Church Road, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3
A notable design by the Belgian-born architect Charles Menart, who had a major Glasgow-based church practice in the early years of the twentieth century. The style is a free version of Decorated Gothic. The interior is richly fitted out, and includes three fine windows by Harry Clarke Studios, described by Pevsner as ‘extravagantly rich’. The sanctuary was reordered in 1985-86, but much of the marble was re-used. The church with its two west towers is a major landmark in the Gosforth Conservation Area.
The first St Charles’ chapel and school were built in 1861 at Coxlodge. In 1896 a corrugated iron chapel opened on land given by George Dunn Junior in Church Road. As Newcastle tramways reached Gosforth the village grew, with many terraces of good Victorian houses. The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Bishop Collins on 14 August 1910 and the building was solemnly opened on 3 December 1911. At that point the old church became the parish school. The architect for the new church was Charles Menart, who was Belgian by birth, but was trained and practised in Glasgow. To start with the church was internally quite bare apart from Menart’s marble cladding in the sanctuary, but it was further enriched over time. Stained glass by Atkinson Brothers was added in the apse in 1919. In the 1920s a gallery was added at the west end of the nave, to accommodate a new organ. In 1932 many of the remaining bare walls were clad with Italian marble. After the war three fine stained glass windows by Harry Clarke Studios were installed.
In 1970 a wide glass porch was added at the west end of the church, enclosing the entrance doors. The interior was reordered in 1985-6, when the altar rails and the ornate baldacchino over the high altar were removed (the rails were relocated against the side chapel walls). The sanctuary dais was extended forward into the nave, with a new forward altar; the loss of seating capacity was compensated for by enlargement of the west gallery. Parts of the baldacchino were incorporated into a new ambo and font, and into supports for uplighters in the apse.
In 2003-04 the old ‘tin’ church (St Charles’ Primary School) was demolished and a new parish centre built, forming a garden ‘cloister’ between hall and church.
The construction is of rock-faced sandstone, apart from ashlar for the spires and dressings; the roofs are of blue-grey slate. The church is cruciform in plan, with short transepts, a wide apse, and two tall west towers. The internal dimensions are 85 ft 9 ins by 48 ft in the nave, 65 ft in the transepts. The height of the nave is 52 ft and that of the spires 81 ft. The style is a free version of Decorated Gothic, with wide windows more Perpendicular in style, which in the buttressed three-bay nave are rounded under small eaves gables. Doors, and windows at the west and in the transept, have pointed arches. The west door was enclosed in a wide glass porch in 1970.
Inside, the pointed arches to the transepts and narrow aisles have transverse arches. The walls are clad with Italian marble, added in 1932, in cream, black and white, with rossi in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, north of the sanctuary. There is no chancel arch, although short wall posts on the crossing piers might have been designed to support a screen. The reordered sanctuary has three projecting canted steps, its marble furnishings re-using elements of the original furniture. The Lady Chapel lies to the south of the sanctuary. Its roof of arched-braced trusses has angel bosses, these and the font reusing elements from the dismantled baldacchino. The west organ and choir gallery was enlarged in 1983.
Stained glass includes scenes from the life of Christ in the apse, c.1919 and signed Atkinson Bros., and very high quality glass signed Harry Clarke [Studio]: north transept, 1946, a Pieta, the gift of Mrs Isabella Rogers commemorating her husband Capt. Albert Edward Rogers; south transept, Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi, the gift of Mrs Theresa Gertrude Hanlon, commemorating her husband, Terence Hanlon; south clerestory centre, Christ before Pilate, given by Mrs Gertrude Coyle to commemorate her parents James and Louise McArdle.
List description (the church, presbytery and boundary wall were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church and presbytery, 1910-11 to the designs of Charles Menart. Decorated Gothic style. The west glass porch, the attached modern parish hall and walls and structures attached to the east end of the church are not of special interest and are not included in the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of St Charles and attached presbytery of 1910-11 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the church is an interesting and well-detailed Decorated Gothic Revival design of good quality materials, that, with its paired west towers, forms a striking landmark; * Architect: understood to be a sole English design by one of the leading Scottish-based Catholic architects of the early C20; * Group value: the church, presbytery and south boundary wall with gate piers and overthrow, complement each other in scale and design and benefit from a strong spatial and functional group value; * Fixtures and fittings: richly fitted out with a high quality scheme including marble-clad walls and reduced elements of the original sanctuary fittings such as the High Altar and baldicchino; * Stained glass: three fine examples of the work of Harry Clarke [studio], an important early-C20 Irish stained glass artist and leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement, whose work is famous for its intricate detail and vivid colours.
History: This church replaced an 1896 corrugated-iron church constructed on the same plot of land donated by George Dunn Junior. The foundation stone of the present church was laid by Bishop Collins on 14 August 1910 and the church opened on 3 December 1911. The architect, Charles Menart was Belgian by birth but was trained and practiced in Glasgow and is a notable early-C20 church architect. With the exception of the sanctuary, the church was originally quite bare internally and was enriched over time, with additional marble cladding to the sanctuary, stained glass to the apse in 1919, a W gallery to accommodate an organ in the 1920s (enlarged in 1983), and after 1932 the remaining bare walls were clad in Italian marble. After the Second World War three fine stained glass windows by Harry Clarke Studios were installed. Harry Clarke is an important early-C20 Irish stained glass artist and a leading figure in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement, whose work is famous for its intricate detail and vivid colours. In 1970 a wide glass porch was added to the west end enclosing the entrance and in 1983 the west organ and choir gallery was enlarged and a new full width partition inserted. The interior was reordered in 1985-6, when the altar rails and the ornate baldacchino over the high altar were removed; the rails were relocated against the side chapel walls and parts of the baldacchino were incorporated into a new lectern and font and into supports for uplighters in the apse. The sanctuary dais was extended forward into the nave, with a new forward altar.
Details: Roman Catholic Church and presbytery, 1910-11 to the designs of Charles Menart. Decorated Gothic style. MATERIALS: rock-faced sandstone with ashlar dressings and blue-grey slate roofs. PLAN: cruciform, oriented E to W. It has an apsed chancel, with a vestry on the S side linking to a presbytery, a three-bay aisled nave with short transepts, W porch, and NW and SW towers. EXTERIOR: the CHURCH occupies a central location in Gosforth. It has steeply pitched roofs and stone gable copings. The E end has a five-sided apse with a pyramidal roof; the central face is blind and there are wide round-headed windows to the other faces in the style of the C16. The chancel has paired lancets with cusped heads to the N and S sides, and a single-storey vestry with a pitched roof has been added to the S side. The gabled transepts have large and wide pointed-arch windows with a Decorated Gothic window to the S, surmounted by a cross finial. The three-bay nave has a clerestory of three, wide round-headed windows similar to those of the apse, each under a small eaves gable, and those to the S side have tracery in a perpendicular style. The N aisle is largely obscured by the modern parish room addition, but the S aisle has a pent roof and each of the three bays has paired lancets with cusped heads. The three-bay W end is surmounted by a cross finial and has a large pointed arch window with hood mould to the centre gabled bay and similar tracery to that of the S clerestory. The Gothic W entrance in the central bay is formed of ashlar stonework beneath a shallow porch and includes a pair of tall pointed-arched openings alternating with pilasters supporting canopied niches, the whole now encased within a modern glass porch. The two end bays are formed by a pair of tall towers, blind for the most part but with cusp-headed lancets to the ground and upper stages, the latter set within shallow rectangular projections. The upper stage is also set back slightly and constructed of coursed squared sandstone. The towers are surmounted by octagonal broached spires with gabled lucarnes to the cardinal faces and a crocket finial. From the N and S outer faces of the towers project tall, gabled stair turrets.
The PRESBYTERY has two storeys plus attics with quoins, sill bands and hipped roofs of slate with overhanging eaves and decorative ridge tiles; there are external stone stacks to the N and S gables, that to the latter with ashlar detailing. Window frames are mostly original six-over one horned sashes, with some replacements. The S elevation has a two-bay cross wing to the right with a scrolled pedimented parapet, prominent verges and scrolled kneelers. It has a canted bay window with a segmental-arched and crenellated parapet to the ground floor, a pair of rectangular windows to the first floor and triple narrow small-pane rectangular windows to the attic, which also has an Art Nouveau-style apron with Fleur-de-Lys motif above. To the left there is a two-bay range with a five-panelled door main entrance and canted bay to the ground floor with continuous porch, and to the first floor a pair of rectangular windows and a large keyed, round-headed window. There is a single attic dormer with a segmental head. The building is attached at the SW corner to the Church vestry by a narrow linking block.
INTERIOR: the CHURCH’S walls are clad in Italian marble slabs in cream, black and white and piers and columns are square with recessed corners and a classical moulding rather than capitals. The sanctuary has projecting canted steps and the apse has a pointed arch blind arcade; the marble cladding of the latter has black bands outlining panels of cream-coloured stone. Marble pilasters support the chancel roof which has arch-braced trusses and a winged angel boss. The E window comprises four stained glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Christ, signed Atkinson Bros. The side chapels flank the sanctuary and that to the N contains a reduced form of the original high altar and a section of the original marble altar rail. The Lady Chapel to the South has angel bosses to its arch-braced roof from the dismantled baldacchino and a font also comprising pieces of the latter, and a section of the original altar rail. The shallow transepts have tall wide pointed arches with transverse arches, and both have high quality stained glass windows by Harry Clarke Studios: to the N a Pieta and to the S Adoration of the Shepherds and the Magi. Also to the N transept, high on the wall facing the tabernacle is a First World War memorial recording the names of the 36 Fallen from the parish; this is a large copy of Raphael’s ‘Sistine Madonna’. The nave has stone arcades of three wide, stone pointed arches springing from clustered columns of square form alternating with slim pilasters which rise to the round-headed clerestory to support the decorative arch-braced, collar-rafter roof. The central window of the S side also has a fine stained glass window by Harry Clarke Studios of Christ before Pilate. Hand carved marble Stations of the Cross are affixed to the walls of the aisles. At the west end, the organ gallery is supported on a pair of slender cast-iron columns and a brass rail with Perspex panels.
The PRESBYTERY has geometric tiles to the entrance hall and five-panel doors throughout the ground and first floors. The ground floor has a central stair hall with a small fireplace with an unusual, ornate chimneypiece and reception rooms off. Reception rooms to the front have original timber or stone chimneypieces, ceiling roses, skirtings and cornices with that to the right also timber-panelled. The main staircase is a closed-string open-well stair with turned balusters and ornate newel posts and is lit by a round-headed stair window with stained glass to its upper parts. The first floor landing has an identical small fireplace and bedrooms off; bedrooms mostly have original fireplaces and chimneypieces, ceiling roses, cornices, skirtings and at least one has an original fitted cupboard. A plaster arched opening leads to the second floor via a winder staircase; rooms are small and have original small cast-iron chimneypieces to the fireplaces and doors are mostly four-panel.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: an arched and buttressed main corner entrance with flanking, stepped walls with convex coping stones. The stepped wall extends to the E with a central entrance flanked by piers with a stone band and pyramidal caps.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 27 October 2017.
Books and journals: McCombie, Frank, Cullen, Michael, A Parish In Its Time, (1996)
Websites: War Memorials Register, accessed 27 October 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/34486
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review, AHP, 2012.
Architect: Charles Menart
Original Date: 1910
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II