English Church Architecture.
SOUTH OSSETT, Christ Church (SE 283 195),
WAKEFIELD METROPOLITAN BOROUGH.
(Bedrock: Carboniferous Westphalian Series, mixed deposits from the Lower Coal Measures.)
An early church by Mallinson and Healey, built together with a school and a parsonage for one of their reverend clients.
As discussed under the entry for St. Paul's, Manningham (Bradford), one of the most significant differences between the approach the successful provincial Victorian architect needed to adopt when compared to his metropolitan counterpart concerned his relationship with potential clients. A renowned metropolitan man could develop a portfolio widely spread across the country by appealing to those who admired his distinctive style and it was of little consequence to him if others disliked his work if he nonetheless had as much work in hand as he could manage. A provincial architect's position was entirely different. Logistically confined, perhaps, within a thirty mile radius of his office, the number of potential clients within reach was unlikely to be such as to enable him to alienate any with equanimity, and he was. moreover, well advised not to allow himself to become too closely identified with any particular faction but rather to hold himself in as ambiguous a position, both politically and denominationally, as it was reasonably feasible to do.
Cognisant of this necessity, Mallinson and Healey drew their clients from almost every rank and profession of men, and occasionally women, who were ever likely to want to build in the western half of the West Riding. Only a proportion of these were the respective patrons: others were chairmen of building committees or individuals holding respected positions, most frequently in the Church, who hoped to spend other people's money for them. Six broad and overlapping categories of clients can be distinguished among those who used Mallinson and Healey's professional services, namely Church of England clergymen, local industrialists, tradesmen, landowners, some of the leading local Nonconformists, and local politicians. The commission to design Christ Church, South Ossett, came in effect from a member of the first category, the Rev. D.C. Neary, even though it was not his money it was proposed would be spent. Moreover, clergymen were often particularly good clients to do one's best to cultivate, for having once got themselves a new church and experienced a smooth working relationship with the architect, very often, as here, they would soon be back to discuss the building of a school and a parsonage.
This also provides an illustration of why it was important not for a provincial architect not to become too closely associated with any particular religious faction, for at the same time that Mallinson and Healey were working for the Rev. D.C. Neary, whose evangelical credentials were made plain by his membership of the Church Missionary Society, they were also working for the Rev. John Bickerdyke of St. Mary's, Quarry Hill (Leeds), who was one of the clergymen appointed by Dr. Hook in 1848 when he was trying to repopulate Leeds with High Churchmen more in accordance with his taste, and for whom they restored the church in 1850 and designed a new parsonage in 1851.
Christ Church, South Ossett, is a rather modest, pseudo-cruciform building (i.e. with transepts but no true crossing) and has a short W. tower and S. porch but no aisles. (See the recent photograph above and the Victorian lithograph at the foot of the page, respectively taken and drawn from the south.) It is still in use although it has been stripped bare within and retains today absolutely no architectural interest. The school and parsonage then followed at three-yearly intervals. The latter seems to have been enormous by comparison with the church and was probably a reflection of the size of Rev. Neary’s family. The chamber plan shows six bedrooms but no water-closet, but this was evidently not a matter of niggardliness or short-cutting for when Henry Hunt at the Queen Anne’s Bounty Office wrote to the Rev. Neary to say that before the Governors offered a loan, they would expect the plans to be amended to include at least one water closet, the Rev. Neary wrote back to say that it would be more trouble than it was worth, due to 'the difficulty of procuring water in all this neighbourhood' (letter from the Rev. D.C. Neary to the Queen Anne's Bounty Office, Leeds Record Office (Morley), WYL555/46). Indeed, the school plan may also show this was still an area of pioneer settlement, for the building comprised just two main classrooms at right angles to one another, one each for the infants and older children, which, unusually at this time, boys and girls were obviously expected to share. (See Mallinson and Healey's drawing of the west elevation of the school, below left, and east elevation of the parsonage, below right.)
The church was consecrated on 16th October 1851 and described by The Leeds Intelligencer, not unfairly, as a 'plain substantial building' commanding 'a most extensive prospect' by virtue of its 'very eligible site given by Joseph Thornes, Esq., of Ossett Green' (25th October 1851, p. 3). The total cost was estimated at £1,940, which included £100 for the architects' commission and £50 for the salary of the clerk-of-the-works, and the church at that time contained 608 seats, making the cost per sitting a modest £3.3s.10d.