North Jesmond Avenue, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2
A solid and well-detailed neo-Romanesque design of the 1920s, showing some Byzantine influences, which makes a positive contribution to the Jesmond Conservation Area, and forms part of the setting of Jesmond Towers, a grade II* house. The church contains some fittings of note, including painted panels in the sanctuary by Fr J. Coppejans and stained glass by Harry Clarke.
The medieval village of Jesmond grew rapidly in the nineteenth century as a prosperous suburb of Newcastle, as trams and trains made it easy to travel to the commercial centre. The industrialist Charles Mitchell enlarged his house, Jesmond Towers, and built the Arts and Crafts set-piece, St George’s Anglican church (grade I).
The first Catholic church was an iron church, opened in 1903. It was replaced by the present permanent building by W.E. Fenwicke of Dunn, Hansom & Fenwicke, which opened in 1929. This included an elaborate marble Classical high altar, with a domed tabernacle throne as its centrepiece. The altar, pulpit and marble communion rails were removed in post-Vatican II reordering, by David Brown of Newcastle (elements of the altar were incorporated in the new forward altar, and parts of the pulpit in a new ambo). The church was consecrated on 27 September 1979. Further alterations at the west end were carried out by John Curtis of Napper Architects in the 1990s.
The church is orientated north-south; this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.
A brick building with ashlar dressings and slated roofs, in a free Romanesque style, consisting of aisled nave with western narthex and northern baptistery, and apsidal sanctuary with flanking chapels. Steps and a ramp lead to a west porch with a projecting door, with renewed double boarded doors in a moulded brick arch, flanked by small windows. Above the porch is a large window, with elaborate glazing in the window head above a large crucifix set in front of the glass. The steep west gable has stone coping and a cross finial. The returns have single-bay projections, square at the south with a side door, that to the north (baptistery) with an apse. The five-bay nave has round-arched clerestory windows, with moulded brick surrounds, set in recessed panels. The aisles have pent roofs over paired windows. The east gable has an apse under a semi-conical roof.
Inside, the roof has boarded panels and recessed lights. The walls are of painted plaster, and the aisle arcades have brick arches on stone piers composed of vertically-tooled drums of varying depth. Flanking the sanctuary are paired stone arches, forming a passage on the north side, now fitted as a weekday chapel, and at the south side filled by a wrought iron screen for the richly-decorated chapel of Our Lady. The Crucifix in the day chapel bears a corpus which survives from the 1903 ‘tin’ church. One step leads to the sanctuary, three to the marble chest altar incorporating a low relief panel of the Last Supper (from the old high altar), and three within the narrower chancel arch to the tabernacle stand (site of the old high altar). The deep brick chancel arch rises from stone quoins and tall stone half-columns with Byzantine capitals. The sanctuary apse is lined with elaborate hardwood timber panelling incorporating nine arched panels, the central one (formerly with the tabernacle throne in front) now bearing a cross with decorative lettering winding round it, the others with Dutch paintings of martyrs and saints (north-south: Thomas Becket, Thomas More, Margaret Clitheroe, Angel Gabriel; George, Margaret of Scotland, John Fisher, Cuthbert), below a half-dome. The wood-panelled polygonal ambo with images of the four evangelists was made from the former pulpit. It is Dutch work, signed and dated Fr (J) Coppejans, 1932. These, the apse panels and the Stations of the Cross are all by the same hand. The south aisle of the chancel is the Lady Chapel, with marble altar and reredos and rich blue and gold mosaic decoration.
At the west end, in front of the door, the font has four marble columns supporting the stone bowl. There is a west organ gallery, the stair reached from a door in the aisle. In the 1990s John Curtis of Napper Architects (Newcastle) designed new doors for the main entrance and the narthex with accessible lavatory and repository. The glass screen to the repository has a stained glass panel of the Nativity that had been handed in to the presbytery in the 1970s, having been had been taken from a church near an unnamed battlefield during the First World War.
Many windows in the church contain stained glass, including a notable Risen Christ by Harry Clarke, commemorating the Shaw and McKeon families, in the south aisle near the Lady Chapel.
Peter Furlonger carved the lettering on the sanctuary cross and the inscription that runs round the apse above the panels. He also engraved the glass bowls for the holy water stoups and the font.
Architect: Dunn, Hansom & Fenwicke
Original Date: 1929
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed