Building » Newcastle-upon-Tyne – St Lawrence

Newcastle-upon-Tyne – St Lawrence

St Lawrence - Newcastle-upon-Tyne

A stone-built Early English Gothic Revival design, originally built in 1847 as a Presbyterian church in New Bridge Street, from designs by John Dobson. It was rebuilt for Catholic use in Felton Street in 1897, and since the 1970s has been an important element of Ralph Erskine’s Byker Wall Estate, at one end of Spire Lane, with the Anglican parish church of St Michael at the other end. In the words of the list entry,  ‘the retention of the old public buildings, including churches, was a key feature of Erskine’s concept for Byker, but St Lawrence’s, being built into the wall, demonstrates this concept exceptionally and forms a strong group and visual contrast’. The interior retains something of its original Nonconformist character, with a gallery on three sides and slender arcade and roof structure.  

In 1897 the Dominicans, based at St Andrew’s, Worswick Street, acquired the nave, vestibule and towers of the 1847 New Bridge Street Trinity Presbyterian Church, designed by John Dobson, then being demolished. Using that masonry, they built St Lawrence’s church in Felton Street (using only one of the towers) to be a daughter mission of St Dominic’s. The 1897 rebuilding in Felton Street was carried out under the direction of the architect W. Lister Newcombe. In 1907 St Lawrence, Felton Street, ceased to a daughter chapel of St Dominic’s and became a parish church in its own right, still served by the Dominicans. It had 4,000 parishioners in 1911.

In 1923 an agreement was signed which transferred ownership from the English Province of the Order of Preachers to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

When Ralph Erskine’s Byker Wall was built 1970-81, and a new estate took the place of terraces of Tyneside flats, St Lawrence’s church was incorporated in the new development.


The church is described in the list entry below. This describes the building as ‘c.1895, architect not known’, and states that the interior had not been inspected.

As stated above, the church was originally built in 1846 as the Trinity Presbyterian church, New Bridge Street, from designs by John Dobson. It was re-erected by the Dominicans in Felton Street as St Lawrence’s in 1897, architect W. Lister Newcombe. Only one of the two spires from the original church was rebuilt. In the 1970s the church was incorporated into Ralph Erskine’s Byker Estate. The result is a chancel, reverse-orientated as was Dobson’s original, with a sanctuary by W. L. Newcombe to the west. It is in Early English style with lancet windows in four buttressed nave bays. The west door has multiple mouldings in a gabled pointed arch surround; flanking that are triple-arched blind arcades; above, three stepped lancets in a gable with cross finial. To the left is a square tower and to the right a similar tower topped with a stone spire. Inside there is a timber-fronted gallery around three sides, with an organ loft at the ritual west end; the slender columns were probably renewed in 1895. The roof trusses support four purlins, the second with arch bracing; there is similar bracing to the tie beams which support central pointed arches. The furnishings are modern and do not require special mention. The Stations of the Cross are by Michael Doyle of Houghton-le-Spring.

List description


Perimeter block of maisonettes, with two link blocks and attached church and church hall. 1972-5 by Ralph Erskine’s Arkitektkontor; site architect Vernon Gracie; structural engineer, White, Young and Partners; main contractor, Stanley Miller Ltd. Church of c.1895, architect not known. In situ concrete cross wall construction, with concrete strip foundations and ground beams, clad in strong brown, red, orange and buff patterned metric modular brick patterning to road elevations, red and buff brick to inner face, with white Eternit panels to upper floors and elaborate timber detailing at all levels. Concrete block construction clad in pale metric modular brick for link blocks (Headlam House and Felton House). Pre-cast cantilever brackets cast into cross walls. Pale blue sheet metal roofs, with projecting lift and stair towers rising to metal-clad points and forming important townscape features. Five-eight storeys, with carriageway openings on to main road (Conyers Road), and one-and two-storey infill linking Felton Walk, St Lawrence’s church and Byker Crescent. Two-storey family maisonettes at ground-floor level, set within walled gardens on inner face, with smaller maisonettes above accessed from balconies on every third level. These balconies are semi-independent structures to reduce noise, with a seat or planting box covering the gap between the balcony and the building. Living rooms and bedrooms are set above or below the entrance level, which has kitchen-diners with entrance doors set in pairs. Balconies to bedrooms double as fire escape routes. All windows of timber in timber sub-frames, with aluminium opening lights, mainly sliding. Double-glazed units to the tiny north side windows (kitchens, stairs and bathrooms only), with yellow and red projecting ventilators a prominent feature.

Long Headlam has brown balconies and built-in seats, with red enclosed projecting balconies at ends where the access galleries meet the lifts and stairs.

Felton Walk of five storeys, with brown balconies and access galleries. The maisonettes on the ground floor have blue metal door hoods, green fences and built-in seats. Retaining wall abuts St Lawrence’s Church, with community rooms in infill space. The exterior face with particularly large-scale and bold patterns. Blue fences to ground floor and pergolas on this face.

St Lawrence’s (RC) Church of roughly dressed sandstone, slate roof. Four and a half bays, with broad entrance front facing compass east having corner spirelet. Lancet windows and arcade under broad hoods. Heavily dentilled eaves cornice to side. Entrance between inset half columns and roll mouldings under pointed hood, with cross, as there is to gable end. Rear vestry with little buttresses. Interior not inspected. The retention of the old public buildings, including churches, was a key feature of Erskine’s concept for Byker, but St Lawrence’s, being built into the wall, demonstrates this concept exceptionally and forms a strong group and visual contrast. Community rooms to side entered from Byker Crescent, with red timber pergola denoting entrance and giving striking accent to church, and stepped blue metal roofs incorporating dormers within red timber eaves. The interiors of the community rooms (inspected) are not of special interest.

Byker Crescent is of five storeys and forms a prominent semi-circle at the north-east corner of the estate. Brown balconies and access galleries with red-brown enclosures at ends of access galleries by lifts and stairs. Red timber part infill to top of carriage entrance in centre of crescent.

Headlam House (link block) has corner shop on ground floor and eighteen flats or maisonettes. Pale modular metric brick with brown timber balconies on concrete block cross-wall construction with pre-cast cantilevers for balconies, blue metal roofs. Three-four storeys. Brown balconies, including south-facing balconies under eaves where block drops in height. Brown access gallery at second floor links to Long Headlam, and brown too are the metal door hoods to flats.

Felton House (link block) of three and four storeys. The top flat is reached up concrete external stairs under plastic sheet shelter, and has south-facing windows over the roofs. Green balconies, and brown and green timber linking walkway at second-storey links with Felton Walk. Red doors, and brown end balcony facing south. Brown fences to ground-floor units. The interiors of the maisonettes simple, some with built-in counters separating kitchen and dining areas. 

Heritage Details

Architect: John Dobson; W. L. Newcombe

Original Date: 1847

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*