Building » Penshaw – Our Lady Queen of Peace

Penshaw – Our Lady Queen of Peace

Station Rd, Penshaw, Houghton-le-Spring, DH4 7JZ

A modernistic portal-framed church of the mid 1960s with some unusual (but characteristic of Anthony J. Rossi) detailing. The interior has been re-orientated and the original sanctuary converted into a small hall.

The first Catholic church in Penshaw was a former Anglican church hall, opened in 1919 as a chapel of ease served from Houghton. The present purpose-built church was opened by Bishop Cunningham in June 1965, and cost £40,000. The architect was Anthony J. Rossi of Consett.

In recent years the interior has been re-orientated, and the original sanctuary converted into a small hall.


The church is in the modern style, broadly traditional in its layout with some idiosyncratic detailing, showing perhaps the distant influence of Auguste Perret’s concrete churches in France.  The building is constructed with reinforced concrete portal frames clad in a mixture of aggregate panels and red brick laid in Flemish bond.  The window detailing is concrete, while the roofs are covered with copper sheet. The plan is rectangular with a continuous shallow-pitched roof over the aisleless nave and the sanctuary and a northeast Lady Chapel.

The tall and striking west front has the entrance door and a wide mullioned window above it contained within a parabolic arch set within a projecting and protecting canopy. The canopy has sheer sloping side walls clad in aggregate. Eastwards of the porch the nave walls have five large window bays with projecting concrete surrounds whose gabled heads rise above the eaves line. East of the glazed nave on the south side is a low sacristy link to the presbytery.  On the north side is a tall transeptal Lady Chapel with glazed side walls in three bays, a flat north wall with a roundel in the head and a pitched roof. The sanctuary has three-bay concrete sides with windows in the upper part; the east wall is blind.

Internally, the church has been re-orientated. The altar is now in the centre of the nave north wall and the five tall nave windows on this side have been covered over. The portal frames of the nave space are exposed, the walls are plastered and the ceiling has acoustic panelling. The windows are mostly filled with frosted clear glass; there is a modern stained glass window of Our Lady in the west window. Below this at the west end of the nave is an organ gallery with a glazed lobby extending beyond it into the nave space. To the right of the present main altar is a tall parabolic arched opening into the Lady Chapel. The original tall parabolic arch to the sanctuary has been filled in, but with a wide opening which can be filled by a moveable screen.  The sanctuary space is now a small hall and has a suspended ceiling.

The fittings include the handsome marble reredos and altar with ornamental pilasters and mosaic decoration, which presumably came from the 1919 church. The nave benches are probably original.

Heritage Details

Architect: Anthony J. Rossi of Consett

Original Date: 1965

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed