St Cuthbert’s Church, Blyth

The church is situated in Blyth Northumberland and is in the Newcastle diocese of the Church of England. The building was completed in 1892 and is what I would describe as a beautiful example of Victorian muscular church architecture.

Though the history of Blyth can be traced back to the twelfth century, the town itself did not attain to anything like its present size and importance until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that its industrial possibilities were recognised, and its development began in earnest. Up to that time it had a very small population, and until 1751 there appears to have been no provision at all for Christian worship, apart from the churches at Earsdon and Horton, of which parishes it formed a part.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Blyth began to increase in industrial importance and the advantages of its geographical position were recognised and exploited. Quays were built, the population increased and the need of more opportunities for religious worship began to arise and be recognised.

This was Blyth when the first Blyth Church – the Chapel of Ease was built in 1751. John Wallace, a Blyth historian, could find no evidence of any place of worship in Blyth before this date. Blyth belonged to the parish of Earsdon however pastors at Earsdon were few and far between. The Ridley family decided to build a Chapel of Ease at Blyth to ease the parish of Earsdon.

It was a small church built for a congregation of 500. It consisted of a nave and chancel, with a small bell cote at the West end. As the town developed, 2 galleries were built (one was later removed). The church was never consecrated. The Ridley family retained freehold and the right to appoint chaplains.

When the new church was built, Sir Matthew White Ridley gave the Chapel of Ease to the Diocesan Society who held it “on trust”. It was thoroughly overhauled and was described as “one of the most graceful looking halls in the town”. In 1925, it was pulled down to make way for a new Parish Hall, built on the site.

The brick arch at the entrance to the Parish Hall has a keystone of stone with 1751 engraved on it. This stone was the keystone of the arch at the entrance of the old church, and so was preserved in this way. A chalice, first used in the old church in 1754, is still on exhibition in the new church.

It was announced in the “London Gazette” on November 9th, 1883 that the Chapel of Ease had become a Parish Church. No longer did it belong to the Parish of Earsdon. The next two years were a period of great activity to raise money to enable the new church to be built.

By 1892 the church was completed the baptistry, vestries, vestibule and porch were added in 1891 and in the following year, the tower and transepts were completed. The tower when first built was adorned with stone pinnacles and a weathercock, but these were removed after one was blown off and damaged the roof of the nave, in the winter’s gale in 1937. The window in the High Altar “The Crucifixion” is in memory of Dr Henry Ward, who died in 1891.

The church had its original heating still in situ and operating when I first visited site, but it was at the end of its natural life. Leaks had developed and by todays expectations it was grossly inefficient and had to be replaced.

The new system was similar in design to the original but far more efficient with high output, low water content radiators being served by small bore steel pipes from a wall mounted condensing boiler sited in the North transept behind the organ. The radiators were colour coded to blend in naturally with their surrounds and the system is controlled by our unique intelligent Churchwarden control system.

The outcome was a church that was warm and comfy and reached temperature in approximately one hour, rather than the 24 hours that the old system had taken.

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