One of Ilkley’s great architectural and artistic gems is St Margarets Church on Queens Road.
This imposing Victorian building is important given the variety of notable architects and artists who have worked on the building itself or whose work is to be found within it’s walls. Take a walk up the road from the centre of town and be amazed by the hidden treasures housed in this monumental yet at the same time graceful building, which seems to cling precariously to the hillside….
At the foot of this page is a diagram that gives the locations of the various artefacts and windows in the church.
A second Anglican church for Ilkley was proposed in 1873 (the first being All Saints Parish Church) and was built as a tribute to Margaret who was the daughter of the vicar of All Saints, John Snowdon. All Saints was no longer large enough to house the congregation and it was clear that a new church was needed.
By the late nineteenth century Ilkley was a rural village that was rapidly expanding –it’s population was increasing by the day for three reasons. Firstly the introduction of the Water Cure to Ilkley and the resulting building of hydros and hotels bought employment and visitors to the town which in turn led to the growth of local businesses. Secondly the railway arrived in 1865 providing connections with Leeds and Bradford – Ilkley became a desirable place to live for businessmen from these growing cities, and also a “tourist” destination. Lastly, the release of manorial land previously owned by the Middletons for private and public building meant that expansion became possible. Indeed the land on which St Margarets was built was given by William Middleton, Lord of the Manor who was also responsible for employing a surveyor to plan out the town.
The Reverend John Snowdon headed the group of Trustees who appointed R.Norman Shaw as architect of St Margarets. The foundation stone was laid in 1878 and the church was consecrated in 1879.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE AT ST MARGARETS
*Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), the man responsible for the design of St Margarets, was at the time one of the rising architects of his day who went on to become one of the most eminent architects of the Victorian era. Perhaps best known for the New Scotland Yard building in London but also designer of numerous private houses, churches and public buildings, as a young architect he joined the practice of GE Street , a leading light of the Gothic Revival movement .
His monumental design for St Margarets originally included a spire but it was decided that the resulting church would have been too heavy for its hillside foundations and thus potentially in danger of collapse, so the plans were duly modified. These plans are now kept in Burlington House in London. Shaw was very proud of St Margarets and it was as a result of his work on the building that he gained his full membership of the Royal Academy. He maintained an interest in the building right up until his death and was also responsible for some of the interior fittings (the font and canopy) and window designs.
Consistent with the fashion of the time, St Margarets is of Gothic Perpendicular design .
*Stained Glass Windows (diagram to follow)
The stained glass windows of St Margarets are of national importance and a must –see for anyone on our artistic trail round Ilkley. It is strongly advised you take a pair of binoculars with you to fully appreciate the details to be found up high!
By the 1870’s Victorian church builders had re-discovered an interest in all things mediaeval, hence windows that had previously been plain were replaced by stained glass ones. The design was often Gothic in style and content. The windows of St Margarets are exceptional examples of this revived interest in mediaeval tradition and even a cursory glance upwards will find us overwhelmed by saints and biblical tales all presented in a glorious blaze of colour. Most of the windows in the church were produced by the firm Powell and Sons of Whitefriars who became world leaders in stained glass production during the Gothic Revival Period when hundreds of new churches were being constructed and the demand for stained glass became very high.
On the South side of the nave the windows show Old Testament Kings and Prophets –on the North side the subjects come from the New Testament. Here I will give a brief resume of each of the windows – who was responsible for them, the story they represent and any other information that may be of interest to our Art trail followers. For excellent in depth explanations of the content of the windows, see the St Margarets website at www.stmargaretsilkley.org.
a) The West Window (The Story of the Creation and Fall)
This window , along with the East Window , which complements it, was designed by Richard Norman Shaw, architect of St Margarets and made by the the famed London company James Powell and Son of Whitechapel. The two windows were installed in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Depicted are the archangels , or warriors of Heaven – Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel who sustain the throne of God. Michael is recognisable by the scales and sword he holds, Gabriel by the sceptre. Raphael holds a jar of fish gall and Uriel a book showing the signs for Alpha and Omega , the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – literally and symbolically the beginning and the end.
b) The Nunc Dimitris Window
This window, of 1907 was also made by Powell and Sons and depicts The Presentation, when Jesus was taken to Jerusalem to be presented at the temple. Shown from left to right are Simeon the priest, Mary, Anna the Prophetess and the city of Jerusalem.
c) The Good Samaritan Window
Made by Shrigley and Hunt, a Lancaster based firm, this window shows the well known biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. In the centre of the image are the robbed man, the Good Samaritan and his donkey.
d) The Incarnation Window
This window was made by Martin Travers and installed in 1937. Martin Travers (1886 – 1948)was an English church artist and designer often connected with the Anglo – Catholic movement in the Church of England.
In the centre is Our Lady with the Christ child at her knee. On the left is St Hilda of Whitby depicted with a seagull and on the right is St Margaret of Antioch the 3rd century saint to whom St Margarets is dedicated.
According to legend St Margaret was a virgin and martyr, native of Antioch in modern day Turkey, who was swallowed by Satan in the form of a dragon. She escaped alive when the beast’s innards were irritated by the cross she was carrying. Hence in art, as in this window, she is portrayed alongside a dragon.
e)The Resurrection Window
Also by Powell and Sons , this window dates from 1906. The Easter story is shown, with the two Marys weeping, the appearance of the Angel at the tomb and Mary telling Peter and John of what has happened.
f)The Ascension Window (War Memorial)
Made by Powell and Sons, this window depicts Christ ascended in the centre, along with a list of names of Allied leaders of the First World War,
The War theme is continued to the left with a portrayal of St George, the 2nd century saint from Cappadocia, Turkey who is the patron saint of England and of soldiers and armourers. Windsor castle is shown in the background.
To the right of Christ is St Martin of Tours. He was a soldier stationed in Tours, France in the fourth century who went on to become bishop of the town. The town itself is shown in the background.
g) The East Window (Christ In Majesty/ Revelation Window)
At the east end of the church is the Christ in Majesty window which complements the west window and was likewise designed by Richard Norman Shaw and made by Powell and Sons in 1897. The themes of this magnificent image are Christ in Majesty, robed as a priest whom we see in the centre, and Judgement and Revelation. Down each side of the window we can see the symbols of the Passion.
h) The Children’s Window
Unfortunately this window is largely obscured by the organ so it is almost impossible to see. It was the first stained glass window to be installed at St Margarets and was given by the children of the church. Dating from 1882 it is attributed to Clayton and Bell.
i) The Cherubim and Seraphim Window
This window of 1902 was made to a design by Burne Jones, one of the artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement . The Pre – Raphaelites saw the imitation of nature as central to the purpose of art and were interested in returning to the bright colours, plentiful detail and complex compositions of art of the Quattrocento – ie before Raphael. As a group they were instrumental in the reinvention of the stained glass tradition in England. This window was most probably made in the workshops of William Morris as Burne Jones was designing exclusively for them from 1861.
j) The William Morris Window
Installed in 1894, this window is also Pre- Raphaelite in style and was produced in the workshop of William Morris. William Morris was an artist and writer who had been inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood and who went on to lead the Arts and Crafts movement. This was an international design movement concerned with traditional craftsmanship and simple folk or mediaeval styles of decoration. The window in St Margarets shows four angels each playing a musical instrument – the mandolin, harp, dulcimer and organ.
k) The Old Testament Kings Window
Another Powell and Sons window, this was installed in 1899. It shows three kings of the Old Testament, Saul, David and Solomon. Saul, the first king of Israel is on the left with his spear and shield. David, the great king of the Israelites who became king after Saul is depicted carrying a harp and wearing a crown. The face of a lion is visible on his left knee. Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba is on the right, carrying a sceptre. Renowned for his wisdom he was responsible for building the first temple in Jerusalem.
l) The Old Testament Prophets Window
Produced by Powell and Sons in 1902, this window depicts from left to right –
-Amos, an 8th century BC prophet who as a shepherd travelled and saw much social injustice, against which he spoke out. He holds a shepherd’s crook.
-Isaiah, another prophet of the 8th century BC who reacted against the social and religious evils of his time. He is depicted holding his quill pen and book of prophecies.
– Samuel, the last of the Judges from the 11th century BC. As a priest and prophet he introduced a new kind of government – kingship. Saul was his choice to be the first king of Israel – thus he holds a horn of oil for anointing the king, and a crown.
m) Christ with the doctors of Law
This window is not an origi nal St Margarets window – it was originally part of a memorial window at Dunstable Priory and was restored to be installed here in 2004. It depicts Jesus at the age of 12, discovered by his parents in the temple of Jerusalem listening to the teachers there.
St Margarets is home to a number of works originating from the Faith Craft Studios. Faith Craft was founded in 1921 as a guild of craftsmen who designed and made ecclesiastical ornamentation and church furnishings. Part of a larger Church of England charity The Society of the Faith, which still survives today, the Faith Craft studios were closed down in 1973.
At St Margarets the Rood screen figures (1), of 1928, are by Faith Craft as are the Stations of the Cross, which decorate the walls round the church and are followed in an anti – clockwise route around the building. These reliefs that show the fourteen stations on Christ’s journey to Calvary are plaster casts from original wood carvings and are striking reliefs – stylistically modern, and bold in design.
*Baptistry Painting by Graeme Willson (2)
This painting by Ilkley based artist Graeme Willson was dedicated by the Archbishop of York in 2004. It is a beautiful blend of the traditional and the modern, with Mary and the Christ child depicted alongside St John the Baptist and St Margaret against a backdrop that is our own Ilkley moor. White Wells can be seen in the distance, the swastika stone is to be found above St John and the cup and ring stones (incidentally used in the Art Trail logo!) are to the left of St Margaret. All the figures have a ruddy, healthy ‘Yorkshire glow’ quite unlike anything else we have seen so far in the church. St John is obviously a local man and his piercing gaze draws us into this realistic portrayal of a divine subject. Willson’s painting is a modern take on a centuries old pictorial device – by locating a religious scene in a familiar, contemporary setting, he seeks to bring the story closer to us and make it relevant to us today.
Willson’s interest in architecture is evident in his inclusion of architectural motifs in the work, and these also help to locate the piece firmly within the fabric of the church by emphasising the interplay between the building and the painting.
Graeme Willson is one of the UK’s leading mural artists who is noted for his works at York Minster and also at the Leeds Corn Exchange.
The reredos (3) at St Margarets was designed by J.Harold Gibbins of Westminster and carved by Boulton and Sons of Cheltenham. It is made of English oak and and was painted by Gugleilus Tosi. It depicts the Easter message and abounds with intricate details of small animals and birds. It was placed in its current position in 1925.
*Communion Rail and Sanctuary Candlesticks (4)
These are by Robert “Mouseman” Thompson of Kilburn (1876 – 1955) who was a British furniture maker famed for his oak carved furniture with a carved mouse on each piece. Look carefully for his mousemark! The revival of craftsmanship such as this came about as a result of the Arts and Crafts movement led by William Morris. Thompson also carved the memorial board (5) just inside the front door of the church which gives a list of incumbents.
*High Altar Candlesticks (6)
The high altar candlesticks were designed by Ninian Comper (1864 – 1960), a Scottish born architect who was one of the last great names of the Gothic Revival , known for his churches and church furnishings.
*The Font and Canopy (7)
These were installed in 1911 and designed following suggestions by Norman Shaw.
OPENING TIMES St Margarets is open every day from 9am to 5pm, but please check their website first for mass times as on some days there are services within these hours.
Below is a diagram that shows the locations of the various artefacts and windows in the church
- www.bradford.gov.uk – descriptions of Grade II listed buildings in Ilkley
- Ilkley,History and Guide, Mike Dixon, Tempus, 2002
- Victorian Architecture, Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius, Thames and Hudson, 1978
THANKS -To Father Phillip and the staff at St Margarets.