Kitswell Road, Lanchester, Co. Durham DH7
An interwar Gothic revival church by a German architect, with a later bell tower. The window tracery seems to be inspired by that of St Andrew’s church, Roker. The sanctuary is panelled in marble originally from the Regent Hotel, London. The church makes a positive contribution to the Lanchester Conservation Area.
The mission was founded in 1901 from St Michael’s, Esh Laude. That year, a temporary tin church was erected, which had previously served St Nicholas’ Asylum, Gosforth. A convent (now the presbytery) was built beside it, followed in 1905 by the school building.
In 1926, the present church was erected at a cost of £4,500. The architect was Theo Korner (or more likely ‘Körner’), originally from Germany. Initially the church had no tower; this was added in 1955, when a Lady Chapel and new sacristies were also built. The sanctuary was left plain but a few years later John and Mary Edith Piercey Taylor-Smith of Colepike Hall donated Italian marble from the Regent Hotel in the Strand. This was used to panel the whole sanctuary and build an altar and reredos. The altar was consecrated on 3 November 1928 by Bishop Joseph Thorman. The first church was used as a hall until the 1940s when it was demolished.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the altar rails, the pulpit and the font were removed and the altar moved forward. In the 1980s, a new hall was built and in 1985 a new organ installed. At some point, a pitched-roof structure at the southeast – which may have been a side chapel or the original sacristy – was extended. The original east window was shortened and the roof was replaced by a flat roof. The flat-roofed extension now includes the sacristy, a reconciliation room, and the sky-lit Lady Chapel.
The church faces southeast; this description uses conventional liturgical orientation.
Apart from the stone tower, most of the church is built of brick, now hidden under render. The east end and north aisle have a stone-faced base, as well as stone buttresses. The main roofs are tiled, apart from the flat roof of the sacristy at the southeast and the near-flat roof of the aisle roofs, which are covered with corrugated steel. (Both aisle walls have corbel tables just below the eaves, possibly indicating that the roofs originally were of a different shape and material.) The plan is T-shaped, comprising aisled nave with apse, side chapels and a northwest tower with a shallow projecting former baptistery. Externally, the side chapels appear as shallow transepts.
The gabled west end has a five-light window between buttresses. The west side of the irregular-shaped three-sided cloister to the west consists of four bays between stone pillars under a tiled lean-to roof. In the centre of the cloister stands the original stone font. The two-storey tower (1955) is on an oblong plan and has an arched doorway under a shallow tiled canopy. The bell stage has three oblong louvred openings to the east and west, with a recessed cross on the north face. The shallow projecting baptistery has slit windows to east and west and a lancet window to the north.
Both aisles have five windows of three lights each. Like all the windows in the church, they have abstracted tracery, which are of the same thickness as the mullions. A local precedent may have been the Anglican church of St Andrew, Roker (1906-07), by E. S. Prior, which has similar X-shaped tracery, derived from the stonework on Saxon churches. Here, the decorative effect is underlined by the patterns of glazing bars and leading.
The northeast transept has a two-light window in the gable (which projects above the roof line), above a doorway under a tiled canopy which is approached by steps from the pavement. (Until the tower was built this was the main entrance.) On a lower level an archway leads into the boiler house whose chimney is attached to the east side of the northeast side chapel (somewhat disguised by a bellcote with tiled saddleback roof). The windows on the apse’s three sides have plain X-tracery as well as small gables projecting above the pyramidal roof.
The northwest porch now incorporates the shallow niche which used to house the baptistery before the rails were removed and the font moved. This space is also used to ring the bells whose ropes come down here. At the northwest corner of the nave is a marble statue of the Risen Christ on an elaborate fluted column. Below the west window stands the organ (Harrison & Harrison, 1985), whose pipes are arranged in a V-shape in order not to obscure the window. The seven-bay interior has an arch braced roof without a clerestory. The arch braces rest on corbels carved with coats of arms between the pointed arches on circular columns. The aisles have cross-vaults which follow the shape of the nave arches and which are supported on beams.
Between the inner door to the northeast porch and the sanctuary is a statue of the Sacred Heart. Above the northeast porch is a small gallery with a carved timber rood fixed to its balustrade. The wall below the balustrade and the entire apse are faced in predominantly red-veined marble with some grey-blue marble panels, all originally from the Regent Hotel in London (installed here c.1928). An inscription in the apse records its donation. On the semi-circular mosaic floor projecting beyond the apse stands the marble altar with a relief of the Last Supper between four short columns with green marble shafts. The reredos, also of red-veined marble) has a canopied monstrance throne above the tabernacle, with flying buttresses. On either side of the tabernacle are statues of saints in cusped and crocketed niches: St Denis, St George, St John and a female saint (or possibly Ecclesia).
The lectern and hexagonal font are of black-veined white marble and probably date from a post-Vatican II reordering. The base of the brass paschal candle stand has Celtic interlace pattern. The ‘south transept’ has a cross-shaped window (unlike the corresponding window to the north) above an opening to the Lady Chapel filled with an iron screen. The Lady Chapel has lower rails to the west. A dado at the east and the simple altar are both panelled in more of the red-veined marble. Above the dado ledge is a white marble statue of the Virgin Mary.
Few windows have stained or coloured glass: The fanlight above the west door is filled with coloured glass, and the baptistery has the dove of the Holy Spirit and a candle in front of a backdrop of similar coloured glass. Two windows on either side of the apse have stained glass of 2001 with Eucharistic symbols. The third window from the west in the north aisle also has modern stained glass of religious symbols in memory of the Cumming family. The three central apse windows have yellow antique glass. The Stations of the Cross are framed painted plaster casts.
Architect: Theo Korner
Original Date: 1926
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed