Victoria Road, Consett, Co. Durham DH8
A post-war church in the Early Christian style, designed by local architect Anthony J. Rossi. Several furnishings were sourced by the architect in Italy. The hall is the earliest surviving parish building and was built in c.1870 as a senior RC school.
In 1841, the Derwent Iron Company (from 1864 Consett Iron Company) was founded whose ironworks and their subsidiaries were the major employer in the area until their closure in 1980. Many of the workers in the mid-nineteenth century came from Ireland, escaping the potato famine. A Catholic mission was founded in Blackhill in 1854 (qv). By c.1870, senior and infant school buildings had been erected in Victoria Road. Mass was said in the school on Sundays by a priest from Blackhill. On 18 April 1926, the new parish of St Patrick’s was erected, with Canon John O’Donoghue as the first parish priest. Land was bought from the Consett Urban District Council for a new church (in Victoria Road) and for a new school (in Stanley Street). In 1927, new senior, junior and infant schools were opened in Stanley Street. The nineteenth-century senior school building then was converted for use as a temporary church, while the former junior school was used as a hall.
By 1957, preparations were underway for the building of a new church. The architect was Anthony Joseph Rossi (1916-71), who had been born in Consett of Italian parents. He had trained as architect at Sheffield University, after which he worked for Durham County Council. In 1952, he opened his private practice in Consett. The church of St Pius X, Consett (now replaced with a new church) was built to his designs in 1954-55.
In January 1957, the hall (the former junior school) was demolished to make space for the new church. (Auxiliary) Bishop James Cunningham laid the foundation stone on 5 December 1957, the church and adjoining presbytery were completed by autumn 1959 and opened by Bishop Cunningham on 4 November 1959. The contractor was John Cummings of Sunderland. The church seated 505; the overall cost was around £60,000, with the marble high altar alone costing £3,000. ‘To ensure comfort in kneeling and sitting, a prototype of the specially designed pew was made by the pew manufacturers, Messrs Nixons (Shopfitters), of Newcastle’ (NCC, 112). The former temporary church and school building to the rear of the site was converted to a hall.
Post-Vatican II changes included the removal of the reredos, altar rails and pulpit. Inlaid Carrara marble panels from the pulpit were incorporated into a new lectern.
The church faces northeast. This description uses conventional liturgical orientation
The church is built in brown engineering bricks in garden wall bond, with sandstone dressings (from Baxter’s quarry near Otterburn) and Westmorland slate roofs. The plan is longitudinal, comprising an aisled nave with side chapels. The gabled west elevation has a large semicircular recess under a keyed arch. The west rose window has an engaged stone shaft, as well as stone bands to top, left and right, combining references to the monstrance and the cross. Below are the three main entrances. The aisles are shorter than the nave and do not extend to the west elevation. Both are terminated by taller bays under cross roofs. The bay at the northwest is another entrance porch. The east end of the south aisle is terminated in a similar way, while at the northeast the Lady Chapel projects transept-like. The straight-ended east end has a blind wall with a cross in bricks.
The narthex has the gallery stair to the northwest and the repository in the former baptistery to the southwest. Above the narthex is the organ gallery with the pipe organ. The west window features an IHS and a cross in coloured glass. The six-bay nave has a panelled ceiling, whose central portion is canted. The nave arcade rests on stone columns. Each bay has a pair of short round-headed clerestory windows, and a pair of longer round-headed aisle windows. The aisles have pitched ceilings (externally: lean-to roofs) with transverse arches. The Lady Chapel has a large five-light window to the north with coloured glass, lighting the seating area in front of the arch to the chapel proper. Beyond arcaded marble rails is another two-light window with modern coloured glass and the Sicilian marble altar and reredos with a statue of the Virgin Mary.
At the northeast corner of the nave is the baptismal font, of marble with mosaic and marble inserts, and an elaborate paschal candle stand (in memory of Michael and Elizabeth Donelly). The sanctuary has a marble-panelled dado below two pairs of windows with abstract coloured glass on each side. A crucifix hangs below the segmentally curved baldacchino (made in Italy) whose underside features the dove of the Holy Spirit. The altar of marble has a quatrefoil with the Agnus Dei in relief in front of a gold mosaic background. The tabernacle is placed on a plain shelf.
The south aisle has a shallow niche with a shrine to the Sacred Heart with a statue below a circular window with the Sacred Heart. Other statues in the church include St Patrick and St Augustine. The Stations are unframed timber reliefs, chosen by Rossi in a workshop in Florence, Italy.
Architect: Anthony J. Rossi
Original Date: 1959
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed