St Margaret of Antioch was alive in the 3rd and 4th centuries in Antioch,
now in modern day Turkey, and she was scorned and tortured because of
her Christian faith. Her saint’s day is on July 20th, and the church
and its parishioners used to celebrate the day with parades, services,
teas and a trip out to local tourist spots, such as Scarborough,
Ripon and Blackpool.
The first church on the site was an iron building, temporarily erected to serve the newly built houses in the surrounding area. The first Vicar was Rev A.H Kelk who took possession of the parsonage in 1897.
The iron church building was dedicated for use in March 1898 by Archdeacon Kilner, and for years served as the church building, Sunday school room and social venue. It was very hot in the summer, and right from the start, raising funds for a permanent church building were discussed.
The first edition of the monthly Parish magazine was in January 1899, for which subscriptions were sought, and around 800 were taken up. This magazine contained notices from St Margaret’s church calendar itself as well as ‘short articles for instruction and information on general church subjects’ which included serialised stories, recipes, and articles on places around the world where the Anglican Church was working.
The parish decided it needed a separate Sunday School building as a priority, which was finally finished at Easter 1900, just in time for the Easter Parochial Tea but “the room was not quite complete, and was somewhat disfigured with scaffold poles”.
The following years saw greater efforts at fundraising for the permanent building, which included bazaars held in Leeds Town Hall, door to door canvassing and requests to neighbouring businesses and parishes, as well as the Diocese itself.
The money was raised, and architect Temple Moore was commissioned from 1905. It took 2 years to build and was completed in 1908, and consecrated in the following year.
It is widely regarded as a particularly fine example of the Late Gothic Revival style and of Temple Moore’s work. This later led to the building being accorded Grade II* listed building status.
The front (west) end was never completed – it was originally designed to have a huge tower and would have had something simple and easily removable for whenever works on that were to start. The front end that we see today dates from 1964, completed by architect GG Pace, who was involved in building Sheffield Cathedral.
Parish life carried on in the building, with all the usual events and groups that are associated with Anglican Parishes – Sunday services, baptisms, marriages and deaths, Men’s Society, confirmation classes, Musical Society, Bazaars, Mothers Union, Whitsun Parades, and groups for Children and teachers, as well as the annual Parochial excursion.
The inside of the building has always inspired people, due to its wonderful arches and high ceiling, as well as its sense of peace and space. The new Vicar, Rev B. Combe, wrote in 1920 in the parish magazine:
“I am learning every week to understand better your pride in St Margaret’s Church. For every week shews me new beauties in the building, and I am now almost used to being introduced to fellow clergy with such additional remarks as: “St Margaret’s – it’s the finest Church in Leeds.” Its stern grandeur in Lent, followed by its glory on Easter Day, was almost over-powering.”
However, the congregation declined in number, and by the 1980s were down to only a few dozen. By the early 1990s the parish had amalgamated with All Hallows and services were held there instead of in St Margaret's.
In early 2002 the St Margaret’s building was bought by a local congregation of Christians, who wanted to see the building used again and not fall into further ruin. It continued to be used for special events and services but because of existing damage to the roof and an infestation of pigeons, the building became a health hazard and unfit for regular use.
A steering group was formed to look at ways of bringing the building back into sustainable and regular use and the vision for Left Bank came into focus.
2007 the steering group secured a grant from the English Heritage Lottery
Fund, to do essential repairs to the building, as the Grade II* listed
building was on their At Risk register. Additional funds were donated
by a local Christian Trust which had sold an old building nearby on Cardigan
Rd. This influx of funding gave much needed impetus to the steering group,
who are now working with York-based heritage architects, Wiles and Maguire,
to bring Left Bank to life. For more information on the steering group
and its partners, see LEFT BANK WHO WE
Local press articles from spring 2007....
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