A Short Guide

A SHORT GUIDE

BY REVD CATHERINE LACK

St Thomas' is one of the most fascinating churches in Newcastle, and we hope this short guide will help you to appreciate some of the main points in its history. 

The first church (a pilgrim's chapel on the old bridge over the Tyne) was built soon after Thomas Becket was murdered, which was in A.D. 1170. It may have been built as an act of penance by Hugh de Morville (one of the knights who killed St Thomas). The Pope made Thomas a saint three years later. 

On the current site of the church, there used to be a hospital for lepers. The hospital was dedicated to Mary Magdalen, the first person to meet Jesus after he rose from the dead. You will find Mary in two of the windows, and also Jesus healing lepers. 

The present church was built by John Dobson, between 1827 and 1830. He was a famous architect, and was also responsible for building the Grainger Market and the Central Station. It is in the style of "Victorian Gothic", though Victoria did not become Queen until 1837. It copies "Early English Gothic", which was just becoming fashionable when Becket died. Note the long, narrow windows and the "dog-tooth violet" decoration round the Church arch. 

There are War Memorials both inside and outside St Thomas' and you can learn a lot from them. There are also some wonderful stained glass windows which show you the whole story of Jesus and also some of the happenings in the acts of the Apostles in the bible. Look particularly for St Paul in chains, and St Peter, in the gallery. On the left hand side as you enter the church (the north wall), there is a particularly striking window which was put in in 2000: to remember those killed in Malta. There are strong military connections with the past and present in St Thomas’. 

On the left hand side of the West wall, just inside the church, there is a memorial to a local man who worked for the East India Company. They had a fleet of their own, including merchant ships and warships. Robert Anderson, who died in 1868, served them for ten years, before returning to Tyneside. 

The church building has been adapted several times over the past 170 years and there are plans to redevelop the building to be more flexible for today’s (and tomorrow’s) needs. The glass doors, which date from 1996, make the building more open to passers by and carry a proclamation to the city (Amos 5:15) :

Hate Evil, Love Good – 
Do Justice at the Gate 

As the first stage in the re-ordering we re-furbished the north vestry, now renamed the "Herman Schier Vestry". herman Schier was a local hero who died saving others in a mining disaster. His memorial is in St Thomas'. We have also installed the first biomass boiler in central Newcastle (see other pages for more details and "The boiler story"). 

Please pray for the community who meet and worship here. Some come regularly, others occasionally; and we get a large number of one-off visitors. Please pray that all may feel the presence of God, and His love for all the world and every individual within it. It is a holy place – where prayer has been offered for a long time. 

Catherine Lack, Master of St.Thomas the Martyr


History
Webpage icon History: 12th to 20th Centuries