History of St Mary, Swillington

History of Swillington Church

St. Mary's Church is located at 2 Wakefield Road, Swillington, Leeds, LS26 8DS, next to Swillington Primary School, on Wakefield Road

There has been a church here for at least 900 years. The Doomsday Survey of 1086 tells us that 'a church is there' but no records of that building remain.

The church you see today is a Grade 2* listed building, over 600 years old, built around 1360.  The most striking external feature is the contrast between the dark tower and the creamy yellow of the rest of the church. The tower was renovated in 1883/84 the belfry stage being re-built and the tower re-faced with ashlar stone from Harehills. As time has gone by the newer stonework has darkened while the rest of the church, built with local yellow limestone, has retained its original lightness 

East of the porch, on the south wall. A scratch dial or Mass Clock can be seen. Lines radiate from a central hole which would formerly have contained a gnomon, the shadow of which would have shown the times of morning and evening services, including 9am which during the middle ages was the time of the Parish Mass.  

The nave and chancel were probably built around the first structure in 1360, in the reign of Edward III. This was during the Hundred Years War, just before the Peasant's Revolt and about the time of John Wycliffe's attempts to bring reform to the church in England. The tower was added approximately a century later.

In the chancel there is a Priest's Doorway in the south wall, where there are three Sedilia or seats, possibly dating from the fifteenth century. The High Altar here was dedicated to All Hallows.

The oak roof of the chancel was given by Mary Frances Alice Lowther of Swillington House in 1902. The vestry was re-built in 1880, but the doorway leading to it is old.

The organ was given by E. Leather esq. of Leventhorpe Hall. Built by Hill & Son of London, it was dedicated by Bishop William Boyd Carpenter, the then Bishop of Ripon, on December 14th 1887. The organ was re-built in 1987 and re-dedicated by Bishop David Young the then Bishop of Ripon.

The chapel in the south aisle was dedicated to St. Nicholas, and became the Lowther Pew, used by the Lowther family of Swillington House, Lords of the manor of Swillington and, until 1924, patrons of the Living. In 1890, fifteen coffins were removed from the Lowther vaults beneath their pew, and re-interred at the east end of the churchyard

There is a recess in the wall of the south aisle which probably dates from the 14th century. In it is a glass case containing a wooden effigy of a knight, one of only about 50 in the country

At the east end of the north aisle was the Chapel of Our Lady, and a bracket to the left of the pulpit probably once bore a statue of the virgin Mary. In due course this chapel became the Leventhorpe pew, used by the families of Hall, Green and Leather.

In the nave above the north door there is a hatchment with the Royal Arms bearing the inscription G.R. 1723.

The stem, base and steps of the font are relatively modern, but the bowl itself is old, and the oak cover may date back to the 17th century.

Ven. Dealtry is credited with the introduction of the custom of throwing confetti over the bride and groom at a wedding. Apparently the practice originates in the Hindu custom of the bridegroom throwing 3 handfuls of rice over his bride and she doing the same to him, as a symbol of fertility. That custom, which later became confetti rather than rice, was introduced in Swillington by Ven. Thomas Dealtry  who was Rector here from 1872 to 1878. He had previously spent his ministry in India, where he became Archdeacon of Madras. He was also Chaplain to the East India Company and through that made the acquaintance of some members of the Lowther family. It was through their influence that when the East India Company collapsed and Dealtry wanted to return to England, he was appointed as Rector of Swillington

The tower contains a peal of eight bells which were transferred from St. Matthew's, Holbeck in 1979. This work was done by members of the congregation and parish under the guidance of Mr. Guy Cox the Tower Captain a the time. We have many visiting ringers as the bells are considered to be of high quality and excellently maintained. The three original bells remain hung in the tower one being used by the clock mechanism for the striking of the hours.

Printer Printable Version