Chapel of the Venerable Bede, Durham
Description: Chapel of the Venerable Bede
Date Listed: 25 June 2007
English Heritage Building ID: 502403
OS Grid Reference: NZ2804242624
OS Grid Coordinates: 428042, 542624
Latitude/Longitude: 54.7778, -1.5656
Location: St Hild's Lane, Durham DH1 1TS
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1914/0/10031 LEAZES ROAD
25-JUN-07 College of St Hild and St Bede
Chapel of the Venerable Bede
Anglican chapel. 1939, by Seeley & Paget. Reinforced concrete frame filled with solid brickwork and rendered; welsh slate roof, metal windows and cork flooring.
PLAN: rectangular chapel with narthex and an apsidal vestry attached to the south.
EXTERIOR: art deco with gothic, baroque and classical detail.
East end is plain with lancet openings through flanking buttresses.
West end narthex in the form of a tall rectangular tower of 3 bays; central bay inset with small rectangular openings piercing parapet; single lancet window in organ gallery and main entrance below. Classical entrance with Romanesque arch rising from imposts, flanked by a pair of columns and entablature in doric style. Main door is of 15-panes with semi-circular fanlight above. Left bay plain with rectangular projecting stair turret on ground floor providing access to organ gallery. Right bay has a belfry in the form of a concave niche containing a figure of St Bede supported on a fluted corbel, with bell and canopy above surmounted by a cross. A flat roofed single story apsidal vestry projects to the south with a 16-pane tripartite window in its curving end. North and south walls of alternate narrow and broad bays demarcated by paired buttresses with narrow bays recessed. The west wall of each broad bay is pierced by a lancet window. At a higher level, the bays are set back from the outer face. At ground floor level, there are a series of 16-pane tripartite casement windows.
INTERIOR: simple whitewashed plaster walls with a ceiling of alternate barrel vaulted bays in sprayed asbestos and cross-vaulted bays in fibrous plaster. At a level of c. 3m above the floor, the walls are set back from the outer face in alternate bays and at a higher level still the walls are set further back in order to reduce the roof span. The central aisle is flanked by three rows of raised seating formed of alternate teak and walnut boards, polished and decorated with various coats of arms. Two rows at the western ends are set at right angles to the aisle. The altar, also of alternate teak and walnut boards, retains its original covering. Timber cornices, finished with silver leaf, suspend the original hangings to the rear. The Bishop's chair to the left of the altar and the sedilium to the right, are also constructed of alternate walnut and teak boards, the latter with rear hangings suspended on plaster cornices. The font and lectern are part of the original chapel fittings. A Harrison and Harrison organ of 1891 with a casing by Seeley & Paget occupies the organ gallery at the west end of the chapel. The cork flooring and woodwork detail is carried through to the vestibule and vestry with original doors and fittings.
HISTORY: The Chapel of the Venerable Bede, designed by architects John Seeley and Paul Paget was completed in 1939. It was constructed in the then grounds of the College of the Venerable Bede to celebrate its centenary as a Church of England teacher training school. The college of Hild and Bede was formed in 1979 when the Church of England sold the college to the University of Durham. The chapel occupies a prominent location on a sloping site above the River Wear.
Seeley & Paget are historically important as they are considered to be at the forefront of C20 architecture. The practice worked between 1930 and 1960 and during this time produced a number of highly original ecclesiastical buildings in a variety of styles worldwide. However, it is their ability to work among a range of genres and to incorporate historic styles into modern buildings, which is one of the key factors contributing to their historic importance. They are best remembered for their art deco extension to Eltham Palace but also for a number of notable churches including The Ascension of 1939 at Hanger Lane.
'The New Chapel at the College of the Venerable Bede, Durham' The Architect & Building News, (1st March 1940) 222-224.
Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England. County Durham 2nd ed (1983), 236
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: This Anglican chapel was designed by Seeley & Paget in 1939 in the then grounds of the College of the Venerable Bede. It is of special architectural and historic interest for its outstanding design and excellent detailing by one of the leading national architectural practices of the time. In particular, the skilful amalgam of various styles in an essentially art deco building, a trademark of the Seeley & Paget practice is noteworthy. Their use of modern materials and techniques is demonstrated in the plain yet dramatic interior, which is also intact with good quality fixtures and fittings including a cross by Stephen Dykes-Bowyer. The quality of design and execution combined with a very low level of alteration mean that this chapel fully meets the criteria for listing a C20 place of worship in a national context.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.