On Thursday afternoon, May 18th, 1916 in brilliant sunshine, the consecration of the new Church took place. Father Dalton wrote:
“It was a very solemn and impressive service. Of course, the church built to accommodate 600 was crowded, and hundreds of people were turned away for lack of room.
The Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Reverend Leonard Hedley, officiated, and the sermon was preached by the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Cosmo Gordon Lang, Lord Archbishop of York. His Grace made an appeal to the people to make the Church their Home, a Home for prayer and spiritual refreshment. His words were fatherly, loving, and intensely earnest, finding an echo in the hearts of his hearers, and will (please God) be remembered and acted upon long after the present time.”
The late 2nd Viscount Halifax had written,
“There shall be one house in Goldthorpe which shall be really beautiful, and which will make every man dignified by his walking into it”.
For this reason he, Charles Lindley, and Agnes Elizabeth, Viscount and Viscountess Halifax gave and dedicated the present Parish Church. The dedication was in honour of St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary Magdalene, “to whom I have a special devotion,” wrote Viscount Halifax, and “whom I always look upon as my patrons”.
The church was designed by Alfred Y. Nutt of Slough in 1914 and built between 1915-16. It is an interesting early example of the use of re-enforced Ferro-concrete for both the building of churches and for church furniture. It is due to the unusual design, the revolutionary building technique and the materials used that have resulted in the Church and Presbytery being awarded Grade 2* listing status.
The Church consists of a South West Tower, Porch, West Gallery, Nave, North and South Aisles, Chancel with Apse. Lady Chapel on the south side of the chancel, vestries on the North side.
The tower is very squarely and strongly constructed, the lower chamber being open to the air. It is a Venetian-styled Campanile, above which there is a four faced clock, each face six feet in diameter. To the clock were attached bar-bell chimes which could be rung independently of the mechanism, but these fell in to disuse and were removed in the 1950’s. Above the western face of the clock is written, “Ecce nohi contracta tempora dextra.”
The massive Baldachino over the High Altar is made of ferro-concrete. The canopy is supported by four black pillars with gilded capitals. Under the canopy is a sculptured Holy Dove, with Sanctus inscribed three times, and under that a large Crucifix in black with burnished halo a copy of a work by Donatello.
On the north and south walls are some remarkable Stations of the Cross carved by a Belgian Refugee. He was also responsible for the Pieta in the north isle, for the image of Christ that originally resided under the Jesu Altar (removed in the 1980’s), and for the Statues of St. John and St. Mary Magdalene high up on the walls of the Lady Chapel. The original image of Christ in the centre of the Jesu altar was ‘Ecce Homo’ and was a casting of an Italian masterpiece. This was replaced in recent years by an image of the Sacred Heart.
There is a remarkable painting in the Lady Chapel of St. John and St. Mary with our Lady and the Holy Child. Many visitors think it is a genuine Italian Classic of 15th century, but in fact it is a copy signed with the initials E.S.W. and dated 1915. Until the restoration there were 2 other pictures hung on the east wall of the Lady Chapel, one either side of the Reredos. These were for many years under appreciated mainly due to years of dirt that had accumulated. In the 2002 restoration, these were removed form the church for cleaning. It was then that it was discovered that it was not 86 years of accumulated dirt but closer to 500 years worth. These are currently in the keeping of York Minter.
Above the door into the St Michael’s room at the west end of the south aisle, there is a Calvary Group. The figure of our Lord was carved by Sister Katherine, who was a Carmelite Nun in Bayswater.
St Michael’s room is in actual fact the base of the tower and was originally the Baptistery and latterly since the Mission church of St Michael closed in early 1980’s was know as St Michael’s Chapel. The original Altar and 5ft high Crucifix from St Michael’s Mission was situated in there. In the 2002 restoration the Font was moved to the North west end of the Nave. The plain leaded glass in the west window was removed and a new window designed commemorating the parishes closely entwined 20th centre history with the coal mining industry. Below this window is kept a record and tribute to those who have died in the local collieries.
The original High Altar Tabernacle and Candlesticks of brass and elaborate silver work were stolen in the late 1980’s and have never been recovered. Smaller gilded wooden replacements adorned the gradine (the integral selves at the back of the High Altar) until the Easter Vigil in 2009, when through the generosity of the parishioners, larger Candlesticks that more closely match the originals were lit for the 1st time.
The 11ft tall Paschal Candlestick is a composite antique work representing the styles of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The pulpit was obtained from St. Gregory’s Church, Small Heath, Birmingham, and is a beautiful piece of Belgian carved workmanship of about the year 1600.
The War Memorial was unveiled by the late 2nd Viscount Halifax and dedicated by the Bishop of Sheffield on Thursday, April 7th, 1921.
The memorial is of re-enforced concrete, standing 11ft high and 6ft wide. A statue of St. George, a copy of one by Donatello, is the central figure, on each side of which is a pillar of black Belgian marble with gilded capitals supporting a cornice. The plinth is faced with a spar, and beneath the plinth is a table on the face of which is a tablet bearing the names of the men who died in the War to end all Wars, the First World War. The War Memorial was slightly redesigned less than 30 years later in order to commemorate the men of Goldthorpe who fell in the Second World War.