Christians have worshiped in this area for well-over a thousand years. The earliest were probably a small group who settled beside a major crossing point on the River Aire in the 7thor 8thcentury.
By the 10thcentury they were wealthy enough to be able to erect at least five stone crosses, beautifully carved in styles known as Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian, and referring to the Anglo-Saxon and then Viking communities living here. In 1086 William the Conqueror commissioned a vast survey of all his lands in England which states that Leeds had a church with a priest, a manor and meadowland. This church was altered, added to and rebuilt over the medieval period as the village grew into a busy market town.
The town expanded westwards and two new churches were built, St John’s opened in 1634, and Holy Trinity in 1727. In common with many other Yorkshire churches, the Parish Church of St Peter served a vast parish, covering some 34 square miles and including a number of outlying villages and their land, such as Headingley and Farnley. Some of these had their own chapels, but St Peter’s remained the mother church.
By the 19thcentury, the church was large but dirty, cluttered and somewhat unsafe. The town had developed into a major industrial city, busy, smoky, smelly and very unhealthy. When a new Vicar of Leeds, Dr W F Hook, arrived in 1838 he soon realised that the building could not be adapted to his needs. He wanted to bring all the people, not just the wealthy few, into the church, and to offer worship to God in suitable surroundings. In his mind churches should be places of perfection where fine music enhanced dignified worship, surrounded by colour and good design. He told the architect, Robert Chantrell, to build a ‘grand’ building that would ‘hold as many people as possible’.
This church, with over 1600 seats, was consecrated on September 2nd1841, and continues to serve the great city of which it is the historic spiritual centre.
Leeds Parish Church - now Leeds Minster - was built at a time of great change within the Church of England, and with very specific ideas in mind. Physically it has been little changed since then, and is now Grade 1 listed. In 1990 it became part of a team ministry within the city centre, a team which is trying to expand its ministry to the city in new and different ways, whilst maintaining the best traditions of the past.
The History of Kirkgate