We’re preparing to launch our latest homes in Skipton, created from the renovation of the former St. Stephen’s School and Presbytery, in the next few weeks. In the meantime we thought we’d share some of the history of these wonderful old buildings.
In 1836, on a tree-lined piece of land in Skipton then known as Sycamore Hill and surrounded by cornfields, construction began on St. Stephen’s Church. Brothers Thomas and Charles Tempest were prominent local Catholics instrumental in funding and planning the church. The Tempest family has roots in this part of Yorkshire dating back to 1097 and the brothers’ direct descendants still run nearby Broughton Hall Estate, the family’s seat. The Tempest coat of arms and motto, ‘life as thou finds’ is carved above the school’s eastern entrance, which was once the entrance to the infants’ school.
The church’s eventual consecration in 1842 was an important moment in Skipton’s religious history, as it was the first official place of worship for the local Catholic community, and in 1850 plans were drawn up to build a school and presbytery (house for a parish priest). They were to be built around an existing building, Holywell Cottage, which dates back to earlier in the century. In contrast to the cottage’s simple Georgian architecture, the school and presbytery are designed in the Gothic Revival style, an ornate, romantic style that was inspired by Medieval architecture and very popular in the Victorian era. Typical Neo-Gothic features include the steeply pitched rooves and gables, pointed arches and lancet and clover windows seen at St. Stephen’s.
The school and presbytery opened in 1854, as commemorated in the date stone above the main entrance on Gargrave Road. The school was run by various orders of nuns for more than a century (St. Monica’s Convent, which later became a girls’ school, opened nearby in 1861). Holywell Cottage was home to the school master before becoming part of the school in the 1950s. Thomas Tempest, one of the local brothers responsible for the creation of St. Stephen’s, acted as the first parish priest, while the first priest to live in the presbytery, Father George Bridges, arrived in the 1850s. He was followed in 1874 by Father Richard Sharp, who served the parish for 40 years.
St. Stephen’s School was based in the original complex of buildings until the early part of this century, and many local residents have memories of attending school there. A new complex of buildings next door now houses the school, while the original buildings had lain empty for several years when we took ownership of them.
We’re delighted to honour 170 years of history at St. Stephen’s Place’s and conserve these historic buildings for future generations to enjoy – find out more about the homes we’re creating and register your interest here.