Coquet Avenue, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE26
A fine neo-Romanesque brick design of the 1920s by a notable Newcastle firm of architects. The scale and external design, with octagonal cupola over the crossing and ‘westwerk’ of attached turrets, make the church a local landmark.
A site in Roxburgh Terrace was bought in 1899 and in 1910-11 a small brick church seating 250 was opened, initially served by priests from St Cuthbert’s, North Shields. The parish website gives a Mr Gibson of North Shields as the architect, but the Goodhart Rendel manuscript index from The Builder attributes the design to E. J. Kay of Stockton-on-Tees. The first resident priest, Fr Patrick Kearney, arrived in 1912, and in 1913 a school was built alongside the church.
After 1918, Whitley Bay expanded and became a popular seaside resort. A larger church seating 650, designed in 1921 by Pascal J. Stienlet and J. C. Maxwell, was begun in 1926, and blessed and opened by Bishop Thorman on 23 April 1928. The former church became the parish hall. The builders were Henry Kelly & Co., and Fr Kearney estimated in 1930 that the final cost of the church (including fitting out) and adjoining presbytery was £13,600.
A reordering of the late 1980s by architect Jack Lynn involved the reordering and recarpeting of the sanctuary, rebuilding of the altar, carpeting of the whole church and new lighting and decoration. The new altar was carved by R. Widowfield from Jack Lynn’s designs, using new and reused marble. A second phase involved the building of a new entrance ‘narthex’ at the southwest corner of the church, with the original entrance doors closed for reasons of safety. The renovated church was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Lindsey in 1988. Stained glass windows were introduced by artist Paul Gannon; this programme of enrichment has continued, offsetting the loss of stained glass windows in World War II bombing.
The ritual west front faces true northeast; ritual orientation will be used in this description.
St Edward’s church was designed in 1921 by Messrs Stienlet and Maxwell, architects, Saville Row, Newcastle, in a modified Romanesque style. The materials are rusticated purplish/dark red Ravenhead bricks, with darker brick dressings and dark red roof tiles. The design contains combines German and Italian Romanesque elements, and consists of an aisled nave approached from a western narthex, crossing with octagonal lantern over, apsidal transepts and short apsidal sanctuary with external ambulatory, linking this part of the church to the sacristies and presbytery. Lombard frieze and brick dentilled cornice to the exterior walls. All openings are recessed and have round-arched heads. At the west end, four stone steps lead to double boarded doors between red sandstone columns with Romanesque capitals and a carved arch; the brick surround has strings at impost and capital-base levels. The four-bay nave has pent aisles, paired lights in the aisles and clerestory, a pent western narthex, under three lights, flanked by full-height polygonal towers with narrow lights set in long panels. The transepts have two tiers of three lights, and the apse five small round windows below a semi-conical roof. There is a hipped roof over the low octagonal crossing tower, which has four small lights in each face, above roofed links to the four arms of the building to the tower. An addition (c1988) at the northwest is designed contextually, with blind, arched panels and forms a new accessible entrance to the church.
Inside, the rusticated facing brick surfaces have all been painted apart from the cornices, the square arcade columns with moulded capitals, the nave arcades, the transept and chancel arches. There are also lower transverse arches in the narrow aisles, unpainted. The painted barrel vaulted ceiling has cross-vaults to the clerestory windows; the apse has a ribbed dome resting on a brick cornice. The alternate painted and unpainted blocks in the ribs of the sanctuary and in the main transverse arches produce a restless effect. The reordered sanctuary has three steps to the forward marble altar, which appears to incorporate elements from the old high altar, with one more to a sparsely furnished area behind this and three more to the tabernacle stand in the apse. The apse wall has plain plaster panelling. In the north transept the west-facing panel of the organ case has a painted Descent from the Cross, unveiled in 1945 as a memorial to parishioners and the members of the Tyneside Irish regiment who died in the war. The church also contains a collection of modern stained glass windows, in traditional figurative style, by the local artist Paul Gannon, installed from c1988-2007.
List description (the church was listed in 2013, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Church, Roman Catholic, 1926-8 to the 1921 designs of Stienlet & Maxwell. Built by Henry Kelly & Co, reordered in the 1980s by Jack Lynn. Modernised Romanesque style. The plain and altered adjacent presbytery, attached to the church by brick walls is not of special interest.
Reasons for Designation: St Edward’s Roman Catholic Church, 1926-8 to the 1921 designs of Stienlet & Maxwell of Newcastle is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: a striking Romanesque design that blends German and Italian Romanesque elements to successful effect. * Composition: it incorporates elements of varying height and scale, which maximise its location on a corner site where it forms a prominent local landmark. * Interior quality: a spacious and well-lit interior derived from a high quality design and skilful use of materials and detailing * Intactness: 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: Stienlet & Maxwell are a notable firm of architects whose skill is reflected in the architectural quality of this church.
History: After the expansion of Whitley Bay in the early C20, a new Catholic Church was required to replace the existing smaller church. St Edward was designed in 1921 by Pascal J. Stienlet & J. C. Maxwell of Newcastle, and built by Henry Kelly & Co. It was opened by Bishop Thorman on 23rd April 1928 and the estimated cost of the finished and fitted out church and its adjoining presbytery was £13,600. A painted Descent from the Cross was added to the west-facing panel of the organ case in 1945 as a memorial to parishioners and members of the Tyneside Irish Regiment who fell in the First World War. In the late 1980s, the church was reordered by Architect Jack Lynn, which included reordering the sanctuary and rebuilding the altar; the latter was carved by R Widowfield to Jack Lynn’s designs using new and reused marble. A little later, a new narthex was added at the southwest corner of the church. The renovated church was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Lindsey in 1988. Stained glass by local artist Paul Gannon was inserted in the windows between 1988 and 2007.
Stienlet & Maxwell was a notable inter-war architectural practice based in Saville Row, Newcastle upon Tyne. Pascal Stienlet was also a noted cinema architect and two of his designs, Abbeydale Picture House, Sheffield (1920) and Majestic Cinema, Leeds (1921), are listed Grade II as is his re-fronting of Westgate House, Kirklees (1923).
Details: MATERIALS: rusticated purplish/dark red Ravenhead bricks with darker brick dressings and dark red roof tiles. Red sandstone dressings to main entrances. PLAN: the church occupies a prominent corner site with the ritual west front facing true northeast; the ritual orientation is used in this description. A short apsidal sanctuary with an external ambulatory links to a pair of pitched roofed sacristies and the adjacent presbytery. There are tall transepts and a crossing with an octagonal lantern over. The aisled nave has a west narthex, a south porch, and a later, north narthex.
EXTERIOR: there is a Lombard frieze and dentilled cornice to the exterior walls and all openings are mostly recessed with round-arched heads. There are corner corbels to some areas and raised brick crosses in relief. The apse has five small round windows below a semi-conical roof. The transepts have two tiers of three lights, and there is a pyramidal roof over the low octagonal crossing tower, which has three small lights in each face, above four roofed arms linking the rest of the building to the tower. The four-bay nave has pent aisles and paired lights in the aisles and clerestory. The south porch has double-boarded doors between red sandstone columns with Romanesque capitals and a carved arch inscribed with interlace decoration; the brick surround has strings at impost and capital-base level. A flat-roofed narthex at the north west has blind, arched panels and provides the present entrance to the church; a recent pergola extends from the north sacristy to the adjacent presbytery. Beneath the three-light west window there is a pent western narthex, with bands of tile in the form of a Lombard frieze, flanked by full-height polygonal towers with narrow lights set in long panels. Stone steps lead to an entrance similarly detailed to that of the south porch.
INTERIOR: The rusticated brick surfaces are painted throughout, with the exception of the cornices, arcades, transept and chancel arches and the lower transverse arches in the narrow aisles. The re-ordered sanctuary has three steps to the forward marble altar, which incorporates re-used elements from the original high alter, and further steps to the Tabernacle within the apse. The apse has painted walls and a ribbed dome resting on a brick cornice; the ribs are carried down to the floor in the form of pilasters. The lower sanctuary walls have plain plaster panelling and two triple sedilia, with large panelled openings to either side. A large Crucifix is suspended from the apse ceiling. An opening within an arch either side of the chancel arch leads into a sacristy. The original organ is housed within the north transept, whose west-facing panel has a First World War memorial in the form of a painted Descent from the Cross; to the right of this is the Roll of Honour. Each transept has a large arched niche in the east wall containing a doorway into a sacristy; the undersides of the niches are decorated with incised cross motifs. The crossing has a ribbed dome supported on squinches, linked by a brick arcade. The narrow aisled nave has a full compliment of original benches separated by a central aisle; the arcades are supported on square columns with moulded capitals, and affixed to the aisle walls are The Stations of the Cross. The roof is a ribbed barrel-vault, which has cross vaults to the clerestory windows. Below the three-light west window there is gallery supported on triple arches with the main west entrance below flanked by niches.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Register. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 30 October 2017.
Books and journals: Grundy, J, McCombie, G, Ryder, P, Welfare, H, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (2002), p.625
Websites: War Memorials Register, accessed 30 October 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/17762
War Memorials Register, accessed 30 October 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/17761
Other: The Architectural History Practice, St Edward, Whitley Bay, 2012,
Architect: Stienlet & Maxwell
Original Date: 1928
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II