Leeds Nostalgia: St Mark’s Church, Woodhouse set for grand unveiling

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A historic Leeds church built after the Battle of Waterloo has been given a new lease of life after an five-year conservation effort.

St Mark’s Church in Woodhouse was bought by the Gateway Church in 2008 - prior to that it had been redundant for five years.

Since then it has been painstakingly restored and on Friday June 5 there will be a grand opening ceremony attended by the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP and the Lord Mayor of Leeds.

St Mark’s Church in Woodhouse – the only one of its kind left in the area – is one of 600 churches built across the country - the so-called ‘million churches’ - to mark the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon in 1815.

It was designed by Atkinson and Sharpe and consecrated on January 13, 1826.

Since its closure in 2001, Leeds City Council has added it to the Buildings at Risk Register due to its rapid deterioration and crumbling structure.

After Gateway purchased the building, the English Heritage pledged £171,000 to restore it.

The church catered for an expanding community during the Industrial Revolution, but congregation numbers dwindled during the 20th century and it struggled financially.

At the time, Tony Smith from Gateway Church said: “We are thrilled that English Heritage has awarded us this significant grant to assist in the repair of St Mark’s and it is an exciting step towards seeing this building and the church restored to its place at the heart of the local community.

“We would like to thank English Heritage for recognising the importance of this project, not just in terms of safeguarding the future of a rare building, but also the positive impact this renovation will have on the lives of many people in and around Leeds.”

St Mark’s was one of the six per cent of listed places of worship on the English Heritage at risk register.

The Grade II listed landmark has now been restored to its former glory.

St Mark’s was built in 1817 and was commissioned by the British government after the Battle of Waterloo.

Tony Smith, an elder of Gateway Church said it was an exciting project to work on.

“The building has such a rich history and it’s so exciting that we can be a part of it. It has been such a long process to renovate St Mark’s that it’s hard to believe we’ve actually moved in and can now call St Mark’s home.

“We don’t want to keep this building to ourselves though; we hope it will be a place where the community feels welcome.”

As the building takes shape, Gateway hopes it will be used by a variety of different social groups and for a range of different activities from parent and toddler groups to classes for dance and language.

The evening will include a choral piece that was written especially for the occasion, a short talk about the vision of Gateway, and tours by the architect.

The Gateway Church has staged a number of initiatives over the years to raise funds, including one in November last year in which parishioners read the Bible from cover to cover.

Gateway Church meets every Sunday, 10am to 12.15pm, at St Mark’s Church, St Mark’s Road, Leeds, LS2 9AF.

The event is part of a series of events to celebrate the restoration and opening of St Mark’s as the new home of Gateway Church. Details of other events can be found at www.gatewayleeds.net. If you would like to get in touch with any suggestions, questions, or room booking requests, please drop them an email at office@gatewayleeds.net.