St John's Church, Leeds, West Yorkshire

Address:
23 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JA
How to find us | Access information
Opening times:
Fridays & Saturdays 11am - 3pm.
  • Overview
  • Map
  • What's on
  • What's nearby
  • Feedback

The oldest church in Leeds

St John's is the oldest church in Leeds city centre. It was built in 1632-34, a turbulent time in England when very few new churches were constructed. The glory of the church lies in its magnificent Jacobean (Carolean) fittings, particularly the superb carved wooden screen. Every part of the screen is richly decorated with flowers (including tulips), hearts, twisting vines, and grotesque heads of humans and animals.There is more lovely carving on the wall panels, pews and pulpit. Brightly painted angels play instruments in the roof and look down on wonderful carved pews below.

The church building was entirely funded by wealthy merchant and Royalist John Harrison who also paid for the grammar school and almshouses nearby. Harrison''s benevolent spirit still pervades the church - he is buried near the altar, and a series of stained-glass windows depicts his good works. One of the windows shows an apocryphal tale in which Harrison presents King Charles, imprisoned in Leeds, with a tankard of gold coins disguised as a draught of ale.

Other monuments around the church commemorate the citizens of Leeds throughout the centuries, and emphasise the importance of the wool industry to the city's prosperity. In the mid-nineteenth century, the parish wanted to demolish the building and rebuild a more convenient modern church. The young architect Norman Shaw led an outcry against this, joined by the eminent architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. Happily they prevailed and Shaw was responsible for the ensuing restoration, very much in the original style of the building.