Conference | Hotel | Pastoral

History of Hinsley Hall

Hinsley Hall is the Diocese of Leeds’ Pastoral and Residential Conference Centre. It is a Grade II Listed Building located within the Headingley Hill Conservation Area. It opened in its present role in September 1999.

It is named after Cardinal Arthur Hinsley who was born in the village of Carlton, near Selby in 1865. He was ordained a priest in 1893 and in 1900 became the first Headmaster of St Bede’s Grammar School in Bradford.

In 1917 he became the Rector of the Venerable English College, the seminary in Rome established during the Reformation. He later became a Papal diplomat and in 1935 was appointed Archbishop of Westminster. He was created a Cardinal in 1937. He died in March 1943 and was buried in Westminster Cathedral.

The portrait of Cardinal Hinsley on the staircase to the right of the Reception area is a copy of one owned by Westminster Cathedral and painted by Simon Elwes (1902-1975), a member of the Royal Academy and a noted portrait painter.

History of the building

The foundation stone was laid on 30 May 1867 by Mr Isaac Holden, a mill owner and Liberal MP for Knaresborough. On the day in question the proceedings began with a service in the Wesleyan Chapel in Chapel Street, Headingley. From there the congregation walked down Headingley Lane to the site of the new Wesley College.

The same happened the following year when the College was officially opened on 25 September 1868.

On 25 September 2018, on the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Wesley College, representatives of the Methodist Conference presented the Bishop of Leeds with the engraved silver trowel that had been used in the laying of the foundation stone in 1867.

Headingley was one of five Methodist training colleges opened between 1835 and 1868. The others were at Hoxton and Stoke Newington in London, Richmond-upon-Thames and Manchester.

The cost of building the Headingley College was £28,613 – just over £3 million at today’s prices. This included the cost of the two houses in the grounds – now known as Ashlea and St Monica’s – which were built as accommodation for professors at the college. These are also Grade II Listed buildings.

The college was designed by the architects Wilson and Wilcox of Bath and constructed using Potternewton stone from the local Meanwood quarries. The contractor was Mr Whiteley of Leeds.

It is a three-sided two-storey building. The first floor provided residential accommodation for forty students plus a sick bay, and the ground floor housed classroom, offices and other facilities including a kitchen and staff apartments.

The Lounge was originally the college library while the Edmund Sykes Room was the board room. The original Dining Room is still in use as such today with its open timbered roof.

The college operated from 1868 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 when it closed. It did not re-open until 1930.

During the war the building was used by the Leeds Education Committee and then in 1924 it was leased to Leeds University for use as a Hall of Residence and was known as Devonshire Hall. This arrangement came to an end in 1930 when a new student residence was built in nearby Cumberland Road and the name Devonshire Hall was transferred to this new building, which is still in use by the University today.

The college re-opened as a Methodist training centre in 1930 but closed again during the Second World War and from July 1943 until January 1946 it was occupied by the Women’s Royal Naval Service and operated as HMS Headingley.

In 1969 the Methodist Church sold the college to the Little Sisters of the Poor who renamed the building as the College of the Blessed Virgin. The Little Sisters are an order of nuns founded in France in 1842 by St Jeanne Jugan with a mission to care for the elderly. They first arrived in England in 1852 and came to Leeds in 1865. Their first home in the city for the care of the elderly was in Hanover Square. They later opened a purpose-built home on Belle View Road.

The Sisters bought the Wesley College for two reasons; first to house a training centre for entrants to the order and to use the college’s playing fields as the site for a new old people’s home to replace the now outdated building on Belle Vue Road. They had wanted a suburban location for their new home, with access to shops and local facilities and a good bus service. The home, called Mount St Joseph’s, was officially opened on 26 August 1972. It was designed to accommodate 140 residents and included a convent and chapel. The architects were W & J Tocher, who had designed St Columba’s United Reformed Church on Headingley Lane in 1966.

In the mid-1990s the Sisters decided that the College building was now surplus to their requirements and they agreed to sell it to the Diocese of Leeds. The bishop at the time, Bishop David Konstant, envisaged the building as the location for a new Diocesan Pastoral and Conference Centre and the diocesan offices. A redevelopment scheme was drawn up by the architects Abbey Holford Rowe and the official opening of what is now Hinsley Hall took place on 29 September 1999.

The grounds of Hinsley Hall still include a small cemetery containing the graves of a number of Little Sisters who have served in Leeds over the years together with some priests who have lived at Mount St Joseph’s in retirement. Among them is the grave of Monsignor James Sullivan OBE, who was the last Rector of the English College in Lisbon. This was a seminary for trainee priests from England that was established in the Portuguese capital during the Penal Times in 1624 and which closed in 1973.

The Courtyard

Two extensions to the building were designed by Abbey Holford Rowe in 1999 – the Conservatory which leads off the Reception area and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the opposite side of the courtyard.

The statue is of St Margaret Clitherow and was sculpted by Robert Brumby of York. His studio at one time was located in The Shambles and he was also Head of York School of Art and Design. His work can be seen in Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and several other modern Catholic churches.

The statue was made in the early 1970s for the grounds of what was then the Carmelite Priory at Hazlewood Castle near Tadcaster; it was relocated to Hinsley Hall after the Carmelites left Hazlewood in 1997. There is a smaller version of the statute in the chapel of the Bar Convent in York, along with a relic of St Margaret Clitherow.

The Chapel

The chapel is a later addition to the original college building and dates from 1933. The building of the chapel and link corridors completed the quadrangle layout of the college and created the present-day courtyard. An initial design for the chapel was prepared by Jones and Stocks of Leeds but the completed design is by the architects Potts and Hennings of Manchester. The contractors were Armitage and Hodgson of Leeds. The official opening took place on 1 June 1933.

The window at the far end of the chapel is a memorial to five former students of the Wesley College who were killed in the First World War.

The interior of the chapel has changed significantly since 1933. It was re-ordered for use by the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1972 and dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was again redesigned in 1999 by Philip Thornton of Abbey Holford Rowe with new furnishings by David John. Little of this scheme remains as the chapel was refurbished in 2010 when the furniture in use today was installed.

In 2017 the chapel was rededicated to the Holy Family by the present Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Marcus Stock, and the icon of Jesus, Mary and Joseph by Aiden Hart was installed.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel

The chapel was designed by Philip Thornton of Abbey Holford Rowe in association with David John in 1999.

The bronze tabernacle sits on a block of Derbyshire stone and has panels representing the Exodus themes of the burning bush, water from the rock and the gift of a lamb as a substitute for the sacrifice of Isaac.

The cruciform window is by the stained glass artist Mark Angus. In the last forty years he has created over 300 windows for churches and cathedrals in Britain and abroad, including a substantial commission at Durham Cathedral. The window here uses 5 brilliant red lenses to represent the Five Wounds of Christ.

The screen is also by Mark Angus and the design is inspired by the account in the Book of Exodus of the gift of manna from heaven. The text from Exodus is engraved on the screen. The holy water stoop adds the imagery of baptism to the Eucharistic themes of the chapel itself.

Hinsley Court

These seven houses for retired priests of the Diocese of Leeds were completed in November 1999, shortly after the opening of Hinsley Hall. They replaced St Gabriel’s Home at Horsforth, which, from the mid-1960s onwards, had provided six self-contained retirement flats for priests. The design of Hinsley Court was inspired by the example of Rowntree Trust accommodation for the elderly at New Earswick in York.

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