A meeting in Gosforth at 9 am on a Tuesday morning, so I joined the commuters on the Metro – I wish the Metro came as far as Ponteland. South Gosforth station is in Pevsner – the control centre was built here for the Metro in 1980, replacing the 1865 station, though the footbridge of 1891 survives. Then I crossed the road to St Nicholas church – how many times have I driven past it? Location is at NZ251681. Their website is at www.gosforthparishchurch.org.uk – some of it is very up to date (they’ve worked out what they’re doing in Lent (which is more than I have)), but then the music list (for what sounds to be an excellent choir) is last October’s.
I’ve not really got my head round the geography of this part of town, only realising now as I look at the map that the church would have been on a promontory overlooking the Ouseburn – the stream/river that flows from Woolsington, across the north of Gosforth, and curves down to the Tyne. I must also research the history of the railway here. Pevsner suggests a Perambulation round Gosforth and mentions the Main Dike stone in the churchyard (which I missed). Apparently some of the Catholic churches have lovely stained glass.
Anyway, back to St Nicholas. Gorgeous inside – a lovely Georgian church. It was built in 1799 by John Dodds (on the site of something much older, now gone), and 20 years later was extended (aisles added) by John Dobson. Do I assume that this part of Gosforth was expanding so the church needed to be bigger, or was it a vanity project? More rebuilding in 1913.
It was a rather gloomy day, so the photos are not stunning, but I hope they give a sense of this rather simple, rather beautiful church. The gold picks out the top of the columns, and the blue on the organ is rather lovely.
Next to the organ is this rather nice brass plaque to an organ blower. My music master at school, Geoff Varley, was brought up in the Yorkshire Messiah tradition, and told a lovely story: One year an established choral society got a new composer who persuaded them to throw away their Prout editions and buy the new Watkins Shaw. You can imagine the mutters but, as rehearsals continued, they realised it was going to be a good performance. The concert was stunning until, half way through the final Amen chorus, the organ stopped and the performance ground to a halt. The conductor went to ask the organist what had happened. “Ask him,” he said, pointing to the old man who bumped the organ, now back in his coat and flat cap, about to leave. “What happened?” asked the conductor. “Messiah’s got 2,479 pumps. It’s always had 2,479 pumps. I’ve pumped 2,479 times, and I’m going home.”
Then, at various points in the nave and aisles, are other nice stones. This one is a reset coat of arms of the Blenkinsopp Coulson family. I like the lovely mix of tablets.