Hidden Nature, Hidden History: Leeds Minster

This article forms part of our Heritage Open Day 2020 programme, specifically our Leeds City Centre Hidden Nature, Hidden History heritage trail. Click to see all the points on the trail and to read the accompanying articles…

With the loss of the original graveyard, now Penny Pocket Park, due to new roads and railway lines the land surrounding Leeds Minster is much smaller than a church of this size and importance should warrant, but the stretches of grass, mature trees and flat gravestones used as paving, a common occurrence around churches of this age, make the area a space of calm and reflection despite being next to one of Leeds busiest city centre thoroughfares.

While not the oldest church in Leeds this is possibly the oldest site of worship in Leeds with records showing a church here as far back as the 7th century.  This first church burned down in 633AD and another built in its place, this one lasted until the 14th Century when it too burnt down, the third church fared much better making it intact to the 19th century, when it was heavily rebuilt and renovated by Dr Walter Hook the Vicar of Leeds.

The new church, built by Robert Dennis Chantrell in the Gothic Imitation style seated 1600 and cost £30,000, a sum met by the people of Leeds, reopening and re-consecration occurred in 1841.  During the extensive tear down and rebuild the remains of one of Leeds oldest surviving relics was discovered, eight fragments of a Saxon cross dating back to 900-950A.D. were removed from the church and returned in 1876 put back together as part of the refurbishment.

The current Grade I listed church officially became a Minster on September 2nd, 2012 when it was rechristened ‘The Minster and Parish Church of Saint Peter-at-Leeds’.

Many of the historic gravestones have been re-laid to create accessible pathways and inclines into the church.

Next: Cross the graveyard and exit onto The Calls, turning right.  When you reach Centenary Bridge, on the left cross over the River Aire and, at the end of the bridge, take an immediate right down onto the waterfront edge; follow this path until you reach the water gardens at Navigation Walk

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