St Paul’s History

Saint Paul’s Church, the history of the building

A pencil sketch from around 1880 drawn by an artist named Byles.

The beginning

John Hollings was a local mill owner and described in William Cudworth’s book, History of Manningham (publ. 1896) as “a devout Churchman.” Cudworth goes on to say that “he will long be remembered in Manningham for his purity of character and great benevolence.” Certainly, he was greatly concerned about the spiritual well-being of the residents of Manningham.

So, Hollings paid for the construction of St Paul’s and also provided funds for the first two ministers’ salaries. He also was instrumental in raising funds for the building of several other churches, including: St. Philip’s, Girlington, St. Mary’s Laisterdyke, St. Luke’s, Victor Road, St. Mark’s, Manningham, and St. Barnabas, Heaton.

Ecclesiastical architects James Mallinson and Thomas Healey designed St Paul’s Church from offices in Tyrell Street, Bradford. It was the third church Mallinson and Healey worked on as a partnership. They went on to design around 16 other churches and religious buildings until Thomas Healey’s death in 1864, when his sons took over the business.

The building itself

John Hollings laid the foundation stone on the 5th November 1846, “In humble remembrance of past mercies and an earnest desire for the spiritual welfare of the district.” The builder, Mr W. Brayshaw later became Lord Mayor of Bradford (1866-7). Records show that no workmen were injured during the construction. The quality of the architecture has been recognised by Bradford historian, Cunningham, who in 1868 mentions, “the grand and beautiful appearance of St Paul’s Church.”

The church is built in early-English Gothic style from York stone. It is cruciform in shape with a defined east/west axis. This feature is common to many churches and places the emphasis towards the eastern end, so that the congregation faces the direction of the rising sun/son (Christ).

The east end of the church, the Chancel, houses the Lady Chapel. This face of the building rises almost cliff-like and very imposing when viewed from St Paul’s Road. This is deliberate and makes the most of the natural slope from the church towards Manningham Lane and across the valley. This makes the church, and its 140 foot high spire, appear taller than it actually is.

The grounds

The church grounds, almost one acre in size, were the graveyard. Sadly, out of the first 100 burials in the church’s graveyard, 46 of them were children under 10 years of age, killed by an epidemic of cholera. The gravestones were destined to be moved in 1972 and placed around the edge of the yard. But most were found to be in such a poor condition that this was impractical and only Thomas Healey’s stone survived. It was moved from its position near the west door to a position by the south door. The grounds are now open for community use with a small Garden of Rest approved for cremated remains.

A modest cottage style vicarage was built in the grounds by the Diocese of Bradford. This first housed the team rector, Revd Alan Kitchen, from 1984 to 1992 and other parish clergy since. In 2004, the ground around the west end was raised, creating easier access for wheelchair users and the toilets were extensively refurbished and modernised. Work of raising funds for this was begun by the vicar at the time, the Revd Bob Hill, who was happy to be invited back from his new parish to officially open the rebuilt toilets.

The rose window at the west end of the building has 8 three-foil lights and is jewelled in appearance. It was made by Messers. Barnett & Sons, York, in 1848. The other architectural features and two lancet windows lead one’s eye towards it. The panels in the lancet windows show Jesus calling the fishermen and Lazarus being raised from the dead with St Peter and St Luke above. They were dedicated to Joseph Hollings in 1852.This rose window is a fine example of a feature which was often used by the architects, Mallinson and Healey, on many of their churches.


The main body of the church is known as the nave. This word comes from the Latin word for “ship” because a church was seen as a symbolic ship carrying the people of God through the storms of life. It also describes the ship-like method of construction of the large wooden roof beams. At St. Paul’s, the nave’s roof beams are made from oak and hidden by a false ceiling but they can still be seen in the Lady Chapel.

The church was originally built with only one aisle in the nave. The south aisle was added eight years after the church was built and is separated from the nave by rows of pillars. The north aisle was added some time before 1867, both additions thanks to John Hollings.

The various carved heads in the nave and around the church were made by Mallinson and Healey’s favourite stone masons, Mawer and Ingle of Leeds, who also carved the font and original pulpit. Between the aisles and the roof are a series of small clerestory windows, these allow natural light to reach the nave.

Christ the Saviour

On the wall of the nave is a light box which houses a panel named, “Christ the Saviour”. This window was originally installed in 1864 in the single lancet on the West wall of what was the North aisle, now part of the Mitton Room. It was designed by the artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and made by William Morris and Co.

A Victorian glass window depicting Christ surrounded by four angels.

The same composition appears in the centre light in the East window in Bradford Cathedral. The same cartoon is used for both windows, but the colouring differs considerably.

The window was severely damaged, particularly the top section, when it was removed from the stonework in 1971. It was stored in a wooden case including some of the damaged fragments.

The window was restored in 1981 by Alan Younger, in his London studio, through the generosity of Michael Manservant of Haselbech, Northamptonshire. For restoration purposes two black and white photographs, taken in situ before the damage and loaned by the Reverend Noël Francis, gave full information of face and hand details. A photograph of the original cartoon was loaned by the Deputy Keeper of Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery and this showed clearly the original arrangement of the angels in the top section.

A donation from Reverend Albert Batsleer and his sister, Mary (Mrs Atkinson) covered the cost of making the cabinet to house the window. We are grateful to them both. The gift was in memory of their parents, and their aunts, Miss Gertrude Hooper and Miss Margaret Hooper.

The smaller light box on its left was added in 2010 to house a window featuring the Nunc Dimittis, (or Simeon’s song) from Luke ch. 2 : v.29.

A time of changes

The church has been re-ordered, or structurally altered, a number of times. The most significant re-ordering was in 1971 when these changes were made:

  • The north aisle tent-shape roof and south aisle with its complex roof of four gable ends replaced by sloping ones.
  • The pews in the north and south aisles were removed as were the stained glass panels from the north side. Many of the stained glass panels were put into storage. Unfortunately, most became irretrievably damaged.
  • The choir stalls were moved from the Chancel and partly rebuilt at the front of the nave. The Chancel now houses the Lady Chapel.
  • What had been the Lady Chapel in the south transept became the vicar’s vestry and sacristy. A new room was built above them which was used as a choir vestry.
  • The memorial chapel, baptistery and the children’s corner, built in 1934, were removed from the north aisle, and the font was positioned in the south aisle.

In 1985 there was another major re-ordering. Folding doors and large arch-shaped windows were built to separate the south aisle from the nave. This arrangement allowed the doors to be opened to accommodate a larger congregation. A new kitchen was built in the middle of the north aisle to form two smaller rooms.

The Font, which is now in an area close to the south door, was donated by Mrs. Hollings who was John Hollings’ wife and daughter of the first vicar. The carvings round its base are the four gospel writers. This design was also used on the original pulpit.

The Ambler Hall

The south aisle, or Ambler Hall, has stained glass panels which are worthy of some study. These are named the “Te Deum” windows. The Te Deum prayer inscribed on them reads: “The glorious company of / Apostles praise thee / The goodly fellowship / Of the prophets praise thee / The noble army of / Martyrs praise thee / The holy Church throughout all the world / Doth acknowledge thee.”

At the top of each one is a representation of the four gospel writers, Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (bull), John (eagle). Represented in the lancet panels are: St Paul and St John; the Prophet Isaiah and King David; St Stephen and St Cecilia; finally St Peter and The Trilogy: God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit with the crucified Christ. Below this, at eye level, are aspects of the life of Christ told in eight panels from the immaculate conception to Christ’s ascension.

A modern painted glass window. There are two panels.

The right-hand window was removed when this part of the church was used as an oak-panelled choir vestry between 1970 and 1985. Sadly, the original panels were subsequently lost. They were recreated from memory as no photographic records had been kept and replaced in 2001. The window was designed and built by Jonathan Cooke’s of Ilkley. They are dedicated to Mary McTurk, who had been a member of St Luke’s congregation for many years before joining St Paul’s in 1984. She had often said how sad it was that the panels had been lost.

Mr John Ambler was a Justice of the Peace of the borough, and the first churchwarden at St. Paul’s, Manningham. He dedicated the windows in this side to Jeremiah Ambler and his wife, Jane in 1876. John Ambler also contributed to the fabric of this church as well as the building of St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s Churches.

The front of the nave

At the front of the nave is the pulpit from which the Bible is read and sermons are preached. The original pulpit was made from stone and marble. This was replaced in 1960 by the present oak one.

The two arms of the building are known as the north and south transepts. At St. Paul’s, the north transept housed the organ which was installed in 1851. It was used weekly until it was decommissioned in 2006.

For many years, the regular organist was Arthur Brook, a much respected musician. Mr Brook joined the congregation when St Jude’s Church merged with St Paul’s. Ever humble, but resolutely spiritual, he arranged many pieces of music used in the service and composed a version of the Gloria.

The south transept once housed the Lady Chapel which was created in 1912 and consecrated on January the 30th, a gift of the family of Thomas Healey. The Altar had a painting behind it called “The Walk to Emmaus” painted by Healey’s granddaughter. Windows here have been dedicated to an early St. Paul’s School teacher, and Revd Welbury Mitton, the first vicar. As we mentioned earlier, the church was re-ordered in 1970 and the transept was restructured to create a vicar’s vestry, sacristy and a choir vestry. The only way to see the windows now is by going upstairs into the room.

The Sanctuary

The crossing point of the axis and transepts is the Sanctuary. Symbolically, as one climbs the step into the sanctuary, one is nearing heaven. Above this are the main pillars and arches which support the tower, with its broached spire. “Broached” means the spire has no parapet – it rises directly from the walls of the tower. Although the bell chamber has room for a peal of bells, there has only ever been one installed. This bell is rung at the start of every service and was re-commissioned in 2002.

There are two Altars at St. Paul’s: the main one in the Sanctuary and the High Altar at the east end, in the Lady Chapel. The main Altar stands on a raised base. It has a cross carved into its front screen as well as icons of the four Gospel writers.

The Chancel

Behind the High Altar is a carved stone screen, or reredos, depicting Christ appearing to the men on the road to Emmaus. This reminds us of the painting behind this Altar when the Lady Chapel was in the south transept.

The spiritual and architectural focus is towards the east end and the stained glass lancet windows depicting biblical scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and St Paul. These windows are dedicated to John Hollings, Isaac Butler Hollings, Thomas Hollings, Margaret Hollings and Barry (?) Hope Hollings

The Mitton Room

One of the meeting rooms is named for the first vicar, the Revd Welbury Mitton. “Few clergymen have been held in greater esteem in Bradford than Canon Mitton.” said William Cudworth, in his book The History of Manningham (1896). He continues, “Besides having a naturally kind disposition, he was an active clergyman, and a friend to whom the needy members of the community never looked in vain.” Welbury Mitton remained the vicar of St. Paul’s until he retired in 1880. He was also appointed honorary Canon of Ripon in 1871. He had been the vicar of St. Paul’s for 52 years.

A friend of the poor

Another meeting room is named for our founder, John Hollings, described by William Cudworth as “a generous benefactor” and “a real friend of the poor of Manningham.” Here we find what might be called the “social heart” of the church. This hall is used every Sunday morning where coffee is served. It’s a chance for people to have a chat, sing Happy Birthday or just to relax. St Paul’s serves Fairtrade coffee and tea and our teams of coffee makers ensure a delicious, refreshing cup every time!

Amongst other things, this hall is used for the Friday “Drop-In Café”, which provides hot lunch for homeless and disadvantaged people in Manningham. Aiding the needs of the community has been one of the aims of St Paul’s church since it was first founded. Those early founders would be pleased to know that this work continues.

Thanks to everyone who helped put this article together. Any errors or omissions are the author’s, for which apologies are offered.

The full text of “Cudworth’s History of Manningham” with illustrations.

Parish records researched by congregation member Betty Hird in 1998 for the 150th anniversary and also in 2007.

St Paul’s Church Centennial Celebration Memoir 1948.

Excerpt from The Bradford Observer, Sept 1848.

Copyright © 2019 David Hartley

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