Harrogate West Park United Reformed Church


Post 1862

The building

Designed by the famous Bradford partnership of Lockwood and Mawson, in the early decorated style of English architecture, the chapel includes a tower which rises to an octagonal lantern and is topped by an elegant spire, 130 feet high. An important part, not only of the building, but of the surrounding townscape.The main building of the chapel possesses many beautiful and original features. A bell hung for full circle ringing is located in the tower. The bell was originally cast for the St John's, the predeccessor of Christ Church and formed part of the furnishings bought for the old chapel. It was tranferred to the present building in 1862.  It is now rung each Sunday prior to Morning Worship. To view a picture of the bell click on the link and choose  www.riponandleedsbells.org.uk/harrogate_west_park_urc.htm   The windows on the side elevations are surmounted by gables, but the most unusual feature of the exterior is the twelve figureheads cut on the southern corbels. These leading figures of the reformation (Cromwell, Milton, Bunyan and Watts will be found among them) were sculpted - it is said - by a Catholic artist!

In the interior, the vaulted roof is supported by iron columns with foliated caps and a gallery occupies the western end under a handsome five-light window. The brilliant stained-glass windows were added later, the figures of David and Jonathan and of St Michael and St George are First World-War memorials. Wall tablets commemorate the first Minister of the Church, Rev John H Gavin, the chairman of the building committee, John P Clapham, and the fallen of 1914-1919.

The Church Meeting of members is held in the Victoria Room, formerly named the Lecture Room, and it was here, in 1972, the congregation voted to join the new United Reformed Church (with the Presbyterian Church of England). In 1991 a Joint Pastorate with our sister Church at Bilton Grange was formed and the Churches worked closely with each other until it was dissolved in 2005.

The pulpit area of the sanctuary was modernised in 1993 to allow a more flexible area for worship and can accommodate the Music Group and drama presentations. At the same time a Binns pipe organ was purchased from St Paul’s Anglican Church, Northampton, which was due to be demolished. The organ was restored and rebuilt in its present position by Peter Wood of Harrogate. The communion table stands in the centre of the dais and is a focal point of worship.

A suite of rooms adjoining the eastern end of the sanctuary was designed and constructed at the same time as the chapel. Modernised in 1994, the rooms are used by various groups and organisations.

The former 'Ladies Parlour' and toilets at the Raglan Street entrance have undergone a major modernisation program. The parlour, now renamed the Raglan Room, has become a very attractive small meeting room and the toilet facilities are now of a standard befitting the 21st century. Towards the end of 1999 an outside ramp was constructed along the southern wall and the floor raised in the vestibule, the eastern end and the aisles of the sanctuary to eliminate the need for the steps so favoured by the Victorians. Wheelchair access is now available directly into the building at both Victoria Avenue entrances.

Floodlights were installed at the West Park and Victoria Avenue sides of the building and highlight the Church to passers-by. This was undertaken as our millennium project.

Further improvements have been made to strengthen the floor in the first floor hall, removing walls and the fixed stage to give greater flexibility and space. Modernisation of the kitchen facilities there have been undertaken too and a badminton court is marked out. The hall was named the West Park Hall and formally reopened at a special dinner held on 17 January 2003. 

Further major alterations are being investigated to allow for expansion of our vision for work in the community.

The listed building that is the West Park United Reformed Church, is one of the most significant monuments in the locality, and one which played a major role in the creation of the nineteenth century unified township of Harrogate. 


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