lundy Foot’s eldest son, Geoffrey Foot, lived in Hollymount, now the core of the old building at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and died in 1824. One of his sons, Canon Lundy Foot (1793-1873), was the first Rector of Whitechurch (1824-1828), where I was once an NSM, and established Whitechurch National School. Later he was a canon of Salisbury Cathedral until his death.

A younger son, the Revd Frederick Foot (1808-1871), worked in a number of parishes in the south-east of Ireland, including Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, Redcross, Co Wicklow, Cappoquin, Co Waterford, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, and Fethard, Co Tipperary.

Geoffrey Foot’s younger brother, also named Lundy Foot, built Footmount, the first house on the lands at Orlagh in 1790. He surrounded the house with choice plantations, including tulip trees – one of which survived behind the apse of the Augustinian chapel – and laid out the road from Ballycullen House to the entrance at the Orlagh Estate, past Saint Colmcille’s Well.

Lundy Foot was seen as a ruthless magistrate. In 1816, he brought to trial the three Kearneys – a father and his two sons – for the murder of a gamekeeper. They were hanged on the banks of the River Dodder at Old Bawn, a ten-minute walk from Foot’s house. Local anger was high, and Lundy Foot was afterwards fired at and seriously injured. He recovered and went to live in Rosbercon Castle, near New Ross, Co Wexford, selling Footmount to his son’s father-in-law, Nathaniel Callwell.

Lundy Foot lived at Rosbercon Castle for almost 20 years until 2 January 1835, when he was stoned and hacked to death while planting trees on his estate. His murder followed a dispute over the eviction by the Tottenham family of a tenant named Murphy from a small holding of five acres that had been bought by Foot. He is buried in the family vault in Saint Matthew’s Church, Irishtown.

Inside Saint Peter’s Church, Harrogate, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A series of improvements to the exterior and interior of Saint Peter’s Church was carried out in 2009-2011. These greatly enhanced the mission of this church at the heart of Harrogate Community.

Saint Peter’s is a member of the Major Churches Network, founded as the Greater Churches Network and representing about 300 of the largest, most significant and well-loved churches in England.

Saint Peter’s Church is open from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm from Monday to Saturday.

The daily food ministry in the church is reflected in the motto on the church logo, ‘Feeding Hungry People.’

The Army of Heaven in the Book of Revelation depicted in the Coombes window by Burlison and Grylls (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Revelation 19: 11-16 (NRSVA):
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.’

Five loaves and two fish … ‘St Peter’s Harrogate Feeding Hungry People’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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