A brief history of St Ann’s, Battlefield
Saint Ann’s Chapel
In 1334, Robert the Squire of Byker, granted to John Sergerstane, a hermit, a plot of land two hundred feet square, together with a lane twenty feet wide connecting the plot with the Tyne, for an annual payment of forty shillings. This was in order that Sergerstane and his supporters might build upon the plot a chapel in honour of St Mary the Virgin and her Mother, St Ann.
The chapel was probably small and, to judge from an inventory made in 1548, by no means richly furnished. After the Reformation it seems to have been neglected, though burials still took place in its churchyard and it may have suffered when it became the centre of an emergency plague hospital in the reign of Elizabeth 1, or when all the houses in Sandgate were burnt down during the siege of Newcastle in 1644.
The share of St Mary in the dedication of the church lapsed probably in the sixteenth century, and we hear only of St Ann as patroness from as early as 1549 when the church, together with Great St Ann’s Close and Little St Ann’s Close became part of an area annexed by the city and county of Newcastle within whose boundary they have since remained.
In 1682 the chapel was re-defined at the expense of the Town Council of Newcastle. In 1710 a gallery was set up in the church to provide more accommodation.
St Ann’s Church
As the population of Sandgate continued to grow, a larger and more imposing building was desired, and in 1767-1768 the church was entirely rebuilt, in a very dignified English Renaissance manner, from designs by William Newton the most successful Newcastle architect of his day. The cost was again borne by the City Corporation.
The new church was consecrated by Bishop Trevor on Friday the 2nd of September 1768.The church then stood much as it now exists except that the interior was furnished with the usual three- decker pulpit and “box” pews, and the windows were much wider than at present.
The north windows seem to have been blocked up before 1843 when central heating was introduced and a plan made by John and Benjamin Green. Later in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth century, all the windows were reduced from seven feet to four feet six inches in breadth, all the furniture was renewed, and the ceiling, which had been a plain flat one encircled by a neat cornice, was surrounded by the present heavy cove and decorated with bands of guilloche ornament.
Between August 1953 and February 1954 the roof was completely restored and repairs to gutters, downpours etc. was completed. On completion of the building work internal
re-decoration was also undertaken. The final cost was £6300.
During the period 1984-1990 some re-ordering and refurbishment of the building was undertaken. The Church was re-decorated and the new lighting and heating were installed. The font was moved from the doorway at the west end and placed in the south east- corner.
Partitioning panels were erected to make a meeting area (the old church hall having been closed in c1980 and demolished in c1984). Further work was carried out during 1993 following the appearance of extensive cracking in the south-east cornice and walls. During this time a drainage system was installed around the outside of the building. The final cost was £43000.
In 1997 following the re-appearance of severe cracking the church was once again in need of restoration. The work done included securing the foundations and restoring the south-east corner. At the same time work was carried out to provide a new vestry, Sunday School and office accommodation, kitchen and toilet facilities and access for the disabled. The work was completed in March 1999 at a total cost of £250000.
In 2007 a programme of improvements to the churchyard was undertaken.
Sensitive restoration of original stonework and railings, restoration of the Crawhall Monument(Joseph Crawhall was Mayor of Newcastle in 1849) and repairs to the WW1 War Memorial were made possible with the help of a £50,000 Heritage Lottery grant.
Saint Ann’s Church was consecrated in 1768. The present Priest in Charge, Father Allan Marks is leading the Parochial Church Council on a programme of improvement works to the church in preparation for the celebration of its 250th year in 2018.
Plans for the works include:
- Redecoration of the church interior.
- Redecoration and repair of the exterior.
- Fitting of protection to windows.
- Renewal of pathways to give better access for disabled, and for funerals and weddings.
- Possible replacement of tarmac paths with stone flagging.
- Further roof repairs.
- Ongoing restoration of church masonry.
- Improvements to drainage.
There’s something for everyone at Saint Ann’s
Saint Ann’s Church is primarily a place of worship, but it has also been host to numerous other events including concerts by:
- Cappella Novocastriensis
- Durham Sinfonia
- Sage Gateshead Chamber choir
- Saint Ann’s Chamber Players
- North East Recorder Orchestra
- Bridie Jackson and The Arbour
- Young Sinfonia
- Silver Singers
- Vox Humana
as well as talks and walks led by local historians and experts on the history and heritage of East Quayside and the Ouseburn Valley.
The church has hosted BBC4’s ‘Any Questions ?’, as well as talks and public pulpit debates. In recent years deliverers of the Saint Ann’s Annual Lecture have included Lord Patten, Lord Putnam, Baron Stevens (former Police Commissioner John Stevens), Professor Sir John Burn and Baroness James (Author P.D.James). Most recently Professor Sir Alan Craft told us about’ What we have learned from a study of 1,000 families in Newcastle’, Professor Ron Beadle spoke about ‘The trouble with Happinesss’ and Peter Stark OBE (former Director of Northern Arts) presented an insight into ‘Funding for the Arts in the North East’
Text used by kind permission of the Friends of Saint Ann’s