New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1
A majestic town church built by A.M. Dunn for the Dominicans, in transitional Romanesque-Gothic style. An intended tower and spire were never completed, but nevertheless the church and adjoining priory remain a commanding presence in the area. The interior demonstrates Dunn’s interest in structural polychromy, inspired by Ruskin and Street, and contains many furnishings of note, including choir stalls formerly in Peterborough Cathedral, a late eighteenth century altar from St Andrew’s church in Pilgrim Street, marble furnishings and good nineteenth and twentieth stained glass. The site is of high archaeological significance, adjacent to Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.
The Dominicans (Blackfriars) established a house in Newcastle in 1239 in the western part of the medieval town. At the Dissolution, this was sold to the mayor and burgesses, who leased it to various town guilds but retained ownership. After the Second World War the remains of Blackfriars were restored by the City (c. 1970-90).
The modern history of the Dominicans in Newcastle began with their 1860 agreement to run the mission of St Andrew’s. They acquired the site of the present church in 1863. The site overlies part of Hadrian’s Wall. This part of Newcastle, outside the historic core, was called Shieldfield, where many poor people lived in crowded conditions. The foundation stone for the present church was laid in 1869, and the church was opened on 11 September 1873 by Cardinal Manning. It is built in a northern European transitional Romanesque-Gothic style, and cost £15,000. The architect, A.M. Dunn, intended a southwest tower with a Rhenish helm spire, but this was never completed. The adjoining priory building was added in 1887, from designs by Dunn & Hansom.
The interior was embellished over time. An original feature, however, is the sarcophagus altar, dating from 1798, from Fr Worswick’s recently-demolished church of St Andrew in Pilgrim Street (which had been served by the Dominicans in its latter years).
In 1895 new stalls were acquired and installed in the sanctuary. These dated from 1827 and had been designed by Edward Blore for Peterborough Cathedral. They had been ejected from the cathedral at the time of J. L. Pearson’s reordering of the choir c1894.
The most notable change in the twentieth century has been the addition of the upper chapel of St Dominic (the Hogg Chapel), with a fine carved St Dominic, an alabaster altar and reredos and a window by Harry Clarke Stained Glass Ltd. Less sympathetic is the full-width stone porch added across the west front in about 1960.
The church is fully described in the list entry, below, and only omissions are mentioned here:
Roman Catholic Priory Church. 1869-73 by A. M. Dunn. Coursed squared sandstone with ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roof. Aisled nave and chancel with apse and ambulatory/vestry. Aligned north-south, with altar at south. Ritual south-west tower above adjacent gateway to priory yard. C13 style. West front has entrance obscured by mid C20 porch containing re-used doors with studs and ‘D’ motif in iron. Blind arcade above porch contains central gabled niche with headless statue: large wheel window above flanked by carved symbols of Evangelists. West buttresses, the right widened into a stair turret, have empty gabled niches. Gatehouse at right has splayed reveals to moulded arch under dripmould; empty niche above; blind arcade beneath hipped roof with four top gablets. Lancets in aisles, paired on south; triple clerestory windows in bays defined by buttresses. 9 high lancets in apse. Steeply-pitched roofs.
Interiors: polychrome brick above boarded dado; ashlar dressings; painted plaster apse; collar-truss roof. 6-bay nave and one-bay chancel have round piers with stiff-leaf capitals supporting moulded arches; carved heads in spandrels below continuous dripmould; Frosterley marble shafts with clasping bands to chancel and chancel aisle arches. Rere-arches to windows. Crocketed stalls in chancel are 1826 from Peterborough Cathedral. 1879 alabaster pulpit with scenes of life of St. Dominic. Marble communion rail. Square font on marble shafts. Patterned tiled floor in chancel. Glass by Atkinson Bros. Newcastle in south aisle. Large painting by Dastis of St. Dominic in Lady Chapel.
Architect: A. M Dunn
Original Date: 1873
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II