Building » Whitley Bay – St Edward

Whitley Bay – St Edward

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. 

Heritage Details


Original Date: 1928

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed