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The Ecclesiological Society

For those who love churches

‘Leeds Minster: ‘noblest among the noble’ of the early-Victorian churches

Leeds Minster Conference 2021

Time:10.30am to 5.30pm
Location:Leeds Minster (or online should government guidelines prevent attendance)
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Organiser:The Ecclesiological Society in association with The Leeds Civic Trust

‘Leeds Minster: ‘noblest among the noble’ of the early-Victorian churches ‘ – Saturday 11th September 2021, 10.30am – 5.30pm.

About this Event

The Ecclesiological Society, with support from Leeds Civic Trust, will be holding an important conference Saturday 11 September 2021, 10.30am – 5.30pm:

‘Leeds Minster: ‘noblest among the noble’ of the early-Victorian churches’

Leeds Minster – formerly the parish church of St Peter – was rebuilt in 1837-41. It was the largest new church since St Paul’s and ‘as grand as any cathedral’. It is also the most important church erected in England around 1840, at that heady moment when Anglicanism was moving in a Higher direction thanks to the Tractarians, and Gothic authenticity was being promoted energetically by the Cambridge Camden Society. And it remains almost entirely unchanged. However, its importance goes beyond its architecture; it had profound liturgical influence by promoting alternatives to Georgian auditory worship and here, probably for the first time outside the cathedrals, was a robed choir placed in the chancel. The project was led by the new vicar, the dynamic Dr W.F. Hook, and Anglicans across the country watched with anticipation, seeing this as the first serious attempt by the Church of England to reassert itself in an industrial town and challenge the worrying spread of Nonconformity. All these themes are included in the day’s programme.

Attendance at the conference will be available either ‘live’, in the Minster, or via Zoom (see below).

All those ‘attending’ will receive by post a complimentary copy of the day’s proceedings. This will be a high quality, full colour publication of around 200 pages. Please make sure you give your postal address when you register.

The day’s programme:

9.30-10.30. Registration, teas and coffees for those attending the event in the Minster

10.30-10.45. Introduction: Information etc for delegates. Conference opening

10.45-11.30. Paper 1. The Medieval Parish Church of Leeds, c. 730-1838. Kevin Grady

This paper discusses the origins of Leeds Parish Church and the four phases of its development before demolition in 1838. Contemporary illustrations and sources will provide a vivid picture of its historic fabric and fixtures and fittings, important elements of which can still be seen in the present-day Leeds Minster.

11.30-12.15. Paper 2. The rebuilding of the Parish Church, 1837-41. Christopher Webster

The paper will examine the rebuilding project and explore the evolution of the final, radical scheme. It will also set it in the context of church-building around 1840 to reveal its remarkable innovations. It will also consider its reception in early 1840s publications and periodicals.

12.15-12.45. Teas and coffees

12.45-1.30. Paper 3. ‘There’s High Church, Low Church and there’s Leeds Parish Church’: the liturgical tradition. Kenneth Powell

The paper will explore liturgical practice at the church from the incumbency of Dr Hook into the twenty-first century.

1.30-2.30. Lunch

2.30-3.15. Paper 4. Class, congregations and community at Leeds Parish Church 1841-1914. Janet Douglas

Accounts of Victorian Nonconformity frequently refer to the webs of connection which cemented chapel congregations but whether equivalent social networks existed within Anglicanism is a matter which is under-researched. This paper therefore seeks to explore these issues in the context of Leeds Parish Church by analysing the social composition of those who worshipped there; to what extent did multi-dimensional bonds develop between members of the church? Located in the midst of the worst slums in Leeds, both clergy and leading laymen (and women) became involved in what today we would call ‘outreach work’ but how far their evangelising mission was successful in creating a more socially-diverse congregation forms the second theme of the paper.

3.15-4.00. Paper 5. ‘For every poor man a pastor and for every poor child a school’. Christopher Hammond

Dr Hook’s words of January 1844 to the Parishioners of Leeds foretell his greatest achievements: the passing of the Leeds Vicarage Act which divided the parish into many new ones and led to the building of 18 churches within the 32 square miles of the ancient Parish of Leeds. The paper will describe the difficulties and opposition which he overcame and how his inspiration continued long after he had left Leeds through the work of the Leeds Church Extension Society. Also examined will be his foresight that education must ultimately be the responsibility of the state. There will be an assessment of Hook’s church-building legacy today, in particular the circumstances which have led to so many regrettable demolitions.

4.00-4.30. Teas, coffees and cakes

4.30-5.15. Paper 6. ‘… a good service … ‘: the musical tradition at St Peter-at-Leeds.

Dr Hook’s fervent views on church music drove a programme of initiatives that laid the musical foundation of the church for the better part of the succeeding 200 years. The paper examines Hook’s visionary input and that of his first Organist, S.S. Wesley, along with their successors, illustrated with organ music played by David Houlder.

At 5.30, there will be a specially arranged service of Evensong, sung by the outstanding choir of Leeds Minster, led by Master of the Music, Alex Woodrow. Those attending the conference will be invited to stay for this optional event. It will finish around 6.10, followed by an organ voluntary lasting a few minutes.

Practical information

Attendance options

We are excited to be providing the option of attending the conference either in person, in the Minster, or by Zoom, for those who would like to join from home. Current government regulations suggest the ‘live’ option will be entirely feasible. Certainly, it is the organisers’ intention that the ‘live’ option will be available; only new government restrictions in place by September will remove that option. In the event of this being the situation, the conference will still take place, but solely as a Zoom event.

Should the ‘live’ option have to be removed as a result of government regulations, it is assumed that all those who have booked for ‘live’ attendance will be content to move to the Zoom alternative. We are afraid that we will not be able to offer refunds if this turns out to be the case. Moving from one option to another should not be problematic administratively, however we do need to know in advance how many people to expect for the ‘live’ option to assist with issues such as seating and catering.

In mid-August you will be contacted by an email from Eventbrite asking you to confirm your attendance option. Certainly, we will need to know by 28 August if you have selected the ‘live’ option.

Attendance fee

The cost of the event will be £25 regardless of the means of attendance. This price includes the copy of the proceedings, a high quality, full colour publication of around 200 pages which will be sent by post. For those choosing the ‘live’ option, the conference fee will include teas and coffees, biscuits and cake.

Live option catering

A buffet lunch of sandwiches and pastries will be available in the church at a price of £12.00.

This must be ordered by August 28th. If attendance in the Minster has to be prohibited due to government restrictions, refunds will be given to those who have booked a lunch. Those wishing to book lunch should email who will provide payment details. Lunches will NOT be booked via Eventbrite.

Zoom link

Details of how to access the Zoom option will be sent by email a day or two before the event.