Building » Gateshead – Corpus Christi

Gateshead – Corpus Christi

Kelvin Grove, Gateshead NE8

A large and imposing modern Gothic design on a prominent corner site. The church has a good interior, with several furnishings of note.

There were plans for a church in 1904, since many terraced houses had been built on the Bensham and Saltwell estates. Mass was said by priests from St Joseph’s in the Blessed Sacrament school which was built in 1909. The parish – originally called the Blessed Sacrament parish – was erected in 1927, as a national economic depression was beginning. Eventually plans for a church, dated 6 June 1934 (Gateshead Building Plans register number 7, page 135, quoted in Carney) were approved. They showed dressings made of artificial stone supplied by Atlas Concrete Ltd of Dunston, but Springwell Quarries offered to supply their local stone at cost price so that they could keep their business going and keep their staff in employment. Bishop Thorman laid the foundation stone in July 1934. The tower and two reinforced concrete arches nearest the sanctuary collapsed during construction (Carney page 21), but the building was completed, and opened on 14 April 1936 [in February 1936 the name of the parish was changed from The Blessed Sacrament to Corpus Christi]. The architect was Robert Burke of Grey Street, Newcastle and the contractor E. Thompson of Dinnington, Northumberland. The church was consecrated in 1959.

The sanctuary was reordered in 1979. The reredos with its canopy was retained but modified to have one pair of angels; the other angels were reused in the side chapels. At about the same time the underside 0f the organ gallery was enclosed to create a western narthex. 

The sanctuary faces west, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, as if the altar faced east.

The church is in a free early Gothic style, built of red brick laid in stretcher bond, with sandstone dressings from Springwell Quarries, on a reinforced concrete frame. The roofs are covered in grey-green slates, probably from the Lake District. The church is of traditional cruciform plan, consisting of aisled nave, transepts with low tower over the crossing and long sanctuary with canted east end. Side chapels flank the transepts. All the doors and windows have stone surrounds with shallow pointed heads. Steps lead up to the central west entrance porch, which has double doors in a stone surround. The gabled central bay projects slightly; above the porch are two long windows, and in the gable there is one smaller opening. Both west gables have cross finials. The flanking bays have two pairs of windows in short polygonal turrets with steeply-hipped roofs against almost full-height battlemented projections set against two short, square towers. A many-stepped buttress supports the downhill side of the north tower. Windows are paired, three to the nave, one to the transept and two closely-set pairs to the sanctuary. The high east gable is slightly canted, and blank except for a high pairs of windows. The squat crossing tower has a low pyramidal roof.

Inside, the walls are plastered and painted. A western narthex was created in 1980 by inserting a screen below the organ loft. The organ was bought from a redundant Congregational Chapel, and altered to allow light from the west window. There are ashlar-dressed openings and facings, with a wide two-centred chancel arch. The nave arcades have high wide arches and square columns which continue up as wall posts, as though for a vaulted ceiling. As it is, the roof is of lighter timber construction with iron trusses, possibly an amendment following the collapse during construction.  There are high flat transverse aisle arches to the narrow circulation aisles, crossing and side chapels in the transepts.

The sanctuary furniture and pews are of oak.  The sanctuary was reordered in 1979, when the reredos was modified to have one pair of angels; other angels were reused in the side chapels. The wood carving is of high quality; that in the reredos and high altar was by R. P. Appleby of Prudhoe Street, Newcastle; the oak pews and other woodwork were made by Bramley & Co., Ensign Works, Newcastle. The Portland stone statues of the newly-canonised St Thomas More and St John Fisher, placed  in the sanctuary were carved by A. Southwick, ARBS, of Gateshead and then of Camden Studios, London. Many windows contain notable stained glass, some signed by Whitefriars.

Heritage Details

Architect: R. Burke

Original Date: 1936

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed