Westgate, Haltwhistle, Northumberland NE49
Built for the Presbyterian Church in 1899 and making the best of its corner site, with a modest, but distinctive southwest tower porch. The rock-facing gives the exterior a rugged appearance.
The first Catholic mission was established in Haltwhistle in 1865 from Hexham. The chapel, dedicated to Holy Cross and seating 60, cost £250. An invoice dated 21 November 1884 in the diocesan archives records the payment ‘in full’ of £220 ‘for the erection of this chapel’, presumably an enlargement. Another letter of 1901 from the mission priest requests the bishop’s permission to spend £1500 on erecting a new presbytery to the designs of Charles Walker. The church was served from Haydon Bridge until 1900. From 1902 it was known as St Wilfrid’s.
Around 1990, Fr Tom Power was concerned about overcrowding and entered into an agreement with the United Reformed Church to share their church on Westgate. The foundation stone for this building had been laid by Alderman Hudspith on 28 July 1898, and the church was opened on 28 June 1899 by the Revd J. Christie of Carlisle. The architect for the building was William Lister Newcombe FRIBA of 89 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, and the builder Isaac Watson. The cost was £2,000, including the contemporary schoolroom behind. One year earlier, Newcombe had overseen the rebuilding of John Dobson’s Presbyterian church in New Bridge Street, Newcastle, as the Catholic church of St Lawrence, Byker.
The first Mass was said in the chapel on 3 February 1991. The depleted URC congregation held their last service in June 2009 and in July 2010 the building was purchased from them for sole use by the Catholic congregation. The original Catholic church has now been converted to residential use.
The entrance facade faces north but liturgical points are used for this report i.e. the altar to the east.
Presbyterian Church of 1899, now Roman Catholic, built of rock-faced local stone with stone dressings and blue slated roofs in a broadly Gothic style. Four bay aisled nave, entered through a door in the southwest bay that rises into a gabled tower with short slated spire. Behind is a hall at right angles to the east wall of the church and a back entrance to a small courtyard in the northeast corner.
The steep west gable to the street has a five-light tracery window, but enclosed within an arch with solid spandrels as though it were plate tracery. The west end of the north nave aisle has a single lancet; the boarded door to the south west tower is within a chamfered moulded stone arch. Each face of the tower has a steep gable, in which are set three small lancet openings with louvres over a band of three glazed quatrefoils. The slated four-sided spire emerges from behind the gables, rising to a leaded apex. The south aisle has three square wooden windows of two leaded lights with transoms and trefoil heads set above a continuous stone sill band. The south nave clerestory is a continuous band of twelve wooden trefoil headed leaded windows in groups of four. The north aisle is built against an adjoining property and has no aisle windows, but has a clerestory above. The east wall of the church has a wooden bargeboard to its steep gable and the only openings are three small rectangular louvred openings in the gable. A capped square chimney stands to gutter level on the north corner of the gable.
The four-bay parish hall (former schoolroom) is set at right angles to the east wall of the church, with a steep slated roof with similar square openings to the gables. The entrance is in the gable wall to Sycamore Street, a square double door under a lintel decorated with a segmental arch. It is flanked by windows like the north aisle over a stone sill band, which pattern continues on the rear elevation to the back street. A gateway in the northeast corner of the site opens into a small courtyard with an outside WC. Inside, the hall retains its original timber entrance lobby, with glazed trefoil panels, boarded dado and open timber roof.
The church interior retains much of its Nonconformist character and furnishings. It consists of an aisled nave of four bays, with an entrance vestibule in the southwest corner, a sacristy in the southeast corner and a storeroom in the northeast corner (the latter two being formed by modern partitioning in the eastern aisle bays). The unusual nave arcade is of timber, round arched (with pierced quatrefoils in the spandrels), and with a false tribune above (two round arches per bay, with a pierced quatrefoil at the centre of each bay). Above this the timber clerestory is of four trefoil-headed lights per bay, the windows on the north side retaining their original rectangular leaded quarries while those on the south side have been reglazed with Georgian wired glass with false applied leading. The flat boarded nave roof is divided into rectangular compartments separated by moulded ribs, and diagonal and curved braces spring from wall posts in each bay. Iron tie rods also span the nave, from the moulded corbels of the wall posts. The aisles have lean-to roofs, with exposed rafters and boarding.
The church retains many of its Nonconformist furnishings, including deal pews in three banks, with circulation in the aisles. The pews have numbered ends and umbrella stands; a few have been removed at the front of the aisles to make way for the partititioned enclosures here. At the east end the church retains its timber pulpit throne with canted front and stairs to either side with openwork Gothic panels. On either side of the stairs are doors leading off to accommodation to the rear. The floor is of wood block, carpeted in the circulation areas, and there is a boarded dado around the perimeter. The church has been simply furnished to allow for Catholic use, with a plain timber forward altar and lectern, plaster statues and simple Stations of the Cross, all catalogue items of no particular interest.
List description (the church and attached former schoolroom were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Former Presbyterian Church and attached school room, 1898 to designs by W L Newcombe, now a Catholic Church. Gothic style.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of St Wilfrid and attached former school room of 1898-99, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the church reflects the austerity associated with Presbyterianism but never-the-less has a well-detailed exterior of interest with a three-stage tower and tall continuous clerestory; * Interior: the church retains its Nonconformist character with a largely original plan and a suite of fixtures and fittings including an unusual timber arcade incorporating a false tribune; * Architect: designed by William Lister Newcombe, one of Newcastle’s leading architects of the time, who has several listed buildings to his name; * Group value: the church and its attached school room benefit from a functional and proximal group value.
History: Constructed as a Presbyterian Church, the foundation stone was laid by Alderman Hudspith on 28 July 1898. The architect was William Lister Newcombe FRIBA of Newcastle, and the builder was Isaac Watson. William Newcombe was a respected regional architect who has several listed buildings to his name. The church was opened on 28 June 1899 by the Revd J Christie of Carlisle, and had cost £2,000, including the contemporary schoolroom behind. Leaded glass panels were installed in the doors between the church and school room in 1936, and in 1973 the steeple finials were removed amid concerns that they were unstable. Around 1990 concerns about overcrowding at the then Catholic church in the town led to an agreement with the United Reformed Church (URC) to share their church. The first Catholic Mass was said in the chapel on 3 February 1991, and in July 2010 the building was purchased from the URC for sole use by the Catholic congregation. Subsequent alterations to allow for Catholic worship include the installation of a plain forward altar and lectern and a tabernacle to the wall behind the original pulpit, slight remodelling of the front plaster statues and simple Stations of the Cross.
Details: Former Presbyterian Church and attached school room, 1898-99 to designs by W L Newcombe, now a Catholic Church. Gothic style. MATERIALS: rock-faced local stone with ashlar dressings and blue slate roof coverings. PLAN: the building is oriented N to S but the following directions are liturgical. The church comprises an aisled nave, with a tower to its SW corner which has the main entrance in its base. To the rear is a rectangular former school room, constructed at right angles.
CHURCH: occupies a corner site with its W end fronting the main street. It has a steeply pitched roof with decorative ridge tiles and finial. The W end of the nave has a central, stepped five-light tracery window set within an arch with solid spandrels as though it were plate tracery. Attached to the left is the W end of the N aisle with a single pointed-arch window with an ashlar surround. Attached to the right is a tall tower with a pointed-arch entrance to the ground floor, a blind second stage and a gabled upper stage with three small louvered lancet openings above a frieze of three glazed quatrefoils. A short, slated spire emerges from the gabled upper stage. A stone band between the first and second stages of the tower extends across the W end of the church forming a continuous hood mould. The S aisle has three square-headed, timber cross windows with leaded glass and trefoil heads with a continuous ashlar sill band. Rising above the aisle is the S nave clerestory, a continuous band of twelve timber trefoil-headed leaded windows in groups of four; those to the E side retain original leaded glass and those to the W side have replacement glass (from the original leaded lights) with mock lead strip. The N aisle, built against the adjoining property has no aisle windows but the clerestory is visible. The steep and partially visible E end has wooden bargeboards and a series of three louvered openings to the apex with a chimney stack to the right. FORMER SCHOOL ROOM: attached at right angles to the E wall of the church. It has a slated, steeply pitched roof, and the continuous ashlar sill band to the church continues around the side and rear elevations of the school. The gable end facing Sycamore Street has a central segmental-headed entrance with double-boarded doors and plain fanlight over, flanked by a square-headed window. To the apex there is a pair of ashlar bands and triple louvered openings similar to those of the church’s E end. The rear wall has four similar square-headed windows; all windows are identical to those of the S aisle. The upper parts of all windows retain original leaded glass and the lower parts are replacement sheet glass with mock lead strips.
CHURCH: the church retains its Nonconformist character and comprises a large aisled nave with painted plaster walls, a boarded dado and a wood block floor. The E window is a rose window with quatrefoil tracery and a hood mould with bar stops. The round-arched nave arcades are of timber with pierced quatrefoils to the spandrels, supporting a false tribune above comprising a pair of round arches to each bay with a pierced quatrefoil. Above this rises a timber clerestory comprising four trefoil-headed lights per bay: windows to the N side retain their original leaded quarries while those to the S side have been re-glazed with wired glass and applied leading. An original vestibule to the main entrance in the SE corner has a boarded ceiling divided by diagonal moulded ribs. The nave roof is flat boarded and divided into panels separated by moulded ribs, and diagonal and curved braces spring from the wall posts in each bay. Iron tie rods span the nave from the moulded corbels of the wall posts. The aisles have lean-to roofs with exposed rafters and boarding. Several original fittings are retained including ornate door furniture. There are three banks of deal benches with circulation in the aisles; the benches have numbered ends and metal umbrella stands and holds, the latter fixed with ornate hinges. A few rows have been lost by the insertion of modern partitions at the front of the aisles enclosing spaces now used as a sacristy and a store. The original timber pulpit throne remains with its canted front and stairs to either side with open gothic work panels and ornate newel posts. Alterations to allow for Catholic worship include the installation of a plain forward altar and lectern, plaster statues and simple Stations of the Cross. FORMER SCHOOL ROOM: a pair of timber doors, one with original stained and leaded glass and the other with replacement sheet glass and mock leading, give access through the E wall of the church into the former school room. This retains the original large open space with the exception of the insertion of a small modern kitchen to the NE corner, where the original stage was located. The original vestry and service stair remain attached to the N; the original door to the vestry has been removed and replaced with a pair of modern openings and the vestry space has been divided and converted to a toilet and scullery. Original features include the timber entrance porch with glazed, trefoil-headed upper parts fitted with leaded glass, a boarded dado and the timber roof structure.
Books and journals: Grundy, J, McCombie, G, Ryder, P, Welfare, H, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (2002), 300
Websites: Entry for William Lister Newcombe , accessed 18-02-2016 from http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=206930
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review, AHP 2012
Architect: W. L. Newcombe
Original Date: 1899
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Grade II