Ragworth Road, Norton, Stockton-on-Tees TS20
An interwar church built on the site of the stables and coach house of Ragworth Hall, in a simple revival style which contributes to the street scene in Norton. The interior was substantially reordered and a new parish hall built in 1993. The design standard of the new work is high, but apart from some historic fittings, the interior now has little heritage significance.
Norton was a distinct medieval settlement, but is now subsumed into the urban area of Stockton. Catholics in Norton attended Mass at St Mary’s on Major Street until 1933. In 1926, Bishop Thorman bought Ragworth Hall and four acres of land from the Ropner family in order to build a school and church; Ragworth Hall was situated close to the present church, on the east edge of Norton. From 1933 Fr Thornton, the first parish priest, said Mass in the library of Ragworth Hall. St Joseph’s church opened in 1935, and was built on the site of the stables and coach house of Ragworth Hall. The old house was demolished and the adjacent school built in 1936.
In c1981 after the demolition of the Pugin & Pugin church of St Thomas of Canterbury at Port Clarence, some of the pews came here (others went to St Joseph’s, Billingham, qv).
The church was re-ordered in 1993, when the brick pillars in the nave were replaced with slender steel columns and a new sanctuary formed, located in the main body of the church. A new altar, ambo and font were made, using the alabaster from the old high altar and the presidential chair was formed from one of the old oak benches. An oak and bronze glass screen was placed across the old sanctuary arch, to form a separate Blessed Sacrament chapel. The newly reordered church was reopened by Bishop Swindlehurst on 23 April 1993. A parish hall, known as Thornton Hall, was built at the same time. A new porch was added to the church in 1998.
The church is aligned with the sanctuary to the east end. The low, gabled building is roughly square on plan, with nave, aisles and gabled east transepts. The previous entrance was via a north porch (now blocked). All elements have pitched roofs except for the south aisle which has a flat roof behind a parapet. The exterior is finished in render with panels of roughcast between smooth pilasters, plinth and eaves bands. The pitched roofs are laid with Welsh slates, with coped verges and cast iron rainwater goods. Aisle windows are plain tall openings arranged in pairs, with margin leaded glazing. The west end has a circular window over a blocked doorway, flanked by tall windows. The entrance into the church is now via the 1998 porch from a paved courtyard on the southwest side of the church.
Inside, the church was structurally remodelled in 1993, when the arcade piers were replaced with open tubular steel supports. The reordering at the east end separated the former sanctuary and side chapels from the nave, using a new glazed screen; this area is now the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The walls and shallow barrel-vaulted nave ceiling are plain plastered, and the floor is carpeted. The altar is in a forward position at the east end of the nave; the marble liturgical fittings date from the 1990s. Fittings retained from the 1930s church include oak pews and some of the stained glass. Some high quality new windows were installed during the 1990s. Carved wooden statues of Our Lady and St Joseph were introduced in 1998.
Architect: Not established
Original Date: 1935
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed