Although no date is evident, St Oswin’s Church once stood close to Pier Road and was originally a small tin chapel of worship, of which the site is indicated with an inverted ‘V’ mark on a nearby house.
The present small and spireless church, however, is virtually hidden away from view and set back from the road on the south side of Tynemouth Front Street.
It was designed by Newcastle architects Hansom & Dunn and built in 1890 in a traditional east / west configuration in its own grounds and fronted with a secluded walled garden.
Although usually shortened to ‘St Oswin’s’ the full and correct name for the church is Our Lady and St. Oswin’s Roman Catholic Church.
The foundation stone was laid on 8th September 1889, and the church was opened on Trinity Sunday, only nine months later. The Parish Priest at this time was Canon George Howe, who was reputed to be a very talented musician.
The name of St Oswin was chosen for the church in tribute to Oswin, King of Northumbria, who was buried in the nearby Priory grounds.
The Priory once owned this title, but at the Reformation and the suppression of the monastery in 1539 it became vacant and so the title was taken up for the church and parish, so that the traditions of the Priory and its monks could be continued in service to God and neighbours.
Unusual for a church of this era, there are strong iron trusses which support the roof timbers. During the Second World War, this construction method proved to be of great advantage to the church, when in April 1941, it suffered damage following an air raid attack. A German bomber dropped a sea mine (intended for the river mouth), which exploded on the nearby Pier Road and caused extensive damage to neighbouring property. Fortunately, the church remained relatively unharmed.
by Charlie Steel © 2014
His published books include ‘Monkseaton Village’ Vols 1 & 2, and ‘North Shields Public Houses, Inns & Taverns’ Parts 1 & 2, all of which are available from most local booksellers.