Carville Road, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear NE28
Photo Vincente Stienlet
Photo Vincente Stienlet
A bold and impressive design of the 1950s, blending Modern Perpendicular Gothic, Scandinavian and Art Deco elements. It is the best example in the diocese of the work of the ‘middle generation’ of the Stienlet architectural dynasty. Post-Vatican II reordering by Vincente Stienlet involved the removal/reuse of some original furnishings, but did not affect the overriding special interest of the building, which lies in its volumes, elevational modulation and subtle detailing.
A church building fund was begun in 1898 after the presbytery building fund had closed. The Newcastle architect Charles Walker designed the church that was built in 1904 and dedicated to St Columba. As the population of Wallsend increased with the growth of local industries, especially shipbuilding at the Walker Naval Yard, and coal mining at the Rising Sun colliery, a larger church was needed. The foundation stone of the present church was laid by the parish priest, Fr Timothy O’Brien in February 1957, and the church was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 7 October 1957. The new church was dedicated to Our Lady and St Columba. It was a large structure, seating 520, built from designs by Vincente G. Stienlet of Pascal J. Stienlet & Son. The church was consecrated on 13 June 1964.
Post-Vatican II reordering of 1968 was carried out by Vincente Stienlet (the younger). The high altar, pulpit and the central section of the communion rails were removed; a new forward altar was introduced and the tabernacle placed against the east wall on a plinth incorporating parts from the original high altar. A further reordering by Vincente Stienlet in 1990 involved the creations of a new baptistery in a marble-railed enclosure on the south side of the sanctuary (with re-used communion rails), with new font and lectern. The etched design on the glass bowl of the front was by Morag Gordon. A new pipe organ by Nigel Church was installed (Vincente Stienlet pers. com.)
The altar is at geographical south and the main door at the north; traditional east-west orientation will be used in this description.
This is a large and impressive design, built in 1957 from designs by Pascal J. Stienlet & Son. Stylistically it is difficult to categorise, fusing as it does elements of Perpendicular Gothic, freely interpreted in a modern idiom, infused with Scandinavian, Art Deco and Festival of Britain elements. The building is faced inside and out with high quality thin 2in. bricks, laid externally in a staggered bond, with soldier courses at sills, lintels and eaves. The roofs are copper-covered roof. The entrance and all the doors are of oak, with specially designed wrought iron handles outside, and silvered bronze handles on the inner side. The square west entrance tower projects from the centre of the main body of the church, with an ingenious panel of advancing and receding brick crosses above the tall, copper-canopied door recess. On top of the eighty foot bell tower is a copper-covered drum with splayed brick shafts and a fretwork of (originally at least) stone louvres. Small windows light low narrow links flanking the tower, leading to square, pyramidal-roofed end pavilions, that at the south with a door. At the east end, the high apse has full-height slit windows at the sides, while the nave has five tall, wide windows with Perpendicular lead tracery separated by tall brick fins which rise from the internal aisle columns.
The plan consists of a long nave with narrow aisles, western narthex and choir gallery, transepts, apsidal sanctuary and mortuary chapel. Square brick columns support the clerestory walls and form narrow side aisles. The narrow piers frame a ‘wall of glass’ at clerestory level, the leaded subdivisions of modern Perpendicular Gothic character with cathedral glass, graded from blue at the top, yellow in the middle and the palest grey or white at the bottom (this replaces the original glass, which was blue at the top, amber in the middle and white at the bottom). The high nave roof is plastered, with a flat perimeter soffit and a raised central section incorporating a long central panel of repeating octagonal motifs.
The floors of the main congregational space are finished with thermoplastic floor tiles, patterned in the aisles and crossing, and installed for their acoustic value. Original mahogany bench seating is arranged in two blocks, with a central alley. At the west end, above the narthex screen with double doors, a wide gallery with a Church & Co. organ has pipes arranged in symmetrical fashion.
The sanctuary is paved in marble, now carpeted except for one projecting part of the sanctuary platform. The walls of the sanctuary and side chapels are richly ornamented with marble and mosaics. Against the east wall survives the original altar canopy, with a huge black and white marble slab reredos. Part of the original marble communion rails remains in the side chapels and, reworked, around the relocated font. The sanctuary furnishings otherwise belong to the post-Vatican II (1968 and 1990) reorderings by Vincente Stienlet.
The original baptistery, in the pavilion north of the tower, has a window signed by Hardman showing the Baptism of Christ.
Entry amended by AHP 4.1.2021
List description (the church and attached gates were listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church and attached gates, 1957 to the designs of Vincente Stienlet; re-ordered in 1968 and 1990 by Vincente Stienlet (the younger). In style, a fusion of Perpendicular Gothic freely interpreted in a modern idiom, infused with Scandinavian and Art Deco elements. The contractor was Stanley Miller. The attached presbytery, detached former school and associated enclosing walls are excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Columba of 1957 to the designs of Vincente Stienlet, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a striking Perpendicular Gothic design that blends Scandinavian and Art deco elements to successful effect; * Composition: a bold and impressive building in its volumes, modular elevations and subtle detailing, that is well executed in good quality materials; * Interior quality: a dramatic, spacious and well-lit interior derived from a high quality design and skilful use of materials and detailing; * Degree of survival: an intact exterior, and despite some inevitable minor re-ordering of the sanctuary, a largely intact interior, which retains its original architectural detailing in addition to original fixtures; * Architect: Pascal J Stienlet and Son are a notable firm of architects whose skill is reflected in the architectural quality of this church.
History: A church had occupied this site since 1904, along with a presbytery and primary school, all contained within a tall perimeter brick wall. However, the early and mid-C20 growth of local industries, including shipbuilding and coal mining, necessitated the construction of a larger church for the growing population. The present church, seating 520, was designed by Vincente G Stienlet of Pascal J Stienlet and Son. Founded in 1904, the practice comprises three generations of architects and is one of the oldest, continuously running practices in the North-East, specialising in ecclesiastical buildings in the Roman Catholic, Church of England and Methodist traditions. The foundation stone was laid by the parish priest Fr Timothy Obrien in February 1957. The church, dedicated to Our Lady and St Columba, was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 7 October of the same year and consecrated on 13 June 1964. Post-Vatican II reordering of 1968 was carried out by Vincente Stienlet (the younger). The high altar, pulpit and the central section of the communion rails were removed, and a new forward altar was added with the tabernacle placed against the E wall on a plinth incorporating parts from the original high altar. Further reordering by Vincente Stienlet in 1990 involved the creation of a new baptistery in a marble-railed enclosure on the S side of the sanctuary with new font and lectern, and a new organ was installed. In 2013 the church was short-listed for the National Churches Trust Diamond Jubilee Architecture Prize for places of worship judged to be the best sacred places built in the United Kingdom since 1953.
Details: Roman Catholic Church and attached gates, 1957 to the designs of Vincente Stienlet; re-ordered in 1968 and 1990 by Vincente Stienlet (the younger). In style, a fusion of Perpendicular Gothic freely interpreted in a modern idiom, infused with Scandinavian and Art Deco elements. The contractor was Stanley Miller. MATERIALS: steel frame faced inside and out with thin 2-inch bricks; copper covered roofs and all doors are of oak with wrought iron handles outside and silvered bronze handles to the inner sides. PLAN: the building is oriented north to south but the following directions are liturgical. The church comprises a long nave with narrow aisles, a west narthex and choir gallery, transepts, an apsidal sanctuary, a sacristy and a mortuary chapel. EXTERIOR: high quality thin 2-inch bricks are lain in a staggered bond with soldier courses at the sills, lintels and eaves. The east end has a high apse with full-height slit windows to the sides and tall narrow brick fins rising above the sanctuary roof. The low, shallow transepts have flat roofs and are lit by five tall, narrow lights with an eaves level soldier course. That to the south side has an attached flat-roofed sacristy, and to the left there is a shallow, flat-roofed former mortuary chapel, plainly detailed save for the full-height narrow light at the east end. The nave with exposed brickwork and soldier courses has five tall, wide windows with Perpendicular lead tracery separated by tall brick fins which rise from the internal aisle columns. Small single-storey, flat-roofed confessionals project from the centre of each side. The square west tower projects from the centre of the main body of the church with a panel of advancing and receding brick crosses above a tall copper-canopied door recess fitted with oak double doors. A tall bell tower rises above, surmounted by a copper-covered drum with splayed brick shafts and a fretwork of stone louvres. Small windows light low narrow links flanking the tower. These lead to square, pyramidal-roofed end pavilions that to the south side with a door. The early C20 attached presbytery is not of special interest and is excluded from the listing. INTERIOR: the sanctuary is paved in marble (now largely carpeted) and the walls are richly ornamented with geometric marble and mosaic panels, alternating with narrow square brick pilasters. The original altar canopy, with a large black and white marble reredos, stands against the E wall and the original tabernacle is set upon a marble plinth constructed of parts of the original high altar. The original marble communion rails have been reworked around the re-located font to form a baptistry. Other sanctuary furnishings belong to the 1968 and 1990 re-ordering and there is a glass font bowl by local glass maker Morag Gordon. To either side of the sanctuary are the side chapels, similarly ornamented with marble and mosaics and with parts of the original marble communion rails set to the front. The shallow transepts are framed by square, clustered columns in two-tone brick with large formerly exposed brick panels above, now with later marble panels. Double oak doors with glazed crosses lead through the S transept to a sacristy retaining original wooden fittings. The high nave roof is plastered with a flat perimeter soffit and a raised central section incorporating a long central panel of repeating octagonal motifs. The floor is finished with coloured thermoplastic floor tiles (now carpeted), patterned in the aisles and crossing, and installed for their acoustic value. The original mahogany benches are arranged in two blocks with a central aisle. The nave has square brick columns supporting the clerestory walls and forming narrow side aisles with an original confessional with oak boarded doors set to the centre of each outer aisle wall. Wooden Stations of the Cross are hand carved and painted from the studios of Ferdinand Stuflessor, Ortisei, Italy. The square brick columns rise above the aisles to frame a ‘wall of glass’ at clerestory level; the leaded sub-divisions are of modern Perpendicular Gothic character with Cathedral glass, graded from blue at the top, yellow in the middle and grey/white at the bottom. The west end has a narthex screen with double doors flanked by single doors, each with small narrow glazed panels in the shape of a cross. To either side are the former confessionals, that to the right converted to a small store. Above, there is a full-width gallery with an arcaded front, housing the prominent organ at its centre. The original baptistery in the pavilion north of the tower has a stained glass window showing the Baptism of Christ by John Hardman and Company.
SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: attached to the north-west corner of the church there are original double metal gates flanked by a single gate, the former bearing the name of the church. These features contribute to the special interest of the building and are included in the listing. The early C20 detached former school and associated brick enclosure walls are altered and utilitarian in nature and excluded from the listing.
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review; AHP, 2012.
Architect: Pascal J. Stienlet & Son
Original Date: 1957
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II