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English Church Architecture -

Bradford (U. A.).

 

MANNINGHAM, St. Paul (SE 151 346)     (November 2015)

(Bedrock:  Carboniferous Westphalian Series, Elland Flags from the Lower Coal Measures)

 

This is a very impressive building from a little distance, having been, in Malcolm Hardman's words, "erected against the twin evils of Chartism and Dissent" in 1848 by the Halifax and Bradford firm of Mallinson and Healey (Ruskin and Bradford, Manchester University Press, 1986).  Indeed, the tall spire rising above the crossing might still be regarded as performing the same function of advertising the presence of the Established Church today, in an area now with a population approximately eighty per cent Muslim.  (See the photographs, left and below right, showing the church from the east and northwest respectively.)

 

The ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for St. Paul's took place on Tuesday, 4th November, 1846, and was described in The Bradford Observer two days later.  "This church...", wrote their reporter, "will... be the means of supplying a large and destitute population with the means of spiritual life...  The edifice... will be in the style of architecture prevalent during the reign of King Henry the Third, generally known as the 'first pointed' or early English style.  It will be a cruciform structure, consisting of a nave with north and south aisles, clerestory and south porch, north and south transepts, a spacious chancel with sacristy on the N. side, and a central tower and spire 140 feet high.  In addition to the S. porch, there will be entrances at the west end of the nave, the west side of the north transept, and a priest's door in the chancel.  The timbers of the roof will be exposed to view [they are no longer]; the seats, low and of unobtrusive character, will afford accommodation to upwards of 600 worshippers;  there will be no galleries, and the whole of the interior moulded work will be of stone.  The cost will be about 3,000 exclusive of the site [which was another 300]."  The price per sitting, therefore, which was the way the cost of building new churches in this period was generally considered, was approximate 5, or 5.10s.0d (5.50) if the purchase of the site is taken into account.  This compares extremely well with a cost of 13 a sitting, which was the figure put forward in 1818 by Robert Smirke, one of the three Crown Architects, when asked by the Treasury what he regarded as a realistic estimate for building new churches (see Six Hundred New Churches: the Church Building Commission 1818-1856 by M.H. Port, republished by Spire Books Ltd., 2006), yet it seems almost extravagant when set against Mallinson and Healey's subsequent efforts at St. John the Baptist's, Clayton (consecrated in 1850), which they managed to erect for 2.70 a sitting!

 

Mallinson and Healey spent the bulk of the limited funds available for St. Paul's, ensuring it would have a commanding external appearance, and it is scarcely a surprise there was relatively little money left to spend on the interior, which is modest by comparison.  The church is tall in all parts, and seemingly the more so by virtue of being situated on slightly rising ground. All the roofs are steeply pitched, with the nave slightly higher than the transepts and the chancel, and the bell-stage of the tower begins level with the nave ridge line, and rises supported by square clasping buttresses which diminish slightly in five steps.  A corbel table of trefoil-cusped arches runs round the top of the bell-stage, just below the proud octagonal broach spire, and this is lit further up by two tiers of lucarnes, the lower, two-light, set in the cardinal faces, and the upper, one-light, set in the ordinal sides.  The "Early English" style of the building, referred to by the Bradford Observer, is the usual one for Mallinson and Healey.  Windows everywhere are cusped lancets, usually placed in pairs, but there is also a wheel window in the nave W. gable and a little oval window in the chancel gable to the east.  Side shafts to both doors and windows run through (as it were) integral shaft rings, which can actually be seen to be carved together from the same stone.  The porch joins the aisle at its furthest western end, flush with the nave W. wall.  (See the photograph, left.)  The outer doorway has four orders of side shafts with busy leaf capitals, and a series of  keeled and filleted rolls and a line of dog-tooth around the two-centred arch.

 

The church interior, unfortunately, is very poorly lit, for the aisles have been closed off by solid partitions from the nave, and the clerestory, formed of small lancet pairs, was never designed to illuminate the nave unaided.  The five-bay arcades are formed of double-flat-chamfered arches springing from quatrefoil piers with nailhead decoration round the capitals.  The tall crossing arches have a complex profile arranged in three orders above an inharmonious group of shafts (first keeled, then round, then filleted), but the asymmetry of the aisles is probably due to the subsequent widening of the S. aisle, when it may have lost the  shafts with attractive capitals that still divide the lancet pairs lighting the N. aisle, featuring carved heads on one and pecking birds on another (as shown in the photograph, right).  Decorative carving otherwise is confined largely to the font (standing at the W. end of the S. aisle) and, in particular, the reredos, formed of seven blank trefoil-cusped arches beneath gables, with elaborate flower and leaf carving in bas relief in the spandrels.  In fact, the central gable, being wider and taller than the other six, provides room below for a pair of cusped lancets, and a roundel above and between displaying a representation of what is probably the Supper at Emmaus (i.e. as opposed to The Last Supper) since Christ and only two disciples can be seen.

 

Finally, it remains to mention that immediately outside the S. door, a solitary grave or memorial stone commemorating the older of the church's architects, Thomas Healey senior (1809 to 1862), has an inscription running round the top that can still just be made out and which reads on its eastern side, "Thomas Healey, the architect of this church".  (See the photograph below.)