Building » Byermoor – Sacred Heart

Byermoor – Sacred Heart

Byermoor, Burnopfield, Newcastle upon Tyne NE16

A small but substantial Victorian Gothic church of the 1870s built to serve a mining community which has now disappeared.  The building is a competent Gothic design by a well-known Newcastle practice and retains a number of original or early furnishings. The church makes a good group with the burial ground and the presbytery and school, which both date from the 1880s.

Byermoor was part of the ancient parish of Tanfield, where there were several centres of recusancy during penal times. The modern Catholic history begins with the opening of Byermoor Colliery in the mid-nineteenth century, which brought about an influx of Catholic workers, many of them Irish. A mission was established by 1869, with a timber building serving as a chapel.

Land for a new Catholic church was leased from the Earl of Strathmore, who lived at Gibside.   Donations towards the building of the new church were received from other landowners including the Earl of Bute.  Built for the Rev. Patrick T. Mathews from designs by Dunn & Hansom, the church was opened by Bishop Chadwick on 8 October 1876. The convert Miss Surtees of Hamsterley Hall gave £500, presented the Stations of the Cross and statue of the Sacred Heart and also paid for the wainscoting of the sanctuary.  Miss Blanche Lamb gave the altar of carved Caen stone and statues of Our Lady and St Joseph by Mayer of Munich, all of which are still in the church.  The church was opened on 8 October 1876, when Bishop Chadwick preached.

The presbytery was built by Fr Wilson in 1882, from designs by his brother W. H. Wilson, possibly an assistant in the office of Dunn & Hansom.  W.H. Wilson was also architect for the school, built by Fr Wilson in 1883.  An upper storey was added to the vestry in 1902 and a church hall built in 1930 (demolished in 2000).  The freehold of the site was given by the Earl of Strathmore in 1948, in which year the church was consecrated by Bishop McCormick.  Byermoor pit closed in 1968 and the small mining village which served it was completely demolished.


The church is built in a simple version of the thirteenth century French Gothic style.  It is built of coursed squared sandstone, with roof coverings of natural slate (renewed in 1993).  The building comprises an unaisled nave with a western bellcote and northwest porch and a small apsidal sanctuary.  The west end facing the road has two two-light windows with a quatrefoil in plate tracery set above a bold moulded string which encircles the church.  Above the windows in the gable is a rose window with four quatrefoils in the tracery, forming a cross. Set on the coping of the west gable is a stone bellcote with a single bell opening.  The northwest porch has a single two light window in its north face.  The main entrance door is in the east side and has a broad double-chamfered pointed door opening.  The north side of the nave has five lancet windows set between plain buttresses; the south side has four paired windows of similar type.  The apsidal sanctuary has seven lancets.  The tall pitched roof is brought down over the walls onto a stone corbel-table.

Internally, the nave has a boarded dado with plastered walls above.  The timber roof has arched-braced principals brought down onto wall-posts, with boarding above the collars.  Across the west end of the nave is an organ gallery with a modern timber front and modern glazing enclosing a vestibule beneath. At the east end a moulded stone pointed arch with short wall-shafts opens to the small apsidal sanctuary which has traceried wainscot beneath the windows and a boarded ribbed timber ceiling.  The apse windows have some late nineteenth century stained glass; the nave windows are mostly clear-glazed.  The stone altar, reredos, stone bowl font, carved figures of Our Lady and St Joseph by Mayer, the sanctuary wainscoting and the painted Stations of the Cross are original. The nave benches look twentieth century.

Heritage Details

Architect: Dunn & Hansom

Original Date: 1876

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed