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St Aelred of Rievaulx

St Aelred, 1110 - 1167, is linked with the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx in North Yorkshire, founded in 1131, of which he became abbot from 1147 until his death.  As the head of a large Christian community, St Aelred guided his monks to live their fraternity with each other in the light of their friendship with Christ, enabling them to live a community life in truth and love. His wisdom holds out great light for our days too:

"It is no small consolation in this life to have someone you can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow, to those in whose friendship, amidst the many troubles of the world, you can safely retire. ... A man who can shed tears with you in your worries, be happy with you when things go well, search out with you the answers to your problems, whom with the ties of charity you can lead into the depths of your heart."

St Aelred, pray for us.

The parish of St Aelred is devoted to the worship of God through many services and midweek activities. From the Prayer and Praise hour to the Luncheon Club, supporting third world coffee growers and small producers through Traidcraft and running a library, St Aelred's is being salt and light in the community.

The original church (circa 1944) - now the Parish Hall

In 1892 it was reported that over 100 new houses has been built in Starbeck in three years. Starbeck at that time was a separate village between Harrogate and Knaresborough. The parish of St Aelred’s was founded in 1910 when Fr A Saxton of St Roberts celebrated Mass in the Old Hall, High Street Starbeck with an attendance of 32 people. The numbers increased rapidly and the first church dedicated to St Aelred of Rievaulx in the Diocese of Leeds was built in 1912 to hold about 150 people.  Fr Austin Saxton having engaged W H H Marten to design the Lady Chapel at his church St Robert’s now employed him for the new church of St Aelred to accommodate the growing population of Starbeck. The church was a neat, neo-gothic building, but with reference to Marten’s Arts and Crafts with hand-made bricks, stone dressings and external rendering.

St Aelred's Parish Church and Hall

In 1957 a new church was built, next to the old, large enough to accommodate the increasing congregation, designed by R S Ronchetti and was opened by Fr F J Bennett. The foundation stone was laid by the then Bishop of Leeds J C Heenan who went on to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.


The church is cruciform in shape and has a lofty appearance under a severe ceiling. From the west door there is a clear view to the sanctuary and the altar. The ceiling was specially designed and constructed to provide an acoustically perfect baffle for all sound and for Mass and other services conducted within the sanctuary to be heard without difficulty at the west doors. The church is designed to hold 300 people.


The layout of the church has hardly altered since it was built. The Baptismal font has moved from the rear of the church to the front and the Altar rails have been moved. In 1992 the Lady Chapel, on the north side of the church, became an adoration chapel for the Blessed Sacrament. New stained glass windows for this chapel were designed as a Parish Millennium Project and added in 2001.


The old church continued to be used as a parish hall, and in 1993 was refurbished; a new kitchen and new toilets being built on to the original structure. This building continues to support many parish activities.


The parish, one of three Catholic parishes in the town, serves the eastern side of Harrogate as well as the wider Catholic community and also the chaplaincy at the Harrogate District Hospital.


There have been three presbyteries. The first was 122, Stonefall Avenue. It then moved to the bungalow next to the church on Woodlands Drive. The present presbytery, 71 Woodlands Drive, was built in 1956.

The first parish priest was Fr Thomas Parkin who came out of semi-retirement in 1912 and moved in to 122 Stonefall Avenue. The following subsequently served as Parish Priest of St Aelred’s:

Fr John Brennan

1913 – 1936

Fr John Flynn

1936 – 1944

Fr Bernard Blackburn

1944 – 1951

Fr Vincent Durkin

1951 – 1955

Fr Frederick Bennett

1955 – 1960

Fr Michael Pierse

1960 – 1977

Fr Brian O’Reilly

1977 – 1978

Fr William Bryson

1978 – 1987

Fr Lawrence Hulme

1987 – 1991

Fr Michael Sullivan

1991 – 1997

Fr David Massey

1997 – 2000

Fr Richard Aladics

2000 – 2004

Fr Jim Leavy

2004 -

In 1995 the Rev. David Arblaster became a permanent Deacon of the parish.


The first Baptism was Sylvia Crompton on 6 April 1913 she was 1 month old.

On 10 October 1937 the first confirmations took place when Bishop Henry John Poskitt confirmed 42 people, 24 girls & 18 boys.

The first wedding took place on 26 December 1940 when Percival Richard Todd, a Knaresborough man, married Helen Brennan of Starbeck.


The Adoration Chapel windows; a Millennium project designed and installed by parishioners in 2001.