Building » Durham – St Joseph

Durham – St Joseph

Mill Lane, Gilesgate, Durham DH1

A large church built at about the time of the Second Vatican Council, still traditional in plan form but well executed and detailed. 

The parish was erected in 1937, with a cinema used as a Mass centre (replaced by a parish hall in 1939). The present church built in 1964-5, serving the expanding post-war population of the Gilesgate area, east of the city centre. It was built to seat 500. The architect was David Brown ARIBA of Newcastle and the contractor George Stephenson Ltd; the tender cost, exclusive of fees and expenses, was £51,660. The church was built with a steel portal frame, this being an area subject to subsidence. It was connected to an existing presbytery (built in 1952 from designs by Anthony J. Rossi) by a sacristy block, connected to which a parish hall has more recently been built.


The church is actually orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, as if the altar was at the east end.

This is a large church, of steel portal frame construction, externally clad in red rustic brick, with copper roofs. It is of modern design but traditional longitudinal plan, consisting of aisled nave with western narthex, and apsed sanctuary at the east end. The main entrance front is shallowly curved, with aggregate panels in white marble chips and black shap contained by white stone dressings on either side of the central doors. There is a large west window above the doors, incorporating etched glass designs. At the southwest corner is a low hexagonal tower topped by a thirty foot copper fleche. At the sides, small windows light the aisles, and above this four large shallow gabled clerestory windows within rendered panels light the main space. Large five-light windows (without gables) light each side of the sanctuary. The east wall of the sanctuary is windowless; instead there is a brick apse, which appears to be a later addition (the brick is slightly different and is not bonded in).

Inside, the main entrance leads into a western narthex with organ gallery over. The four-bay nave is broad and light, given a vaulted appearance by the boxed in and plastered steel portal frame and purlins. The walls are finished in plaster, now painted pale yellow. The aisles arcades have shallow segmental arches supported on square piers; there is a side altar to the Sacred Heart at the east end of the south aisle. The sanctuary has been reordered, with a wooden carved figure of Christ placed against an apse ‘reredos’ of organic form, which appears to rise from the tabernacle below. There are no other furnishings calling for special mention.

Heritage Details

Architect: David Brown

Original Date: 1965

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed