Gainford, Darlington, Co. Durham DL2
An 1850s Gothic Revival church, of fairly simple external appearance but with a impressive interior space. Its tall, expansive roof is covered internally in a remarkable decorative scheme, contemporary with the original construction. The church and slightly earlier presbytery occupy a large site with a burial ground, and are conspicuous features in the Gainford Conservation Area.
A mission was established in 1852 by Mgr Thomas Witham who had inherited the family estate at Lartington in 1847. At his own expense he built a presbytery in 1853, followed by the church, the foundation stone of which was laid on 23 August 1854. The opening took place on 26 June 1855. The Buildings of England gives the architect as ‘J. Gibson’, and there was indeed a John Gibson (fl. 1852-84) with offices in Grey Street (not the John Gibson responsible for many branches of the National Provincial Bank, including that in Newcastle). However, the parish typescript history gives ‘T. Gibson’ as architect, and this seems to be correct. There is a Thomas Gibson listed at 33 Pilgrim St, Newcastle in the Architect’s Engineer’s and Building Trades’ Directory of 1868, and the Newcastle Courant for 17 March 1854 gives T. Gibson of Newcastle as architect.
The sanctuary was reordered in 1981 when the pulpit was removed and the font shifted. A major renovation and refurbishment took place in 1990 when new heating, lighting, sound reinforcement system and a carpet were installed.
The church, built of local stone in regular courses, consists of a nave and sanctuary in one with a south porch and a link to the presbytery. It is built in an Early English style with lancet windows: these are single lights apart form the east window which has a triple, graded lancet arrangement. High up in the east and west walls are small triangular windows. Although Early English Gothic was frequently used in the early Victorian years, it often had a thin, unarchaeological quality: at St Osmund’s the authenticity insisted upon by Pugin has been fully embraced. The porch has a steeply pitched roof and over the west end is a single bellcote (seemingly never having housed a bell). Towards the east end is a dormer window on each side to provide a little extra light to the sanctuary.
The interior has a impressive open space. Its walls are plastered and it is covered by a high, arch-braced roof. It has eight bays in all. The roof, which is the principal feature of the church, is arranged in three tiers and is covered with a remarkable scheme of painting, carried out in 1855 by a Mr Henderson, a church decorator. The decoration is all on a small scale and consists of a wide variety of motifs: in the nave, floral decoration, IHS symbols, a crowned MR, fleur-de-lys, and crosses: the sanctuary decoration is, of course, somewhat richer than in the nave and includes emblems of the Passion and the Four Evangelists. The purlins all have black letter inscriptions, chiefly ‘ora pro nobis’ with a large variety of imprecations. Only the east and west faces of the arch-braced trusses have no coloured decoration. Unfortunately the floor has been carpeted all over.
Fixtures and fittings:
List description (church and linking range to presbytery were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church and linking range to presbytery, 1853-5 to the designs of Thomas Gibson of Newcastle; reordered 1981 and refurbished 1990. Early English style. The attached presbytery and wall attached to its south-west are excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of St Osmund of 1853-5 with later additions of 1862 and 1910 and the attached linking range to the presbytery are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Date: an relatively early Catholic church conceived and constructed before the Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, after which Catholic church building proliferated; * Decorative scheme: a remarkably extensive and complete painted decorative scheme is retained to the roof structures of the church and linking range; * Architectural interest: it has a pleasing Early English Gothic design with a bellcote, by a known regional architect which is complemented by the impressive interior space.
History: Thomas Witham established a mission in Gainford in 1852 after inheriting the family estate at Lartington in 1847. He built a presbytery in 1853, followed by a church, the foundation stone of which was laid on 23 August 1854. The church was designed by Thomas Gibson of Newcastle and the roof paintings in the church and linking range to the presbytery were executed in 1855 by a Mr Henderson, a church decorator. The church opened on 26 June 1855. Set into the ground at the east end is a rectangular stone outline considered to be the position of an un-built chancel. The sanctuary was reordered in 1981 when the pulpit was removed and the font re-located; it was probably also at this time that the original reredos was dismantled and elements re-sited as free standing pieces. A major renovation of the interior took place in 1990 when new heating, lighting and a carpet were installed.
Details: Roman Catholic Church and linking range to the presbytery, of 1853-5 to the designs of Thomas Gibson of Newcastle, with a painted decorative scheme to the roof structures by a church decorator identified as a Mr Henderson. Reordered 1981 and refurbished 1990. Early English style. MATERIALS: local sandstone; graduated Lakeland slate roof. PLAN: the church has a nave and sanctuary all in one, with a south porch and a linking range from the south wall of the sanctuary to the presbytery. EXTERIOR: constructed of regularly coursed sandstone beneath a pitched roof of slate, with stone coped verges, triangular water-tables and a sill band. Windows and doors have hoodmoulds, mostly with foliate stops. The east end has angle buttresses and triple stepped lancets with a continuous hood mould and head stops. At the apex there is a small triangular light surmounted by a stone cross finial. The sanctuary is further lit by a pair of small timber-framed roof dormers. The body of the church has four bays separated by stepped buttress; the three bays of the nave are pierced by paired lancets and the single bay sanctuary has a single lancet. A single-storey stone-built range attached to the south wall of the sanctuary, with a pitched roof and a three-light pointed arch window, links the church to the presbytery. The buttressed and gabled west porch has a steeply pitched roof surmounted by a stone cross finial and a wide pointed-arched entrance with engaged columns. The buttressed west end has a pair of lancets with a small triangular window above and there is a single bellecote with a cross finial.
The attached presbytery and wall attached to its south-west are excluded from the listing.
INTERIOR: a high and open space with plastered walls and a carpeted floor, beneath which, the original floor surface is considered to remain. The high, arch-braced roof of eight bays is carried down low onto the nave and sanctuary walls, where the trusses rest on carved and painted stone corbels. The roof is arranged in three tiers and has a decorative scheme which is all small scale and consists of a wide variety of painted, coloured motifs. Above the nave there are floral decorations, HIS symbols, a crowned MR, fleur-de-lys and crosses. The sanctuary decoration is richer with emblems of the Passion and the Four Evangelists. The purlins all have black letter inscriptions, chiefly ‘ora pro nobis’ (pray for us),with a large variety of imprecations. The sanctuary also retains original panelling to the lower walls, and elements of the dismantled timber reredos remain: these include the ornate Gothic altar (brought forward), a pair of free-standing canopied, timber saints and the ornately carved and intricately detailed ogee tabernacle with ornate brass doors. The original octagonal stone font also remains. The windows of the nave and sanctuary have a full complement of stained glass by John and Joseph Gibson of Newcastle; it is of patternwork except for the east window which has stained glass depicting the Risen Christ flanked by St Osmund and St Thomas Aquinas, and the triangular W window has an angel holding a shield bearing the HIS symbol. The nave benches are considered to be original with L-shaped and rectangular ends. The link to the presbytery has a similarly painted roof to the church, with the ridge piece, rafters and wall plate having small foliate and geometric painted motifs and the purlins are decorated with text from the Roman Missal.
Books and journals: Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 277
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review; AHP, 2012.
Architect: T. Gibson
Original Date: 1855
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II