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Diocese embracing the West Riding of Yorkshire, and that part of the city of York to the south of the River Ouse. Though one of the fourteen dioceses now comprised in the Province of Westminster, it was not erected at the time of the restoration of the English hierarchy by Pius IX in 1850. For in that year the Holy See, whilst anticipating and providing for its ultimate division, created for Yorkshire the See of Beverley, with jurisdiction over the entire county then known to the ecclesiastical authorities as the Yorkshire District. As that of Lancashire, this vicariate had been made in 1840 by Gregory XVI out of a portion of the original Northern District, first established by Innocent XI, in 1688.
Dr. John Briggs, President of St. Cuthbert'sCollege, Durham (1832-36), and last vicar Apostolic of this extensive territory, which included seven counties of the North of England, and the isle of Man, was, in 1833, consecrated as Bishop of Trachis in partibus , and coadjutor of the Northern District, to which he succeeded in 1836. In 1839 he returned the number of Catholics within his vicariate as about 180,000, of whom only 13,000 were in Yorkshire. Having in 1840 been appointed to the Yorkshire District, Dr. Briggs, by a decree of Propaganda approved by Pius IX, 23 Sept., 1830, was translated from Trachis to Beverley, which see he resigned, 7 Nov., 1860. He died at York, 4 Jan., 1861. Eventually senior bishop of the restored hierarchy, his episcopate was one long, heroic struggle to provide schools and churches for an ever-growing destitute Catholic population—the outcome of many years of Irish immigration. So early as 1838, Bishop Briggs deplored that great numbers of his people were without pastors, without chapels, and without schools for their children; of whom, in 1845, he stated that, in Yorkshire alone, no less than 3000 were receiving no Catholic education whatsoever—a class, ten years later, known to have numbered, throughout England and Wales, 120,000.
Dr. Briggs was succeeded in the See of Beverley by Dr. Robert Cornthwaite, canon of Hexham and Newcastle, and formerly rector of the English College, Rome (1851-57). He was consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman, 10 Nov., 1861. Subsequently, Dr. Cornthwaite obtained from Rome a Brief, dated 20 Dec., 1878, though not published until 6 Feb., 1879, dividing the Diocese of Beverley into those of Leeds and Middlesbrough &151; that of Leeds lying, for the most part, to the south of a line running east and west through the County of Yorkshire, marked by the courses of the Humber, the Ouse, and the Ure, but embracing also a small portion of the county north of the Ouse included within the parliamentary division of the West Riding. Of the 152 clergy of Beverley (who in 1850 had numbered 69) 98 were transferred to Leeds; of its 123 churches and chapels (which twenty-nine years before were 61) Beverley surrendered to Leeds 85; whilst of its 141 schools (in 1850 in all 31) 105 were transferred to the larger of the two new dioceses, carrying with them more than four-fifths of the 15,677 children formerly in attendance within the Diocese of Beverley.
Dr. Cornthwaite having petitioned, the Holy See for assistance, he received as coadjutor Dr. William Gordon, a member of the Leeds Chapter, and afterwards his vicar-general, and rector of the diocesan seminary. The last priest ordained by Dr. Briggs in 1859, he was consecrated as Bishop of Arcadiopolis in partibus , and coadjutor of Leeds cum jure successionis , 24 Feb., 1890, to which see he succeeded upon the death of his predecessor, 16 June, 1890. His coadjutor, Dr. Joseph Robert Cowgill, was appointed fifteen years later cum jure succesionis . At that time financial agent of the diocese, and canon of the Chapter, he was consecrated as Bishop of Olenus in partibus , 30 Nov., 1905.
With an estimated Catholic population of about 106,000, mostly operatives, the Diocese of Leeds now contains 138 churches and chapels, served by 163 clergy, of whom 36 are members of religious orders and congregations. Of its 150 elementary and other schools, 70 are taught by religious. Among other memorials of Dr. Cornthwaite's episcopate, besides 39 churches and chapels, and its diocesan seminary at Leeds, the diocese possesses houses of the Little Sisters of the Poor, for the aged and infirm, at Sheffield and Leeds; industrial schools for boys and girls at Shibden and Sheffield; St. Mary's Orphanage for Girls and St. Vincent's Working Boys' Home, at Leeds; and, at Boston Spa, St. John's Institution for the Deaf and Dumb—one of the largest of its kind, and in efficiency second to none in the kingdom. During Dr. Gordon's government of the diocese, much-needed secondary schools for boys have been established at Leeds and Bradford; of these, St. Michael's College, Leeds, being erected 1908-1909 at a cost of upwards of £18,O00. Provision has also been made, during this period, for the higher education of girls at Sheffield, Leeds, and Bradford-- the Leeds Centre and Teachers' Training College, under the care of the Sisters of Notre Dame (Namur) , representing an outlay of about £15,000.
Among the 35 religious houses for women, within the Diocese of Leeds, special interest attaches to the seventeenth-century Bar Convent, of the Institute of Mary, in York, rich in Catholic associations and in relics of the English martyrs. Of the numerous churches more recently built, particular mention should be made of the cathedral, dedicated to St. Anne, and erected at Leeds, in 1902-04, from the designs of J.H. Eastwood, A.R.I.B.A., a small but unique example of "developed Gothic"; and, among the churches of earlier date architecturally remarkable, St. Mary's, Sheffield (1850) and St. Mary's, Leeds. (1857), are both fine examples of the Gothic revival of the last century. And with these may be associated St. Edward's, Clifford (1850), a small church in the Norman style, worthy of the ages of Faith, erected principally through the piety of descendants of the Venerable Ralph Grimston, martyred under Elizabeth at York, in 1598.
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