Building » South Shields – St Oswald

South Shields – St Oswald

Gainsborough Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields, Tyne & Wear NE34

A modern church notable for its sculptural volume, built at the time of the Second Vatican Council. Major alterations were carried out by the original architect in the 1980s. It has several high-quality furnishings, including a window by Fourmaintraux and Stations of the Cross made of glass. The freestanding tower at the west provides a visual accent. 

The parish was established to serve the local authority housing estate at Whiteleas. St Oswald’s RC primary school was completed in 1963. By 1963, the church was in planning. It was opened by Mgr Cunningham on 2 December 1965. The architects were Pascal J. Stienlet & Sons, the architect in charge being Vincente Stienlet (born 1941). An attached presbytery was built at the same time but the planned hall connected via the liturgical west canopy was never erected. Therefore, the original architect returned in 1983, to subdivide the original church to form a hall at the east end. At the same time, projecting kitchens were constructed, and a dalle de verre window by Pierre Fourmaintraux re-installed on a curved plan. The former sacristies became cloakrooms and toilets, while new sacristies and confessionals were constructed at the northwest. The church is now served from Sacred Heart, Boldon (qv) and the presbytery is used by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Mother of Christ.


The church faces north; this description follows conventional liturgical orientation.

The external walls are of brick laid in stretcher bond. The monopitch roof has copper fascias. The plan is roughly rectangular with a curved corner at the southeast and ancillary spaces along the north. The west elevation increasingly steps forward from the southwest corner. A short bay at the corner has a window with an etched cross above horizontal panes of coloured glass, with copper fascias between them. The west facade then projects forward, with a stone-faced south wall and a large window of vertical glass panels framed by copper fascias. Placed centrally below the window is the entrance with a cantilevered porch. To the south is a large window of glass-bricks, to the north a largely blind wall with two narrow windows. The south elevation to the street has two horizontal clerestory windows below a copper fascia; originally, one continuous window band, this was interrupted when the church was subdivided. The curving east wall originally was sheer and unadorned apart from a cross at eaves level. It now has the projecting lower kitchen block which replicates the curve. In front of the west elevation is a concrete tower of two tapering and slanted side panels connected by three horizontal platforms and incised with crosses on either side.

At the west is the gallery stair to the organ gallery, the narthex, the sacristies and confessionals (partly added in 1983). The interior of the nave is rendered and painted white, while the monopitch ceiling is panelled in timber. The organ gallery projects forward as a balcony for the organ whose pipes are parallel to the gradient of the ceiling. The north chapel has a curving dalle de verre window by Pierre Fourmaintraux depicting St Oswald, the original bronze tabernacle by Gilbert Ward on a black stone stand, a timber altar and lectern. Placed on the north and south walls are the Stations of the Cross, etched and painted glass panels by David Gormley. The altar, chair and circular font are all of black stone. The bronze crucifix at the east wall is by Fenwick Lawson. Near the northwest corner are statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Rosary.

Heritage Details

Architect: Vincente Stienlet of Pascal J. Stienlet & Son

Original Date: 1965

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed