Building » Wycliffe – St Mary

Wycliffe – St Mary

Near Hutton Magna, Co. Durham

A handsome mid-nineteenth century chapel which has been refitted internally but retains  furnishings of considerable interest, notably the medieval font and a five-light east window by William Wailes. The church is in a prominent hilltop position and forms a good group with the presbytery and former schoolroom. 

The Tunstall family of Wycliffe Hall played an important part in the survival of Catholicism in this area. The family built a chapel at the Hall in the eighteenth century and played a large part in the erection of the present church in 1848-9. At the same time adjoining early-eighteenth century farm buildings were adapted to form the presbytery and schoolroom. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 22 August 1848 and it was opened on 18 October 1849. The ‘architect’ was a Mr Jones of Barnard Castle, the mason George Carter, also of Barnard Castle (The Tablet, 2 September 1848). No further information has been obtained on Mr Jones, but a builder named James Jones is recorded on the 1851 census as resident in Barnard Castle. 

The church was described in detail in The Tablet (27 October 1849), itself drawn from the account in The Darlington and Stockton Times:

‘The chapel is a neat stone building, without much pretension to  architectural display, erected by Mr. Carter, of Barnard-castle. The architecture is in what may be termed the transition style, the modern Gothic chiefly prevailing. It is a plain rectangular building, with accommodation for three or four hundred persons. The appearance of the interior is characterised by the severest simplicity and neatness. The decorations are by Mr. Edward Gell, and considering the limited means placed at his disposal were very highly creditable, both as to chasteness of design and beauty of execution. The altar is very fine, and the decorations highly effective, and added much to the beauty of the interior. Above the altar is a splendid window of stained glass by Mr. Wailes, of Newcastle, and is perhaps one of the finest productions of that gentleman: for the richness and harmonious blending of the colours, careful execution and exquisite finish, and the chaste grandeur of the whole, we have rarely seen it surpassed. It is formed of five lancets, surmounted by three trefoils, the centre one being richly ornamented with cusps. At the base of the five lancets are emblematical representations of the Lamb of God, and the Four Evangelists; above these, in the first compartment is a figure of St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, attired as Cardinal Archbishop, with his mantilla, rochet, and cassock, and holding in his hand a book, magnificently bound in green and gold: this figure is presented by Lady Constable, and is from an original picture belonging to Mr. Scholes, of London. In the second compartment is a figure of St. Cuthbert, with his vestments, mitre, and crozier, holding in his hand, as he is usually represented, the head of St. Oswald; this was presented by Cuthbert Watson, Esq., of Ovington. In the third compartment is a representation of the Blessed Virgin and Child, the dress blue, richly diapered on a red ground; this was presented by P. C. Maxwell, Esq., of Richmond. In the fourth compartment is a figure of St. Thomas Aquinas, presented by the Rev. Thomas Witham; this figure is taken from a painting presented by Mr. Witham to Ushaw College. In the fifth compartment is a figure of St. Henry, second Emperor of Austria, presented by Henry Silvertop, Esq., of Minsteracres, near Newcastle. In the centre trefoil is a representation of the Crucifixion, with the two Marys and two angels, weeping: the gift of the congregation. In the trefoil over the two first lancets is a figure of St. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, presented by Mrs. Witham. In the opposite trefoil is a beautiful representation of the crowning of St. Henry, by Pope Benedict VIII., about the year 1014; this was presented by Miss Chichester. The portraits in these paintings are considered very accurate, and from, the richness of the colours present a tout ensemble very striking. To the right of the altar is a fine statuette, in carved oak, of the Blessed Virgin and Child, executed by Mr. Heyball, of Sheffield, the decoration by Mr. Gell. Various gentlemen in the neighbourhood have, we understand, contributed to the erection of the building, but the bulk of the expense, superintendence and general direction have, we believe, been sustained by Cuthbert Watson, Esq., whose enlarged liberality in all matters is well known and appreciated in the neighbourhood. To the Rev. Mr. Bradshaw, the resident Priest, great credit is due for untiring interest and attention during its erection’.

The schoolroom closed in 1936 and is now used as a retreat centre. 

List description


Roman Catholic Church, 1849. Rubble with tooled-and-margined stone buttresses, ashlar dressings and parapet; graduated Lakeland slate roof. Aisleless 3-bay body with west porch. C14 style. Stepped buttresses at angles and between bays; string carried up over windows as hoodmould. Flat-roofed west porch has double flight of steps, with low moulded parapet at head, to central arch of 3-bay double-chamfered arcade; side arches boarded; string below embattled parapet with pierced merlons. Above porch a 3-light window below spheric triangle window; and pointed niche in gable. West door, inside porch, has studded double doors with scrolled hinges in moulded arch with sacred monograms as hoodmould stops. Side walls shows 2-light windows with Y tracery, and similar parapet; coped end gables. East end shows blocked 5-light window and quatrefoil in gable. 

Interior: Plastered. Freestone and marble altar, and panelled reredos with kneeling angels under crocketed arches. Font has octagonal bowl with raised shields, one with IHS, in fleur-de-lys borders, probably C15; later shaft and base. Prominent hilltop position.


Amended by AHP 16.01.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: ?James Jones of Barnard Castle

Original Date: 1848

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II