Wealcroft, Leam Lane Estate, Felling, Gateshead NE10
A striking building, both inside and out, by an architect who combined twentieth-century forms and techniques with traditional stylistic references in an interesting way. It is at the centre of an area of 1950s development.
The Leam Lane estate is a 1950s development which provided up-to-date homes in pleasant and well-planned surroundings for people who had been living in unsatisfactory conditions in old urban areas. Many of the houses are now privately owned. As the estate was being planned, new Catholic churches were planned to take over part of the parish of St Patrick’s church, Felling (qv). The church of St Augustine was built in 1962, from designs by David Brown of Newcastle. The most recent reordering was in 2000, by Vincente Stienlet of Pascal J. Stienlet & Son.
The church is orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, that is as if the altar was at the east end.
This high, long church is of portal frame construction, externally faced with bright red bricks laid in stretcher bond, with artificial stone dressings, door and window surrounds and roof copings. The roofs are covered in copper sheeting except for one small flat roof. The style is a free modern interpretation of late medieval Gothic, with Italian Romanesque touches. The plan is longitudinal and consists 0f an aisled nave with western narthex/gallery, low transepts and square-ended sanctuary.
The offset, wide southwest tower has four tall narrow projecting louvred openings in its east and west walls. The main windows are tall and narrow and in groups of three (those to the sanctuary taller), all with three lights separated by artificial stone transoms and shallow-pointed heads. The low pent aisles and southwest porch have smaller square-headed lights, without surrounds, mostly in groups of five, and there are single lights in the narthex. Double doors at the centre of the gabled west front are set within a gabled projection, and a circular window is placed above.
Inside, each element of the portal-framed construction turns through forty-five degrees so that four half-ceiling beams meet to form a ribbed vault, the ceiling between being panelled. Walls and ceilings are white-painted plaster. Tapered stanchions form aisle arcades with pointed downstands. The top of a glazed narthex screen at the west end slopes back to the organ gallery, and above it, the only coloured glass in the church is in the large round window in the west gable, which has a vividly coloured sun/flame pattern.
In 2000, reordering of the baptistery and sanctuary by Vincente Stienlet of Pascal J. Stienlet & Son introduced a long S-curved edge to the two-stepped sanctuary platform, and created a new setting for the font in a partly-circular marble-walled enclosure in the south transept. There is a central forward altar, with a polygonal ambo at its north, both of marble. One step leads to a wide platform enclosed by curving ramps, and three more steps to the tabernacle stand, which is set in front of and below a full-height timber canopy.
Architect: David Brown
Original Date: 1962
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed