Front Street, Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear NE30
A small and economically-built Gothic revival church by a significant regional firm, close to the medieval priory church associated with St Oswine. Inside, the church has a hammerbeam roof, fine Victorian fittings and some good modern glass.
Tynemouth Front Street sits on part of the medieval village of Tynemouth, and the present church is very close to the neck of the promontory on which stand the scheduled ancient monuments of Tynemouth Castle and Priory. The relics of St Oswine (killed near Gilling, Yorkshire, in 651) were in a shrine in the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Tynemouth. When the Tynemouth church of St Mary was granted to the Benedictine monks at Jarrow in the eleventh century, Oswine’s relics attracted many pilgrims to the site. In the 1090s a new church was built, dedicated to Our Lady and St Oswine. That dedication, abandoned at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, was adopted in 1869 when a Catholic mission was established at Tynemouth. Services held in a temporary church in Front Street, opened by Bishop Chadwick on 15 August (the Feast of the Assumption), 1871.
The present church was built by Fr (Canon) George Howe, from designs by E. J. Hansom of Dunn & Hansom. The foundation stone was laid on 8 September 1889 and the church opened and blessed by Bishop Wilkinson on 1 June 1890. The cost was £2,500. Fr Howe was a gifted musician, and the organ was built to his specification.
Five bishops of the diocese made their home in the presbytery at no. 48 Front Street; Bishop Bewick, the first resident priest, was here from 1882-86, Bishop O’Callaghan from 1888-89, Bishop Preston from 1900-05, Bishop Thorman from 1925-26 and Bishop McCormack from 1937-41. In 1941 the church and the presbytery were damaged by the explosion in the Castle ditch of a sea-mine intended for the harbour (Pickering, 2008, pages 11 and 12). The doors and windows of the church were blown out, the roof lost most of its slates and the roof timbers were damaged. The damage to the presbytery (49 and 50 Front Street) was irreparable, and so the parish priest moved into no. 4.
The orientation is reversed, with the altar at the west, but this description follows normal liturgical convention.
A small church in a simple lancet Gothic style, of red brick laid in Flemish bond with sandstone ashlar dressings and slate roof. The four-bay aisleless nave and one-bay sanctuary are under one continuous roof. They have small pointed arched windows, paired in the entrance porch, with sloping sills and alternate-block stone jambs below dripmoulds. The entrance porch at the west end has paired lights under a gable.
Inside, the rafter and purlin roof is marked at the bay divisions by hammerbeam trusses. The sanctuary is richly furnished. The Gothic altar has four shafts defining three panels painted with scenes from the life of Our Lady; it has been separated from the reredos, which has canopied statues and a crucifix in a high-gabled niche above the brass tabernacle. On either side there are shrines with spiky Gothic canopies. The timber altar rails have Tudor roses and poppyhead end panels. In the nave, the pews appear to be original, with rounded ends. The northwest organ was built in about 1890 by Blackett and Howden to the specifications of Canon George Howe. Stained glass includes three lights in the tall stepped lancets at the west end, by Leonard Evetts, 1995, and an unsigned high roundel at the east end, with images of Our Lady, St Oswine and St Bede.
Architect: Dunn & Hansom
Original Date: 1890
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: Not Listed