Sacred Heart Church in Gosforth to celebrate centenary

PUBLISHED: 18:26 28 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:25 20 February 2013

A Confirmation service at Sacred Heart church

A Confirmation service at Sacred Heart church

A 150-year-old church near Gosforth will mark its centenary this year. Anthony Toole explains why

Although it was built almost 150 years ago, worshippers at a church in Gosforth are celebrating its centenary. This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Grade Two listed buildings re-birth as the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church.

The church was built in the 1860s, at a cost of 12,000 donated by Eustace Smith, son of William Smith, owner of the Gosforth Park Estate. It was an Anglican place of worship for almost 50 years before it was adopted by the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

As St Marys, though it was never formally consecrated, the church catered for the mining villages of Wideopen, Hazelrigg, Dudley, Brunswick and Seaton Burn but by the early 20th century, use of the church had declined and was in need of repair. The Catholic Bishop Richard Collins of Hexham and Newcastle approached Eustace Smiths widow, Martha Mary, and in 1911 he bought the church using 3,000 of his own money.

Eustace Smith and his family were keen supporters of the arts, and in particular were patrons of the Pre-Raphaelites. It is no surprise therefore, that when it came to designs for the church windows, he chose stained glass creations by the William Morris Company.

The churchs east window, with a central panel depicting Christ on the cross, and panels to either side illustrating angels and disciples, was designed by Edward Burne-Jones and illuminates the main altar. To north and south of the chancel are further stained glass windows designed by Burne-Jones, William Morris and Ford Madox Brown.

The church was given a major refurbishment after the arrival, in 1984, of Irishman, Father Tom Cass and while the works were carried out, services were held in a prefabricated building, which became known as Uncle Toms Cabin.

The renovations included a new day chapel and balcony in the tower space and new stained glass windows, one designed by Whitley Bay artist Paul Gannon and the other by architect Ralph Pattisson and artist Vicki Pattisson.

In the ceiling above the main altar is a set of 25 panels painted by local artist and parishioner Paul Drummond, inspired by images from the Lindisfarne Gospels and the ancient history of Northumberland.

On one occasion, Father Cass persuaded Jimmy Savile, still wearing running gear after completing the Great North Run, to appear at the summer fair. He also once recognised the Irish singer Dana in the congregation and brought her to the altar to sing the final hymn.

The church has a link with Newcastles St Cuthberts boys school, now called now St Cuthberts High School, which itself celebrated its 130th anniversary last year. The present Parish Priest, Father Jim Dunne, was the last of several members of the clergy to teach at the school.

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