Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, Co. Durham DL3
One of the oldest Catholic churches in the diocese still in use for regular worship; largely concealed behind the surrounding buildings, the church grew from a modest chapel of the 1820s. It was built by William Hogarth, later the first Bishop of Hexham (and Newcastle), who continued to live in Darlington after that appointment, and who had the church enlarged by Joseph Hansom in 1865. It was further enlarged by Dunn, Hansom & Fenwicke in 1899, the latter work involving of grand and sumptuous furnishings at the east end of the new sanctuary and the nave. The church was sensitively reordered in 1993.
The first resident priest appears to have settled in Darlington in 1804 at a house in Bondgate bought from the banker Jonathan Backhouse, who later assisted in the purchase of the plot where the present church now stands. Mass was said in the business premises of the important local Catholic family, the Ridsdales. For over forty years the priest serving the mission was Fr William Hogarth, who was later the first bishop of the Diocese of Hexham. Moves were made to provide a Catholic chapel in 1823-25; finance was hard to come by but eventually land was purchased in June 1825. The building, measuring 70 ft x 40 ft and designed by Ignatius Bonomi, was probably begun early in 1826. It was opened on 29 May the following year and is said to have been able to seat 450-500 people, including 150 in free seats (it must have been very crowded). It was extended in 1865 when the tower was added and the windows enlarged, from designs by Joseph Hansom, and again in 1899 when the sanctuary was built (and also, possibly, the presbytery) from designs by Dunn, Hansom & Fenwicke. Furnishings added at that time include a fine reredos in Austrian oak, made by Robsons of Newcastle at a cost of £800, and an elaborate marble high altar.
The parish centre (Larchfield Road) was built in 1978-79 from designs by David Brown & Associates of Newcastle (cost £101,594).
In 1993 the sanctuary was reordered, with new oak furnishings by the noted local sculptor Fenwick Lawson. The fine high altar and reredos were left in situ. At the same time a paved open space was created outside the west door. An oak statue of St Augustine by Lawson was placed in a niche over the door to mark the fourteenth centenary of the saint’s arrival in England.
The church is fully described in the list entry, below. Mention can also be made of the ornate treatment of canopy-work at the east end of the nave over the Sacred Heart altar (south) and Lady altar (north). Also the stained glass by H.M. Barnett of Newcastle is of interest: there are five windows (four of them in the nave), two of them signed: in the chancel an inscription notes H. Barnett as the donor and has the date 1868.
The sumptuous reredos of Austrian oak was added in 1899 and has four painted panels around the exposition throne depicting Pope Gregory sending St Augustine to England, the Resurrection, Last Supper and Our Lady with the infant Jesus surrounded by English saints and martyrs. Other oak sanctuary furnishings (forward altar, ambo, chair, font) are of 1993, by Fenwick Lawson.
Roman Catholic Church. 1825-7. Originally designed by Ignatius Bonomi, 1865 enlarged and remodelled by Joseph Hanson, 1899 enlarged again. Ashlar with ashlar dressings. Slate roofs with ashlar coped gables and kneelers, plus cross finials. Rusticated quoins and chamfered plinth. 4-bay nave, with narrower 2-bay chancel, all under the same roof. West end has a pair of tall, 3-light mullion and transom windows with shallow pointed arch heads and trefoil tracery. Between is a pointed arch niche with an elaborate crocketted surround. Above a louvred pointed opening. The north wall has 4 tall 3-light mullion and transom windows with shallow pointed arch heads and trefoil tracery to the nave, and 2 shorter similar 3-light windows to the chancel. The east chancel wall is blank. The south wall of the chancel also has two 3-light windows plus a low single storey vestry in front. The south nave wall has 3 tall, 3-light mullion and transom windows with shallow pointed arch heads with trefoil tracery. The westernmost window is partly obscured by a single storey porch, which has a pair of short lancets and a pointed and chamfered doorway with double plank doors. Beyond to the west is an octagonal stone, with a tall lancet to each alternate face and above a bellcote with a single lancet to each face; the whole is topped by a short octagonal spire with lucarnes.
Interior: the nave has a large western gallery supported on iron columns. A plain collar beam roof with arched braces. The chancel has elaborately carved roof panels. The fittings are largely c.1899 with an elaborated carved and painted reredos.
Architect: Ignatius Bonomi; Joseph Hansom; Dunn, Hansom & Fenwicke
Original Date: 1827
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II