Billingham - Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary

Sidlaw Road, Billingham, TS23 2 EP

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A good example of the post-war churches of Thomas Crawford, with a strong west front and attractive brickwork. The conventionally planned interior is well-lit and retains some good quality, but plain fittings; the 1970s reordering complements the interior.   

Billingham’s population grew after the chemical works were established in 1919, with major expansion in the 1950s. Mass was said in the Billingham Memorial Hall in 1929, served from St Thomas’s at Port Clarence. In 1947 Fr Connell of St John’s parish said Mass in the nearby Swan Hotel on Wolviston Road. The parish of Holy Rosary was erected in 1949, Fr Eoghan Brady being the first parish priest. The present church was commissioned by Fr J. V. Marron, who bought the site in 1950. The church was built to serve the expanding suburban estate and to seat 700. The new church cost £40,000 and was blessed and opened by Bishop Cunningham on 22 September 1960.  The architect was Thomas Crawford of Middlesbrough and the builder Frank Keelan of Thornaby.

The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the north; in this description liturgical compass points will be used.

The plan consists of nave, and sanctuary under the same roof, lower aisles, side chapels flanking the sanctuary and a west narthex below a gallery. The presbytery is connected to the church by a single-storey flat-roofed link containing the sacristy. The church is faced in buff bricks laid in stretcher bond with recessed horizontal joints. Pitched roofs are laid with red clay tiles with parapets and cast iron rainwater goods. The west front has a low tower flanked by lower corner towers; the central feature is a tripartite concrete-framed opening containing recessed windows and doorway.  The lower aisles have flat roofs and seven tall concrete-framed windows. The sanctuary has a blind east wall with a pair of side lights. All windows are steel with leaded glazing, protected with polycarbonate sheeting.

The interior is similar to other churches by Crawford in arrangement, but has a barrel vaulted nave ceiling, lined with acoustic panels. The walls are plain plastered. The floor is laid with thermoplastic tiles, with a fitted carpet to the sanctuary.  The sanctuary was reordered in 1977, with a new forward altar but retains the original hardwood boarded reredos and canopy. The font was moved from the baptistery at the west end to the east end in 1984. Unusually, the side chapels are set at forty five degrees to the sanctuary, ensuring greater visibility from the main body of the church; each chapel has a circular roof light, original hardwood reredos and a semi-circular arched opening facing the nave. The oak and glazed screen to the narthex is a later insertion. Simple fittings include oak pews and door joinery, statues in side chapels. 

Diocese: Hexham and Newcastle

Architect: Thomas A. Crawford

Original Date: 1960

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed