Building » Wallsend – St Bernadette

Wallsend – St Bernadette

A simple and well-built design of the late 1950s, serving a modern housing estate. The campanile is a local landmark. 

Like Our Lady and St Aidan (qv), this church was built to serve a twentieth century housing development, in this case the High Farm estate. The site was given by William Leech, a builder and developer. The church was built in 1958 from designs by Pascal J. Stienlet & Son, to seat 350 people. The same practice had also been responsible for the design of the larger church of Our Lady and St Columba (qv), opened in the previous year). Figure 1 shows the original appearance of the interior.

The church is actually orientated west-east, but conventional liturgical orientation will be used in this description.

St Bernadette’s was built in 1957, and is on a traditional longitudinal plan, comprising aisled nave with western narthex and choir gallery, baptistery, transepts, sanctuary with two side altars and associated sacristies, confessionals etc. It is in a plain modern style, with Gothic and Romanesque references.  It is externally faced in ‘mountain grey’ bricks laid in English Garden Wall bond of five rows of stretchers to one of headers, with artificial stone dressings and dark pantile roofs. The aisled nave is of four bays, with paired, square-headed clerestory lights, and the sanctuary has three lights and a lower shallow east projection. The west gable has a tall artificial stone surround to the boarded door with a decorative lintel below three stepped windows, their heads triangular, flanked by two small windows. All other windows have square heads and plain surrounds. The focal point of the external design is the tall southwest campanile, with a gabled canopy over the door, two levels of windows in plain surrounds, a set of long louvred windows at the belfry stage and a shallow pantile roof with overhanging eaves.

Inside, the division between the nave and the aisles is marked by two continuous reinforced concrete beams, allowing for maximum visibility of the sanctuary. The nave roof also has reinforced concrete trusses. The walls have a white painted plaster finish, with some 2 in. buff sand lime brick details. At the west end is an organ gallery with a white front. The nave and sanctuary are of the same width, with a semi-circular arched recess at the back of the sanctuary originally housing the high altar (visible in figure 1). This has been removed, but the fibrous plaster reredos and canopy remain, the former with its large attached crucifix. The present sanctuary furniture is marble, mostly white, with some black and some ochre. The square font is set to the south of the sanctuary platform. The flooring of the sanctuary and side altars is in marble, while the other floors were originally covered in thermoplastic tiles (now carpeted). 

Heritage Details

Architect:

Original Date: 1958

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed