Fast Search

You are Here: Home / New Silksworth, RC Church of St. Leonard and Presbytery

Tyne and Wear HER(8381): New Silksworth, RC Church of St. Leonard and Presbytery - Details

Back to Search Results



New Silksworth, RC Church of St. Leonard and Presbytery

New Silksworth


Religious Ritual and Funerary


Roman Catholic Church

Early Modern


Extant Building

A good ‘chaste and correct’ Early English church and attached presbytery by George Goldie, set within a burial ground. Unusually for Catholic churches at this time, the church, presbytery and school were paid for by a single donor, the convert Lady Priscilla Beckwith of Silksworth House. Unlike many of the missions in the Sunderland area, which struggled in the early years, the colliery village of New Tunstall benefitted from a major benefactor. This was Lady Priscilla Beckwith (1806-77) of Silksworth House, who was a member of the Durham Hopper family, noted recusants in penal times. Born an Anglican, Lady Beckwith was a Catholic convert and associate of John Henry Newman (who later presented a silver finger bowl to the church). Her husband, General William Beckwith, had led the hussars in the notoriously bloody suppression of the 1831 reform riots in Bristol. He died in 1871; according to Deacon Barron, he paid for the building of the Anglican church of St Matthew, Silksworth, which opened that year. The foundation stone for the church of St Leonard (there had been a medieval chapel in Silksworth with this dedication) was laid on 12 July 1872 and the church opened by Bishop Chadwick on 16 September 1873. A presbytery was built at the same time. The architect was George Goldie of Goldie & Child, Yorkshire-born and the grandson of Ignatius Bonomi (architect of St Mary, Sunderland and other churches in the diocese). The builder was a Mr Allison of Whitburn. A school was built in 1874, also paid for by Lady Beckwith (replaced in 1971 by a new building designed by Anthony J. Rossi’s practice). Because there was no debt, the church was consecrated early on, on 10 October 1875. An account of the 1873 opening of the church in The Tablet (quoted in the parish history) stated as follows: The style is Early English and the chasteness and correctness of the architecture have elicited much admiration. The buildings consist of a spacious nave, sanctuary, porch and bell turret, with a commodious presbytery for the priest. Accommodation is provided in the church for a congregation of 300 persons. The church is well lighted by three windows on each side, a beautiful west window, and five lancet windows in the apse. The centre window in the apse is of stained glass from the manufactory of Messrs Wailes of Newcastle. It represents the Resurrection and is a memorial to the late General Beckwith of Silksworth. The altar is of Bath stone, finely sculptured by Mr S. Ruddock of Pimlico. A statue of the Blessed Virgin by the same artist is a well wrought figure of the Ancilla Domini. The fittings of the altar are handsome and in good taste. Mr Ruddock’s high altar, and a sense of the original stencil decoration of the walls and window surrounds, is indicated in an early photograph in the centenary history of 1973. The altar was reduced in size in a post-Vatican II reordering, when a new forward altar was formed using the old font, and part of the altar rails was used in a new lectern. The church is in Early English Gothic style, and is built of rock-faced stone (a darker stone is used for the dressings), with a slate roof. There is an attached contemporary presbytery to the east, of the same materials. On plan the church consists of unaisled nave, apsidal sanctuary and southwest porch. A projection on the north side of the nave houses a sacristy with a gallery and organ loft above (with a cheaply-built single storey addition on its eastern side), and there is a polygonal bell turret at the southwest corner. The south elevation faces the street, from which a path gives access to the gabled and buttressed south porch, its boarded doors with strapwork hinges within a plain pointed archway. The porch gable is crowned with a stone cross. The nave elevations have a high stone band with paired lancets in plate tracery openings, with plain hoodmould over. These and all the windows are protected by polycarbonate sheeting. An at




ol; Historic England 2020,

Back to Search Results