Levick Crescent, Acklam, Middlesbrough
An interwar Italian Romanesque design by Bishop Shine, this is a well-composed, generously-scaled building which forms an important local visual focus.
The church of St Francis was one of several built in the 1930s to serve Catholics in Middlesbrough’s burgeoning suburbs, in this case areas west of Linthorpe, Acklam and Whinney Banks. The church was described in the following terms in The Tablet (3 August 1935):
‘Built on a commanding site in Acklam Road South the new church, dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, is a handsome edifice in the Romanesque style, with a tower. It is carried out in red brick, while the interior is strikingly designed in white with red brick edgings to the arches. The altar is of white marble, and behind it are mosaic plaques, and stone carvings portraying incidents of the Passion. An external feature is a large statue of the titular patron, carved by Mr Stephen Kettlewell, which occupies a prominent position at the foot of the tower. The church, designed by Dr Shine himself, has a seating capacity for seven hundred worshippers’.
The design has close similarities with St Joseph’s, the neighbouring church to the east, also erected in the mid-1930s to the designs of Bishop Shine. The builder was Mr Frank Spink (his estimated cost was £3,900), who also built the presbytery and school. The parish area originally covered the whole of Acklam, through Brookfield and up to Hemlington but then St Clare’s was built in 1967 to relieve pressure on St Francis’s.
The church is oriented south so all directions given are liturgical.
This church consists of a nave, aisles, lower sanctuary, southwest campanile, northeast porch and southeast sacristy. It is in the Italian Romanesque style. The southwest campanile, built of four unequal stages, forms the most visually striking external feature. A niche in the second stage contains a stone statue of St Francis, by Nicholas Kettlewell. The upper two stages consist of broad open arched tiers, with a low pyramidal leaded roof above. There is a traceried wheel window in the west façade. The nave has a clerestory with two round-arched windows per bay. The aisles have one small single, round-arched light per bay. The sanctuary has three single lights on the north and one on the south.
Inside the walls are plastered and coloured, mostly, in pale pink. There is a wide nave with an arcade of five bays to the aisles plus the west gallery bay. The arches are formed of three orders of red brick which rest on capitals of two orders without historical precedent; the circular piers taper slightly as they rise. As at St Joseph’s, the aisle bays have dividing walls curving up to meet the nave walls, and each bay is marked by a flat pilaster. The chancel arch is similar to the nave arcades in its arch detailing and has imposts. The ceiling is three-sided and the roof trusses seven-sided. The reredos has a raised central section with a semi-circular head, flanked by lower square panels: it is richly treated with marbles of different colours. The same colouration and materials are use in the pulpit. At the west end there is a gallery which houses the organ. Small Sacred Heart (south) and Lady Chapel (north) altars fill the eastern ends of the aisles.
*Entry amended by AHP 11.03.2023*
Architect: Bishop Thomas Shine
Original Date: 1935
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed