St Margaret's, Ilkley, is a living and active Christian community which seeks to serve the Parish in which it stands, as well as welcoming all who come here for worship and to grow in discipleship.

Built in 1879, the Church owes its beauty and ethos to the Oxford Movement and still seeks to live out that vision today. We seek "to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" and invite others into "that vision glorious".

St Margaret's seeks to live out today the Anglican Catholic tradition we have inherited from our forebears. Our divine worship is both traditional and family centred. The musical tradition is strong with three choirs, all of which include children and young people. 

Through our Parish Hall, we also serve our community with our weekly "Playtime", monthly "Lunch Club" and daily use by many and various community groups.

If you have never been to St Margaret's before, you have come to join us at just the right time!

Below is a brief history of the church but for a fuller history click here



Until 1873 the only Anglican place of worship in Ilkley was All Saints' Church, but at that time it was not large enough to hold the congregation, this being the heyday of churchgoing, and services were held in the National Schools to deal with the overflow.

In December 1873, Mr Middleton, Lord of the Manor, transferred the present site to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The land was valued at 5/- per square yard.

A 'tin church', as it was known, was erected in the Riddings in 1874 and served for worship until the church building was completed. The trustees, headed by the then Vicar of All Saints', the Revd John Snowden, engaged the eminent architect R. Norman Shaw, A.R.A.~ to design a stone church to hold 600 people at an overall cost of £5,000, this to include walls and fencing and heating apparatus!

Sunday, 9th August 1874 marked the opening of the temporary church and the future tradition of St Margaret's was firmly set before the assembled congregation when the choir entered wearing surplices, until then, unheard of garments in Wharfedale!

It is recorded that those responsible for this advance in churchmanship would have liked to have had cassocks worn as well, but dare not go so far! Further the opening service was a choral Holy Communion, the first ever in this part of the world.

Thus it was that the new St Margaret's was to cater not just for the overflow from All Saints' but from the start was to be a centre of Catholic worship within the Church of England.

On 1st May 1878 the foundation stone was laid for the present church and work proceeded apace. The original plan for a spire was abandoned because of the great weight it would have put on the hillside foundations and, for the same reason, the whole building as it stands now was built in one operation and not in sections as had been the first idea; paying for each section before proceeding with the next. It appears that the final cost of St Margaret's at the time of its dedication was £15,000.

This looks as though building costs in those days were like those of today, but the first figure of £5,000 was not intended to cover the chancel. This was incorporated in the design during building to give support to the tremendous weight already referred to; the girth of the supporting piers is evidence of this.

On 10th September 1879 the church was dedicated by the Lord Bishop of Ripon, Bishop Bickersteth, and a luncheon was held in the IIkley College next door, now Deaconess Court.

As a point of interest there is in the parish records a printed 'Duties of sidesmen' dated Easter 1885 in which the following occurs:

Acting sidesmen must be present at every Sunday Service during their month of office and any that fails to attend or provide a substitute shall agree to pay half a crown into the Building Fund for each such omission unless he can give reasonable excuse to the vicar or churchwardens.

Those were tough days, but at least the debt was soon paid off!

The money for the building and furnishing was raised by May 1886 and a long process of adding ornaments commenced.

Right from the start St Margaret's has been what is commonly called 'High'. Indirectly it owes its foundation to the revival of worship which sprang from the Oxford Movement and it has always maintained a high standard of sacramental life. Regular celebrations of the Holy Communion, the daily recital of the Offices are announced to the town by the ringing of the bell. Holy Days receive full recognition and continually intercession is made for the Church in all the world, for all people and nations and especially for all needing healing of mind, body or spirit.

The parish priests have always been available for confidential counsel and confession.

Before passing to look at the contents of St Margaret's it is worth noting that the worship has always kept up to date. If in the early days it followed the current revival of ritual, so today that tradition is still here. All that is best in modern translations of the Bible and liturgy is used and congregational participation is very much the pattern.

Further details of the church can be found in The early history of St Margaret's Church, Ilkley by J F Hewitt which is on sale in the church.


Norman Shaw the architect of the church is best known as the man who designed the New Scotland Yard building in Westminster and was a notable domestic architect of his day. He kept his interest in St Margaret's right up to his death in 1912 and was himself responsible for the design of many of the fittings now in the church. It was in the design of St Margaret's that he gained his full membership of the Royal Academy and the original plans of St Margaret's are kept in Burlington House today.

The Font and Canopy were built not exactly as Norman Shaw would have wished, but the design came from his suggestions, and installed in 1911 at the cost of £415. Like many other items in the church, much of the cost was raised by the children of the parish.

On 22nd April 2004, Graeme Willson's striking Baptistry Painting, depicting the Christ Child in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, with St John the Baptist and St Margaret, was dedicated by the Archbishop of York.

The Foundation Stone is at the foot of the first pillar by the porch.

A Memorial Board just inside the door to a lifelong worshipper, Dr Thomas Johnstone, and carved by Thompson (the 'mouseman') of Kilburn records the names of incumbents.

The West Window above the font represents the story of Creation and the Fall, whilst the great East Window is complementary to it, being the vision of St John the Divine in the Apocalypse, the makers being James Powell and Sons of Whitechapel. For more detail about the stained glass, click here

Both windows were designed by the architect and installed in readiness to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Thus our worship in St Margaret's is between these reminders of Genesis and Revelation; or if preferred between our beginning and our ultimate destiny.

The Windows of the Nave are worth inspection. Half way along the North Aisle the most modern one depicts St Margaret and St Hilda flanking the Blessed Virgin and Child. (See The Guide to the Windows for more detail)

Beyond this, near the Lady Chapel screen, is a memorial window which seems to commemorate the end of the 1st World War, though in fact the dedication is to the Kellett family. In the bottom centre light appear the names of the Allied leaders.

Opposite in the South aisle can be found four angels shown playing musical instruments. This window was designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the contemporary of William Morris and follows the Pre-Raphaelite tradition. It was no doubt made in the workshops of Morris and Co. as he designed exclusively for them from 1861 onwards. The complete cost of the window including erection was only £98.

Round the walls of the aisles a fine set of Stations of the Cross are plaster casts from original wood carvings from the studios of Faith Craft, one of the fine guilds of craftsmen now alas squeezed out of existence.

The 14 stations depict the incidents on Our Lord's last journey to Calvary, the sequence starts near the Lady Chapel screen and follows the penitential route (anticlockwise) round the church.

The screening around the choir, organ and Lady Chapel was erected over a period of years; some as memorials and plaques record the donors. Most if not all was made by James Elwell the grand old wood carver of Beverley who died in 1926 at the age of 90 years.

The Rood Figures above the choir screen are also from the Faith Craft Studios and were put up in 1928 at a cost of £100

The Crucifix over the pulpit is from Oberammagau and the Statue of Our Lady opposite is a modern one from Italy.

The Reredos is the glory of the church and was placed in its present position in 1925 as a memorial to Mr. J.C. Atkinson who was a former trustee of St Margaret's. It was designed by J. Harold Gibbons of Westminster, carved by Boulton and Sons of Cheltenham from English oak and painted by Gugleilus Tosl at a cost of £1,350. Whilst it is self explanatory, being the Easter message, a fitting setting for the Sunday Eucharist; the foliage is full of small animals and birds and the whole is surmounted by a beautiful statue of Our Lady and the Holy Child.

The doors of the Reredos are closed in Lent and then display the symbols of the Passion, including the Crowing Cockerel of St Peter's Denial.

The Communion Rail and Sanctuary Candlesticks are by Thompson of Kilburn, his 'mouse' mark being carved on each.

The High Altar Candlesticks are by Knights of Wellingborough and were designed by Ninian Comper, another famous architect whose life spanned both the Victorian era and the first half of this century.

The Organ was put in the church early in its history, in 1901, being from the well known builders William Hill and Sons. An interesting clause in the contract was that for each week beyond the agreed date of 1st August 1901 that the church had to wait for completion, a fine of £5 would be imposed. The total cost was less than £2,000, but records do not show whether the firm went beyond the agreed delivery date!

The Lady Chapel has been furnished over the years and the panelling records the memorials therein. On the north wall of the Lady Chapel is the Aumbrey which holds the Blessed Sacrament, the white light burning nearby acting as a reminder of the Presence of Our Lord.