St Mary and St Monica Church and parish hall

Our Lady and St Joseph Parish
Aire Valley

Parish History

Sacred Heart Church

The original Sacred Heart Parish (1873 to 1971)

Early Days

In about 1869, Fr Walker began a Mass centre in Bingley: first at the Fleece Hotel and later in a building he purchased in York Street which became the Liberal Club. The Rev. Edmund de Thury D.D. was the first resident Catholic priest at Bingley after the Reformation. He came from the south of England in 1873 at the request of Bishop Cornthwaite, then Bishop of Beverley (later of Bishop of Leeds). Land was purchased in Crow Nest to build Crow Nest House.

Next, Fr. Aloysius Puissant, a curate at St Mary's, Bradford, built the old school and the church in Crow Nest during his two and a half years in Bingley. It was opened on the 11th May 1880 by Bishop Cornthwaite with solemn High Mass celebrated by Provost Brown in the presence of the bishop and many priests of the diocese. At this time, the population of the parish is given as 300.

The steeply sloping site allowed for the construction of a two-storey building, with the church occupying the upper part and a mixed school below. The chapel is not in any particular style of architecture, but it is well, if plainly built. It consists of a nave, chancel and transepts. On each side are five pointed windows with tinted cathedral glass, while on the wall space between the windows are hung the fourteen Stations of the Cross which are said to have been painted by Fr. Thury.

Fr. Alfred Watson then administered the parish for seven years, built the presbytery and laid out the grounds attached to it. He then became parish priest at Ilkley. Fr. Parkin, from Heckmondwike, took over the parish until June 1896, and during his time, church, school and presbytery were repaired, the church beautified and an organ with its gallery installed. However, he found Bingley too much for his strength due to the extent of the parish, and changed places with Thomas Bradley of Settle.

In the early years of the 20th century, the general population of Bingley increased, mainly due to people moving from Bradford. Efficient public transport allowed them to work in the city and travel each day from Bingley. So by 1903, the number in the parish had increased to 594.

Fr. Michael O'Donnell served the parish until 1934. He installed a new marble altar and reredos, much of which was re-used in re-building the present High Altar in 1973.

Wartime and after

In 1938 Bishop Poskitt asked Fr. John Hawkswell to take charge of Bingley, and during his long stay of 15 years a new era in the history of Bingley parish began. His first work was the opening of the Mass centre at the beautiful church of Christ the King, Crossflatts, in April 1940. In spite of the war, which had now begun, he acquired Cottingley Manor as a school and a Mass Centre. For a short time, Mass was also said at Cullingworth, though this was later abandoned. In the meantime, in order to extend the school premises and to look to future development of the parish, he bought Bramham Lodge as the new presbytery, to which he moved with Fr. Austin Moran, the first curate to serve in Bingley.

Fr. (later Canon) Michael O'Sullivan took charge of Bingley and again a new time of improvements and expansion. St Monica's, Wilsden was opened to serve the Catholics of that distant part of the parish. The old school was constantly improved and extensions made, the numbers having increased so much after the war. Plans were also made for a new school, but this achievement was not completed until after the arrival of the late Fr. Frederick Mawson, who cared for Bingley with the help of two curates from 1965 to 1971. He then retired from parish work, but not before asking the bishop to divide the parish so that the portion beyond the river became St Mary's, Cottingley with Wilsden, whilst the old parish retained Christ the King, Crossflatts.

The above was taken from a leaflet written by Mgr. Thomas Ronchetti for the centenary of the parish.


See also for another description of the church.

St Mary and St Monica, Cottingley (1971 to 2006)

Around 1940, a Mass centre had begun in Cottingley. For a time, Mass was celebrated in the council school there, but in 1945 Fr Hawkswell and the neighbouring parish priests purchased the Cottingley Manor estate to serve as the nucleus for a joint secondary school for the parishes of Bingley, Shipley and Baildon. From the first use of the school in August 1948, Mass was celebrated in the school chapel until the school was closed and the property sold in 1995. For a short time, Mass was then celebrated in the local Anglican church, St Michael and All Angels until the new church of SS Mary and Monica was opened in 1998.

Parish priests were:

Sacred Heart, Bingley (1971 to 2006)

Mgr. Ronchetti was appointed the first priest of the smaller Sacred Heart parish.

On the occasion of the centenary of the parish, 1973, the Sacred Heart church was completely renovated and redecorated, the sanctuary being remodelled according to the new liturgy, including the installation of the main window behind the altar. The Mass to celebrate the Centenary of the opening of Sacred Heart Church was concelebrated by Bishop Wheeler on 11th May 1980.

Fr John Kelly replaced the late Mgr. Ronchetti in September 1980. He convened a few meetings of a short-lived Parish Council, which was concerned with redeveloping the old church and school building. In order to do this, he sold off the plot of land adjacent to Bramham Lodge on the North West. During his time, too, Fr. Michael Krychiwskyj was ordained priest in Sacred Heart church (1st August 1981). A new organ was donated to the church about 1981. Fr Kelly was in turn succeeded by the late Fr. Ken Taylor, who celebrated his Silver Jubilee during his time in Bingley on 24th May 1989, and also the 50th anniversary of Christ the King, Crossflatts concelebrated with Bishop Konstant.

The last Parish Priest was Fr. (now Canon) Joseph Smith (died 25 January 2024) who was appointed to the parish in 1998. The 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart parish was celebrated in May 2005. In June 2006, Bishop Roche announced his proposals for Bradford in which he proposed that, from August 2006, Sacred Heart parish and the neighbouring parish of St Mary and St Monica, Cottingley were to be merged.

Anniversary booklet cover

A booklet was produced in 2005 for the 125th anniversary of the opening of Sacred Heart Church. A copy may be viewed by clicking on this link. Some pictures and a history of the parish are on page 10 and following. NB Please note the picture on page 13 is actually of the chapel of Christ the King in Crossflatts!

Together again - Our Lady and St Joseph Parish from 2006

Fr. Sean Molloy became the first parish priest for the new parish in August 2006. As part of this change, the chapel of Christ the King, Crossflatts has been closed, and Masses are no longer said in Wilsden.

A plan to refurbish Sacred Heart church was produced in 2016, including access for people with disabilities. Before this could be implemented however, a problem occurred with the heating system (which was to be replaced) in November, and so the church was temporarily closed and all services held at SS Mary & Monica's church in Cottingley. The work undertaken at Sacred Heart also included an extension to provide a meeting room and toilet facilities and the removal of the organ loft/choir gallery. Following the extensive refurbishment, the church re-opened for weekend services in May 2018.

In August 2021, Bishop Marcus Stock moved Fr Sean in 2015 Fr Sean Molloy to another parish, and Canon Jim Callaghan Canon James Callaghan was appointed as the new Parish Priest.

A list of the priests who have served the parish in Bingley can be seen on this page.

A history of Sacred Heart parish from 1873 to August 2006 can also be seen at this web page.

Back to the top of the page

Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional