A Brief History

In post-reformation times, there were very small numbers of recusant Catholics in the village of Burley-in-Wharfedale. In fact, in 1614, there were only five. The intermittent but punitive fines imposed on the Catholic gentry prevented a general resurgence of Catholicism in the North of England, despite the efforts of the seminary priests, Jesuits and Benedictines. However in the 1700s, a Benedictine mission at Myddelton Lodge in nearby Ilkley became a local centre of growth. In 1791, the position was improved by the Relief Act, and the Emancipation Act of 1829 finally gave Roman Catholics full recognition under the law. Numbers in England then increased both as a result of these legal changes and increasing immigration from Ireland.

By the early 1900s, the problem became one of providing sufficient numbers of churches and priests to cater for the increasing numbers of Catholic faithful. A single church in nearby Otley served an area of 90 square miles, including not only many separate towns and villages, but also three major hospitals that were established in the area to take advantage of the healthy rural air.

In 1930, a separate parish for Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston was proposed, and the land for a church and house was bought. The bulk of the funding came from a retired civil servant living in Burley, a Mr. Frederick Le Fevre. The new church was consecrated in 1932, the first Parish priest being the selfsame but recently-ordained Frederick, now Father Le Fevre. It was the first church in England to be dedicated to the martyrs Thomas More and John Fisher, who were canonised three years later. The Parish Hall was added in 1936.  A yearbook from 1938 can be found here: Yearbook 1938

By the 1980s, SS John Fisher and Thomas More had become a thriving centre of worship for the Catholic population of the district. Not surprisingly, it was showing the effects of this usage and the general passage of time. In the late ’80s, a major restoration was carried out. Much of the fabric was renewed, a new foyer and passageway to the hall were added, and the layout was rearranged to cater for the liturgical requirements of Vatican Council II. The church and new altar were consecrated in October 1989.

Our Parish Priests

1932-1940 Frederick Le Fevre
1940-1952 Frederick Joseph Mawson
1952-1960 Thomas A. Molony
1960-1987 Dermott Scannell
1987-1993 Barrie Holmes
1993-1998 John S. Aveyard
1998-2006 Anthony Bernard Boylan
2006-2013 Joseph Smith
2013-2017 priests in residence: Malachy Larkin, Nigel Polland, Simon Wynn
2017 Michael Mahady

Two parishioners have been ordained to the priesthood: Mark Jarmuz (27th July 1990) and Paul Grogan (16th July 1994)

Over the years the parish has been served by a number of assistant priests including Patrick Roche (who served under Fr Le Fevre); Francis Blanchfield (1952-1955); Edward Horkin (1955-1960) and John MacMahon (1984-1987). In addition, Fr V.L.Chacko (“your little brother”) from Kusudia in India assisted for periods whilst Fr Barrie Holmes was at this parish. For many years the parish was served by Rev. Patrick Kenny who was ordained a deacon on 7th December 1978.

In the 21st Century, the Church continues to serve the local population in Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston, and continues to change to meet our needs for worship and companionship.

A Special Night in the Wharfedale Deanery
On 9th November 2017 Bishop Marcus celebrated the induction Mass for Fr Michael.  It was a splendid occasion, here is Bishop Marcus’ homily and a link to the Leeds diocese website for Clodagh’s account of the evening – Fr Michael’s induction Mass.  Here are photos of the evening.

New Organ

Bishop Marcus blessed our new electronic organ during his visit to the parish over the weekend of 25 February 2018.

All of our organists have enjoyed playing the new instrument very much!  Here is John and Stella.

On Friday 8th March 2018 we celebrated Women’s World Day of Prayer. More details of WWDP can be found here.


Church reopens for Daily Mass

Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent and happily our Church reopens for Daily Mass from Thursday 3rd onwards. Looking forward for us being together again. Please don’t forget to book a place for weekend Masses and if you would like to celebrate Mass on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day or Sunday 27th.

Churches Together

Churches Together wish everyone in our village communities a very Happy Christmas. I hope you like our Christmas banner in place of Christmas cards this year.

Laudato Si – Climate Change

Pope Francis calls on fossil fuel bosses to switch to renewable energy Pope Francis has directly appealed to oil and gas companies to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy in order to prevent climate change pushing the world’s poorest people deeper into poverty. The Pope issued the call at a meeting held in the Vatican […]

Connect2 & HandsOn programmes

Our parish supports CAFOD and its Connect2 projects.  This began with the Puentecitos community in El Salvador in 2016.  Read here about the amazing projects have been completed, helping to improve people’s income and food production in this very poor region of the country.  From January 2019 we have supported people in Magdalena Medio, Columbia through CAFOD’s […]

Attending Mass

On Wednesday 4th November we had a FULL socially distanced church as we celebrated our last parish family Mass on the Feast of St Charles Borromeo.  At the end of Mass Fr Michael asked us to remain happy during the next 4 weeks of Lockdown. He reminded us we had many things to be happy […]

Climate change

Climate change is hitting the poorest countries hardest. Severe weather events are undoing decades of development. World leaders signed a promise in 2015 to try and keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees. In 2018 scientists said that this target must drop to 1.5 degrees. Pope Francis asks us to listen carefully to those times […]