Gateshead - St Wilfrid

Sunderland Road, Gateshead NE8

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A small church with an unusual structural history, which retains the homely atmosphere of the old tin church it replaced. It is located in a commanding position alongside a main road in an area which has lost much of its traditional terraced housing. With the earlier stone-built presbytery to the south it is the only high status building in the immediate area. 

This area was originally served by St Joseph's church, from where a priest came to say Mass from 1886. In 1903, land was bought on Sunderland Road on which was built an iron church, opened on 18 September 1904. The adjoining Ford House was acquired as a presbytery.

The church was extensively rebuilt in 1955, when the iron frame of the building was re-clad with bricks, a slate roof laid and extensions added. The church was reorientated, with the altar moved to the more conventional position at the east end. The new church was formally opened by Bishop McCormack on 21 July 1955. In the words of the NCC (1956), ‘the interior has been completely renovated, yet retaining the simple homely atmosphere of the “old tin church” which the people loved’.

In c1990 the church was reordered under the direction of Dietz-Lyons architects. Much of the marble of the old sanctuary furnishings was re-used in the new furnishings, the work being carried out by Morris Marbleworks. New woodwork at the back of the church was made by Britannia Joinery and decorated by R. S. Swinburn.  

The church lies parallel to Sunderland Road and is orientated conventionally. The main pitched roof is covered in grey slates, another pitched roof has concrete ridge tiles and felt slates, and a flat roof is covered with felt. The walls are pale russet brick, with white rendered six-bay clerestory walls; there are artificial stone surrounds to doors and windows. It seems likely that the east and west bays were rebuilt or added in 1955, as were the brick aisles. The nave arcades were probably made by inserting steel piers and beams, cladding them in timber or board, and forming arches out of brick and plaster. Clerestory windows are mullioned and transomed; all others have artificial stone surrounds with round-arched heads. The west front has two-round-arched doors on a wide impost band, and round-arched heads to the doors; at the centre, a corbelled round-headed niche holds a statue of St Wilfrid. Above, the gable peak has paired round-headed windows and soldier-course edges. The lower pent aisles have single windows. In the returns, the west bay has triple windows in a higher wall with a roof parapet, with a central St Cuthbert’s cross in an artificial stone panel and a soldier-course edge. The easternmost bay has a gabled roof with triple lights at north and south, and a cross finial.

Inside, the west organ loft has elaborately moulded tracery, probably machine made; there is similar tracery on the former pulpit, now used as a credence. The sturdy pews have diagonally-boarded backs. Plain nave arcades; corniced nave; roof has collared trusses. There is a wide round chancel arch above the platform of the reordered sanctuary, which has three steps to the altar; sanctuary furniture is of white marble in plain slabs and blocks. The font is forward of the north side of the sanctuary. The altar has a high, wide reredos and a shallow curved canopy; the windows above have images of the Crucifixion.

Diocese: Hexham and Newcastle

Architect: Robert Burke

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not listed