St. Andrew's

St. Andrew's
Fri 14th  Dec., 2001

St. Andrew's Church is on Newgate Street beside the Town Walls. The Newgate was nearby, as was the Newgate Gaol.

The church dates from the 12th century, although there is evidence of an earlier building here, and some of the stones used to build the tower is reused Roman material.

This view is from the north western edge of the churchyard, at the boundary with Gallowgate.

Most authorities put this church as the oldest in Newcastle

Tower and west end
South exterior and south transept
Lady chapel interior

Above is the southern transept from outside. This addition to the building was made in 1844 by John Dobson. The three semicircular topped windows and the filigree decoration above are the Victorian date stamp, but the whole was  intended to blend with the older structure.

The left view is the internal view of this transept, housing the Lady Chapel. It is here that Dobson's vision is clear. His trademark is uncluttered grace, and here it is in its glory. The central "Children's Window" depicts a child at prayer, Jesus blessing children, and an angel taking a child to heaven

There has been a Lady Chapel recorded in this location from the 13th century. It was originally an altar placed on the south wall of the aisle.

The exceptional feature of this church is this Norman arch, dating from the late 12th century. It separates the nave from the chancel beyond.

Look carefully at the proportions and you will be drawn to the conclusion that it is too high for its width. The evidence also confirms that the arch was originally about  2.5 metres (8ft) lower. The roof was raised during the late 14th or early 15th century. Some indication of this can be seen at the west end of the south walls where the lines of the original clerestory windows show the lower roof level.

Beyond the arch and rood screen lies the chancel. This is not built on the same line as the nave, and a traditional explanation for this is that it is a symbol of Christ's head drooping at the crucifixion.

Medieval arch
Chancel and high altar

Looking towards the high altar in the chancel we can see the extension of this section. The original east wall was 6.2 metres (20 ft) closer than now; the present wall being built in the mid 13th century. The window was restored during 1866 and is a copy of that original.

The choir stalls date from 1907 and replace rather ugly box stalls. They were made by Ralph Hedley of Newcastle who also made the Bishop's chair, just visible on the left near the altar.

Just out of sight to the right of the altar, near the flag of St. Andrew, are two piscina, stone bowls used by the priest during mass for draining water. There is also a "squint" window on the left so that clergy in the side chapel could synchronise actions with the main priest during the ritual.

Choir stall end decoration

There are fourteen choir stall heads like this one, except that they all depict different flowers.

The stalls, the rood screen and pulpit are all made from Austrian oak, and were made about the same time.

The chancel houses two of the oldest gravestones in the city. One, in front of the altar and to the left bears three horseshoes and the Latin  "Orate pro anima thome lyghton" meaning pray for the soul of Thomas Leighton. This dates from 15th century and may refer to the Sheriff of Newcastle of that name.

The second old grave is decorated with a cross and steps leading to it. The word "sinister" can be made out, but other markings are indistinct.

Font detail

The pulpit was moved to its present position in 1889, but was a stone pedestal.

This oak pulpit is exquisitely carved and is typical of both Ralph Hedley's work and of Victorian high fashion.

The money for this more recent restoration was raised by local donations and parish funds. The Corporation of Newcastle took over the upkeep of the churchyard during the 1950s.

In previous times the upkeep of the church was funded by the sale of indulgences; church officials cynically preyed on people's inbuilt guilt feelings. For a crippling fee, believers could buy a safe passage through Purgatory (church invented half way suffering place on the way to heaven), released from suffering for sins on earth.

This view is of the Trinity Chapel. to the north of the chancel, at the head of the north aisle. This was built between 1385 and 1420.

The building was paid for by indulgences. The Bishop of Durham sold 40 days of respite to Purgatory punishment for anyone contributing to the restoration and building of the new chapel. The Bishop of Galloway also sold 40 days in 1392 for anyone providing vestments and furnishings for the chapel.

In later years this chapel was used for storage, a place for the font, and later a place for the organ. It was restored in 1894 and the font removed to the present baptistery at the western end of the nave.

North aisle and Trinity chapel
Trinity chapel

If the Norman Arch is the outstanding architectural feature of the church, then the Trinity Chapel has to be the place of placid beauty.

The east window shown here is the only example of Decorated English style in the church, and the illustrations in the glass are wonderfully drawn with much fine detail and depth of colour. The artist was Kemp.

The arrival of the
Black Death, or Bubonic Plague, in the mid 14th century must have depleted the number of local craftsmen and parishioners, yet this seems to have been a time of much renewal and change at St. Andrew's. It speaks volumes for the power held by the Church establishment over the local population.

Here in the north aisle, stone corbels jutting out from the wall show the line of the original roof. The stone blocks would have supported roof beams and the horizontal line of stones above these were to deflect rainwater from the nave roof away from the aisle roof joint.

The aisles were widened in the 13th century. At the time this church was not only used for worship but also for more mundane meetings. The itinerant magistrates held court here, and the nearby market must have created the need for more impromptu gatherings.

The pillars and spandrels would have been brightly decorated, and it is certain that the roof timbers bore arms, standards and other bright colours. This all had to go after the 16th century

North aisle looking across nave
Baptistery and font

The Baptistery contains the simple sandstone font and one of the most ornate and finest font covers in the land. It is medieval of artist unknown and rises by a system of pulleys and counterweights in the tower.

The window depicts the baptism of Jesus and that of an Ethiopian eunuch.

A George IV arms adorns the rear wall, and there is a painting of the Last Supper by Giordano.

Lion on choir stall

The modern place of this church in Newcastle is to provide a haven for the less affluent city dwellers, a forum for frequent lunchtime organ recitals or other music, and a place of worship for the Greek Orthodox congregation.

It is dissociated from other churches in the city and exists in its own right as a parish church.

It is tucked away in one of the busiest corners of the city. There can not be many Newcastle people, or even visitors, who have not passed it on foot or on one of the many buses that travel past daily. I wonder how many have ventured inside this gentle, welcoming oasis of tranquility in our busy city?

Trinity Chapel window detail

Click here to see high quality album copies of these and other photographs from the same shoot

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