Building » Newcastle-upon-Tyne – St Michael

Newcastle-upon-Tyne – St Michael

Westmorland Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4

One of Dunn, Hansom & Dunn’s finest compositions, a large structure which once presided over the terraces serving Armstrong’s Elswick Works, but whose setting is now sadly blighted. The high crossing is crowned by an octagonal lantern recalling Ely Cathedral. The internal volumes are also majestic, with architectural enrichment and furnishings of considerable quality (Pevsner: ‘the carving as good as the best of the period’).  There is a fine contemporary presbytery. 

Elswick was not within Newcastle’s boundaries until 1935, but long before that it had been an industrial suburb. In the thirteenth century the prior of Tynemouth sold coal from his mines at Elswick, and coal was being won from pits at Elswick until the twentieth century as improved technology made deeper mines and longer underground galleries possible, much of the coal being shipped to London. Quarrying, shipping and shipbuilding flourished.

By 1848 Elswick had ‘many good streets and villas, and some very extensive manufacturing establishments. The rural part rises beautifully from the northern bank of the river Tyne, towards Benwell, and consists chiefly of arable land, rich and fertile. Large collieries are in operation in the neighbourhood; and in a place called the Quarry field, abundance of good stone is obtained for building. On the Tyne is an establishment for the manufacture of whitelead, red-lead, litharge, sheet and pipe lead, and patent shot, the tower for which last, erected in 1796, is 175 feet high: these works were commenced in 1778, and are of greater magnitude than any others in the kingdom. Messrs. Lister and Sons established a crucible factory in 1831; and there are copperas-works, on a very large scale. Elswick House is a noble mansion, commanding beautiful views’.

Before long the banks of the river at Elswick were covered by industries, many served by the Newcastle to Carlisle railway. There were gas works, lead works, chemical works; leather works, and W. G. Armstrong’s factories making hydraulic machinery and armaments, and the shipyard where warships were built. The population grew rapidly in the nineteenth century; most of them workers in Armstrong’s factories, living in terraces of Tyneside flats which sprang up north of Scotswood Road.

In 1868 it was decided to establish a Mission at Elswick and building of a school/chapel began in 1871.  The foundation stone for the present church was laid on 11 June 1889 and the high altar (given by Matthew, John and Charles Liddell) consecrated on 24 October, 1891. The church is one of Dunn, Hansom & Dunn’s grandest designs. The contractor was Gaby of Gosforth and the cost was £20,000, met through public subscription and private donations from the Liddell family of Prudhoe Hall and others.  North of the high altar, the Lady Chapel altar and reredos by Giles Gilbert Scott was inaugurated on 9 May 1915. South of the high altar is the chapel of the Sacred Heart, also by Giles Gilbert Scott, consecrated with the church on 23 July 1931.

When the church was built, it faced Elswick Park to the north, with Elswick Hall at its heart; by 1914 streets of terraced houses lay to the east, west and south. In the 1960s the crowded, steep, terraces were demolished and tower blocks and a shopping centre were built. Now most of those have been demolished and the church presides over a strangely empty landscape. 


The church is described in the list entry, below.

Additional information:

The exterior carving is by Milburn of York, that in the interior by Boulton of Cheltenham. The alabaster reredos of the high altar (1891) has a central spire framing the tabernacle throne and twenty four statues in canopied niches, carved by Beall of Newcastle; the tabernacle is of hammered brass. The beautiful mosaic front panel of the altar shows the burial of Christ. The communion rails are of marble and alabaster.

Stained glass throughout is of the highest quality.  The sanctuary woodwork was carved by Ralph Hedley. The wrought-iron crested west screen, originally incorporating gas fittings, is by Cummings of Newcastle, as is the other ironwork. The door fittings and gas fittings (mostly removed) are by Hardman and Powell of Birmingham. The wood block flooring is by the London Acme Woodpaving Company.

Glass: the fine east window is by Westlake and has a central image of the Sacred Heart, with saints and angels in the flanking panels. The original west window by Atkinson Bros of Newcastle has been replaced by a late (1951) four-light window by John Hardman & Co. job (1952 Directory of the British Society of Master Glass Painters pp. 48-51 (49), information from Dr Neil Moat, pers. com.). The plainer glass has painted fleur-de-lis quarries.

The oak benches and south porch screen are by Thos Walker and Co., West Hartlepool. 

List description


R.C. parish church. 1889-91 by Dunn, Hansom and Dunn. Snecked sandstone with ashlar-coped rock-faced plinth, ashlar dressings and quoins; graduated Lakeland slate roof with ornamental red ridge on transepts. Presbytery of rock-faced sandstone in irregular courses; ashlar dressings and quoins, and Welsh slate roof with stone gable copings. Church: cruciform with aisled nave, north porch and crossing tower. One-bay link from south transept to presbytery. Decorated style. West double door in deeply-moulded 2-centred arch under gabled drip mould; north door in second-bay porch has nook shafts, head-stopped drip mould and ball flower ornament; plainer south door in west bay; all doors boarded with elaborate hinges. Paired aisle windows, 2-light windows in panelled clerestory and in 3-sided west apse to north aisle; rectilinear tracery to larger transept, east and west windows. Octagonal tower has raised tracery to 2-light windows. Gargoyles and coped parapets to aisles; gargoyles, pierced battlements and pinnacles to tower. Buttresses, some gabled. Cross finials to steeply-pitched roofs.

Interior: ashlar, with boarded barrel roofs. 5-bay arcades have alternately round and octagonal piers. 4 high crossing arches with central shafts to transepts. Angel corbels and much carved ornament. Painted, panelled chancel ceiling; tierceron-ribbed boarded ceiling in tower. High-quality alabaster reredos with statues in niches, and matching communion rail. Glass: east window by Westlake of London, others by Atkinson of Newcastle.

Presbytery: 3 storeys, 2 bays. Gabled front has 5-panelled door with overlight and side lights at right; tripartite sash above. At left, a 2-storey canted bay; paired sashes on second floor; all windows stone-mullioned in alternate- block surrounds with flat stone lintels and sloping sills; flower-stopped drip moulds. Louvred vent in gable peak. Gable coping with fleur-de-lis finial and moulded kneelers.

Heritage Details

Architect: Dunn, Hansom & Dunn

Original Date: 1891

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II*