Building » Murton – St Joseph

Murton – St Joseph

Church Lane, Seaham, Co. Durham SR7

A simple but striking 1960s church by Anthony J. Rossi, on a sloping site.  The interior is also a simple, bold architectural composition, with many of the original fittings.

The colliery at Murton was opened in 1838. A Catholic school with a chapel was built in 1899, the parish was erected in 1912 and the handsome presbytery built in 1914. The first church on the present site was an elaborate tin tabernacle built in 1931. This was replaced by the existing church, designed by Anthony J. Rossi of Consett and built by Findlay of Ryhope. It was opened by Bishop Cunningham in December 1964. The church was large, seating 400, and cost £50,000. The marble altar cost £658.  The sloping site enabled a crypt to be incorporated at the (liturgical) west end, to serve as a parish centre. 


The church is orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

The church is a modern interpretation of traditional forms. Heavy strip concrete foundations were necessary because of Coal Board requirements and because of the sloping site.  The structure is steel portal framed, with stone facings to the plinth and grey brick facings to the walls.  The roof is covered in Westmoreland slate.  The church is rectangular on plan with a continuous shallow-pitched roof over the nave and sanctuary with small projections on both side for the baptistery and Lady Chapel.  At the west end a wide and steep flight of steps leads to a shallow terrace under a full-height concrete pitched-roof canopy supported on piloti. Under the canopy is the main entrance, with a tall stepped five light window above, all set in a tiled and mosaic surround.  On the south side the fenestration is groups of tall thin round-headed windows with concrete surrounds arranged 5-2-5, with an apsidal Lady Chapel marking the division between the nave and the sanctuary which has three similar windows.  On the north side the elevation is at first three-storeyed because of the hall below but beyond the projecting side porch the windows are similar to those on the south side but grouped 7-2, with three windows in the sanctuary side wall.

Internally the nave is a single large light space with plain plastered walls and a plastered painted pitched ceiling. At the west end is an organ gallery, enclosed beneath to form a vestibule. The windows are all clear-glazed. A small opening with a triangular head flanked by the doors to the confessionals leads to the Lady Chapel on the south side.  A larger opening of the same form leads to the sanctuary, which has timber panelled lower walls and a tall timber reredos.  The sanctuary has been re-ordered with modern marble fittings (possibly incorporating material from the pre-Vatican II arrangements) but otherwise the interior of the church appears to have changed little since it was built.

Heritage Details

Architect: Anthony J. Rossi of Consett

Original Date: 1964

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed