Building » North Gosforth – Sacred Heart

North Gosforth – Sacred Heart

Great North Road, North Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3

A rich mid-Victorian Early English Gothic design, built for Anglican use and acquired by the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle in 1912. The interior, with its polychromatic brick and stone detail, is little altered. The church’s chief claim to importance is its fine collection of pre-Raphaelite stained glass, notably Edward Burne-Jones’s east window. 

The church was built in about 1865 as an Anglican church, at the expense of Thomas Eustace Smith, owner of Gosforth House and its estates. The architect is not known, but the design has been attributed on stylistic grounds to William Butterfield or one of his pupils. In the early 1870s the church was richly fitted out with stained glass by William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown. However, the church was never consecrated and was disused in 1911 when Bishop Collins acquired it for £3000 (at his own expense) for Catholic use. He said the first Mass there on 28 January 1912 and the church was dedicated on 24 June 1912.  

Upon his death in 1924 Bishop Collins left funds for a presbytery (a house in Woodlands Park was acquired), and his collection of paintings and furniture to go with it. 

The church was reordered in 1986 (described below) and in 1997 twenty five painted tiles were fitted to the ceiling above the altar. A new parish hall, linked to the church, was built in 1999. 


The church is described in detail in the list entry of 2006 (see below).  Repetition is unnecessary, but the following offers a more complete description of the 1986 reordering and later changes:

In 1986 the chancel was enlarged and new stone liturgical furniture installed: altar, lectern and presidential chair. The organ was placed where the altar had been, the tabernacle was placed at the east end of the south aisle and a Blessed Sacrament chapel was created at the west end of the north aisle. A gallery was built at the west end and extended into the tower; below this new space a day chapel was made and a three-light west window inserted, made of dalle de verre glass, depicting The Risen Christ Still with His People. The chapel and window were designed by Ralph Pattisson, architect, and Vicki Pattisson, artist. Above this, the large west window, showing the Resurrection, is by Paul Gannon, 1986-87.

The ‘later decoration’ over the altar is twenty five painted tiles depicting events in regional ecclesiastical history, by Paul Drummond (1997).

List description


Church, c.1865,with later alterations. Architect unknown but possibly by William Butterfield or one of his pupils. Built in Early English gothic style of brick faced in coursed ashlar buff sandstone with slate roofs.

PLAN: Truncated west tower, south porch, nave with aisles and clerestorey, north and south chapels, square-ended sanctuary.

EXTERIOR: West end truncated tower with three light mullion window below three light window with intersecting tracery with daggers and mouchettes. Paired weathered corner buttresses except for the SE corner which is a stair vice. The four westernmost buttresses all have unusual deep statue niches, gabled with ogee arches and flanked by uncompleted projecting grotesques. Gabled porch in W bay of S aisle with double chamfered pointed arch on three plain shafts at each side, the capitals and hoodmould stops unfinished. Doorway flanked by gabled buttresses with blind tracery. Paired doors filled with decorative iron scrollwork. Nave of 4 bays, aisles with nailhead cornice and, between weathered buttresses, two-light geometric windows with drip mouldings. Clerestorey windows are single lancets. Aisles continue to form N chapel, and S organ loft, now chapel. The sanctuary is lower than the nave, with double nailhead cornice, N and S two light windows with geometric tracery, three light E window with geometric tracery, and large paired weathered corner buttresses on E wall.

INTERIOR: Orange brick, horizontally banded with black brick and buff ashlar giving a striking effect which focuses attention towards the sanctuary. Sandstone double chamfered pointed aisle arcades on quatrefoil columns with unfinished capitals. Clerestorey with blind lights flanking each window, giving the effect of an arcade. Open roof with king-post collar trusses. Double chamfered chancel arch on corbelled truncated shafts with unfinished capitals, above it a pair of blind roundels. Raised chancel later brought forward into the nave, leading to sanctuary with N and S sedilia with pointed arches and black marble columns. Sumptuous painted and marble reredos spanning east wall, with organ re-sited to replace former central high altar. The walls of the sanctuary are again of orange brick, with more elaborate bands of polychrome brick chevron and checked decoration, but unusually also with, above the sedilia and reredos, an arcade represented in black bricks. Segmentally vaulted ceiling with later decoration. The west end has been partitioned with a gallery inserted in bay 1 of the nave extending into the tower, creating a narthex and a day chapel below the west window.

FITTINGS: Plain pews and re-sited organ possibly original. Lectern, altar and priest’s chair added c.1986.

STAINED GLASS: Dating from between 1872 and 1875 by Morris and Co. The pièce de résistance is the three light east window, principally designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The central light depicts a half-profile crucifixion, with Christ ministered by nine red-winged angels. The left and right lights each have four angels with coloured wings at Christ’s head, while at his feet in the left light are Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary, wife of Cleophas; and in the right light St. John, St. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Above these three lights are two trefoil roundels and one quatrefoil, depicting eleven winged minstrels playing bells, a double pipe, a dulcimer, a harp, a portative organ, a bulbed pipe, and a violin, these last five figures being designed by William Morris. An inscription across the foot of the windows reads, “Qui peccata nostra ipse pertulit in corpore suo super lignum” (who bore our sins in his body on the cross). This is thought to be the only window in which all of these designs are combined. The window in the north chancel wall shows St. Mark and St. Matthew, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown respectively, while that in the south wall depicts St. Luke and St. John, by William Morris and Ford Madox Brown. The easternmost window in the north aisle has William Morris designed figures of Ruth and Boaz, while that in the south has St. Mary and St. Joseph, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris respectively.

The main west window has stained glass designed in 1987 by Paul Gannon of Whitley Bay. The three light window in the day chapel below this is in dalle de verre depicting the “Risen Christ still with his people”, by Vicki Pattisson.

Morris and Co. existed in various incarnations between 1861 and 1898, but was a design studio and decorating company originally constituted as an artistic brotherhood with seven partners including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. The period was one of wide scale ritualist revival which built on the gradual revival of the art of stained glass making during the first half of the C19. Some of the firm’s designs have a pre-eminent place among the best Victorian windows, and can be considered some of the finest stained glass produced in at least three hundred years, and have been described as, “One of the wonders of Victorian church art.” (MacCarthy).

HISTORY: The church is unusual in having been built entirely at the expense of a private individual, remaining unconsecrated while serving part of an Anglican parish, and then being bought for the Roman Catholic church with the private money of a Catholic Bishop. Originally named St. Mary’s, the building dates from the mid 1860s, the first Curate serving from 1865. The patron was the owner of Gosforth House and its estate, Thomas Eustace Smith, Liberal M.P. for Tynemouth from 1868-1885. The establishment of the church fulfilled the need expressed by the Vicar of Longbenton to serve the growing population of the north of his parish, and the ecclesiastical district of North Gosforth was established in May 1865, serving the colliery villages of Hazlerigg, Weetslade, Brunswick, Wideopen and Seaton Burn. Unfortunately, the church was felt not to be close enough to its congregations, and after the church of St. Columba was built in Seaton Burn in 1870, services declined until the church closed in the early C20.

The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, Richard Collins, bought the church and said the first mass in January 1912, before formally opening and dedicating the church to the Sacred Heart in June 1912. On his death in 1924 the Bishop left money for the parish and for a presbytery, as well as donating pictures for the presbytery and church. The church was re-roofed in 1913 and 1934. The major internal re-ordering of the chancel and the west end took place in 1986-7, to accommodate the Roman Catholic New Liturgy which was developed following the second Vatican Council.


This mid-C19 church completed c.1865 is of special architectural interest as a church designed in the Early English gothic style which successfully combines external restraint with internal exuberance. Although the design was not fully executed and some internal alteration has taken place at the west end, the interior with its polychromatic brick and stone decoration is well-preserved. Its claim to special interest in a national context is further enhanced by a significant collection of ecclesiastical stained glass, with designs by the internationally acclaimed Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown. The quality of design, execution and decoration, combined with relatively low levels of alteration provide ample justification for the recommendation to list.

Heritage Details

Architect: Not established

Original Date: 1865

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II