North Bank, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland NE47
Placed on a large garden plot against fields on the northern edge of the village, this is a modest and well-executed ashlar church in Early English Gothic style. The simple interior contains some furnishings of note. The ashlar-faced presbytery is contemporary with the church, but has been altered.
In the seventeenth century Stonecroft, a farmhouse near Newbrough belonging to the Widdrington family, was let to tenants who would ‘keep a priest for the help of poor Catholics in the parishes of Warden and Hexham and places adjoining’. There was a Catholic chapel in the house until 1822, when the property passed to non-Catholic ownership.
In 1860 Fr Francis Kirsopp was appointed to serve Haltwhistle and Haydon Bridge, in the western part of the large Hexham mission area. The new mission at Haydon Bridge was established in 1862 and the church of St John of Beverley and adjoining presbytery built in 1872-3 at a cost of £1,500, the cost being met by the Newbrough Trust, which also endowed the mission. The architect/s for the church have not been established, but the design is clearly of some quality, despite being built on a modest budget, and architectural similarities with the church of Sacred Heart, Byermoor (notably in the design of the west front) and with the later roof at St Wilfrid, Bishop Auckland suggest a possible involvement of Dunn & Hansom. However, there is no documentary information to confirm such an attribution.
The diocesan archive contains a letter of August 1955 requesting the Bishop’s permission to purchase a hut from St Mary’s Hexham for £150 plus carriage. This may relate to the present parish hall.
A reordering was undertaken by the architect Jack Lynn and the church was reopened and consecrated by Bishop Lindsay on 10 May 1984. The service booklet states ‘the original altar has been cleaned and brought forward’.
The building stands on a northeast/southwest axis to suit the slope it stands on, but for this report will be presumed to be conventionally oriented with the altar at the east.
The church was built in 1872-3 of local ashlar stone with blue slate roofs in later thirteenth century Gothic style. Three and a half bay unaisled nave with southwest porch and west gable bellcote, single chancel bay with attached northeast sacristy and a larger building to the north of that which overlaps the north nave. The sacristy is linked to the presbytery to the east by a stone and timber felt roofed lean-to passage set against a separate slate roofed building between church and house.
The west facade faces the entry from North Bank and has a boarded west door within a pointed arch with one order of attached columns set on the high chamfered plinth that runs around the whole building. The hood mould of the arch meets the continuous string course that runs at window cill level around the whole building, the junction marked with the head of a king on the north and a queen on the south. The door is flanked by steep lancets with trefoil heads, with hood moulds and prominent stops. At the base of the gable is a small octofoil and above rises a gabled bellcote with a single bell.
The western bay of the nave is longer than the rest to accommodate the south door (and possibly to allow for a west gallery), but has just one trefoil lancet on each side. The south porch has a buttressed gable front and the doorway repeats the form of the west door. The other three nave bays are divided by buttresses and have two trefoil lancets sitting on a moulded string course and with prominent stops to their hood mouldings. These mainly have heads of standard Victorian demeanour but there are also some foliate stops with naturalistic foliage and a pair of grotesque lions. Where the cill course stops on the east facade, well carved squirrels are used. The three light east window has geometric tracery and the south wall a trefoil lancet. Both chancel windows have stained glass.
The rectangular building with an east-west ridge overlapping the east bay of the nave and the sacristy has the same plinth and string course as the 1873 church, but lacks its Gothic detail. The west window is a Caernarvon headed lancet and there is a chimney to the north wall.
A lean-to covered way links the sacristy and presbytery. The presbytery is a four-square ashlar-faced structure with a hipped slate roof and a central stack. It has canted stone lintels to the two first floor window, while on the ground floor there are two pairs of windows on either side of the central door, each pair separated by columns with foliated capitals, and each window with a shouldered head and chamfered reveals. A modern conservatory has been added in front of the central doorway, and the windows have all been replaced in uPVC. Inside, the house retains its original staircase, with a chunky Gothic newel.
The main entrance to the church is via the south porch, although the west door has also been brought back into use in recent years. There is a stone stoup in the porch with trefoil head. Inside, the church is a simple space, consisting of an aisleless nave and lower chancel. The walls are plastered and painted white, and there is a thin arched and scissor braced and boarded timber roof with wall posts running down to stone corbels at mid-window height. The stone chancel arch is supported on short columns with angel corbels. The present configuration of the altar dates from 1984, and incorporates four stubby columns with foliate capitals, grouped together centrally, re-used from the former high altar. At the east wall there is now a curtain, in front of which is the domed brass tabernacle, placed within a canopied niche, presumably part of the original high altar. Above, the three-light east window contains a stained glass Crucifixion, with Christ flanked by St Mary and St John, and with angels in the quatrefoils. This was given by Josephine, wife of Cadwallader John Bates of nearby Langley Castle, who died in 1902. The window is unsigned, but is probably by Atkinson Bros of Newcastle. A smaller window on the south side of the sanctuary depicting the church’s patron, St John of Beverley, is signed by Atkinson Bros.
The nave contains simple benches with open backs and chamfered ends. At the west end, the design of the stone font is of interest, being star-shaped with concave sides to both the bowl and the plinth. The design may be influenced by the medieval Tournai font in Newcastle (Anglican) Cathedral.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1873
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed