Building » Washington – Our Blessed Lady Immaculate

Washington – Our Blessed Lady Immaculate

A handsome stone-built Gothic Revival village church by the noted Newcastle architect A.M. Dunn, retaining much of its original character. The church and presbytery are set within a large burial ground which contains a monument to miners killed in an explosion at Usworth Colliery in 1885. The church, presbytery and burial ground make a positive contribuition to the wider setting of the Washington Conservation Area.  

Between 1841 and 1881 the population of Washington almost quadrupled as a result of expanding industry, and many of the population were Irish and Catholic.  In the 1860s Fr Brown of Houghton-le-Spring established a school and Mass centre at Washington and Fr Cambours was appointed the first resident priest in 1866. A site for a new church was purchased, apparently with the assistance of Mr Newall of the Washington Chemical Company. The design by Dunn & Hansom of Newcastle provided for a cruciform church but the proposed north transept was never built. The main building material was stone from the local quarries of Springwell and Coxgreen. The contractor was Mr G. S. Forster of Washington, while the stone carving was by Mr Roddis of Birmingham. Fr Cambours left in 1879 shortly after the new building was finished and was succeeded by Fr Poupaert, who was Belgian. He did much to decorate the interior of the church and imported an altar and reredos from Bruges.  The church was re-ordered in 1976.

The interior of the nave has a black and red tile floor, plain plastered walls and three bay north and south arcades of pointed chamfered stone arches on octagonal columns with moulded capitals and angel-corbels to the hood-mouldings of the arches. Above the arches are the two-light clerestory windows. All the windows in the nave are clear-glazed. At the west end of the nave is a timber gallery, the underside now enclosed with a glazed screen. Between the windows are the wall posts of the boarded timber roof.  There is no chancel arch but the division between nave and sanctuary is marked by steps up and by the doubled arched principals of the roof.  The sanctuary is five sided with an arch on each side continuing the line of the nave arcade.  Above the heads of the arches is a continuous ‘clerestory’. The sanctuary floor has coloured encaustic tiles. The fittings include the elaborate original marble reredos and probably the nave benches. Fr Pourpaert’s altar was reconstructed and brought forward in the 1976 re-ordering.

LIST DESCRIPTION:

R.C. parish church. 1877-8 by A.M. Dunn of Newcastle. Rock-faced snecked sandstone; roof of plain tiles. 3-bay aisled nave continuous with one-bay apsed chancel; south transept with gable belfry; Low north porch to chancel. Early English style. 2-light windows to nave, one single lancet and 2 pairs to aisles. 2 doors, in western bays of aisles, are flanked by coped gabled buttresses containing niches. West front: paired lancets in aisles and 4-light nave window with strings and central buttress. 3 paired lancets in straight-sided apse. High-pitched roof has iron cross finial at west and stone at east ends. 1-storey link to presbytery near south transept: similar materials. 2 storeys; T-plan. Gothic style with decorated windows and ornamental bargeboards. One coped transverse ridge chimney.

 

Listing NGR: NZ3082256651

Heritage Details

Architect:

Original Date: 1878

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: II