Building » Whittington – St Mary Immaculate

Whittington – St Mary Immaculate

Whittingham Road, Whittingham, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66

Church and presbytery form a fine set piece, now within a mature and very attractive garden. The architecturally simple interior is enhanced by the survival of the 1890s sanctuary, with its Belgian furniture and richly coloured French stained glass window.  

The church is reverse oriented; for the purposes of this report, conventional liturgical compass points are used i.e. the altar at the east.

Callaly Castle, home of the Clavering family for centuries, remained a bastion of the Catholic faith and home for Catholic priests throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In 1686, Bishop Leyburn confirmed 262 from the Callaly congregation. In 1877, the last Clavering, Edward John died and his daughter, Lady Augusta Bedingfeld inherited. It was decided to sell the estate and Catholic worship at Callaly came to an end in 1878. The last chaplain collected items of furniture, vestments and plate from the chapel and stored them in Whittingham until his successor arrived in 1881.

In 1879, with Clavering money, four acres of farm land between Whittingham and Glanton were bought form the Earl of Ravenswood and the Vicar-General, Dr Beswick, contracted Edward J. Hansom of Dunn & Hansom to build a presbytery and church. It seems Dr Beswick provided some sketches of what he wanted and by May 1879, Dunn had drawn up a scheme using the Norman style for the church. Eight tenders were received and the next to lowest (at £1530) from Messrs Carse of Morpeth and Amble was accepted and work was underway by November. Although completed (but for the east window) well before the first mission priest arrived in March 1881, the church was only opened by Bishop Chadwick on 11 September 1881.

Lady Augusta Bedingfeld had her husband disinterred from the parish church graveyard and buried him in a vault beside the north nave in 1881. This was marked by a large sandstone cross monument (now separately listed grade II). She also commissioned a memorial stained glass east window from Duhamel Marette, Peintre-Verrier of Evreux that was finally installed in 1881 at a cost of 1087 FFr (£49 6s.) Correspondence from Hansom in the diocesan archive shows Marette was not an easy man to deal with.

In 1894, a new altar, reredos and frontal in painted oak by Charles Beyaert of Bruges were installed, followed soon after by the painted oak pulpit by Beyaert. Stations of the Cross in the style of Eric Gill were installed in 1930. Bishop Thorman consecrated the building on 6 September 1933.

A late twentieth century re-ordering moved the Beyaert altar away from the reredos and removed two statues and some paintings from the sanctuary, but retained the three tiled altar steps and riddel curtains. The present altar rails are in the original position but are modern; the original rail had twisted brass supports.

List description

The list description (below) contains some inaccuracies and omissions:

  • Address; …St Mary Immaculate…
  • Line 1; Conventional liturgical compass points are used, though the high altar is actually at geographic west. … 1879-81…
  • Line 3; Five bay rectangular aisleless plan with north east sacristy link to the presbytery. Round-headed doorway in north west bay within a portal…
  • Line 5; South nave wall left of the door round-headed…
  • Line 6-7; West  end has three round-headed windows below a wheel window of four circles arranged as a cross
  • Line 8+; South side detailed as north but with four windows; east wall with three stepped round headed lancets with hood moulds. Interior plastered with six-cant scissor braced roof. 1894 reredos and altar and c1900 pulpit by Charles Beyaert of Bruges. 1881 memorial east window stained glass by Duhamel Marette, Peintre-Verrier of Evreux.


Roman Catholic Church and presbytery. 1877-81 by Dunn and Hanson. Snecked stone with Welsh slate roof. Church in Romanesque style, house in Tudor style.

Church 5 bays with round-headed doorway on right, in portal with stone pent roof; arch with 2 chamfers and a roll mould, and moulded drip stone.

To left round-headed windows with dripstones. Moulded sill string. Rounded stone brackets support guttering. East end has 3 round-headed windows and rose window of 3 circles above. Gabled roof with kneelers, overlapping coping and foliated cross finial.

Attached on left 2-storey, 3-bay, L-plan presbytery has door and narrow window in extruded stone porch between projecting right bay and rear wing. 2- and 3-light windows with shouldered lintels. Steeply-pitched gabled roof with overlapping coping and corniced ridge stacks.

Whittingham Vale: David Dippie Dixon: Frank Graham, Newcastle 1974.

Heritage Details

Architect: Dunn & Hansom

Original Date: 1881

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II