Building » North Shields – St Joseph

North Shields – St Joseph

Wallsend Road, Chirton, North Shields, Tyne & Wear NE29

A well-detailed brick design of the 1950s, and a local landmark. The church has a loosely basilican exterior and a light Gothic vaulted interior, and some notable furnishings, including fragments of old stained glass in the sacristy.

The origins of this area lie in the medieval village of Chirton, of which no buildings remain. In the twentieth century, as heavy industry expanded (notably shipbuilding and repair and coal mining) the population grew rapidly.  The parish was erected in 1935. Large estates of council and private houses, with inter-war origins but much post-1950 redevelopment, surround the church and presbytery. The present church was built in 1955, probably from the designs of E. R. Burke (whose name appears in a letter of 4 November 1957 from Fr James Taggart, parish priest, in connection with plans for the presbytery). The church was designed to seat 500, and was opened by Bishop McCormack on 24 August, 1955. 


The church is orientated north-south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

This is a large church in a hybrid basilican-modern Gothic style, faced in golden brick laid in stretcher bond, with artificial stone dressings, rendered western plinth and a red tiled roof. It is 110 feet long and forty three feet wide and the height of the nave is thirty three feet. On plan it consists of a wide four-bay nave with western narthex, narrow circulation aisles and shallow flanking western chapels, north and south transepts, and a one-bay sanctuary.  The narrow, mainly paired, round-headed windows have elongated fin jambs and soldier course brick lintels; there are projecting panels in the gable ends of the west entrance and transepts, while the west chapels have triple set-backs creating strong effects of light and shade. The gables have correspondingly graduated copings. Three sets of set-backs flank the round-headed entrance door in a projecting artificial stone gabled surround; there is a round window above this.

Inside, the walls are of white-painted plaster without dressings. The walls rise up to a shallow segmental-vaulted nave ceiling, with side strips for recessed downlights, groined tunnel vaults to the transepts and chapels, and a steeper arch to the sanctuary. The nave arcades have pointed arches and the narrow aisles high pointed transverse arches. The sanctuary has two steps up to the chest altar and three to the tabernacle stand. The sanctuary furnishings are of white stone with recessed pointed-arched dark panels. The tabernacle stand and a crucifix above it are set within a deep wooden canopy with a fine reredos of blind Gothic tracery. The stone font with quatrefoil decoration stands beside the front pews. At the west end, a screen has simple pointed arches and a blind; the west organ gallery curves slightly into the church and the organ is arranged to respect the west window. A remarkable feature of the church is the assemblage of stained glass in the vestry windows, seemingly including glass of many periods. It is possible that some may have come from the now-demolished 1821 church of St Cuthbert, in Albion Road and Bedford Street. Further research would be useful.

Heritage Details

Architect: E. R. Burke

Original Date: 1955

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed