The Church has stood on Whitworth Terrace since its consecration in 1858. In 1880, the north aisle (the present Lady Chapel) was added and in 1890 the tower. A clock for the tower was added in 1898 and the following year tenants of the Shafto estates, together with parishioners donated the chimes. Eight tubular bells were placed in the tower, which were used and repaired until the 1960s when they became unsafe.
The fire of 1953
It was St James’ Day, Saturday 25th July 1953 that disaster struck. A huge fire ripped through the building and reduced the church to a ruin with only the walls standing. A local man, a miner, was later convicted of deliberately setting fire to the church. It is believed he had a grudge against the church, because in the previous month he had been convicted of stealing the communion wine!
The task of rebuilding the church was immense and took more than three years to complete at a cost of around £26,000. In rebuilding the church, a spacious and open chancel and sanctuary were achieved by locating the choir-stalls and organ at the west end of the building. The former high altar was refurbished and is now in the Lady Chapel. A new high altar was installed and proves a stunning focal piece.
Of the original stained glass windows only two remained – the St Paul window above the Lady Chapel and that at the west end of the aisle. A ‘patchwork’ window, composed of some of the fragments of glass from windows shattered in the fire was placed in the north transept above the door to the servers’ vestry.
The chancel roof was decorated with a medieval geometric design, enriched with colour and gold-leaf, contrasting with the simpler treatment of the barrel-vaulted nave and north aisle roof. The pulpit was restored whilst the old font was provided with a new oak cover, a small repetition of the pyramid spire on the tower.
After three long years the church was re-consecrated and reopened for worship on November 1st 1956. The reopening coincided with a visit from the late Queen Mother who was passing through the region. During her short visit to the Church, she remarked on the “bold use of colour” when looking up at the ceilings.
50th Anniversary Celebrations
In 2006 the parish church celebrated its golden anniversary with a series of events and it all kicked off with the release of 50 golden balloons to start the year-long celebrations.
It was on November 1st when the focus turned to the Anniversary of Re-consecration service when the Bishop of Durham, The Rt. Revd Tom Wright joined past and present clergy to give thanks for the last 50 years of worship.
During his sermon Bishop Tom said; “This church has a great feel and is a great place to worship. We thank God for his presence here and for all that has gone on over the last 50 years and beyond”.
New Creation East Window
To mark the golden anniversary celebrations in 2006 it was decided to install a new stained glass window above the altar at the east end of the church.
The fire of 1953 destroyed the original stained glass design and when the architect redesigned the church it was decided leave the glass clear to allow natural light to flood the chancel and the altar.
In December 2005 we learnt of a bequest from a faithful member of the church. It was their request that the money be put towards a fund for a new stained glass window to replace the one lost in the fire.
Following the bequest, a number of donations were received and in early 2007 we reached our target of raising £10,000.
The theme of the window is 'New Creation' and the Parochial Church Council commissioned architectural glass artist, Alan Davis to produce the new window and it was installed and dedicated in November 2007.
Commenting at the time, the Revd Lynda Gough, said: "The window will be a constant reminder of God's faithful love to us from generation to generation".
1875 – Revd John Gaskill
1900 – Revd Joseph Short
1915 – Revd George Robinson Cook
1927 – Revd Frederick Potter Bates
1939 – Revd Kenneth Moir Carey
1944 – Revd Leonard Maro Schiff
1947 – Revd Gordon Robertson Berriman
1958 – Revd Colin Brennen
1978 – Revd Richard Andrew Hugh Greany
1984 – Revd Nigel Charles Griffin
1992-2002 – Revd John Stuart Bain (Now Archdeacon of Sunderland)
2003-2011 – Revd Lynda Elizabeth Gough
2013-present – Revd Matthew Paul Tarling