19th Century Beginnings
The church stands in what was once the grounds of the Stone House, now St Peter’s Presbytery, which was built in 1875 (date inscription) by Mr. Kell, the first town clerk of Gateshead after the place became a municipal borough in 1835. The area which was once a large garden behind the house was for many years a field, before St Peter’s Church was built. Soldiers were billetted here during WW2. The name of the street probably reflects the fact that much of the land here was owned the Kell family, as were quarries in the higher ground. For centuries this area had coal mines and quarries, and the road to Durham ran along the high ground of the Fell until the new Durham Road was made in the 1820s.
Formation of the Parish
The growth of the Catholic population of Gateshead in the nineteenth century made it necessary, later in the century, to provide churches to serve new housing. The parish of St Peter was erected in 1929; Mass was said in a room above the Meadow Dairy on Durham Road until 1932, when a parish Mass centre (eventually to be a school) was opened on Dryden Road.
The Church building
In 1957 the present Presbytery and its land had been bought, for £4000, and the new church was opened in 1962. Designed by E. A. Gunning, it was ‘the first church in Gateshead to provide for church-going car owners’ (NCC, 113) with space for thirty five cars. The contractors were J. H. Fisher and Co. of Newcastle.
Exterior & interior design
The south front is ritual east. The church has a concrete portal frame, clad externally with dark blue-grey bricks with deep concrete gutters which also form the window heads. The pitched roof is covered in thick slates and has metal cross finials on east and west gables. The west entrance is in a central recessed bay with a plain canopy above the partly-glazed double doors and the over-door slab engraved with gilded St Peter’s crossed keys.
On that canopy stands a statue of St Peter. There are three stepped lancets above. All windows have shallow pointed heads cut into the eaves band, plain reveals, and projecting sills; the longer window at the west end of the south wall lights the organ loft and has a rendered band at gallery floor level. The nave is of five bays, the south day chapel two east bays, the north parish centre three east bays of the nave, and the sanctuary has one narrower bay.
Inside, the walls are of white-painted brick and the portal frame pink. A boarded teak ceiling is attached to the soffits of the beams, leaving the feet of the beams exposed, the ceiling between them painted turquoise. Timber doors close off the parish hall, a glazed screen the day chapel. There is a narthex under the organ loft. The pews are sturdy and have back rails. The red-carpeted sanctuary platform has two steps to the altar, three to the tabernacle stand. All the sanctuary furniture is made of slabs of green Irish marble, with the font set on the platform north of the altar.
A crucifix hangs above the tabernacle and in front of a teak canopied reredos of varnished russet-coloured stone. Variegated russet stone is used for the frontal of the day-chapel altar, and for the holy water stoups. Stations of the Cross are mosaics with gold background.