Building » Staithes – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Staithes – Our Lady Star of the Sea

Staithes, North Yorkshire

A modest Victorian church on a corner site, lent character by the quirky design of the west front and bell turret. 

For many years Catholics in the fishing village of Staithes walked the five miles to Ugthorpe to attend Mass. In 1875 Fr Sullivan, who had been sent to establish a mission at Loftus, where he had built a school-chapel, urged the bishop to build a church at Staithes. A building fund was set up and a substantial sum donated by Mgr Witham of Lartington Hall in the west of the county. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Lacy on 31 July 1884 and the church was opened on 9 June 1885. The architect Martin Carr’s design was illustrated in The Architect, 9 February 1884. The church was described in The Tablet (13 June 1885):

‘The designs are by Mr Martin Carr, architect, of Middlesbrough. The general style observed in the edifice is Gothic. The church is surmounted by a beautiful turret. Over the doorway at the west end of the chapel is a magnificent stone statue, carved by Wall, of Cheltenham, and represents the Virgin holding the Child’s hands up to bless. There is also a clever representation of a boat rowed by two angels. The length of the church is seventy feet, width twenty-five feet. The altar is a most beautiful piece of workmanship, highly polished, and chastely carved; it is of pitch pine of peculiar beauty. This structure is by Mr Thomas Dickinson, the gold work having been executed by Mr T. Watson. The whole of the work has been admirably carried out, and with complete satisfaction to all concerned, reflecting, as it does, great credit on the architect, and also on the builder and contractor, Mr Thomas Dickinson, of Saltburn. The total cost is about ,£1,250, and we believe that the bulk of the money is already raised’.

The first priest, Fr Dan Kiely, took up residence in 1895.


A rock-faced sandstone building with a pitched Welsh slate roof. Four quite broad lancet windows on each of the long sides, with painted timber frames and leaded lights. The pointed arches are quite crudely detailed with four shaped stones. The show is kept for the west front which has further lancet windows either side of a lean-to porch. Above this the wall is thickened, with paired blind arches over a circular window, and rises into a broad and tall bellcote of almost Victorian ‘Rogue’ form, reminiscent of architects such as Teulon or E.B. Lamb, although Pevsner describes it as ‘fussy’. On a carved corbel is Wall’s fine statue of the Virgin Mary, standing on the prow of a boat.

The presbytery appears to be of one build with the church but may be slightly later; it is attached on the southeast side. It is a typical asymmetrical detached house of the period.

After the small west porch, the interior of the church is a single volume with nothing more than a hammerbeam roof truss, acting also as a rood beam, to demarcate the sanctuary. Boarded roof with simple exposed trusses with short wall posts. Pews contemporary with the church with open backs and open cast iron ends. Stations of the Cross in painted relief set into recesses in the walls. The altar may be that described in the historical account above, but if so it has been painted, separated from its reredos and brought forward. The altar has an open Gothic arcade, whilst the reredos has saints set in a blind Gothic arcade with sub-cusped arches and quatrefoils in the spandrels. Tall pinnacled canopy in the centre. Carved Gothic timber pulpit. One stained glass window, circa 1973.

Amended by AHP 15.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: Martin Carr

Original Date: 1884

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Not Listed