Roman Catholicism

A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.

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'Roman Catholicism', in A History of the County of York: the City of York, (London, 1961) pp. 418-419. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]


Roman Catholics were worshipping in the King's Manor in 1687-8. (fn. 1) A house in Little Blake Street (now Duncombe Place) may have been occupied by a Roman Catholic priest about 1688 and probably continued to be used as a priest-house by Roman Catholic clergy serving in the city in the late-17th and early-18th centuries. (fn. 2) In 1742 the Mission of St. Wilfrid was founded in York, in the charge of Thomas Daniel, a Douai priest who had been serving at Linton-upon-Ouse (N.R.). (fn. 3) Daniel resided in the Little Blake Street house and it was probably this house or part of it that was opened for public Roman Catholic worship in 1760. (fn. 4) In 1764 about 170 papists were said to be meeting in a house that was almost certainly this one. (fn. 5) It was probably known as 7 Little Blake Street, and was purchased by the York Union Lodge of Freemasons in 1806. (fn. 6) The building was demolished and the site cleared during the construction of Duncombe Place between 1859 and 1864. (fn. 7)

Roman Catholic priests and the houses they occupied and served are mentioned in other parts of the city in the 18th century. (fn. 8) A house in which two priests lived and in which mass was performed was recorded in the parish of Holy Trinity, Micklegate, in 1735. (fn. 9) In 1743 there were four priests in this parish and an unlicensed meeting-house attended by Roman Catholics from all parts of the city. (fn. 10) A house used for Roman Catholic meetings in the parish of Holy Trinity, King's Court, was recorded in 1764. (fn. 11) Possibly this was the Colliergate house of a Mrs. More, who, like others in the city, had a Jesuit chaplain. (fn. 12) The chapel at St. Mary's Convent, Blossom Street, was also used for worship by Roman Catholics of the city from its inception in 1686. (fn. 13)

Despite this papist activity in other parts of the city, the Little Blake Street house seems to have remained the chief centre of Roman Catholic worship. It is probable that a room in the house was used as a chapel (fn. 14) until 1802 when a new chapel dedicated to St. Wilfrid was built opposite to this house and on the site of the present St. Wilfrid's Church. (fn. 15) The site of the pre-Reformation church of St. Wilfrid is close to the modern Roman Catholic church. This chapel provided accommodation for 700 persons and has been described as a brick building with a gallery and organ loft, and, annexed to the chapel, a presbytery. (fn. 16)

The need for more accommodation led to the erection of a new church in 1864. Little Blake Street was being widened at this time to form Duncombe Place and so the site was adapted to the new building line. (fn. 17) The new church was dedicated to ST. WILFRID, as was the chapel of 1760. The building is of stone in Gothic style with a decorated tower and elaborately carved, arched doorway. The interior of the church is of stone and lighted by leaded lights. The nave is flanked by side aisles and leads into an apsidal chancel; behind the altar are large murals. St. Wilfrid's was designed by George Goldie of York. The cost of the church and fittings was over £10,000. (fn. 18)

The Irish immigration of the 1840's resulted in an increase of Roman Catholics in the Walmgate area, and, in order to provide a more convenient church, a site at the corner of George Street and St. Margaret Street was purchased. The church of ST. GEORGE was opened on 4 September 1850; as with St. Wilfrid's a pre-Reformation church of the same dedication had existed in the area. (fn. 19) The church is Early Decorated style and has three gabled roofs and a double belfry surmounted by a crucifix. The architects were Joseph and Charles Hansom. St. George's provides accommodation for 500 persons and a presbytery is attached. The cost of the building and site was £3,550. (fn. 20) Alterations and restoration of the church was carried out in 1901 and 1923. (fn. 21)

The CHURCH OF THE ENGLISH MARTYRS was accommodated in a room in St. Mary's Court, off Blossom Street, from 1882 until 1889. In that year the church moved to 17 Blossom Street where it occupied the upper story of a school building. (fn. 22) In 1932 the permanent building in Dalton Terrace was completed. (fn. 23) It is a brick building with a pantiled roof; there is a tower surmounted by a cross and the windows contain ornamental leaded lights. Adjoining the church and built in the same materials is a presbytery.

In 1932 the church of ST. AELDRED was founded for Roman Catholics living in the Tang Hall Estate. It occupied a hall adjoining the Roman Catholic school in Fifth Avenue from 1932 until 1956 and accommodated 270 persons. In that year a new building adjoining the school site, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Melrosegate, was opened. (fn. 24) The church, designed by Stephen Simpson of Leeds, is brick-built and provides accommodation for 400 persons.

On 30 November 1939 St. Joseph's chapel-ofease was opened in Burdyke Avenue in the Water Lane housing estate. (fn. 25) ST. JOSEPH'S is built of rustic brick, and is a simple building with a tower and leaded lights in the two side aisles and in the clerestory. Adjoining the church is a presbytery.

Roman Catholic services were begun in Acomb Council school in 1941. The CHURCH OF OUR LADY, Cornlands Road, was opened in 1955. There is a nave with two side aisles and a clerestory and seats are provided for 400 persons; the cost was £28,000. J. H. Langtry-Langton of Bradford was the architect. (fn. 26)


  • 1. See p. 530.
  • 2. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxv. 4.
  • 3. Ibid. 1, 4.
  • 4. Ibid. 4; St. Mary's Convent, Micklegate Bar, ed. H. J. Coleridge, 177.
  • 5. York Dioc. Regy. (St. Ant. Hall), R. BP. b.
  • 6. Hargrove, Hist. York, ii. 475; Benson, Hist. York, iii. 168.
  • 7. C. B. Knight, This is York (priv. print. York [1951]), 200.
  • 8. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxv. 3; D. & C. York Hornby MSS. p. 322.
  • 9. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxii. 341.
  • 10. Abp. Herring's Visitn. iii.
  • 11. York Dioc. Regy. (St. Ant. Hall), R. BP. b.
  • 12. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxv. 3.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Sheahan and Whellan, Hist. York and E.R. i. 554.
  • 15. Hargrove, Hist. York, ii. 473.
  • 16. Ibid. 473-4.
  • 17. Knight, Hist. York, 649.
  • 18. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxxv. 8; Yorks. Herald, 28 Sept. 1907.
  • 19. Yorks. Gaz. 7 Sept. 1850.
  • 20. Sheahan and Whellan, Hist. York and E.R. i. 554.
  • 21. Yorks. Gaz. 7 Sept. 1901; 8 Sept. 1923.
  • 22. Knight, Hist. York, 689.
  • 23. Cath. Dir. (1955).
  • 24. Yorks. Eve. Press, 6 Aug. 1954.
  • 25. Yorks. Gaz. 1 Dec. 1939.
  • 26. Yorks. Eve. Press, 6 April 1955.