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St Margaret Clitherow Rc Church, Threshfield

Description: St Margaret Clitherow Rc Church

Grade: II
Date Listed: 5 April 2012
English Heritage Building ID: 1407791

OS Grid Reference: SD9927863814
OS Grid Coordinates: 399278, 463814
Latitude/Longitude: 54.0703, -2.0125

Locality: Threshfield
Local Authority: Craven District Council
County: North Yorkshire
Country: England
Postcode: BD23 5RZ

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Listing Text


Church, Roman Catholic, 1973, by Peter Langtry-Langton.

Reason for Listing

The Roman Catholic church of St Margaret Clitherow is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: it combines traditional, local materials and innovative modern design to good effect;
* Design: its simple but effective design evinces a high level of appreciation of the context and requirements of both the Diocese and the particular location;
* Setting: it is a rare example of a post-war Roman Catholic church in a rural setting;
* Materials: the Dalle de Vere stained glass is good quality, with striking designs making full use of the strengths of the technique;
* Artistic interest: other art work, both external and internal, is also good quality, displaying high levels of design and craftsmanship;
* Plan form: the overall internal design is carefully thought out and survives intact in its original form, demonstrating the success of the simple aesthetic of its inspiration.


The first impetus for the building of a church near Grassington came in around 1966 when Father Con Lehane moved to the parish of St Stephen from Bradford, to serve a growing Catholic population in Wharfedale. Father Lehane asked Jack Langtry-Langton, who had designed the English Martyrs Church in Bradford, to design the new church, but his initial plans, submitted in 1969, were rejected by the diocese. Suggestions of alternative designs by the diocese were equally not well received by the architect. Jack Langtry-Langton's son Peter, also an architect, drew up an alternative design, much simpler and based in its inspiration on a drawing of an African church made of palm leaves and branches. Various delays, including the death of Father Lehane and further objections to the design leading to a Public Enquiry, meant that the building was not started until 1972. Escalating costs led to further simplification and the abandonment of plans for a priest's house and parish hall, but the church was completed and dedicated on 2 October 1973.


MATERIALS: random-coursed limestone walls with zinc-clad concrete beams supporting a roof of stone slates.

PLAN: the building consists of two intersecting squares. Four concrete beams form a pyramid over one of the squares, while the other forms triangular projections in the centre of three of the sides. The fourth side (liturgical west) has a square projection housing a meeting room. The beams extend from the central apex of the roof to beyond the corners of the walls, forming flying buttresses bedded in random coursed limestone bases. The building is aligned north-east to south-west, but directions are given below are liturgical.

EXTERIOR: each of the north, east and south elevations consists of a triangular roof flanked by raised concrete beams clad in zinc which extend down to ground level beyond the ends of the building. In the centre of each elevation below the roof is a central triangular projecting element in limestone with a narrow horizontal window at the top of each side. To either side of this the facing wall is battered at the base, with windows above in heavy plain concrete surrounds which float within narrow plain glass lights to top and sides. Concrete pillars clad in round columns of random limestone support the roof beams at each corner. The entrance is on the north elevation, to the right of the projecting element, and has wooden double doors with plain glass side panels and overlight. The east elevation has a large zinc-clad wedge above the triangular projection which forms a skylight over the sanctuary within, and bears on its face a large Celtic cross in lead with figurative carving, by John Ashworth and John Loker of LA Studios, London. The west elevation has a square projection with a large window on its west end, set in heavy concrete surround with a central mullion.

INTERIOR: the sanctuary occupies the triangular projection on the east side of the church, defined by a single curved step. It is lit from above by a light well, the west-facing side of which bears a bas-relief sculpture of the risen Christ flanked by wheat and grapevines, by John Ashworth and John Loker. The altar table, facing the congregation, is supported on a solid base of rough coursed limestone, with a stone plinth on which the tabernacle rests in the rear corner. The six rows of wooden bench pews, designed by the architect, are curved and set in a semi-circle facing the altar; they occupy the central space of the building which is open to the roof. The roof has exposed wooden rafters and concrete supporting beams. To the rear of the pews is a folding partition screen which can separate the rear portion of the church when the space is not needed. Round the walls are brass reliefs of the Stations of the Cross set in open circles: these are not original.

In the triangle to the right of the sanctuary is a Lady plinth with a limewood carving of Our Lady, and in the corresponding space to the left is a similar plinth with a limewood carving of St Margaret Clitherow. Both recesses have two large windows in Dalle de Vere stained glass, designed by Jane Duff and made by John Hardman Studios; the mainly abstract, swirling shapes incorporate symbols of the Alpha and Omega, Dove and Cross, the Chalice and Host, wheat and grapes to the left, with lilies and a predominance of blue colours associated with Mary to the right.

The northern and north-western points of the church are occupied by cloakrooms and the entrance vestibule, while that to the south doubles as a sacristy and confessional. A small kitchen area occupies the south-west corner with a screen dividing it from the rest of the rear area, while a glazed screen and doors lead to the meeting room to the west.

SETTING: the church occupies a site near to the River Wharfe between the villages of Threshfield and Grassington, on land formerly associated with a branch railway line which closed in 1969. The building is set back from the road, approached by a paved driveway which extends round two sides with formal shrubberies immediately adjacent to the church; the rest of the plot is lawned with specimen trees.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.