Building » Tudhoe – St Charles Borromeo

Tudhoe – St Charles Borromeo

St Charles’ Road, Tudhoe, Spennymoor, Co. Durham DL16

A large and important mid-Victorian Gothic Revival church by J.A. Hansom, one of the leading Catholic architects of the day, with additions by J.S. Hansom. It is a noble building with a particularly impressive wide, open interior, reminiscent of Hansom’s earlier and much larger St Walburge, Preston. Like that church, while Gothic, it was designed on counter-Reformation principles (as befitting the dedication to St Charles Borromeo), with emphasis on maximum visibility of the sanctuary. It is by far the most important historic building in the locality.

Provision for a church was begun around 1857 when Marmaduke Salvin of Burn Hall offered a house for a priest and placed a loft at his disposal for saying Mass. The family had been prominent recusants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; in the late eighteenth they were important patrons of Tudhoe Academy, which was important in the revival of Catholicism in the north, having taken in students ousted from Douai in the 1790s and who later became the first students at Ushaw. In November 1858 a permanent mission was established. In 1867 a room at the former Tudhoe Academy became used for services. The cost of the church site, the presbytery and the cemetery was met by Mr Salvin. A very sizeable building was determined upon to serve the needs of the large numbers of newly-arrived Catholics working in the mining and iron industries round about. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 7 June 1869 and it was opened on 11 October 1870. Although it is credited to J.A. Hanson & Son, it is almost certainly to the design of the elder man (1803-82) as its vast, wide nave is of similar character to his earlier and much larger St Walburge, Preston (1850-54), one of the great monuments of Victorian Catholic church-building. St Charles’ church cost £5,000 and was 78ft long to the sanctuary with the sanctuary itself being 22ft long: the nave was 38.5ft wide and the height to its ridge 55ft. It was enlarged by Hansom’s son, Joseph Stanislaus (1845-1931), in 1882-83 when the bell-tower was built and the church extended by two bays at the west end, including the porch, baptistery and gallery.

There was a large orphanage for girls near the church, opened in 1901 but closed in the 1960s and demolished. In the late 197os a decision was taken to lower the height of the main altar and reredos: then, in 1984 the baptistery was converted into a Lady Chapel.


The architecture, fixtures and fittings are described in detail in the list entry (below) and repetition is unnecessary. Mention can be made of the fine circular west window by Burlison & Grylls, 1883, with the Agnus Dei in the centre, surrounded by choirs of angels. The richly carved pulpit is the work of the Belgian artist Lobelle.

List description


Roman Catholic parish church and presbytery attached. 1870 by J.A. Hansom & Son. 1882 addition of tower and ritual west bay with west porch. Aligned north-south. Rock-faced sandstone with plinth and ashlar dressings; Welsh slate roof with stone gable copings. Decorated style with Perpendicular-style additions. Nave with north porch, north-west Lady chapel and bell tower, west porch; apsidal sanctuary. Steeply-gabled north porch contains double boarded doors in 2-centred-arched surround with dripmould. West porch has double doors in deeply-moulded 2-centred-arch, with pinnacled dripmould, flanked by paired small windows and outer gabled buttresses, all under steeply-pitched pent roof flanked by high coped buttresses. Large rose window above with free tracery. Tracery also in tall 2-light nave windows; high stepped buttresses define bays; 2 similar windows in half-octagonal sanctuary under corbel table, each side buttressed. Small ogee-headed lights in Lady chapel with pent roof and in 3-stage tower. First square stage of tower broached to octagonal second stage, which has coped set-back to octagonal belfry, with Perpendicular tracery in 8 lights under high stone spire. Roofs steeply-pitched, that over sanctuary lower and half-octagonal; stone cross finials. Presbytery attached to ritual north-east is in plainer style; 2 storeys, 3 bays on return to church. Plain sash windows, with chamfered stop-chamfered jambs and flat stone lintels, and wide chimney-stack with offset rising from eaves in third bay. Gable over first-floor window in first bay. Double-span roof with chimneys at ends of side furthest from church.

Interior of church: painted plaster with ashlar dressings and boarded dado; arch-braced panelled roof on corbelled shafts with leaf-carved capitals; similar roof to apsidal sanctuary. Chancel arch double-chamfered, the inner on triple shafts with leaf-patterned corbels. Similar treatment to large west arch with wider chamfer and head-stopped dripmould. 4 round piers support west choir gallery with Gothic-panelled balcony; similar Gothic treatment to interior of west porch. Elaborate Gothic altar, with painted panels, brought 1880 [1877 according to Coia and Hall, 2008] from Munich. Well-carved Gothic-style wood pulpit 1907 commemorating 60 years of priesthood of Rev. Provost Watson, who was responsible for the building. Glass, supplied by H.M. Barnett, Victoria Works, Westmoreland Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne in 1870, damaged in World War Two by bomb and restored, includes east windows showing Holy Family; west window, probably 1882, has figures from the Apocalypse. Square font with 4 Frosterley ‘marble’ shafts in Lady Chapel now used as base of altar; water-leaf decoration to bowl.

Source: information from Fr. Gunning; and A.J. Coia, Tudhoe St. Charles Parish, 1858-1983, 1983.

Heritage Details

Architect: J.A. Hansom; J. S. Hansom

Original Date: 1870

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II