Building » Jarrow – St Bede

Jarrow – St Bede

Chapel Road, Jarrow, Tyne & Wear NE32

A small Early English Gothic church built in 1860-61 by voluntary labour for the largely Irish Catholic population of Jarrow. The church was remodelled and an elaborate Perpendicular Gothic south transept added in 1883, possibly from designs by Dunn & Hansom. The church has fine stained glass windows and several original furnishings including the large reredos.

Fr Edmund Kelly of St Bede, South Shields (qv), said Mass from 1856 in 175 High Street, Jarrow. Due to the growth in ship building, chemical industries and ironworks, Jarrow experienced an enormous influx of workers and the town expanded rapidly during the mid-nineteenth century. As elsewhere, many of these were Irish immigrants which formed part of the growing Catholic population in Jarrow.

The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Bishop Hogarth on 30 October 1860. The church was built by volunteers, including Fr Kelly and Fr George Meynell of Gateshead (from 1861 the first mission priest). Building work was supervised by the builder Mr McGlinshey and the joiner Thomas Lumsden, who later acted as contractor for several churches including St Aloysius, Hebburn (qv). No architect is known and it is possible that McGlinshey and Lumsden designed the church. It was a relatively plain Early English building with the liturgical west end at the south, which was entered from St John’s Terrace, and the narrower sanctuary to the north facing on to Chapel Road. The church seated 600, including 100 in the west gallery. The windows still unglazed, the church was opened by Fr Kelly and Mgr Eyre, Canon of Newcastle Cathedral and later Archbishop of Glasgow, on 27 December 1861.

The presbytery was built, again by voluntary labour, shortly after the completion of the church. A small school was built and opened in 1868 on an adjacent site in Chapel Road. Two years later, this was extended by a large wing extending south along the whole length of the site between Chapel Road and St John’s Terrace.

A massive increase in the Catholic population of Jarrow made the extension of the church necessary. In 1883, James Storar (mis-spelled by The Buildings of England and in the list description as ‘Storer’) added a Perpendicular transept to the west and re-orientated the church, placing the sanctuary at the former west end. The former sanctuary window was moved to the new east end. The west gallery was removed. Storar was a local builder; Johnson attributes the design of these alterations and additions to Dunn & Hansom, on stylistic grounds. At the southeast (liturgical northeast) of the main body of the church a small space was added for the Lady Chapel with the organ loft above. The new extension was opened by the Bishop of Galloway in March 1883, who also blessed the bells in the two turrets. The east elevation of the new transept remained blind and rendered, due to the presence of the school buildings very close by.

Fr George Meynell (parish priest 1861-84) commissioned the new high altar and paid for it. However, it was only delivered and erected by his successor, Fr Hayes. It was dedicated by Bishop Wilkinson on 12 April 1885. Other improvements in the sanctuary included marble altar rails and a decorative tile floor in the sanctuary. During Fr Hayes’s incumbency of 1885-1906 a new sacristy was built, and the organ, heating system, marble altar steps, a pulpit and the Stations were installed. During his successor Fr Mackin’s time (1906-31) several furnishings were installed, including side altars dedicated to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart, a Lourdes grotto, the sanctuary lamp as well as numerous statues of saints. Between 1932 and 1941, the seating was improved, the aisles widened and two doors created at the ‘old end’, i.e. the west end.

In the 1960s or 1970s, the school buildings just to the east of the church were demolished. As part of post-Vatican II reordering in c.1984 by J. & W. Lowry Ltd, a new forward altar was installed, originally from the Catholic church at Alnwick. A new ambo was created from the pillars of the old altar. In 1996, the statues from the Lourdes grotto, which had been damaged by candles, were moved from the transept to the nave. In 1997, the transept was converted to a parish hall and the former sacristy was altered to provide a meeting room, kitchen and toilet facilities. In 2002, the church was refurbished and reordered, creating a weekday chapel in the former Lady Chapel at the (liturgical) northeast. In 2009, the church received a grant of £149,000 from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund for stone repairs and the replacement of the roof. To fulfil the public access requirements of the grant, the church is now open on weekdays during the months of June, July and August.


The church actually faces south. The following description uses conventional liturgical orientation. The church as completed in 1861 faced north, but was re-orientated in 1883 with the sanctuary in the south.

The list entry (below) only describes the exterior. The following description concentrates on the interior and the furnishings. Please note that the list entry uses a mixture of the liturgical orientation (indicated by ‘ritual’) and actual orientation.

The church is entered by a small porch at the northwest. Directly opposite is a glass door leading to the parish office in the link to the presbytery. The three light west window has stained glass depicting the Crucifixion with Fr Kelly celebrating Mass in the lower panels. The window was erected in memory of Fr Kelly (died 1871). The west end is separated from the rest of the nave by the former chancel arch. The nave is seven bays long with lancet windows in every other bay which are filled with decorative coloured glass. It has an exposed king-post roof and a timber dado. At the south side of the nave are statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette from the former Lourdes grotto. The Stations of the Cross are painted timber reliefs.

The five-light east window (apparently moved here from the original east end) depicts eight saints flanking the Risen Christ and the Good Samaritan. A plaque records its donation in memory of Michael McWilliams Bradley (died 1906). The forward altar of coloured marbles and mosaics is originally from the Catholic church in Alnwick (installed c.1984). The font has an octagonal white marble bowl and a stem of coloured marble and was presented by Mrs M.M. Bradley in 1914. The lectern consists of two coloured marble columns from the original altar and a stone shelf. The reredos has canopied niches for twelve statues of saints flanking the monstrance throne and tabernacle . These in turn are framed by statues of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart on corbels with outer panels of blind tracery under ogee arches beyond. The former marble altar rails are now placed in two parallel rows in front of the reredos.

The former Lady Chapel at the northeast is now a weekday chapel with a small altar in the east apse and a modern timber confessional at the west. Above is the organ gallery with a pieta placed in the upward continuation of the apse.

The four-bay south transept (now the hall) is separated from the church by modern partitions: solid timber to the lower part and glazed to the upper parts of the arches from the sanctuary and nave to the hall. The transept has a canted timber-panelled ceiling. At the south end of the transept is a rose window above a small internal lobby. Alongside the east wall are shallow niches for side altars with angel corbels with the symbols of the Passion . Above are three-light clerestory windows. (The niches are now curtained off, for storage use. However, at least one memorial plaque remains, to Hugh McLarney, in whose memory his wife Mary had donated the Sacred Heart altar.) 

List description


RC parish church. 1860-62 with additions built by J Storer in 1883. Coursed squared sandstone; roof of Welsh slate. Oriented north-south; full-width low entrance porch added at ritual west, large aisled ritual south transept of 1883. First building early English style, additions perpendicular. 3-bay nave with lancets; transept of 4 bays with a large rose window over elaborately decorated door in gable, having ogee drip mould with angel stops and fleur-de-lis finials; south elevation: at aisle level a string returning with griffin stops and at each end a 2-light window; 4 perpendicular windows in the clerestory; a 5-light window in the south gable, having canopied niches either side between 2 octagonal turrets with dragons and gargoyles; east gable rendered.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not known (builders Lumsden & McGlinshey); J. Storar/Dunn & Hansom

Original Date: 1861

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II