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Parish Church of St Nicholas (Cofe), Sunderland

Description: Parish Church of St Nicholas (Cofe)

Grade: II
Date Listed: 15 November 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1405866

OS Grid Reference: NZ3860855544
OS Grid Coordinates: 438607, 555544
Latitude/Longitude: 54.8932, -1.3996

Locality: Sunderland
County: Sunderland
Country: England
Postcode: SR3 1XQ

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Listing Text


Church constructed in 1939 to the designs of Donald McIntyre, Cathedral Architect at Durham (1935 to 1969).

Reason for Listing

This church of 1939, by Durham Cathedral Architect Donald McIntyre, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Design: it combines a stark modern design with Deco influences
* Architect: it is an attractive inter-war church by the regionally respected architect Donald McIntyre
* Artistic Embellishment: it houses the largest collection in the country of Leonard Evett's stained glass, and is the largest collection of C20 stained glass by a single artist anywhere in England
* Intactness: it is externally and internally intact; the only significant alteration being the insertion of Leonard Evett's stained glass windows which more than compensate for the loss of the original window glass
* Architectural embellishment: the decorative treatment of the interior is original and intact


The creation of a new suburb in the southern part of the extensive parish of Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, led to plans to divide the parish and acquire a site on which to construct a church, parish hall and vicarage. The district of St Nicholas was created in 1926 and funds were secured to buy a site for the church buildings. Although a church hall was built in 1932 and the population of the district continued to grow, it was not until 1939 that St Nicholas' parish church was built at a cost of £9000 (including a £6000 donation from the Bishop of Durham). The foundation stone was laid by Mrs G Gordon on 4 February. Although war was declared ten days before the consecration of the new church, this took place as planned on 13 September 1939, performed by the Bishop of Durham. The church remained unscathed during the war, and its footprint is unchanged to the present day; with the exception of the insertion of an organ in the 1950s, the interior remains largely unaltered.

The church was designed by the architect Donald McIntyre, an ecclesiastical architect in the North East as well as Cathedral Architect at Durham from 1935 to 1969. During his time as resident Cathedral architect, he was responsible for the Miner's Memorial in the south aisle (1947) and the Lectern (1940). Other known works include the chancel extension to All Saints' Church, Egglescliffe, Cleveland (1957-9), and a factory for Armstrong Cork Company, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead (1948). The church was built by Messrs. Gordon Durham of Boldon, established in 1928.

In 1954 stained glass windows by Marion Grant were placed in the Baptistry, and between 1955 and 1998 47 of the church's original plain leaded window frames were removed and replaced with various stained glass pieces by Leonard Evetts. Leonard Evetts' (1909-1997) trained at the Royal College of Art under Martin Travers and became Master of Design in the Department of Fine Art at Newcastle University; he is known for his ability to combine creative thought with fine workmanship in the Arts and Crafts tradition and as a creative artist executing a range of commissions including alter frontals, ecclesiastical vestments, watercolours and stained glass. His work can be found in churches and Cathedrals throughout the UK and Europe. The collection in this church, spanning a generation, is considered to be the largest collection of Evetts work in one location and comprises various subjects all inspired by Biblical texts, Christian themes and the lives of the Saints. It is also thought that this is the largest collection of C20 stained glass by a single artist anywhere in England. Evetts's windows were made of glass from Hartley Wood and Co. in Sunderland, which used traditional manufacturing methods to produce glass considered to have a texture of great richness and character.


MATERIALS: reinforced concrete, faced in plain red/brown brick in Flemish bond with brick, stone and concrete dressings, and a tile roof.

PLAN: rectangular nave with side aisles and an apsidal east end. Lady Chapel is attached to the south of the chancel and a vestry to the north. Square tower at the south west end a small circular baptistry at the north west corner.

EXTERIOR: main (south) elevation comprises a three-bay rectangular chancel with a pitched roof and tall, narrow round-headed windows; it has a blind, apsidal east end, carrying a depiction of a cross detailed in slightly different coloured brick. The attached rectangular Lady Chapel has a flat roof and four rectangular windows. The five-bay nave has a single roundel and paired round-headed lancets within rectangular-headed openings; the aisle is pierced by four small square windows. The west end comprises a tall square tower with a main entrance to the ground floor, reached by a set of stone steps. The entrance has fluted stone reveals and double wooden doors with a stone tympanum bearing a carving of St Nicholas aiding sailors in distress (by local artist Mrs Hornsby). Above is a bank of five rectangular windows and three full height round headed narrow louvered openings with projecting decorated concrete plinths; above these are three decorated waterspouts. The side (west) elevation has a stone band, below which there is a row of small square windows matching those of the aisles and above which there are triple round headed lancets flanked by a single square-headed lancet with projecting hoods. The rear (north) elevation replicates the south, but has a projecting flat-roofed apsidal baptistry with three rectangular windows at the west end and rectangular flat-roofed vestries at the east end. All windows have well laid brick lintels and original windows have small paned leaded lights while later replacements have stained glass.

INTERIOR: the church is entered through a vestibule with a concrete staircase and ornate metal balustrade accessing the tower on the left. A pair of wooden and glazed doors give access to the main body of the church. The nave and chancel (there is no chancel arch) have plainly painted plaster walls and a flat ceiling with a narrow, central tunnel vault. Although externally the church is articulated with nave and aisles, inside there is no sub-division of space by arcades. Instead the clerestory is supported on short concrete beams, between square pillars (rising to ceiling height as pilasters). The circular baptistry is entered through a plain round arched opening with curving fixed stone seating and also gives entry to the north aisle. The narrow chancel retains original oak choir stalls, pulpit, desk and panelling and three round-headed openings through the south wall give access to the Lady Chapel; also in this wall are a niche and a small cupboard. The vestry is accessed through the north wall of the chancel and the organ is also houses in this wall with a loft and decorative wooden screen above. The small sanctuary, approached by a raised dais, is plainly painted with the original oak altar and altar rails to the front. All of the woodwork is similarly simply detailed. The plain Lady Chapel has a pair of fixed bench fronts at the rear and the main window has an oak surround with stepped reveals. There is wooden parquet flooring throughout.

STAINED GLASS: there are three stained glass windows in the baptistry by Marion Grant. Forty seven other stained glass windows by Leonard Evetts form the largest collection of his work in England. They comprise various subjects all inspired by Biblical texts, Christian themes and the lives of the Saints. Some have been grouped together in themes for example the Northern Saints in the North aisle, the Pilgrimage of Faith in the sixteen lights of the clerestory and The Creation in the lower west end with the Vision of Heaven above.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.