The original Armley chapel was built in the 1630s for the people of the village of Armley to worship. Previously they had used the chapel at Armley Hall but only under sufferance, writes Mark Stevenson.
By the 1800s the Chapel was showing its age and the Gott family for the most part funded the alterations, extending and enlarging the chapel. When the work was finished the chapel could hold 963 people.
In 1870 it was decided that the chapel was too small as the population of Armley was expanding.
This decision was reached in no small part because a new church had opened in Upper Armley on Armley Ridge Road called Christ Church, which was bigger and better than the old Armley Chapel and the powers that be were not having that.
On April 1st 1872 the foundation stone for St Bartholomew’s Church, as we know it today was laid. It is the largest church in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and was funded by public subscription and held 13 less than the smaller Chapel it replaced.
The tower was added 25 years after the new church was completed in 1878, possibly in the hope of it holding a peal of bells. Unfortunately Christ Church got in there first as bye-laws don’t allow for two sets of bells within a certain distance of each other.
St Bartholomew’s holds the world famous Schulze Organ thought to be the only one of its kind in Britain, if not the world.
Although the gravestones have been removed the graveyard still holds over 3,000 graves, including those of the Gott family that can still be seen were the old chapel used to be as its out line is still visible.
Another famous family buried at St Bartholomew’s Church is the Tetley family, along with a soldier who fell at Waterloo if you look carefully his gravestone can still be seen.
The tower of St Bartholomew’s Church is a distinguishing figure and an icon of Armley which can be seen for miles around.
If you would like a much more detailed and in depth history of St Bartholomew’s Church, a book by Michael Collins can be bought at the church for a small fee…