Two prominently-located Church of England congregations in south Leeds have formally disbanded in the past month: St David’s on Dewsbury Road in Beeston, and St Mary’s in the heart of Hunslet.
St David’s – the distinctive modern church building near the Tommy Wass junction – first opened in 1961, following a local ‘faith revival’ at that time, and many years of fundraising. Unfortunately though, the congregation had nowadays shrunk to just a dozen regulars – and they’ve decided to call time on running the church.
The closure was marked with a service on Sunday 22nd November, led by local vicars Rev Lindsey Pearson and Rev James Turner, followed by a procession to St Mary’s Beeston – the sister church, which the St David’s members are now likely to join. Plans for the building are as yet unconfirmed, partly because – due to some complicated land deeds – the CofE don’t in fact own the site; but it is understood that that the site and buildings will in time be sold.
Meanwhile, the iconic St Mary’s in the centre of Hunslet (not to be confused with St Mary’s Beeston, which is still going strong!) has also closed, with services on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th December. A church was first built on the site in the 1860s – and its listed clocktower (previously featured here on South Leeds Life) remains to this day. The main building was demolished and rebuilt in the 1970s – but has been plagued with growing subsidence problems ever since.
Facing bills of £10,000s to fix these, and again with a small congregation of only a dozen or so regulars, this church also decided to call it quits. It is understood that the 1970s church building will have to be demolished, although the clocktower will remain up – and there is talk of a local consultation of new uses and maybe even new buildings for the site.
Rev Lindsey Pearson, vicar for the two Beeston churches (St David’s and St Mary’s) insists that the closures were not a negative move:
“It’s important to recognise that the way people worship and the buildings we have don’t always work for current needs. Sometimes, energy is going into buildings, but that’s not what church is for. We’re trying to free people up to be more involved in their communities, more outwards-looking. We mustn’t be wed to buildings. Having said that, we have no plans at all to close St Mary’s Beeston, which will remain a church where people are welcomed for baptisms, weddings and funerals, and of course to worship.”
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