Building » Houghton-le-Spring – St Michael

Houghton-le-Spring – St Michael

Durham Road, Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne & Wear DH5

An early post-Emancipation Catholic church by a well-known architect, this modest 1830s building by the younger Bonomi has been considerably altered and extended. The curious internal volumes are accounted for by the removal in 1907 of the floor that separated the original schoolroom below from the church above. Bonomi also designed the contemporary presbytery. 

Some of the first coal pits in the area opened just after the Napoleonic War and Catholic Irishmen came to work in the new pits. Fr McEvoy took up residence at Houghton in 1830 and by 1837 a church had been erected, with a schoolroom beneath. The architect was Ignatius Bonomi, who also designed the adjacent presbytery, and the church was opened by Bishop John Briggs, Vicar-Apostolic of the Northern District.

In 1907 the church floor had apparently become unsafe so the schoolroom was removed, making the church space much taller. The side elevations were adjusted accordingly: the schoolroom windows were blocked and the church windows lengthened downwards, although rather bizarrely the original west gallery was retained.

Shortly after the arrival of Fr O’Gorman in the early 1970s the sanctuary was reordered and the original altar, pulpit and altar rail replaced by modern furniture.  In 1980 the original simple west porch was replaced by a much more substantial stone structure designed by Dixon Dawson of Fennell & Baddiley of Chester le Street. More recently a new parish centre has been built on the north side of the church.


The church is described in the list entry, below. This needs to be updated to take account of more recent alterations:

  • Attached to the west end of the church is a substantial porch of 1980, of contextual design, built of stone with a pitched roof covered in tiles. Its west wall has triple stepped lancets.  Its south wall has a broad central entrance flanked by two pointed windows.
  • Attached to the north side of the church by a single-storey link building with a slated roof is the substantial new parish centre.
  • Internally, the walls are all plastered and painted, the windows mostly clear-glazed. The ceiling is boarded above the collars of the timber roof. The sanctuary floor has been brought forward into the nave and has a circular stone altar on columns.

List descriptions



R.C. parish church, 1837 by Ignatius Bonomi; later porch. Coursed squared limestone with sandstone dressings; Welsh slate roof with flat stone gable copings. Unaisled 4-bay nave; west porch, one-bay chancel. West front; 3 stepped lancets under semi-circular drip mould flanked by buttresses having broach spirelets; trefoil window in gable peak; 3 stepped lancets on porch gable to street. 

Interior: original pointed-arched entrance, flanked by recessed columns, now in porch. Sloping western organ loft on 2 rows of cast iron columns and wooden brackets. 

Historical note: built with school in undercroft (information Rev. O’Gorman).

Listing NGR: NZ3407249202



R.C. presbytery. 1837 by Ignatius Bonomi. Snecked limestone with ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roof. Adjacent to chancel of church; L-shaped with passage linking to church. 2 storeys, 4 bays. West elevation : stone transomed-and-mullioned 2-light window, and 6-panelled door with mullioned fanlight, under double and single casements; gable to street has a 2-light stone mullioned-and-transomed window on each floor with relieving arch over, a slit window and ashlar bands in gable peak; set-back at right blind. Irregular 4-bay right return. Roof has flat stone gable coping resting on coped footstones; red ridge tiles; 3 corniced ashlar chimneys at rear, at left end and transverse.

Listing NGR: NZ3408349187

Heritage Details

Architect: Ignatius Bonomi

Original Date: 1837

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II