Westoe Road, South Shields, Tyne & Wear NE33
A large and distinguished urban Gothic Revival church, despite the unfinished bell tower. The church contains stained glass windows from the predecessor chapel, which was converted for Catholic use in 1849. Both the church and the adjacent brick presbytery have landmark value.
Until 1849, the Catholics of South Shields travelled by boat to St Cuthbert’s in North Shields (qv) to attend Mass. In 1832, a Sunday school was opened in a cottage in Mill Dam, South Shields, due to the efforts of Mr Temple, a convert. The first Catholic church in South Shields was opened by Bishop Hogarth on 4 December 1849. (This was the former chapel of the Bristol Brethren in St Cuthbert Street – now Western Approach – which was then dedicated to St Cuthbert). A small school and a presbytery were added shortly afterwards.
The parish had outgrown this chapel by the 1870s. Canon Waterton acquired a new site in Westoe Road and built the current church at an estimated cost of £8,000. The foundation stone was laid on 27 May 1874 and the church was opened on 22 August 1876. Problems with quicksand required deeper foundations, which raised the overall cost to £11,000. The original plans included a tower at the northwest which remained unexecuted due to the problems with the foundations. Stained glass from the first chapel was moved to the east windows of the transepts. According to the Buildings of England, the architect was Gibson Lidbetter, and the work was supervised by T. C. Nicholson. However, in his nomination papers for Fellowship of the RIBA (elected in 1884), Nicholson claims sole authorship of the church. Thomas Cooke Nicholson of Newcastle (died 1899) had been an assistant to Thomas Gibson, and acquired his practice on Gibson’s retirement in 1874. Apart from that in the Buildings of England, no reference has been found to Gibson Lidbetter. The church was consecrated on 14 September 1949 by Bishop McCormack.
In 1913, a new school was built in Derby Street, which in 1971 was replaced by the present primary school. Also in 1971, the former Marsden Miners’ Hall was acquired for use as a parish social centre. This was replaced by the development and extension of the presbytery basement as a parish hall. The church was refurbished in c.1965 by David Brown who also reordered it in 1972.
The church faces south, but this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.
The church was built of dressed stone with a base of roughly-hewn stone. The pitched nave roof, the lean-to aisle roofs and the pyramidal tower roof are covered in slate. The plan is longitudinal with an apsidal chancel and an incomplete northwest bell tower. The transepts do not project beyond the aisles. The style is mostly Early English Gothic, apart from the west and transept windows.
The west front has a recessed pointed doorway below a five-light window with geometrical tracery in the central bay, flanked by buttresses. The west end of the south aisle has a three-light window. The west face of the tower with angle buttresses has a single lancet window on each of the two lower stages and two cusped lancets on the upper stage. The north elevation of the tower is similar but has another recessed doorway in the lowest stage. Aisles and clerestory have paired lancets with hoodmoulds. The transepts are lit by rose windows above a larger lancet, with three stepped lancets to the east. The apse has seven lancets under hoodmoulds. There are stone crosses on the east and west nave gables, with a metal cross on the apse.
Inside the northwest porch is a large First World War memorial in a marble frame topped by a crucifix. (The inscription records that the Sacred Heart altar (since removed) was erected in memory of the fallen of the War.) The narthex below the organ gallery is divided from the nave and aisle by plaster partitions. The former baptistery in the southwest corner is partitioned for use as a weekday chapel. It has a timber altar, lectern and aumbry, as well as a statue of Our Lady Queen of Heaven. The south window depicts Saints Thomas More and John Fisher in front of a clear glass background (1982); the stained glass of the west window depicts the Ascension (in memory of John and Teresa Walsh).
The four-bay nave has an arch-braced roof. Two free-standing octagonal stone holy water stoups are on either side of the nave entrance. Set against the octagonal stone pillars of the pointed nave arcade are several statues: St Patrick, the Sacred Heart, St Joseph and a pieta (by Mayer of Munich). The northeast chapel in the north transept has a timber altar to St Bede, with three stained glass windows above depicting Saints Patrick, Bede and Hilda (from the first church). The north lancet window has a stained glass depiction of St Vincent, while the rose is filled with clear glass.
The sanctuary has a panelled timber ceiling and its seven windows depict the Seven Sacraments. Below the windows, the apse walls are panelled in timber which is carved with tracery. The richly carved timber reredos of the high altar has canopies over four saint statues flanking the central monstrance throne and tabernacle. The lower part of the reredos was faced in stone once the timber altar was moved forward. During the same reordering, the pulpit stem was removed (now used as a sanctuary table) and the pulpit with its rail placed on top of the sanctuary steps. The polygonal pulpit with a statue of St Bede was erected in 1899 in memory of George Burton and James Bradley. The square timber font is modern.
The Lady Chapel in the south transept has a timber altar and reredos with a statue of Our Lady Queen of Heaven. The three lancets to the east (originally from the predecessor church) depict Saints Francis, John and William (in memory of Francis Foxall (died 1868), John Foxall (died 1878) and the latter’s wife Elizabeth, as well as William McTear (died 1869)). The south window has a stained glass window of St Catherine (in memory of Catherine Trowell (died 1891), below a plain glass rose. The Stations of the Cross are unframed plaster casts.
The aisle windows have a number of stained glass windows, both Victorian and of the twentieth century. In the north aisle these are from the west: two saints (signed B. Swinburne, 1989); the Visitation (in memory of the Dillon and Keedy families); St Brigid and St Patrick (in memory of Susan Walsh); St Ann and St John the Baptist (in memory of Anne, d.1909, and John Burne, d.1914)). The windows in the south aisle depict (from the west): Saint John and St Mary (in memory of John, d. 1899, and Mary Elizabeth Burne, d. 1900); Our Lady of Lourdes (Ross family); the Adoration (in memory of Michael and Elizabeth Skee); and the Annunciation (erected by the Children of Mary in 1917).
List description (the church, presbytery and walls were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church, 1874-6 to designs by Thomas C Nicholson Early English Gothic. Presbytery including attached walls and detached wall to S, later C19, Tudor Revival style.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of St Bede of 1874-6 and attached presbytery of a similar date are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as a prominent urban design of the mid-1870s which is well-massed and has good Early English Gothic detailing and expresses its confidence through a prominent (unfinished) bell tower; * Fixtures and fittings: despite mid-C20 reorganisation, a number of original Gothic fixtures and fittings are retained including the richly carved timber reredos; timber altar and pulpit and rail, along with some notable stained glass including that inserted from the 1849 chapel; * Group value: the Tudor Revival presbytery compliments the church exterior and taken together they form a functional and spatial grouping, which is enhanced by the survival of a contemporary, stepped enclosing wall with ornate stone pillars.
History: The first Catholic church in South Shields was opened by Bishop Hogarth on 4 December 1849 in a former chapel; hitherto, the Catholic population of South Shields travelled by boat to St Cuthbert’s in North Shields to attend Mass. By the 1870s a larger church was required and St Bede’s was built at an initial estimated cost of c£8,000. The designer is considered to be Thomas Cooke Nicholson of Newcastle, who may have supervised an individual known as Gibson Lidbetter (recorded as such in the Pevsner volume but no other reference found). Nicholson had been an assistant to Thomas Gibson and acquired his practice on Gibson’s retirement in 1874. He was elected a Fellow of the RIBA in 1884. The foundation stone was laid on 27 May 1874. Subsequently, the discovery that deeper foundations were required, led to the cost of the church rising to £11,000 and a planned NW tower was not completed. Stained glass from the first chapel was removed and inserted in the triple lancets of the E side of the transepts. The church opened on 22 August 1876, and it is considered that the attached presbytery was constructed around the same time. The polygonal pulpit was erected in 1899. The church was consecrated on 14 September 1949 by Bishop McCormack. It was refurbished in c 1965 by David Brown, who also re-ordered it in 1972; at the time of the latter the timber altar was moved forward and the lower parts of the reredos faced in stone, the pulpit stem was removed (now used as an altar table) and the pulpit with its rail was placed on the sanctuary steps. The basement of the attached presbytery was subsequently converted to a parish hall and extended to the rear.
Details: Roman Catholic Church, 1874-6 to designs by Thomas C Nicholson Early English Gothic. Presbytery including attached walls and detached wall to south, later C19, Tudor Revival style. MATERIALS: the church is constructed of dressed stone with a plinth of roughly-hewn stone. The presbytery is of red-brick with painted ashlar dressings. Both buildings have slate roofs. PLAN: the church faces S but the following description follows conventional liturgical orientation. It has a longitudinal plan with an apsidal chancel, aisled nave, short transepts and an incomplete NW bell tower. The presbytery is rectangular with an attached lower range to the E.
EXTERIOR CHURCH: there is a high chamfered plinth and a prominent eaves band, and window and door openings mostly having hood moulds with stops and neatly-lain surrounds of dressed stone. The tall chancel has an apse with a pyramidal roof surmounted by an iron cross finial and there are seven regularly spaced lancets with trefoil tracery. The pitch-roofed transepts have stepped buttresses and are lit by rose windows above a larger lancet, with three stepped lancets to the E walls. A single-storey flat-roofed vestry extends E from the E wall of the N transept; this has a tall shoulder-arched double entrance (formally a six-light mullion and transom window) separated from a six-light mullion and transom widow by a short buttress, both with relieving arches. The nave has a pitched roof with stone cross finials to each gable. The N and S aisles have lean-to roofs and bays defined by buttresses with paired lancets, and the clerestory also has short paired lancets. The three-bay W end has a central bay flanked by stepped buttresses with a recessed pointed-arch doorway, reached by stone steps, of two orders fitted with double wooden doors. Above this there is a five-light window with geometrical tracery and a sill band. To the right, the W end of the S aisle has a three-light window and a sill band. To the left the W face of the tower has angle buttresses with a single lancet to each of the two lower stages and two cusped lancets on the upper stage; each stage is demarcated by a stone band. The N face of the tower has a large pointed-arched recessed entrance with a single lancet and paired lancets to the upper stages.
PRESBYTERY: two storeys plus basement of red brick construction with ashlar dressings and tall brick chimney stacks. Window frames throughout are uPVC replacements. All windows on the S elevation are stone mullions set in painted ashlar surrounds and those to the side and rear have plain rectangular heads with painted ashlar sills and lintels. The S elevation has three gabled bays with a narrow central entrance bay with a stone Tudor entrance reached by a flight of stone steps, and a two-light window above. The right end bay has a four-light window with a three-light window above; attached to the right is a short, single-storey range with similar detailing. The slightly projecting left end bay has a five-light canted bay window with a three light window above. There is an area to the front with large similarly detailed basement windows. The left return is plainer, with a projecting central bay formed by a double-height canted bay window, flanked by plain bays with a single window to the ground floor and a dormer window above. The rear is similarly plain but has a large stair window, and there are several modern extensions.
CHURCH: the sanctuary has a panelled timber ceiling with ribs dividing it into sections, and its seven windows depict the Seven Sacraments. Below, the walls are panelled in timber carved with tracery. The timber reredos of the high altar is richly carved with canopies over four saint statues flanking the central monstrance throne and tabernacle; the lower parts are faced in stone. The re-sited original timber altar is set forward and the late-C19 Gothic pulpit and rail with a relief carving of St Bede is located on the sanctuary steps in front of the tall, narrow chancel arch; the pulpit stem is set behind in use as a sanctuary table. The N transept contains a NE chapel with a timber altar. The stained glass of the three lancets above (removed from the first chapel) depict the Saints Patrick, Bede and Hilda. The N lancet window has a stained glass depiction of St Vincent and the rose is filled with clear glass. The S transept contains the Lady Chapel with a timber altar and reredos. The three lancets (removed from the first chapel) depict Saints Francis, John and William. The S window has stained glass of St Catherine below a plain glass rose. The five-bay nave has an arch-braced roof, painted plastered walls and a mixture of parquet flooring and floor boards. The pointed arch stone arcades have octagonal pillars, set against which are several statues including a Pieta by Mayer of Munich. Benches are simple open ended forms and there is a pair of octagonal stone holy water stoups set at the nave entrance. The aisles have lean-to timber ceilings and their windows contain a variety of stained glass of late C19 and C20 date; Stations of the Cross are unframed plaster casts. At the W end there is an organ gallery with a tri-lobed balustrade, and an organ that is listed in the National Pipe Organ Register. A narthex below is divided from the nave by plaster partitions. The former baptistery in the NW corner of the narthex is now partitioned as a small chapel; the south window depicts Saints Thomas More and John Fisher (1982) and the W window depicts the Ascension. The ground floor of the NW tower forms a porch and is entered through modern double doors; it contains a large First World War memorial recording the names of the Fallen of the parish, set in a marble frame surmounted by a crucifix.
PRESBYTERY: the ground floor retains its original plan with a vestibule opening into a large stair hall with three principal rooms off. The vestibule partition has leaded and stained glazing with foliate motifs and there are six panel doors and architraves and ornate cornices and ceiling roses throughout. The dining room has panelled reveals and soffits to the bay window and retains a later-C19 chimney piece. The open-well staircase has ornate mahogany newel posts, balusters and handrail and is lit by a large stair window with coloured glass motifs and a central pane depicting Jesus The Good Shepherd. It is understood that the good survival of original features continues to the first floor. The basement has been converted to a parish centre and extended to the rear; both elements have inserted modern interiors and are not of special interest.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are stone steps to the W end entrance and to the S side of the presbytery, there are revetment walls, walls flanking the stone steps to the entrance and an red-brick wall with double-chamfered stone copings. A tall brick wall to the NE and E side of the presbytery and a low double-chamfered stone base to the W and N sides of the church are both of very plain character and are not listed.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the basement of the presbytery and the C20 rear extensions are not of special architectural or historic interest and are excluded from the listing.
Books and journals: Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (1983), 418
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review, AHP, 2012.
Architect: T.C. Nicholson
Original Date: 1874
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II