St John's Church, Leeds, West Yorkshire
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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.
The path to the church across the churchyard can become slippery in damp weather and care must be taken in icy conditions. Wheelchair users will need to access the church via Merrion Gardens.
Due to the historic nature of our buildings, only a very small number have heating, running water or toilet facilities. The lighting is usually operated via a 'push button' timer or a motion sensor.
In Mark Lane, off New Briggate in central Leeds
Nearest railway station: Leeds (1 mile). Bus route numbers 12/13/13A/770/781.
Why not make your visit more enjoyable and informed by finding out more about this church before you visit? You can download a range of publications below including the relevant county guide, and any walk round guides we have for this church.Leeds St. John the Evangelist - Your Church Tour Yorkshire County Guide 2012
This free of charge short guide contains details of all the churches we care for in North, South and West Yorkshire. Printed copies of the county guides are also available at the church.
All our West Yorkshire churches are in our North region.
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