Newhouse Road, Esh Winning, Co. Durham DH7
A mission was established at Newhouse as early as 1651. The present church dates largely from 1883, replacing a church of 1871 (the chancel and associated presbytery of which survive). Looking at first glance like a rural medieval parish church, it was actually built as a Catholic church to serve a poor mining community. The impressive quality of the design and execution was due to the contribution of some significant local donors, notably Sir Frederick Smythe, who gave the land. Inside the church has a particularly rich high altar and reredos of 1894, unfortunately cut down and relocated in a reordering of 1982. It also has a nicely fitted out Holy Souls chapel, an unusual feature in a parish church.
The ancient manor of Esh passed to the Smythe family in about 1560. A loyal Catholic, Sir William Smythe took part in the ill-fated Rising in the North of 1664. In 1651, Sir George Smythe and his son Edward endowed a Catholic mission, served by a secular priest, at a farmstead at Newhouse, in the valley below (the building survives, much altered, near the church; it is still called Newhouse). This location had historic resonances, being not far from Waterhouse Farm, place of the arrest of St John Boste, the Elizabethan priest and martyr. This mission covered the whole of the county to the west of the city of Durham. It continued until 1798, when the church of St Michael was built at a more convenient location (for the Smythe family) at Esh Laude (qv), on land given by Sir Edward Smythe, fifth baronet.
The revival of the Newhouse mission was occasioned by the opening of coal mines at High Waterhouse (1855) and Esh New Winning (1866). The Quaker Pease family owned several of the mines and built model houses for the workers, some of whom were Irish Catholics. Canon Thompson, resident priest at Esh, commissioned designs for a Catholic church, presbytery and school from the London architect T. J. Willson, to be built on land donated by Sir Frederick Smythe, close to the original mission house. Work started on the church in 1870 and the building was opened by Bishop Chadwick on 21 October 1871. The church was in the Gothic style and consisted of a nave (seating about 250) and sanctuary; it cost about £2,500.
In 1881 Willson’s church was damaged by fire; rather than simply repair it, the mission priest, Fr Fortin, decided to rebuild. The sanctuary of the old church was retained, with some remodelling of the windows and chancel arch, and the nave replaced with one a third longer, seating 400, and with a 60 ft west tower. The additions were built from designs by William de Normanville, a Catholic architect and engineer who was at that time Durham City Engineer. However, he left that post in 1882, and William Fox, Durham City Architect took over. The builders were Robert Robson & Son. The church was opened on St Patrick’s Day, 1883. The new altar and stained glass, added in 1886, were the gift of Mgr Thompson of St Michael’s, Esh. However, the altar was replaced in 1894 by a grander one of Bere stone and coloured marbles, given by Fr Fortin. The church was consecrated by Bishop Wilkinson on 27 September 1895.
The church is described in Whellan’s Directory (1894):
‘In 1871 a small church was built here, on a site granted by Sir Charles F. Smythe and Henry Smith, Esq., which soon became too small, and in 1881 the present handsome church was erected. It is in the Early English style, consisting of nave and chancel. At the west end is a square mediaeval tower, and on the north side there is a beautiful chapel in marble, dedicated to the Souls in Purgatory. The cost of the church, which has seats for 400, amounted to £2200. The presbytery adjoins, being in the same grounds, which are tastefully laid out. There is a burial-ground of about an acre. Rev. Philip C. Fortin is priest’.
Fr Fortin, ‘the pitmen’s priest’, died in 1901, and his burial place in the churchyard is marked with a large granite cross with crucifix, erected by parishioners and friends. His successor was Fr Edward Beech, who installed the organ, possibly on an extended organ loft, in 1903. He was still there in 1928, when a new school was opened.
Fr Redmond Gibbons was parish priest from 1937 to 1978. During his time the mines in the valley began to close and the parish population fell, hastened by the creation of a separate parish at Ushaw Moor. In 1976 a new church hall was built at a cost of £26,000, replacing the old institute built by Fr Fortin. Fr Gibbons was succeeded by Fr David Milburn, who oversaw the reordering of the building in 1982. The scheme drawn up by C. Rainford of Newcastle involved the blocking of the chancel arch with the 1894 reredos, separated from its altar and reduced in size. A new sanctuary was created in front of this, with the 1894 altar (not reduced in size) placed centrally and the tabernacle to the right on a new plinth. A stained glass screen commemorating the fourth centenary of St John Boste’s arrest was installed above the reredos, fully enclosing the chancel arch, and the original sanctuary became a weekday chapel. At the west end, the underside of the western gallery was enclosed to create a narthex and reconciliation room.
In June 2012 there was a small electrical fire at the west end of the church; there was no serious damage but the interior was scaffolded, and the portable furniture stacked, at the time of the writer’s visit.
A large Gothic Revival church, stone-built and with slate roofs, consisting of a chancel of 1871 and an aisleless nave with north chapel and west tower of 1883. A stone-built presbytery of 1871 lies to the northeast of the chancel, connected by a lower sacristy link. The walls are of nicely-coursed stonework on the more public south elevation, with random coursing on the north side. The west tower is 60 ft in height, and is of three stages, with a crenellated parapet and corner finials. The main entrance to the church is at the ground floor stage, there is a mixture of plate tracery and curvilinear tracery at the second stage, and a louvred belfry with paired lancets at the third stage. The nave is of six bays, marked externally by attached stepped buttresses, with each bay containing a two-light window with curvilinear tracery, of greater complexity in the two eastern bays on the south side (and the eastern bay on the north). There is a similar progression in the sanctuary, with a highly-placed and particularly richly traceried window with gabled hoodmould at the east end. The windows of the sanctuary appear to have been renewed in 1882-83 at the time of the nave rebuilding; those on the south side were not provided with hoodmoulds. On the north side, the lower mortuary or Holy Souls chapel gives off the nave, windowless on the sides and with a three light traceried window in the gable end. Adjoining this to the east is a flat-roofed stone addition with a side entrance to the church with shouldered lintel and adjoining panel window with curvilinear tracery. This also links to later additions at the back of the presbytery.
Inside, the main space of the church consists of an aisleless nave, with painted plaster walls and an open timber arch braced roof springing from corbelled wall posts, with scissor trusses at the apices. There is a timber gallery at the west end, probably of 1903, when the organ (by Blackett & Howden of Newcastle) was installed. The underside of this was enclosed c1982 to create an entrance narthex; etched glass designs in the glass. The nave seating consists of simple open-backed pine pews with inverted Y-shaped ends, possibly original to the 1883 church, or perhaps from 1871 (this was a pattern common for the cheaper sort of church seating from the 1860s onwards). There is one stained glass window, in the eastern bay on the south side, depicting the women at the tomb and Noli me Tangere; it is not signed. Otherwise the nave windows have tinted glass within rectangular and diamond quarries. The sanctuary is now placed in front of the chancel arch on a dais of 1982. Upon this sits the altar of 1894, now freestanding. It is described by Pevsner as of ‘elaborately carved marble’ but was covered in plastic sheeting at the time of the visit. Behind is the equally-elaborately carved Bere stone reredos 0f 1894, cut down to fit in its new position in the chancel arch. As originally designed for the east wall of the sanctuary, this consisted of panels depicting six of the Seven Dolours of Our Lady, flanked by statues of St Charles Borromeo and St Philip Neri, patron saints of Fr Fortin. In the centre was a canopy over a monstrance throne, with the tabernacle below. As rebuilt, five dolours remain, flanked by the saints, and with the fine alabaster tabernacle placed to the right on a new white marble plinth. In the tympanum over the reredos is a modern stained glass window to St John Boste.
To the north of the sanctuary is the Holy Souls chapel, with stone Gothic arcading inset with marble panels recording, month by month, the names of the dead of the parish and elsewhere. In the north wall, on either side of the window, are two marble panels with polished marble gemstone-set crosses; on the left to John Leadbitter Smith of Flass Hall, benefactor of local missions (he also has a monument at Esh Laude), and on the right to Canon Thompson, who established the mission, and Fr Fortin, first mission priest. Placed on the window sill is a rood cross, presumably ex situ.
The sanctuary is normally now a weekday chapel, but was heaped with furniture at the time of the visit. It has an open timber arched braced roof, except in the eastern bay, which has a painted canopy of honour over the former site of the high altar. The chapel now has a small marble altar, with a carving of the Agnus Dei in the frontal. The window above depicts Our Lady in an anguished state, her heart pierced by a dagger, and encircled by angels; this completes the sequence of dolours in the reredos, and so may date from 1894 (although Canon Thomson also gave stained glass windows in 1886). There is a carved aumbry in the north wall.
List description (the church and presbytery were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic church, 1883 by William de Normanville and William Fox, incorporating the chancel of an earlier church by T J Wilson. Gothic Revival style. The adjoining presbytery dates to 1871 and was retained when the present church was rebuilt. The two-storey rear extension and flat-roofed single-storey extension with porch to the presbytery are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, of 1883, and attached presbytery of 1871-81 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a handsome Gothic Revival design that is well-detailed and of a quality that is unusual for its context serving an expanding industrial community; * Rarity: the church is particularly notable for the provision of a Holy Souls chapel, an interesting and good quality feature lined with marble, considered to be a relative rarity for a parish church; * Fixtures and fittings: the original (reduced) reredos and altar and the stained glass to the E window are of good quality materials, craftsmanship and execution which raise the interest of the building considerably; * Historic interest: the church has historic interest as the church of an early mission (1651) and for its association with the Smythe Family, significant patrons of the Catholic faith; * Group value: the church and presbytery benefit from a strong spatial and functional group value.
History: The mission in Willington was founded as early as 1651 and endowed by Sir George Smythe and his son; it was served by a secular priest at a farmstead at Newhouse near the present church, but moved to the church of St Michael at Esh Laude in 1798. The mission was revived due to the expanding mining community, and a church and adjoining presbytery were constructed on the site in 1871 to the designs of London architect T J Willson on land donated by Sir Fredrick Smythe. In 1881 this church was damaged by fire and was rebuilt to designs of Catholic architect William de Normanville (also Durham City Engineer), with a new nave and tower but retaining the original chancel with some window modifications. After Normanville left his post in 1882, the church was completed by William Fox (Durham City Architect). The new church was opened on St Patrick’s Day 1883 to seat 400 at a cost of £2,200. It was consecrated by Bishop Wilkinson on 27 September 1895. A new altar and stained glass was added in 1888 and the altar replaced in 1894 by a grander one of Bere stone and coloured marbles by Fr Fortin. In 1903 a new organ by Blackett and Howden of Newcastle, was installed, possibly in an extended organ loft. The church was re-ordered in 1982 to a scheme devised by C Rainford of Newcastle. The chancel arch was blocked with the 1894 reredos, which was separated from its altar and reduced in size, and above this a stained glass screen was inserted. A new sanctuary was created in front with the truncated and rebuilt 1894 altar which was placed centrally with the tabernacle to the right on a new plinth. The original sanctuary became a weekday chapel. Additionally, at the west end, the underside of the gallery was enclosed to create a narthex and reconciliation room. The adjoining presbytery dates to 1871 and was retained when the present church was rebuilt.
Details: Roman Catholic Church, 1883 by William de Normanville and William Fox, incorporating the chancel of an earlier church by T J Willson. Gothic revival style. MATERIALS: local stone with ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roofs. PLAN: the church is oriented E to W. It has an aisleless nave, chancel and W tower and a N chapel. A presbytery is attached to the NE corner of the church by a linking sacristy.
EXTERIOR CHURCH: roofs are generally pitched and all windows have original leaded glass. The two-bay chancel has a pair of traceried windows (largely obscured on the N side) considered to have been renewed in 1883; those to the S side are without hood moulds. The E end is steeply pitched with skew stones to the eaves and is surmounted by a cross finial with a highly placed rich, curvilinear window with a gabled hoodmould. The six-bay nave is marked externally by stepped buttresses with each bay containing a two-light window with hoodmould with curvilinear tracery, of greater complexity in the two E bays of the S side and the E bay on the N side. The more public S side has neatly coursed stonework, with random coursing to the N side. Attached to the N side of the nave is the lower mortuary or Holy Souls chapel, with windowless sides and a three-light curvilinear window in the gable end. Adjoining this to the E is a flat-roofed stone addition with a side, shoulder-arched entrance to the church and adjoining panel window with curvilinear tracery; this also links to the later additions to the rear of the presbytery. The buttressed W end is formed by a three-stage tower with a crenelated parapet and corner finials. The lower stage contains the main entrance to the church with a hood mould and fitted with double, boarded doors; side walls have a single lancet. The second stage has a large curvilinear tracery window with a large plate tracery window to each of the side walls. The upper stage has a louvered belfry of paired lancets to all sides.
PRESBYTERY: a single-storey linking block with a pitched roof joins the chancel to the presbytery which is set back. It has steeply pitched roofs and two squat, stone gable chimney stacks. Window openings are all rectangular with flush lintels and relieving arches above and chamfered stone sills. Those to the ground floor are either single or paired narrow lights, with to the first floor larger single openings. Window frames are mostly original horned sashes, with many having upper and lower margin lights. The main E elevation has three-bays, the S one set back and a chimney stack to the right gable. There is an entrance in the centre bay with a single window to the right and a single window to the first floor. The N bay has paired narrow windows and a single window to the first floor. The S bay has a single narrow window to both floors. The left return has paired windows to the ground floor and a window to the first floor. The rear wing has similar windows. The rear elevation has a two-storey extension, itself extended by a single-storey flat roofed range with porch.
INTERIOR CHURCH: the sanctuary (now used as a weekday chapel) has an open timber arched braced roof except in the E bay which has a painted canopy of honour over the site of the former high altar. There is a small marble altar with clustered columns and a carving of Agnus Dei in the frontal. The E window depicts Our Lady of Sorrows, and may date from 1894. There is a carved aumbry and piscina in the N wall and a piscina in the S wall. A full-height opening in the N wall gives access to a short passage leading to the sacristy, which is entered through a shoulder-arched entrance fitted with a heavy, modern timber door; it has a coved plaster ceiling, simple cornice and a fireplace. The sanctuary is now placed in front of the chancel arch on a dais. The altar has been re-sited and is now freestanding; it is constructed of Bere stone with enriched marble columns with foliate capitals and polished marble gemstones, with an inset rectangular panel depicting the Descent of Christ from the Cross, flanked by arched panels painted with vases of flowers. The original, but truncated Gothic marble reredos is now sited in the chancel arch; it comprises five, rather than the original six, of the Seven Sorrows of Mary set within cusped, cinquefoil ogee heads with crockets and finials. The fine and ornate alabaster tabernacle is set to the right with slender marble columns supporting a Gothic arch with angels and a floral frieze over, on a new white marble plinth. In the tympanum over the reredos is a modern five-light stained glass window to St John Boste. The aisleless nave with painted plaster walls has seating of simple open-backed pine pews with inverted Y-shaped ends, which might date from the original 1871 church. It has an open timber arch braced roof springing from corbelled wall posts, with scissor trusses at the apices. The windows, inset within stone arched surrounds, have tinted glass within rectangular and diamond quarries, and there is a single stained glass window in the S wall depicting the women at the tomb and Noli me Tangere. Projecting from the N wall is the Holy Souls Chapel; this has stone Gothic arcading carried on slender marble columns with floral bosses to the spandrels. The arcade is inset with marble panels recording month by month, the names of the dead of the parish and elsewhere. Set into its N wall either side of the window are two marble panels with polished marble gemstone-set crosses; that to the left to John Leadbitter Smith of Flass Hall, benefactor of local missions and on the right to Fr Fortin, first mission priest. There is a timber gallery at the W end with a trefoil-headed arcaded gallery front, supported on a pair of ornate cast-iron columns, accessed by a timber winder stair with turned balusters. The gallery houses the organ and steps give access to the second stage of the tower which has half-height panelling. The underside of the gallery is enclosed with etched glass panels to create a narthex and within this the main W door entrance has double-boarded doors.
PRESBYTERY: interior not inspected.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the two-storey rear extension and flat-roofed single-storey extension with porch to the presbytery are not of special architectural or historic interest.
Books and journals: Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 270
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle : An Architectural and Historical Review, AHP 2012
Architect: T. J. Willson; W. de Normanville and W. Fox
Original Date: 1871
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II