Relics of Old Leeds (1896). [Click on image to enlarge it.]. by Percy Robinson. Source: Robinson's
ALTHOUGH the existing Church of St. Peter is a modern building, being erected during the present century, it stands upon a site which has been occupied by successive churches from very early times. Of the beginning we have very little information, but we may assume that the first church in Leeds was a Saxon structure, in all probability erected during the days of Paulinus, the Northumbrian Apostle. Thoresby suggests that this original church was destroyed by the Danes when they burned York Minster, and this suggestion is not improbable. However, in "Domesday," we have certain evidence of a church being in existence, though what the structure was like can only be a matter of conjecture. It would probably be one of those rude Saxon edifices which were rebuilt by the Normans during the great era of church building in the twelfth century, when they adapted the old churches of the Saxons to their own more extended ideas of propriety and magnificence. . . .
The church which was pulled down in 1838, to make way for the present structure, has been described by Thoresby and others as an ancient fabric, chiefly in the Perpendicular style of architecture, but with sortie traces of Norman and Early English work. It was built in the form of a cross, with a somewhat plain, square, battlemented tower over the transept crossing. The plan was chiefly remarkable for its two north aisles, an unusual feature, which gave the church an extraordinary width. Originally, the building seems to have consisted of nave, chancel, and transepts only, the north aisle being added in the time of Henry the Eighth, and the south aisle about the end of the fifteenth century. The south wall was pulled down and rebuilt in 1 809, when many fragments of an older building were discovered, amongst which was a stone coffin containing a complete skeleton, with portions of two others placed in a contrary direction, and supposed to be those of a woman and child. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many alterations were made to the building. The side altars disappeared, and the choir ceased to be used except for the celebration of Holy Com- munion. The east window was blocked up with a heavy screen of Italian design, on the inside, and a large ugly vestry outside. In 1714 the organ took possession of the chancel arch, the ugly and cumbersome oak galleries began to make their appearance, darkening the interior and giving it a gloomy and dismal aspect. The roof was painted in fresco by Parmentier, an artist of some repute who lived in Thoresby's time, and who painted that worthy's portrait. [39-40]
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Robinson, Percy. Relics of Old Leeds. Leeds: Percy Robinson, 1896; London: B. T. Batsford. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 23 January 2013
Last modified 23 January 2013