Museum plan for St Cuthbert’s Church in Gateshead

A STAINED glass museum is part of a rescue package for a landmark listed church which has lain empty for 17 years.

St Cuthbert's Church, Bensham

A STAINED glass museum is part of a rescue package for a landmark listed church which has lain empty for 17 years.

Gateshead councillors will make a decision tomorrow on proposals by entrepreneur Ralph Tarr for St Cuthbert’s Church in the town.

The church, designed by eminent Tyneside architect John Dobson and built between 1846 and 1848, occupies a prominent position on Bensham Bank.

The importance of the church and its prime location has been recognised by the Tyne Gorge study, which seeks to protect the views and skyline along the river between Newcastle and Gateshead.

More than 20 years ago Mr Tarr bought a derelict site on the junction of Broad Chare and Newcastle Quayside and built the tower-style Baltic Chambers, where he lives.

The entrepreneur wants to convert the church into a museum, workshops and offices with caretaker’s flat.

Planners say the church is a prominent feature on approaches to the town centre via Bensham Bank and on the approaches to Team Valley and the A1. The church is set within its own grounds, which includes many trees.

There has been a series of past schemes for the church.

A plan for the reuse of the church by the Society of St Pius X – now in Christ Church in Gladstone Terrace, Gateshead – fell through in 2006.

A six-month marketing campaign, agreed by Gateshead Council and English Heritage, was launched last year.

The preferred bidder was a religious organisation known as Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, but this did not go ahead.

Planners say Mr Tarr’s proposed museum would be accessible from other attractions and leisure amenities such as Saltwell Park, Shipley Art Gallery and Gateshead Quays and would add to the concentration of tourist draws in the area.

The church is described as being in a very serious state of disrepair and the cost of resolving this deterioration is “very significant in financial terms,” say planners, who are advising approval of the bid.

They say: “If this scheme were to fail the longer term future of the building looks bleak with a strong likelihood the building could be lost in its entirety.”

Page 2: Town's history of glassmaking

Town's history of glassmaking

GATESHEAD has a long history of glass-making.

The town’s Sowerby works were internationally-known and in 1880 the firm was involved in the setting up of the Gateshead Stained Glass Company.

This continued until 1926 and made windows for churches like St George’s in Jesmond, Newcastle, Christ Church in Walker, the Venerable Bede Church and Christ Church in Gateshead, and St Mary’s in Hexham.

It also produced the windows for shipbuilder Charles Mitchell’s Jesmond Towers home, which became La Sagesse School.

William Wailes, who lived in the now-restored Saltwell Towers in Gateshead, was also a prominent stained glass maker whose works employed a staff of 76 and served churches and cathedrals across the country.

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