Building » Ryhope – St Patrick

Ryhope – St Patrick

Smith Street, Ryhope, Sunderland SR2

An unusual Romanesque-classical hybrid design of the early twentieth century, originally serving a poor mining area. The most notable feature of the interior is the fine marble high altar by Messrs Battelli. 

The development of Ryhope accelerated from the 1850s after the opening of the colliery. Rows of pitmen’s cottages were built to house the new workforce, which included a large number of Irish families. A school-chapel was established by 1875, possibly in existing houses in Brick Row, replaced by a purpose-built school-chapel in 1894. From 1897 a priest came here from Seaham Harbour to say Sunday Mass, while the Sunderland Sisters of Mercy were invited to run the school.

In 1899 Fr MacGarrity from Seaham was put in charge of the mission, and a presbytery was built in 1909. The foundation stone for the church was laid by Bishop Collins on 13 June 1914. The church was built from designs by Edward Kay of Stockton, and the contractor was J. W. White of Sunderland. It was opened on 23 February 1915; the total cost was about £1,500.

Fr MacGarrity died soon after the opening of the church. His successor, Fr John O’Dwyer, was mission/parish priest from 1915 to 1932. He commissioned the marble high altar, from the Italian firm Messrs Battelli, and added the south aisle. In his time an extension to the school was also built, opening in 1926.

In 1977 the altar was brought forward to allow for westward celebration. The altar rails and pulpit were also removed at this time, or possibly later. The altar and its reredos have since been re-united, and a timber forward altar introduced.


The church is reverse orientated, with the entrance at the east end, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation, i.e. as if the altar were at the east end.

The design is a curious hybrid, combining Romanesque and classical, even baroque elements. It is built of red brick laid in English garden wall bond, with ashlar dressings and a slate roof. The plan consists of a nave, later south aisle, canted apse and modern southwest entrance porch. The main entrance front is framed by attached brick buttresses with stone scrolled tops and above this, alternating bands of brick and stone quoins. It has a round arched central entrance with rusticated stone surround, a blind keystone opening incorporating a carved panel with a cross, a circular decafoil window and a stone bellcote with one bell and a segmentally pedimented top. Alongside the entrance front on the north side is a modern lean-to brick porch. The north wall and canted apse have similar buttress details and round arched window openings. There are two gabled dormers on either side of the nave roof. The later aisle is also built of brick laid in English garden wall bond, and has three gabled bays with intervening lean-to sections.

Inside, the church has a plastered and barrel vaulted nave of six bays with transverse arches supported on wall posts and corbels.  There is a rounded arch to the canted apse, with the sanctuary platform occupying the eastern bay of the nave. At the west end of the nave over the entrance area is a recessed choir gallery with splat balustered front. The arcade to the south aisle has square chamfered piers and pointed segmental arches. The aisle is groin vaulted and has a Lady Chapel at its east end. The nave is lit by round arched windows on the north wall and by the pairs of dormer windows in the second and fourth bays, and the sanctuary by a circular window on the north wall (eastern bay) and two round arched windows in the canted apse. The aisle is lit by paired windows in each bay.

The most notable of the furnishings is the classical Italianate marble altar of c1920 by Messrs Battelli . The altar frontal has a carved representation of the Last Supper in the central panel.  The reredos has a central aedicule housing the tabernacle, a tall monstrance throne over with gilded dome, and further gilded domed aedicules at the corners containing statues of angels. Other furnishings of note include a statue of the Sacred Heart, with a painted inscription on its timber plinth recording that this was presented to the new church in 1914.  Most of the glass is tinted Cathedral glass, but there is a nice Annunciation in the Lady Chapel. The seating consists of plain oak benches. A notice in the entrance area is of historical interest.

Heritage Details

Architect: Edward Kay

Original Date: 1915

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed