A bold Romanesque church in French-Norman style incorporating good quality carved sculptural elements and a clever plan, opened in 1848 before the re-establishment of Roman Catholic dioceses in 1850. Tall, unusual and well-detailed tower added by George Goldie in 1868. A church of impressive scale and architectural ambition considering that it was built to serve a small rural village.
Reasons for Designation
Roman Catholic Church of St Edward, King and Confessor, Clifford is included on the List at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* for its bold French-Norman design, sophisticated planning, and the excellent quality of its Romanesque detailing, particularly its individually carved sculptural elements;
* the tower, by the notable architect George Goldie, is particularly significant for its design, detailing and scale, combining the functions of an open porch, organ chamber, bell tower and viewing platform;
* for its high-quality stained glass and interior decoration, including the statue of Our Lady by Hoffmann, which was once described as ‘the most beautiful statue of the Mother of God to be found in Christendom’;
* as a large-scale church built before the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in 1850, and partly funded by European royalty, it is an important example of communities actively challenging discrimination against Catholics at the time;
* it contains the remains of the child martyr St Domitia the Second, brought over from the Catacombs of Rome.
Although this part of Yorkshire saw several Roman Catholics keeping the faith through the C16 and C17, numbers had dwindled locally by the early C19. In 1831 brothers Robert and Thomas Grimston (descended from the Blessed Ralph Grimston, martyred in 1598 at York) settled in Clifford and opened a flax mill in the village, making a point of employing Catholics who were often discriminated against by other employers. In 1838 they were joined in Clifford by another brother Ralph Grimston and his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth Grimston was active in promoting Catholicism, holding regular classes in religious instruction, prompting the purchase of the village’s Wesleyan chapel and seeing it converted into a Roman Catholic mission church in the care of Father Edward Lambert Clifford. Previously Catholics in Clifford attended mass at Sir Edward Vavasour’s chapel at Hazelwood Castle near Tadcaster.
By 1843 the congregation had swelled to 200, prompting the decision to build a larger church, via subscriptions and donations led by the Grimstons and supported by Sir Edward Vavasour and Father Clifford’s parents. One local supporter was Joseph Maxwell who whilst visiting the Catholic Earl of Traquair in Scotland met Ramsey, the high-achieving son of one of the earl’s shepherds. This young man was dying of consumption, but had studied architecture in France and had produced drawings for a church that Maxwell purchased for £50. These drawings, which were for a striking French-Norman style Romanesque church, were then made practical by the architect Joseph A Hansom (1803-1882). However, Hansom is reported to have given the construction little oversight, possibly not even producing proper construction plans. The completion of the church is thus thought to owe much to the skill of the local builder George Roberts.
The church's foundation stone was laid on 13 October 1845, the feast day of St Edward the Confessor, to whom the church was dedicated. During construction the remains of the child martyr St Domitia the Second were transferred from Hazelwood Castle to be placed below the main altar, having previously been removed from catacombs in Rome under papal authority in 1837. Another notable feature of the church is a Carrara marble sculpture of the Virgin Mary by Karl Hoffmann (1815-1886), carved in Rome in 1844. Hoffmann is said to have converted from Judaism to Catholicism during his creation of the statue.
The church’s opening on 24 May 1848 was attended by Nicholas Wiseman who became the first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 1850 with the Restoration of Catholic Hierarchy (the re-establishment of Roman Catholic dioceses in England). Wiseman returned, along with four other bishops, on 24 May 1859 for the church’s consecration.
Work building the church tower started in 1859 but was suspended until 1866 when construction was restarted to a new design by George Goldie (1828-1887), paid for by Ralph Grimston. The design of the tower, which is unusually tall, incorporates a belvedere from which Clifford Moor can be seen. The moor was the final mustering point of the failed Catholic uprising against Elizabeth I, the 1569 Northern Rebellion that resulted in the execution of hundreds of Catholics across Yorkshire.
Since opening the church has undergone various minor alterations, most significant of which was the reordering of the interior in 1991, responding to changes in liturgy following the Second Vatican Council. This work included the removal of two sections of arcading to either side of the sanctuary for reuse in the Lady Chapel; the bringing forward of the main altar and St Domitia’s sarcophagus within the sanctuary; and the repositioning of both the font and the pulpit to either side of the lower step between the nave and the sanctuary. In 1998-1999 a sympathetically designed extension, appearing externally as something akin to a chapterhouse, was added to the east of the sacristy to form a set of parish rooms.
Considering that the church was built in a small rural village, its scale and the ambition of its detailing is remarkable. It was largely funded by the Grimston family, but also received support from some unusual sources, including the King and Queen of Sardinia and the Grand Duke of Parma. Treatment of the stonework indicates that much more sculptural decoration was originally intended, presumably left unexecuted due to lack of funds, however this in no way detracts from the overall design: in fact the focusing of the decorative elements around the sanctuary and Lady Chapel can be seen as positively enhancing the impact of the architecture.
Roman Catholic church, 1845-1848 by JA Hansom from drawings by Ramsey, tower added 1866-1867 by G Goldie. French-Norman Romanesque style.
MATERIALS: stone ashlar, mainly of magnesium limestone but sandstone used for the plinth. Green slate roof laid to diminishing courses.
PLAN: eight-bay nave with side aisles, a tower projecting from the west end and a Lady Chapel projecting from the east end. The chancel/sanctuary (which is not expressed externally) occupies the second and third bays of the nave. The eighth bay of the nave forms a narthex to the west door with a gallery above. The church also has an enclosed porch projecting from the sixth bay of the south aisle. Projecting from the east end of the south aisle is a side chapel with a small, externally accessed crypt below. The sacristy forms a cross wing at the east end of the north aisle; the 1998 parish rooms extending eastwards as a cruciform addition. The second stage of the tower forms an organ chamber internally, which is open to the gallery at the west end of the nave.
West tower: this is of five stages capped by a pyramidal stone ashlar roof with ribs and apex finial surmounted by a cross. It has offset clasping buttresses to the bottom four stages; that to the south west corner being enlarged to form a stair turret that gives access all the way up the tower, including the belvedere that forms the top stage. The stair turret is lit by small round-arched lancets and becomes cylindrical for the upper three stages, capped by a conical stone ashlar roof. The bottom stage of the tower is cross-vaulted, open on three sides with large, porte cochére-style openings formed with segmental arches. The west door into the nave is a 2018 insertion completing the original design intension. The tower's second stage is double height with windows at the same level of those of the nave clerestory. The north and south windows are recessed within round-arched openings supported by colonnettes with scalloped capitals, set beneath a hoodmould that rises from an impost stringcourse. The west window is similarly detailed but has two lights beneath a single hoodmould that also encompasses a carved shield. The tower's third stage rises above the level of the nave roof and has paired windows to each face that are similarly styled to the north and south windows of the second stage. Below the windows is a stringcourse with a Latin inscription below to the west face. The tower's fourth stage has a single two-light window set within a gabled projection to each face and rising from a corbelled stringcourse. The tower's fifth stage is a belvedere that provides a viewpoint for the surrounding countryside including Clifford Moor. It is set back with stone ashlar roofing extending between the top of the fourth stage and the sills of the openings to the fifth stage. There are four matching openings to each face of the belvedere, arranged in pairs with central squat pillars with scalloped capitals, and linked by an impost stringcourse. The belvedere has a pyramidal roof with a corbelled eaves.
Nave and side aisles: here the bays are defined by offset pilaster buttresses. Windows to the aisles are round arched with simple hoodmoulds and flanked by colonnettes with scalloped capitals. Clerestory windows are trefoil-headed two-light windows, with the lights divided by single colonnettes and set beneath simple hoodmoulds. The eaves has prominent corbel blocks (that were possibly originally intended to be carved in situ), and stone copings to the verges. The east end has a recessed wheel-window flanked by a pair of oval-shaped (vesica) windows and a finial adapted from an Iona cross above.
Lady Chapel: this lies at the east end of the nave and projects by a single bay with a hipped roof incorporating a carved corbelled cornice with chevron decoration. The corbels are individually carved as heads, geometric shapes and other more naturalistic forms apart from one corbel that is a plain squared block similar to most of the corbels to the nave and side aisles. The chapel’s east end has a pair of round-headed lancets flanking a projecting semi-circular apse, which has a steeply pitched conical roof topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary.
South side chapel: this also extends by a single bay. Its south wall has three round-headed windows set within an otherwise blind arcade that continues around the east end where it is punctuated by a round-headed window extending up into a steeply pitched gabled dormer. The eaves on the south side is supported by a set of individually carved corbels.
South porch: this has offset buttresses supporting a coped gable with an ornamented cross finial. The entrance is set within a three-order round arch supported by colonnettes with leaf capitals, shafts of red sandstone and a hoodmould with carved label stops in the form of leaves. Above the entrance is a round-arched niche containing a weathered statue of St Edward the Confessor flanked by colonnettes. The porch’s side walls each have a small window with colonettes.
Sacristy: this is simply detailed and gabled with a cross finial.
INTERIOR: the interior has pale stone ashlar walling and stone flooring with exposed dark-stained timber roof structures. Windows to the aisles, the east end and the chapels have stained glass; those to the nave clerestory have clear glazing.
Nave: the westernmost bay of the nave is divided off from the main body of the church by a screen of three arches to form a narthex for the west door; the arches are infilled with modern plate glass screening. Above is a choir gallery with an archway through to an organ chamber housed in the second stage of the tower. In the main body of the nave the arcading between the nave and aisles is formed by massive cylindrical piers with octagonal capitals supporting roll-moulded and chamfered round arches with hollow-chamfered hoodmoulds springing from shield bosses. The third piers from the east end (framing the chancel step) are all richly carved with ‘turtle’ bases; the shaft of the south pier is a bold helix with a capital carved with foliage framing a series of scenes and emblems; and the north pier is fish-scaled, including a band of painted and gold-leafed heraldic shields with a palmette capital. The second bay of the nave forms the sanctuary and is screened from the east end and the side aisles by arcading set on a plinth incorporating bench seating and individually carved capitals; the screening extends up to the bottom of the capitals of the nave arcades. The sanctuary is overlooked by three painted and gilded shield-bearing angels to each side, individually carved from the shield bosses forming the springing-points of the hoodmoulds above the nave arcades. The other shield bosses, to the western end of the nave, are uncarved plain blocks now supporting lighting. The east end has a triptych of arches giving a view through to the Lady Chapel. Set above is a large timber crucifix flanked by statues of the Virgin Mary and St John the Apostle, each figure set upon its own fluted drum corbel. The east wheel and vesica windows above have raised ornamented frames; those to the two vesica windows incorporate stepped hoodmoulds that imitate triptychs.
Lady Chapel: this has a very ornately carved archway through to the semi-domed apse which holds a stone altar supported by a pair of kneeling angels carved in full relief. Set on this altar is a Carrara marble statue of the Virgin Mary by Karl Hoffmann. The capitals to the piers between the nave and the chapel are individually carved on the faces seen from the nave, but are uncarved on the Lady Chapel side.
South side chapel: this is stone vaulted and is separated from the south aisle by a low wall and gates. It incorporates an ornamented stone altar supporting a stone reredos incorporating a tabernacle for the Blessed Sacrament.
Crypt: this is a small barrel-vaulted chamber below the side chapel lit via a small window in the east wall and containing two sarcophagi, with individual burial vaults in the west wall.
FITTINGS: Main altar: this is in the form of an arcaded enclosure for the stone sarcophagus of St Domitia the Second, each pier of the arcade with individually carved bases, shafts and capitals, the round arches being carved with chevron decoration, the carving embellished with gold leaf.
Pulpit and font: these are ornately carved, but with blind arcading; the arches are Romanesque for the pulpit and in the form of trefoil lancets for the font.
Chapel fittings: as noted above.
STAINED GLASS: the church has 26 stained glass windows of varying dates (1848-1986), styles and qualities, mostly Victorian. For most of the windows the designers are unknown, but two (both 1848) are by AWN Pugin (both in the north aisle: bays two and four from the east) and five are by A Lusson or Lusson and Bourdon of France, dated to the 1850s (north aisle bay one and the windows to the side chapel). Later windows include Our Lady of Lourdes (1970 by John Hardman Studios, bay seven north aisle) and the Blessed Ralph Grimston, martyred 1598, incorporating a depiction of St Edward’s Church (1986 by JA Dean, south aisle bay three).