St. Michaels college – Leeds – August 11

St Michael’s College in Woodhouse, was formed in 1905, after two young Jesuit priests were invited to Leeds by the city’s Catholic Bishop William Gordon. They divided the city into north and south between them and painstakingly knocked on doors, encouraging Catholic families to send their sons to the new school, originally called Leeds Catholic College.

As first based in a seminary in the city, the school moved into its new home in 1908 – the current buildings designed by architect Benedict Williamson, who later became a parish priest himself, in London.

Originally a fee-paying grammar school for boys, it took in pupils from not only Leeds but also Harrogate, York, Bradford and Selby.

Catholic girls in the area were taught in the nearby Notre Dame school.

Officially, St Michael’s closed in 2005, just as it celebrated it centenary.

But for the last three years, the buildings have still been in everyday use, as the majority of pupils who had been at the school transferred on to the books of another Catholic high, Mount St Mary’s, in Richmond Hill.

As pupils gradually moved up the year groups and sat their GCSEs, no younger pupils were recruited to the site and in essence, the school was phased out. The final GCSE exams were taken the site will officially close in mid-July 2008

Major changes to St Michael’s have included a 1960s extension of new science labs, gym and main hall, and in the 1970s, when Jesuits left the school, the first lay head teacher was appointed.

By the early 1990s, the school had evolved in a comprehensive for boys and girls, and shortly after saw the building of a dance and drama studio.

The school has a distinctive coats of arms, with the flaming sword of St Michael and drops of blood signifying Christ . The school motto, Quis Ut Deus, means Who is like God, and relates to the meaning of St Michael’s Hebrew name.

The archangel St Michael is himself depicted in a statue above the main entrance.

Viewed as the “good” Angel of Death, he is more latterly regarded as the patron saint of soldiers and police.

Outstanding features at the school include a large sculpture by Charles I’Anson of hands in prayer, which was a gift from the Jesuit priests before they left.

The school’s first floor chapel contains eye-catching stained glass, said to have been designed by renowned artist John Piper.

The main designs include the first three Greek letters of Jesus – IHS, a crowned heart, a cross, the letters SJ for the Society of Jesus (otherwise known as the Jesuits) and the sword of St Michael.

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