Church Street East, Coxhoe, Co. Durham DH6
A distinctive but nonetheless mainstream design of the 1960s, by a Newcastle architect who built a number of churches in the diocese. The external gabled silhouette and the internal vaulting are striking elements of the design. The interior has a somewhat chilly character, which the present parish priest has sought to mitigate through richer colour schemes and new furnishings in the sanctuary.
Coxhoe’s first Catholic chapel, dedicated to Our Lady and St Patrick, was founded in 1866 in two houses in Foundry Row, formerly used by the Primitive Methodists. In the 1870s the growing Catholic population of the area (including an influx of Irish workers) necessitated a more substantial purpose-built church, and a building in early Gothic style was built at West Cornforth in 1875. Dedicated to Saints Patrick, Joseph and Cuthbert, this served the atholics of West Cornforth, Coxhoe and Kelloe; the identity of its architect has not been established. In 1882 a school for 120 children was established at the west end of the church, the underside of the gallery being enclosed to provide the schoolroom.
The 1875 church was demolished in the 1960s on account of mining subsidence. Because of the redevelopment of the area and the movement of population, it was decided to build the replacement church in Coxhoe. The new church was built from designs by David Brown ARIBA of Newcastle, and opened in 1966. It seated 336. A presbytery was built at the same time.
The church is of steel frame construction, the frame externally clad with brick. It has a steeply pitched, copper-clad roof, with a slender copper spirelet towards the east end. The side elevations (photos top left and right) form a striking composition of three large pointed gables incorporating large areas of glazing and solid panels. On the north side is a projecting polygonal baptistery (visible in the photo upper left) with a flat roof and strip clerestory lighting. The main entrance front has a central pair of doors with a segmental concrete canopy over. The entrance is flanked by blind panels; above this again there are large areas of glazing rising up to the ridge, separated by tall concrete mullions. The walls on either side are of plain brickwork.
The entrance doors lead into a narthex area under a western gallery. The main body of the church is a single aisleless space of three bays, wide and light, with the baptistery on the north side (now used as a repository, although the font, a granite drum, remains in situ). The square ended sanctuary is flanked by lower chapels. The roof is a dramatic feature of the interior, being a modern reinterpretation of a quadripartite ribbed medieval vault.
The present parish priest has sought to enrich the rather chilly character of the interior with a darker green colour scheme at the east end, and by importing some attractive furnishings. A gilded corona hangs over the high altar, which remains in situ, albeit adapted to serve as a plinth for the tabernacle. There is a forward altar in front of this. At the west end there is an organ in the gallery, with nineteenth century pipes, its provenance not established.
Architect: David Brown ARIBA of Newcastle
Original Date: 1966
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed