Cumberland Terrace, Willington, Co. Durham DL15
A large Gothic Revival church of the Edwardian years in a style of c.1300. It is quite conservative in spirit for its date but is boldly massed and has an impressive, spacious interior with striking murals in the sanctuary, added in 1912.
In the 1860s Mass seems to have been said in a room in Raby House on the western outskirts of the village, the home of a local grocer and provisions dealer. In 1873 a chapel-school was completed to the south of the present church site (and is still in use for the school). The mission is considered to have been founded in 1877, when the first resident priest came to Willington; he was a Belgian, Aloysius Hosten, trained at the English College in Bruges and ordained at Ushaw in 1869. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 24 June 1903 and the building was opened on 5 July 1905. A proposed small baptistery on the north side was not built, although a blind arch visible inside shows where it would have been. The cost of the building was variously reported as £4,500 or £5,000. Fr Hosten’s origins no doubt explain the fact that the benches were imported from Belgium and that the chancel murals are by a Belgian artist. Furthermore it is possible to imagine that he may have been an influence in the planning of the church, which with its wide nave and double transepts might be seen as having a hint of the Low Countries’ work.
The church was reordered in 1987 by Richard Lyons of Dietz-Lyons Associates. The old wooden high altar was replaced by a tabernacle plinth, with a new forward altar in front, both of stone. The oak altar rails, given by the parish in 1924 in memory of Fr Hosten, were cut back, with just a short section left on either side of the sanctuary. The pulpit was reduced in size to serve as an ambo and a confessional provided the materials for a presidential chair. The wall paintings in the apse were gently cleaned. At the west end, the entrance area was enlarged by being extended into the church in the form of a narthex. The altar and church were consecrated by Bishop Swindlehurst on 16 July 1987.
A large church built of rock-faced local stone (from Dunhouse, Barnard Castle). It has a nave and double transepts and a sanctuary terminating in a three-sided apse. At the southwest corner of the south transept is a slender turret containing a single bell. The style of the church is Gothic, derived from c.1300, but the tracery is unusually thick and heavy: the heads of the windows in the nave and transepts are rounded, those in the west front pointed. The sanctuary has a three-sided apse (another slight hint of continental influence at a date when such a feature would not normally be expected in an English church).
The interior is an impressive, large space covered by a high, keeled roof over the nave and with double transepts, the open nature of which is emphasised by the use of slender, quatrefoil piers at the entrance on each side. The walls are plastered and whitened.
Fixtures and fittings: the chief item of interest is the treatment of the sanctuary. This has a series of six paintings on canvas round the apse showing Types and Ante-types: Feeding of the Five Thousand/Moses in the Desert and Israelites collecting manna: Crucifixion/Sacrifice of Isaac: Wedding at Cana/Abraham meets Melchidizek. They are the work of the Belgian artist Louis Beyaert who has signed the central lower scene and given the date 1912. They are accomplished work, traditional in spirit and perhaps reflecting conservative continental Catholic taste.
List description (the church was listed in 2016, following Taking Stock)
Summary: Roman Catholic Church, 1903-5 by Kelly and Dickie. Gothic Revival style. The attached presbytery is excluded from the listing.
Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic church of Our Lady and St Thomas of 1903-5 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Design interest: the church plan with its wide nave, double transepts and the three-sided sanctuary hint at Low countries’ work, suggesting that its founder, Fr Holsten, had a hand in the design, supported by interior fittings imported from Belgium; * Architectural interest: a Gothic Revival design that is boldly massed in the style of c1300, by a known church-building architectural practice; * Interior: an impressive open space of some distinction with good plasterwork but particularly notable for the unusual and striking sanctuary paintings reflecting conservative continental taste.
History: The mission in Willington was founded in 1877 when the first resident priest, Belgium Aloysius Hosten, arrived in the village. The church was designed by Kelly & Dickie of London and the general contractor was James Hopper of Wolsingham. The architects Claude Kelly & Archibald Campbell Dickie had a brief early-C20 partnership during which time they designed a handful of churches. The foundation stone was laid on 24 June 1903 and the building was opened on 5 July 1905 by Thomas Whiteside, Bishop of Liverpool; it could accommodate a congregation of 350 and the cost of the building was variously reported as £4,500 or £5,000. A proposed small baptistery on the north side was not completed. The benches were imported from Belgium and the plan of the church, which with its wide nave and double transepts, also hints at Low Countries’ work. The sanctuary murals were added in c1912 by the Belgian artist Louis Beyaert who has signed and dated the central lower scene. It is thought that they were executed in Bruges and transported to Willington. Not a great deal is known about Louis Beyaert but he was either an artist who might also have been an elderly Jesuit priest, or his nephew, also an artist who specialised in copies within the family publishing house Beyaert Editions. Either way he was not a prominent artist and no other works have been identified. Stylistically the paintings are very traditional and the compositions very simple, derived from early C16 approaches. They have a graphic quality akin to book illustration and their plainness is consistent with the early Counter-Reformation approach to artistic production which sought to remove the overt and distracting artistry of Mannerism to produce something simpler and purer. The choice of subject matter (Types and Antitypes) is very long established in a Roman Catholic context and can be seen as demonstrating a particular Jesuit approach. The church was re-ordered in 1987 by Richard Lyons of Dietz-Lyons Associates. The wooden high altar was replaced by a tabernacle plinth, with a new forward altar in front, both of stone. The oak altar rails given by the parish in 1924 were cut back leaving a short section either side of the sanctuary. The pulpit was reduced in size to serve as an ambo and a confessional provided the materials for a presidential chair. At the W end the entrance was enlarged by being extended into the church in the form of a narthex. The altar and church were consecrated by Bishop Swindlehurst on 16 July 1987. The 1904 Harrison & Harrison organ was donated to the church in 2000.
Details: Roman Catholic Church, 1903-5 by Kelly & Dickie. Gothic Revival style. MATERIALS: rock-faced local stone with ashlar dressings and Welsh slate roofs. PLAN: the church is oriented E to W. It has a nave and transepts with a two span roof, and a sanctuary in the form of a three-sided apse. EXTERIOR: the church is situated on the E side of a lane leading from the main road through Willington and to its N there is a large churchyard. The E end has a three-sided apse with paired blind lancets and a pyramidal roof. The E gable rises above with a quatrefoil to the apex and a cross finial to the gable head. A single-storey vestry with a pitched roof has been added to the rear of the S transept. The three-bay nave and the transepts have round-headed windows with Gothic tracery and hood moulds alternating with stepped buttresses, and there is a continuous sill band and a chamfered plinth. The central bay of the N wall is partly infilled by a stone, lean-to stone structure with a quatrefoil motif and a stone slate roof; this represents the remains of the un-built baptistery. Attached to the SW corner of the S transept is a slender turret of four stages with a slated pyramidal roof; each stage is pierced by a narrow slit opening and the fourth stage by a louvered lancet with hood mould. The W end has an off-centre pointed arched entrance of two orders with a tympanum carved with a cinquefoil. The three stepped windows have pointed-arch heads and the tracery is of similar form to the transept windows. There is a louvered quatrefoil to the apex and a cross finial to the gable head. All windows have original leaded glass. INTERIOR: the plasterwork unifies the interior and includes a continuous band that serves as both a hoodmould to the doorways and arched openings and a sill band to the windows. All window and door openings have moulded plasterwork chamfers and stops. The sanctuary apse has a timber, boarded semi-dome and is defined by a plaster pointed-arch. Within there are three pointed-arch recesses, each housing a pair of paintings on canvas by Louis Beyaert (one to the upper arch and one to the lower arch) showing Types and Ante-types: Feeding of the Five Thousand/Moses in the Desert and Israelites collecting manna: The Crucifixion of Jesus/Abraham is prevented from killing Isaac, his son (signed by the artist and dated 1912): The Wedding at Cana/Abraham meets Melchidizek. To either side of the apse there is a tall, pointed-arch recess with that to the right flanked by a pair of shoulder-arched entrances giving entry to the vestry behind. The original free-standing pulpit remains, as do two pieces of the cut down original Gothic altar rail. There are double transepts to either side of the sanctuary defined by a short timber arcade with timber openwork to the spandrels, supported on a single, slender cast-iron fluted column emphasising their open nature. The north transept houses the Harrison & Harrison organ (1904). A door in the SW corner of the S transept gives access to an enclosed ladder stair to the turret. The nave has a high, keeled wooden roof divided into compartments by timber ribs, the compartments lined with pitch pine boards. The site of the intended, but un-built baptistery can be seen in the NW corner as a pointed-arch recess. Benches are the Belgium-made originals with tip up kneeling boards and sides decorated with quatrefoils and trefoils. Beneath the triple W windows there is a single-storey, flat-roofed, mid-C20 narthex created by extending the W entrance into the nave.
Books and journals: Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: County Durham, (2003), 505
Websites: Dictionary of Scottish Architects, accessed 27-01-2016 from http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=205095
Geneological profile, accessed 23-03-2016 from https://www.geni.com/people/Louis-Beyaert/6000000001712929680
Geneological profile, accessed 23-03-2016 from https://www.geni.com/people/Louis-Beyaert/6000000001712935130
Other: Churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: An Architectural and Historical Review; Architectural History Practice (AHP), 2012
Architect: Kelly & Dickie
Original Date: 1905
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II