Central Avenue, Billingham TS23
A modest example post-war church by the prolific Thomas Crawford, built next to the 1930 presbytery. The conventionally-planned interior retains some good quality, but plain fittings; the 2000 reordering complements the interior.
Billingham’s population grew after the chemical works were established in 1919. Mass for Catholics in the Billingham area was first said in the Billingham Memorial Hall in 1929, served from St Thomas’s at Port Clarence. The school and presbytery were built in 1930, the year the parish was erected. Fr Eric Connell was the first parish priest, appointed in 1934. A temporary chapel was built in 1950, to serve the area’s growing Catholic population, attracted to the area by the expansion of the ICI works. The new church was built in 1960 from designs by Crawford & Spenser; the contractors were Hudson Brothers of Middlesbrough. The church was opened and blessed by Bishop Cunningham on 7 June 1960.
The church is orientated with the sanctuary to the west; in this description liturgical compass will be used.
The church is arranged with aisleless nave and sanctuary under one roof; the narrow sanctuary is flanked by side chapels, and to the west end there is a narthex below a gallery. The building is faced in a red brick laid in stretcher bond with recessed joints, the roof is laid with clay tiles, with eaves gutters and coped verges with cross finials. The west front has a tall semi-circular arched tripartite window within a concrete frame, above the doorway, with flaking flat roofed side porches. The windows are semi-circular headed steel lancets arranged in pairs, with leaded glazing.
The interior is fairly plain, with plastered walls above a brick dado, thermoplastic tiled floor and acoustic panels to the ceiling. The ceiling has a central higher sloping section below the roof ridge, continuing from the nave into the sanctuary. The sanctuary has a blind east wall and three side lights. The side chapels have semi-circular arches to the nave, and the east wall of sanctuary and side chapels is emphasised by the use of red paint, contrasting with the white of the nave walls. The narthex has glazed windows and the gallery front over is oak-panelled. Fittings include oak pews, oak doors and green marble sanctuary fittings, installed in 2000. The statue of St John on the east wall is from Alnwick; the crucifixion was installed in the late twentieth century.
Architect: Crawford & Spenser
Original Date: 1960
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed