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:
Stained glass by John and Joseph Gibson of Newcastle. It is of patternwork except for the east window in which the Risen Christ is flanked by St Osmund and St Thomas Aquinas. The triangular west window has an angel holding a shield bearing the IHS symbol.
The congregational seating appears to be original, benches with L-shaped and rectangular ends.
Architect: T. Gibson of Newcastle upon Tyne
Original Date: 1855
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed