The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

Cathedral Celebrates Consecration Centenary

July 2024 marks 100 years since the Consecration of Leeds Cathedral, when the Mother Church of the Diocese was exclusively and perpetually dedicated to God.

The article below recounts the events of 1924 and is followed by details of the celebrations taking place between 9th – 18th July to mark the anniversary.



By Robert Finnigan KSS, Diocesan Archivist

Twenty years separate the opening of the Cathedral Church of St Anne from its consecration. The foundation stone of the mother church of the Diocese of Leeds, designed to replace the original cathedral which had been built in 1838, was laid on 26th July 1902. Construction work was completed a little under two years later and the official opening took place on 16th June 1904. Inevitably, it cost more to build than was originally envisaged. But the decision was taken to implement in full the plans of the architects J.H. Eastwood and S.K. Greenslade, reflecting a determination that the new Cathedral would be a source of daily pride to the whole diocese.

Canon Law at the time meant that the Cathedral could not be consecrated until the debt incurred by its construction had been cleared. In 1921 this sum amounted to £3,000 – about £120,000 at 2024 prices. In the same year a new Dean of the Cathedral was appointed, Canon Frederick Mitchell. He immediately set about the task of clearing the debt so that the consecration could take place. Thanks to the many efforts and sacrifices of his congregation he quickly achieved his aim and by January 1924 the Cathedral was free of debt, opening the way for the consecration to be arranged. The date chosen was Friday 18th July 1924.

The Consecration of Leeds Cathedral was the occasion when it was exclusively and for ever dedicated to the worship of God.

The ceremonial was led by the third Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Joseph Robert Cowgill and carried out with pomp and solemnity. It began at 9 o’clock in the morning and lasted for four hours. Large crowds were gathered in the surrounding streets to witness the blessing of the exterior of the Cathedral. Many then moved inside St Anne’s for the consecration of the Altar and the anointing of the twelve Consecration Crosses. The proceedings concluded with a Pontifical High Mass.

On Sunday 20th July Bishop Cowgill celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the Cathedral, at which Archbishop Keating of Liverpool preached. At an evening service of Compline and Benediction the preacher was the Coadjutor Bishop of Middlesbrough, Bishop Thomas Shine, who had been Dean of the Cathedral from 1908-21. The next day, Monday 21st July, a Mass for the Cathedral’s benefactors, both living and dead, was followed by a Luncheon at the Great Northern Hotel.

At the Luncheon Bishop Cowgill said it was a great day for Leeds and for the diocese in general to have St Anne’s Cathedral consecrated and expressed the gratitude of the Catholics in Leeds and the diocese to Canon Mitchell for his notable achievement in wiping off the debt on the Cathedral thereby preparing the way for its Consecration.

On the evening of Monday 21st July, the Consecration was marked by a Grand Reception held at Leeds Town Hall during which there was a performance by the Cathedral Choir.

At the time the Cathedral Choir was said to be at the top of its form while the organist was also highly regarded. Together they had given recitals in aid of the Consecration Fund in addition to their liturgical role at the Cathedral.

In October 1923 the local press noted that the choir of St Anne’s has been renowned for many years for its admirable rendering of the Church’s music (with) its highly gifted organist, Mr Chambers. It was said that the majority of Masses and motets sung in the Cathedral are by masters of the 16th and 17th centuries including the renowned Byrd and Palestrina.

The all-male choir, conducted by Mr. Henry Kellaway, included a boys section whose members were recruited mainly from St Anne’s School in Woodhouse Square and from St Vincent’s Home for Boys in Leeds.

Henry Chambers had been the Cathedral Organist since 1913 when he was appointed at the age of eleven and known hereabouts as the young Mozart. He served in this capacity until 1931 when he moved to London to pursue a career as a professional musician. During his years at the Cathedral, he obtained a degree in music from Durham University, and he was also employed as the resident organist at the Lounge Cinema at Headingley, in Leeds.

The organ in St Anne’s had been built in 1904 by Norman & Beard of Norwich in readiness for the opening of the Cathedral in June of that year. In its original form the instrument lacked a Double Trumpet on the Swell Organ. This omission was rectified in time for the Consecration of the Cathedral in 1924.

This development was made possible thanks to a fund established with a bequest of £100 (£4,000 today) from one of St Anne’s greatest benefactors, Col. Charles Coghlan of Headingley, who had died in October 1921. Amongst his other benefactions to Leeds Cathedral were the Shrine of St Urban in 1904 and the War Memorial Chapel in 1920.

A contemporary source records that the whole event of the Consecration was carried out with éclat. Dignity, grandeur, solemnity, fervour, and enthusiasm marked all the various phases of the magnificent function. Bishops, Priests, Choir and People all rose to the occasion and made it a memorable epoch in the history of the Cathedral.

Long had the Catholics of the city of Leeds and of the Diocese of Leeds longed for the Consecration of their Cathedral and now, by their labours and their prayers, their desire had been realised.

Deo Gratias!

Events to mark the Centenary of the Dedication of the Cathedral

Novena of Thanksgiving – Tuesday 9th to Wednesday 17th July – Mondays to Fridays at 6.15pm – 7.00pm (or as close to this time once Mass has finished); Saturdays and Sundays at 5.00pm – 5.45pm.  All are welcome to attend.

Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving – Sunday 14th July at 11.00am celebrated by Bishop Marcus followed by a Celebratory Shared Lunch.  All are welcome to attend.

Solemn Mass on the Anniversary of the Dedication – Thursday 18th July at 11.30am celebrated by Bishop Marcus, visiting Bishops, Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful. All are welcome to attend.