Building » Blaydon – Ss Mary and Thomas Aquinas

Blaydon – Ss Mary and Thomas Aquinas

Stella Road, Blaydon, Tyne and Wear NE21

An early Catholic church building with a castellated villa-like presbytery concealing the church behind; a curious throwback to pre-Emancipation times, when Catholic churches were often concealed so as not to attract attention.  

The building is the work of two distinguished Newcastle architects, John Green and John Dobson. Despite some modern alterations, the interior retains several original features. The church and presbytery lie within a churchyard, the group making a positive contribution to the Path Head Conservation Area. The site also lies within a registered Civil War battlefield site.  

The church was opened by Dr Penswick, Vicar Apostolic, on 12 October 1831. It had been built with the help of funds given by many local Catholic donors, including the Dunns of Stella Hall (demolished in 1954), which had been occupied in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by the Tempests and the Eyres, both notable Catholic families.  In fact, the Eyres were the principal donors to the new church, giving £950. As first built by John Green , the church had the sanctuary at the north end, immediately behind the castellated presbytery which provided the main front to the road.  In the 1840s John Dobson added a sanctuary at the south end of the church and also a porch. Little further was done to the building until the early 1970s when it was extensively repaired and adapted and a new office and quiet room formed at the north (liturgical west) end of the nave.

The church and presbytery are fully described in the list entry, below.  Most of the stained glass is by Barnett of Newcastle (a pupil of Wailes) and dates from after 1849 though Pevsner notes some glass reputed to be by Pugin (and presumably made by Hardman).  At the north (liturgical west) end of the nave is an organ gallery with a modern organ.  The gallery has a modern timber front and modern glazing below enclosing a vestibule and office. This work apparently dates from the 1970s. The nave benches are also modern, in light wood, and may date from the same time.

LIST DESCRIPTION:

R.C. church and presbytery. 1831-2 by John Green; 1848-9, porch, chancel and fleche by Dobson. Church: coursed squared sandstone with plinth and ashlar dressings; roof Westmorland slate with stone gable copings. Aligned north-south. Nave and chancel. 6-bay nave has alternate block jambs and sloping sills to lancet windows; gabled buttresses between. In second bay steeply-gabled porch with elaborate doorway. Above porch a 3-mouchettes window. Chancel has 3 lancets and stepped buttresses. Cross finials to low-pitched roof of nave and steeply-pitched of chancel. Octagonal stone belfry over chancel arch has weather vane finial to spirelet.

Interior: deep splays to lancets; pointed chancel arch with dog-tooth on shafted columns with foliage capitals. Chancel has sedilia on south, seat in imitation of wall tomb on north. Gothic revival altar, and wood communion rail. Glass in the first north bay of nave, in memory of Thomas Parker, priest, died 1847. Other good Victorian glass, also in porch.

Presbytery attached to north: sandstone ashlar; roof concealed by parapet. Perpendicular style. 3 storeys, 5 windows x 2. North elevation of one, 3 and one windows has central projecting bay and corner turret. Central pointed-arched door between shafts recessed in flat-headed surround, with mouchettes in spandrels under label mould; above this a 3-light transomed window between bracketed niches under label moulds; ogee-headed niches in gable peak. Flanking recessed bays have 2-light windows; square turrets one-light sash window with stone mullions. Roof: high central ridge flanked by 2 low ledges. Interior: turrets provide corner cupboards; some Gothick, some 3-over-3-panelled doors; blocked door on second landing formerly communicated with organ loft of church.

Heritage Details

Architect: John Green, John Dobson

Original Date: 1831

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II