St Matthew's Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


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The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle

Saint Matthew’s Church
Big Lamp, Summerhill Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

April 2018



Work on the repair and replacement of the roof has been completed.

The Vicar, church wardens, PPC and people of St Matthew's wish to thank all those who gave support to this undertaking; to the staff of English Heritage and to our contractor's for their skill and hard work.

January 2015

News of other projects will be posted here as and when these prosper.

A brief history of St Matthew's Big Lamp

The district of Saint Matthew’s was formed from Saint John’s parish and endowed with £200 per year by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in November 1869. There was no building until the purchase by Father Daunt, the first Vicar, of an iron church. It was erected on the site now occupied by Saint Anne’s Convent at the top of Summerhill Grove and opened on 1st May 1870. From this date, a site was sought for a more substantial building. The site at the top of Westgate Hill was acquired and the foundation stone was laid on 1st May 1878 by Percy G B Westmacott.

The site was house shaped, which is why Saint Matthew’s is almost square (92’ x 88’). The roof drops down five levels to detract from the square feeling. The space is very versatile and has been used for several film sets. The design was by one of Newcastle’s most interesting 19th century architects, R J Johnson of Austin, Johnson & Hicks. He had friends in the influential Arts and Crafts movement, giving him unlimited advice and information on which to draw. The contractor’s were J & W Lowery. Built in the Perpendicular style, the chancel was to be 32’ by 25’; the nave 64’ by 25’ with double aisles either side. It was anticipated that it would accommodate seven hundred people. The vestries were to be under the church. The building would be completed by a lofty tower, 24’ square.

At the consecration by Dr Lightfoot, the Bishop of Durham, in 1880, the sanctuary was complete with a permanent roof, but no stonework around the Altar. The easternmost end of the nave and aisles was complete and covered with a rough wood and slate roof resting on unfinished pillars; the back wall was brick.

In 1883, following the sudden death of Father Daunt, the next Vicar, Father Churchyard, continued the fundraising for the completion of the church, nave and base of the tower. The foundation stone of the tower was laid by Percy Westmacott in 1887. With Johnson now dead, the tower was designed by Hicks & Charlewood. Breaking through the west wall in 1895, it started to rise sheer from the street. The battlements and pinnacles are still an important feature of the city skyline. By 1905 the work was finished.

The interior of the church is of red sandstone, which is thought to have come from Scotland. The breadth of the aisles easily accommodates processions, which was probably intentional, since Johnson’s loyalties were firmly with the catholic renewal of the Church of England.

The capitals on the nave pillars are more decorated the closer they are to the sanctuary and the ceiling bosses are carved with “M”.

St Matthew's Big Lamp has been listed Grade II* by English Heritage for its nationally important architectural merit.