The Church in Roundhay
Originally the district of Roundhay formed the westernmost portion of the parish of Barwick, to which it was joined by a narrow neck like an animal's head to its body. It was, and still is, in the Diocese of Ripon, the Archdeaconry of Ripon and the Rural Deanery of Whitkirk, In l923 the institution and induction of the Rev. T. Noel Pearson as Vicar of Roundhay St. John's instead of perpetual curate suggested that Roundhay had become a separate parish but, in fact, the church has never been assigned a district.
The Rector of Barwick drew tithe from Roundhay as from the rest of his parish until 1806 when the owners of Roundhay (Mr. Thomas Nicholson and Mr. Samuel Elam), being anxious to free their estate from tithe, bought certain lands in Barwick from Sir William Mordaunt Miller, and with the consent of the Arcbishop of York and the Chancellor of the Duchy, exchanged them with the Rector for his Roundhay tithes. From 1852 to 1941 there was a rent charge on the income of the Rectory for an annual payment of £100 to the incumbent of Roundhay. Then certain shares were handed over to the church Commissioners, the interest on which still form part of the stipend of the incumbent of Roundhay.
Until 1808, Roundhay appears to nave been almost terra incognita. The thick forest of "Gibton" was a natural barrier from Leeds on the south-west, and only by devious bridle and wretched cart tracks could the few tenant farmers who occupied the sparse holdings in the district get their produce to the Leeds Market. In 1808 an Act was obtained for making a road "from Sheepscar to Roundhay Bridge1". Later this joined the Leeds-Collingham Trust Road to Wetherby2.
If the ways were long and weary from Roundhay to Leeds, they were worse to the mother Church at Barwick, where the infant had to be carried for the first office of the church, and the dead for the last. A late "oldest inhabitant" of Roundhay was said to relate the perils he once encountered in crossing the "ford" in a cart which carried his late master's body to Barwick. He was accompanied by his late master's daughter whom he consoled on the weary way, so beguiling her that she promised to become his wife long before they reached the church.
In 1810, after the making of the road from Sheepscar to Roundhay, Mr. Elam's property was sold by auction at the "White Rose Tavern". The sale was speedily followed by the erection of some handsome houses on the different sites purchased - Oakwood Hall, Springwood (now Fraser House), The Grange, The Grove, Elm Close, Ladywell, North Hill (originally built by Stephen Nicholson and now demolished to make way for North Hill Close), and others.
But these houses were few in an area which extended to Shadwell in the north and embraced Low Gipton, Gledhow and parts of Seacroft. However, the population rose from 84 in l801 to 186 in 1822, when Roundhay "still retained an air of the seat of ancient nobility" and was "Chiefly in the possession of families of opulence connected with the town of Leeds." With this growth the need for a church became apparent. As early as 1818 it was rumoured that a church at Roundhay was in contemplation but not until the scheme for government aid for church extension in Leeds had begun to take shape in 1823 was it clear again that Roundhay was to have that church. At that time it was probably too thinly populated to qualify for a grant and it was not found necessary even to apply to the Church Building Society for aid. Already in May 1821 it had been announced that the Rector of Barwick had promised to assign £200 per annum of his stipend as an endowment for a minister at Roundhay if a church were provided.3 In that year, Mr. Thomas Nicholson of Roundhay park died, but he bequeathed property to meet the expense of erecting a church in Roundhay.
1. Situated about the entrance to the present car park of the swimming