Building » Felling – St Patrick

Felling – St Patrick

High Street, Felling, Gateshead NE10

Charles Walker’s finest church in the diocese and a building of cathedralesque proportions. St Patrick’s was completed in 1895, and was built to serve the largely Irish population of Catholics working on the Tyne; it is an important part of Gateshead’s history. 

The group of church and presbytery is a rare surviving piece of historic Felling among commercial redevelopment, and on the steep site can be seen from many miles around. The sumptuous interior is little altered, apart from a careful reordering of c2010.

The Brandling family had a private Catholic Chapel in Felling in the eighteenth century. The expanding (particularly Irish) Catholic population, drawn by work in the local mines, factories and workshops along the Tyne led in 1842 to the building of a plain Gothic chapel designed by John Dobson, dedicated to St Patrick, by the riverside. This was enlarged in 1853, when a presbytery was also completed. St John’s school was opened in 1864, with part of the upper floor used as a chapel for weekday Masses (this building was reduced in size after World War II and the materials used in the new church and presbytery at Otterburn, qv).

The foundation stone for a new St Patrick’s church, designed by Dunn & Hansom, was laid on 17 March 1873. However the uncompleted church was destroyed by fire in 1877, along with the presbytery. The church was completed to a new design by Charles Walker, incorporating the foundations of the unfinished church, and was opened by Bishop Wilkinson on St Patrick’s Day, 1895. It is a church of cathedralesque proportions, designed to seat 1000. The builders were Messrs Howe of West Hartlepool, and the total cost was in the region of £13,500.  Many of Walker’s buildings are in a style some decades older than their time – such as the Hancock Museum, Newcastle, which is in the style of Richard Grainger’s 1830s buildings, and Gothic Catholic churches of St Patrick’s, Blaydon, and St Aloysius, Hebburn (qv). St Patrick’s is in a robust Early English Gothic style.

After 1905 the church, especially the sanctuary, was improved and enriched by Fr Edward Costello. The church was consecrated in 1950. In c. 2010 reordering by Kevin Doonan architects retained much of the fine sanctuary furniture. The original pulpit was dismantled and reused to form a new forward altar and ambo. The communion rails were repositioned to the rear of the new sanctuary to form an enclosure to the original sanctuary, where the fine high altar ensemble was retained. At the same time a lift was inserted, from the parish centre in the undercroft to the south transept. New lighting was installed, including six contemporary chandeliers hanging over the centre aisle of the nave. 

LIST DESCRIPTION: 

R.C. parish church 1893-5 by C. Walker of Newcastle. Rock-faced sandstone with ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roof with high cavetto- moulded stone gable coping on roll-moulded, gabled footstones. Oriented north-south. Nave, ritual north and south aisles; north and south transepts, a porch to the southern one, chancel with north and south side chapels. Undercroft to nave built into hill. Early C14 style with much ornament. 5-bay nave has flat-headed 3-light windows, stone-mullioned and with alternate- block jambs. Aisles have 3-light Decorated windows under dripmoulds. Transepts have 2 pairs of cusped lancets over 2 pairs of Tudor-arched windows; slit window in gable peak; sill and lintel bands. Arcaded 5-sided apse contains lancet windows under hoodmould with block stops; 2 clasping bands to arcade pilasters; 3-sided side chapels have similar windows. Roof, hipped over chancel and chapels, has red ridge tiles and lead octagonal fleche at crossing; cross finials. West front: perron stair over segment-headed entrance to undercroft; Double boarded church door in pointed-arched opening under dripmould with ogee finial; flanking crocketed niches; wheel window over. 5-sided corner staircase at left. Flying buttresses at west end over undercroft access.

Interior: flower-stopped hoodmould over nave arcade, sill string and hoodmould to clerestory windows. Rear arches to aisle windows. Barrel roof on shafted brackets with struts. Tall, paired transept arches. Ornate altar and arcaded sanctuary, with niches; pulpit of alabaster on Frosterley marble base by Emley of Newcastle; stone and marble communion rail.

Heritage Details

Architect: Charles Walker

Original Date: 1895

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II