St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005
In 1890, Harehills was a mainly rural agricultural area on the outskirts of Leeds. Farmhouses and farm cottages were scattered over the area and two or three early Victorian mansions could be found around Harehills Lane. Harehills Colliery could just be seen from Harehills Lane. Harehills Road was a cart track; Ashley Road a bridle path and Compton Road a footpath bordered by a beck. Foundry Lane meandered through the fields to Seacroft.
The nearest Catholic church was St Patricks, but within a few years of the opening of St Patricks, the Parish began to extend towards Harehills in the North, and Crossgates in the East. Both places were marked out by Canon Augustine J. Collingwood, Vicar General of the Diocese, as future parishes in their own right. and when the need of a school at Harehills became urgent the Canon seized the opportunity of fulfilling a long cherished ambition to build a Church and School dedicated to the Apostle of England, his Patron Saint.
St Augustines School-Chapel 1897
The Timber and Iron Church 1908
The church was opened in 1908. The interior consisted of a central knave leading to a chancel arch and a large window behind the altar which was fronted by a large crucifix. Two side aisles with further seating were surmounted by a wooden gable structure. The congregation showed their loyalty and generosity by their efforts at fundraising for the new Church, School and Presbytery with weekly collections, school socials, whist drives in parish homes, congregational teas at the Clayton Hall and notably the bazaars at the Albert Hall and the New Leeds Constitutional Hall. The parish also responded well with kindness and sympathy during the 1914-18 War, to the appeal for the Belgian refugees. The women organised weekly collections and provided food clothing furniture and accommodation for the homeless Belgian families.
In 1923, after the First War, the new presbytery at the side of the
Church was built as a memorial to the young men of the Parish who had
fallen on active service and in 1925 a war memorial was placed on the
presbytery wall. Fr. Coffey who had previously occupied a terrace house
in Roundhay Road was now installed in the new presbytery.
Fr. Coffey died in November, 1929, and was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Leonard. Fr. Leonard concentrated on plans for the building of a bigger church. After saying his first Mass at St Augustines he announced that early in the new year he hoped a start could be made on the building of a new church, a project dear to the heart of the late parish priest but which had been held up in recent years due to Fr. Coffeys illness..
In the 1930s Leeds Council embarked on a massive slum clearance programme, which necessitated the demolition of vast areas of sub standard housing, including many parts of East Leeds. To re-house those being displaced, the building of the Gipton estate was started on the farmland of Harehills, as well as the erection of Quarry Hill Flats. Due to the fact that very many of the displaced families were Catholics, the small Tin Church was deemed to be inadequate for the growing congregation. The increasing needs of the Parish and the need for increased accommodation for worshippers, led to the erection of a new building.
Extracts and Statistics from the Parish records
Mass Attendance in April 1930: 1,203
Mass Attendances for the following years
(It was reported in the records that on 3 September 1933 the church boxes were broken into and the money stolen. Parishioners were asked not to put candle money in the boxes during the week but to save the money and put it in the boxes at the weekend)
A Temporary Home at St Aidans
Margaret McHale recalls: I remember mam talking about when the old tin church closed. Sunday Mass was in Clayton Hall and Mr And Mrs Powell who lived opposite the hall looked after the vestments and chalices until the following Sunday.
Weekday Masses and Baptisms were celebrated in the school. and this
continued until the new church was completed. However, there appears
to have been concern that some parishioners were going elsewhere for
Sunday Mass, resulting in a smaller collection. Fr. Leonard asked that
all parishioners continue to attend the Masses at Clayton Hall to maintain
a steady income which was much needed for the new church.