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English Church Architecture -

Bradford (U. A.).


HORTON, All Saints (SE 157 321)     (February 2016)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Westphalian Series, Lower Coal Measures)


This fine church of 1862-4 is the magnum opus of Thomas Healey (1809-62) of the Mallinson and Healey, Halifax and Bradford partnership, who had almost finished the designs for the building  when he died from a stroke on 7th November 1862, leaving his sons, Thomas Henry and Francis, to oversee its construction. The church was the gift to the neighbourhood of Sir Francis Sharp Powell (1827 - 1911) of Horton Old Hall but from 1863 successively M.P. for Cambridge, the Northern Division of the West Riding, and Wigan in Lancashire. He is believed to have spent around 18,000 on the project - an enormous sum when it is considered that the partners'  still quite large church of St. John the Baptist, Clayton, erected a decade earlier, had only cost 1,903, although Sharp Powell's munificence was still relatively modest in comparison with Edward Akroyd's extravagance at All Souls', Hayley Hill, Halifax, where building operations had only recently been completed and from whence, it must be admitted, Healey appears to have drawn some of his inspiration, most noticeably in the porches, tower bell-stage and spire.  Even so, due in part to the greatly reduced external carving, the lines of Healey's building are cleaner and more elegant than Scott's, and the open east end of the Little Horton Lane site, is wonderfully exploited by placing the tower south of the chancel, alongside the proud, semi-polygonal apse with large four-light windows topped by  crocketed gables.  (See the photograph, left.)


All Saints' church is one of Healey's most Ruskinian buildings even though there is very little to be found here of Ruskin's beloved structural colour, for why would anyone import costly exotic stone when so much good quality Carboniferous sandstone was available almost literally beneath one's feet?  In fact, two local quarries were used for the main structure because the stone from the first, which was ideal for the principal walling, was too hard to be employed wherever it needed to be carved.  The one expensive stone (a dark brown marble) to which resort was made in any quantity - most notably for the shafts between the clerestory windows - was to fail the test of time and require to be taken down in order to prevent it falling piece by piece on the heads of unsuspecting worshippers below!  All that remains of it can be found today in the shafts supporting the blank arcading running at dado level around the sanctuary (as illustrated below), where any sudden failure is unlikely to cause anybody any harm.  Structural polychrome apart, however, the building accords well with Ruskin's principles, set out in The Seven Lamps of Architecture:  the windows are varied, yet restricted to Early English/Decorated, pre-ogee transitional forms in conformity with the curious argument expounded in "The Lamp of Truth", and the deeply-carved leaf capitals atop every pier and shaft, both inside the church or out, all differ from one another yet are each derived from nature, in line with "The Lamp of Beauty".  (See the examples lower down the page.  The first row, taken from the blank arcading around the sanctuary, can probably be identified as wood sorrel, gooseberry and wild strawberry respectively, while the second row shows first, the vestry doorway in the N. wall of the chancel, followed by the capitals above the shafts to left and right, depicting wheat and grapes on the first to represent the Eucharist, and what may be intended to represent thistles growing instead of wheat , as described, for example, in Job, ch. 31, v. 40.)



All Saints' church comprises a nave of six bays with aisles alongside the five western bays and shallow transepts leading directly into the easternmost, a chancel ending (as already described) in a semi-polygonal apse, and a very tall southeast tower and spire rising to 201' (61.3 m.), making this the tallest church in Bradford.  Large porches lead into the second bay of the nave aisles from the west, with that to the north being approached up no less than fourteen steps from Little Horton Green, and there is a vestry formed of a lateral and a transversely-gabled section in the re-entrant between the chancel and N. transept, and a shallow organ chamber to the south, sandwiched between the chancel and the tower.  Inside the building, the tower is divided off from the rest of the church and obviously not intended to be viewed as it is entirely without ornament.




To consider first the exterior of the building, however, the tower rises in four stages supported by angle buttresses, to uncrocketed octagonal corner pinnacles, a parapet faced with blank trefoils, and a surmounting broach spire lit by two tiers of gabled lucarnes in the cardinal directions.  The bell-stage is pierced by two tall, two-light openings in each wall, with an encircled trefoil above each pair of lancet lights, two orders of colonnettes at either side, and two further colonnettes between the lights, set one in front of the other.  The dripstones are decorated with a line of dog-tooth ornament.

Windows throughout the church are consistently geometric.  The apse windows are formed of three trefoil-cusped lancet lights, with colonnettes between and at the sides, and two encircled cinquefoils and an encircled trefoil above the springing.  They are set beneath steeply-pointed crocketed gables, in each of which there is room for a small blank encircled trefoil.   The S. transept window consists of four trefoiled lights subarcuated in pairs above encircled cinquefoils and in the window head above and between, three large trilobes alternating with little encircled trefoils, but the N. transept window has just three encircled trefoils in a larger circle in the head.  The aisle windows and clerestory each comprise two alternating designs, the former consisting of three stepped trefoiled lights with either an encircled trefoil and two encircled pointed cinquefoils, or an encircled pointed cinquefoil and two encircled pointed quatrefoils in the heads.  The clerestory is formed of two-centred arch heads (i.e. arches above the springing line only), filled alternately with three encircled quatrefoils or three trilobes in rounded triangles.   The nave W. wall is pierced by two very tall two-light windows and, in the gable above and between, a wheel of six cinquefoils set around a sexfoil. The porch entrances are covered with ribbed tunnel vaults and have blank three-bay arcades along their east and west walls, with shafts between the bays and small two-light windows in the central bays.  The outer doorways have three orders of side shafts, all with leaf capitals, and a complex series of mouldings around the arches themselves, including a profusion of rolls and recesses, and narrow bands of loosely floral decoration, one of which does not quite manage to be ball flower.


Inside the church, the five-bay aisle arcades are formed of two-centred arches of complex profile supported on piers composed of four shafts separated by recesses.  Beyond a short wall piece immediately to the east, the arches from the nave to the transepts and then the arch to the chancel, are taller but similar, while the arches from the aisles to the transepts are about the same height as the aisle arcades but narrower.  (See the internal view of the church above, looking towards the chancel.)  Unfortunately, the removal of the coloured shafts between the aisle windows deprives the nave of what must once have been its richest feature but the large carved corbels that once supported them, remain, in the spandrels of the arcades.  Otherwise, it is the chancel that now holds most of the decorative work, most obviously in the blank arcading already described and in the stained glass by Clayton and Bell, in the three windows around the apse and the smaller N. & S. windows to the chancel proper.  The central apse window (i.e. due east) is inscribed in the glass along the bottom with the words, "These windows were inserted in memory of Mrs. Powell by her son Francis Sharp Powell M.P., of Horton Old Hall, and the Rev. Thomas Wade".  (See the apse windows below, showing from left [northeast] to right [southeast], scenes from the Nativity, the Passion, and the Last Judgement respectively.)


Other original furnishings in the church that survive - albeit not necessarily in their original positions - include the font in brown streaked marble just inside the S. transept (shown below left):  the bowl is decorated around the circumference with blank, trefoiled arches bearing nailhead and there are tiny bands of delicate ornamentation around the rim and across the arcade spandrels.  Next, one should  consider the iron-work, which includes the square pulpit above its dumpy marble base and the screen between the S. transept and the organ chamber and which is all by Francis Skidmore (1817-96), perhaps the foremost British metalworker of his generation, who constructed the choir screen for Hereford Cathedral (designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott) which is now on spectacular display in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  Last but not least, some of the fine original woodwork remains, showing this was of equally high quality.  The excellent reader's desk (below right) is still in use but the very fine, former choir stalls are now squashed, rather unceremoniously, inside the N. aisle.