The church of St Peter & St Leonard
Welcome to the Church of St Peter and St Leonard – Horbury’s parish church. Below you will find information about various details of the interior of the building, which you can look up as you walk round and explore Carr’s beautiful neo-classical interior.
The font (from the Latin fons, meaning ‘spring’ or ‘fountain’) is the article of church furniture used for baptism, the service which children and adults undergo to become Christians and members of the church. Fonts in church buildings are usually located by the main door to signify that baptism is the rite of entry into the church, as ours is here at St Peter’s. The Portland stone font that you can see was given by Mr William Melville Lomas in memory of his wife Betsy who died in 1866: walk round it to see the inscription on the west face of the cylindrical base.
St Peter’s boasts three altars. The main altar is the ‘high altar’ located at the East end of the building beneath the large wall-mounted crucifix. (It is this altar which makes the building a church: a church is built to house an altar, rather than the other way round.) Over time, a second altar was introduced in the building of the Lady Chapel to the south of the main building, and a third and portable altar, placed in the chancel, was introduced in more modern re-ordering. In all religions, an altar is a place of sacrifice or offering, and although Christians believe that blood sacrifices (such as the slaughter of animals) came to an end with the death of Jesus in his ‘one, perfect sacrifice’ on the cross, we believe that this is re-presented (brought into the present) in the Mass (also called the Eucharist or Holy Communion), where the priest offers and consecrates bread and wine as a memorial of Christ’s body and blood. In this way, even our own altars are properly places of sacrifice.
The altar itself symbolizes the presence of Christ, and so it is more often than not covered with frontals, whose colour depends on the celebration of the day: for major holy days, such as Christmas and Easter or various saints days, the colour is white or gold; on Palm Sunday and Pentecost or for the feasts of martyrs it is red; for Advent and Lent and for funerals, it is purple; and for the rest of the year the altar remains in green. Only on Good Friday does the altar become bare, signifying the stripping Jesus underwent as part of the events of his passion and death. Look closely at the frontal and you may be able to see the superfrontal, and over that, two white cloths, making three coverings in total. The linen cloths are reminiscent of the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped for burial.
At the west end of the church is the organ gallery, on top of which sits the impressive Harrison and Harrison organ. The origins of an organ in the church date to 1794 and a bequest left by John Carr, architect of St Peter’s, making provision for an organist to serve the parish. It was at this time that the first organ was built in the new church by Donaldson, located in the south transept, at the entrance to the present-day Lady Chapel. The instrument was rebuilt by Walker, before being moved from its position in the south transept to its current site on the west gallery. This provided an opportunity in 1921 for a rebuild by Arthur Harrison of the Durham organ-building firm Harrison and Harrison, whose work you see today. Many things impress the listener about Harrison’s work at Horbury: the organ’s musical style has been described as ‘imperial’, ‘broad, effortless and colourful’, and it is considered one of the best organs in the locality. It was built on exhaust-pneumatic action even at the time when the church had no electricity – this is a relatively unusual combination in Harrison organs which would have required at least one strong man to operate the hand-blowing equipment. It was not subjected to the usual changes imposed on organs in the 1960s and ‘70s, and it has been so little altered, even in the general overhaul in 1981, that it remains the organ Arthur Harrison built. In recognition of this, the organ was listed Grade II* in the Historic Organ register in 2019. It is due for another re-build in the next few years.
The octagonal pulpit (from the Latin pulpitum, meaning a ‘platform’ or ‘staging’) which you can see at the meeting point of the chancel, nave and north transept, is the place in the church used for preaching sermons (or homilies) to the congregation during services. For practical reasons, it is raised above the pews and has a canopy, known as a ‘sounding board’, over its top, which helps the preacher’s voice project.
When Carr built his original church in 1794, the church presumably housed a ‘triple-decker’ pulpit in the centre of the building, common in the eighteenth century. The three levels were intended to show the relative importance of the readings delivered there. The bottom tier was for the parish clerk, the middle was the reading desk for the minister, and the top tier was reserved for the delivery of the sermon. Wanting to restore the altar as the focal point in the building, Canon Sharp, however, determined to move the pulpit from its central location to the side, where it has remained since. The current pulpit dates from 1917, and was erected in memory of Richard and Martha Ann Popplewell.
The lectern (from the Latin legere, meaning ‘to read’) is the place where the Scriptures are read at church services. Two lecterns can be seen in St Peter’s: the portable lectern situated at the chancel step comes from the modern re-ordering and matches the chancel altar and other sanctuary furniture; though the eagle lectern situated in the Lady Chapel is of much more significance. This consists of a painted eagle over a plain frame, supported on a fluted column of English oak. The column in turn stands on a carved based of acanthus leaves. A recent restoration has uncovered a brass plaque set into the woodwork of the eagle desk, engraved with the ancient arms of the Sharp family, who amongst its members includes John Sharp, sometime Archbishop of York, our own Canon Sharp, and the abolitionist Granville Sharp. The name engraved under the coat of arms is Richard Hey Sharp, who was born in Batley in 1793. The engraving suggests that the lectern was originally intended for St Peter’s.
Monuments to the Carr family
Monuments to the Carr family make up the majority of memorials within the interior of the church. Above the north door is a hatchment (a depiction within a black lozenge-shaped frame of a deceased person’s heraldic achievement) of the Carr family. These were originally fastened to the front of the deceased person’s house before being moved to the parish church where the body had been laid to rest. This hatchment commemorates John Carr, attorney of Carr Lodge, who died 28th March 1824 and had married Hannah Maria Marsden in 1785. Both John Carr and his wife Hannah lie in the Carr family vault which is situated underneath the north transept.
On the west-facing wall of the north transept is the memorial to Harriet Elizabeth Carr, who died on 12th March 1841 at only 15 years of age and was also buried in the Carr vault. Look at the monument and you will see a mourning lady weeping over an urn.
Move round the pulpit and you will see a memorial on the north side of the chancel dedicated to Robert Carr, father of John Carr, architect of St Peter’s. The English translation of the Latin text is provided by Richard Knowles in his history of the church:
In sacred memory of Robert Carr, Architect,
A man, distinguished not by the fleeting titles of ancestry or by the seeming splendour of riches,
but, on account of his extraordinary gifts
of mind and spirit, truly worthy of immortality.
He was one who, from the outset of his life
burning with a quite incredible love of the best of the Arts,
so happily cultivated the innate strengths of his Nature,
that while anyone might immerse himself in architecture,
or bury himself in the many-sided Art of Mathematics,
he alone knew them first hand and advanced them.
The glory of such great knowledge
he displayed with singular innocence,
with pleasantness of manner,
with unaffected piety,
throughout, the whole course of his life.
He died on the third day of December 1760
in his sixty-third year.
Widow of the aforesaid Robert Carr
and daughter of John Lascelles, Gentleman
died the sixth day of October AD 1774
Opposite lies a similar monument to the architect of the building itself. It’s translation reads:
In sacred memory of John Carr, gentleman, of Askham Parva in the county of York.
In civic life he attained the highest place on account of his
singular hard work, agreeable manner,
outstanding generosity, and integrity of life.
He so diligently pursued the work of Architecture that he
was justly reckoned to be among the most illustrious masters
of this art and the glory and jewel of his homeland.
Words cannot express within the narrow limits of this tablet
how many splendid and magnificent buildings, both public and
private, had the fortune to arise under his direction.
He was awarded the honour of membership of the London Society of Architects.
A “builder of peace” he bore authority and administered
justice to the highest degree:
twice he was Mayor of the City of York.
If you want to know, O reader, the extend of his liberality and
piety, and how he excelled in originality and skill, look at
this sacred building, the most praiseworthy product of his own munificence.
Brass to Canon Sharp
There are several other memorials to individuals scattered throughout the building, but none perhaps as grand as the brass dedicated to Canon John Sharp, who died in 1903. Horbury’s most famous priest is depicted kneeling in Eucharistic vestments, with roundels containing engraved images of St Mary’s Church at Horbury Junction, St John’s Church at Horbury Bridge, the House of Mercy, and St Peter’s School, all founded by the man.
A Lady Chapel is so-called because it houses the altar dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, though the chapel here at St Peter’s also shares its dedication with St George. This is fitting, as the space was added to the church in 1920-1 by HC Windley to commemorate the First World War. A tabernacle is built into the altar gradine (shelf), and is designed to house the Blessed Sacrament – bread consecrated in the mass or Holy Communion which is reserved (kept) so that it can be taken to the sick as well as aid devotion. A white candle burns perpetually in front of the tabernacle to indicate the presence of the Body of Christ. The chapel is used for smaller services, such as midweek masses, as well as for hearing confessions and for private prayer. Pilgrims are invited to take a moment, say a prayer, and light a candle at the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the south side of the chapel.
All the stained glass windows you see in St Peter’s are relatively modern, and originate in the nineteenth century. Amongst the figures you can see are: St Andrew with his white saltire cross against a blue background (to the left of the north door); scenes from the Annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary to tell her she was to give birth to Jesus, located to the right of the north door); the events in the final days of Jesus’ life, and the resurrection (the windows either side of the high altar); St George (in the Lady Chapel); St Leonard (to the left of the south door); and St Peter (to the right of the south door). Many of the windows were given in memory of faithful parishioners – of interest will be the window showing the Annunciation, given in memory of Mary Ann Parker (1888), daughter of John Francis Carr; St George, who was given in memory of Wilfred Hampshire who was killed in battle on 9th May 1917; and St Peter, given in memory of the boys from Horbury School also killed in the Great War.
Other parts of our beautiful church remain hidden from view, amongst them the Carr family vault, where the architect and members of his family (some of whom are commemorated in the monuments around church) are buried, and the bells. The architect provided a sum of £2,000 for an organ and bells at the building of the church in the 1790s, and in 1792, six bells were cast by Thomas Mears at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. These were installed in the tower at St Peter’s, though in 1897 the tower was found to be unsafe, and it had to be dismantled and the bells removed. Mr Benjamin Wilson of Inwood Villa paid for the work to the bells at the turn of the century, and a new treble bell and tenor bell were cast and the fourth bell re-cast, to provide a chromatic scale. On 21st April 1900 the new eight bells were dedicated and the first peal rung. In 2018, the church commenced an appeal to re-cast the bells, and on Easter Day 2020, a new set of eight were hallowed at a special service, before being installed in the tower by Taylors of Loughborough. The bells are rung before major services (Sundays and certain holy days), and the bell ringers practice weekly, continuing this quintessentially-English tradition in Horbury to the present day.
We hope you have enjoyed your visit to St Peter’s. If you have, and would like to know more about the services and events we hold in the parish, please leave your e-mail address on one of our ‘Keep in Touch’ cards and post it through the wooden box on the table in the entrance. There you will also find a black safe, in which you are welcome to leave a donation, if you wish. We hope you enjoyed your visit and look forward to seeing you again very soon.