St Matthew, known as ‘The Big Lamp’, is huge. I have driven down the West Road on so many occasions, and never been in. I have seen the church from many different places in Newcastle – it’s the tower just to the right of the spire in this view over Stephenson’s High Level Bridge – but I’ve never been in. It’s one of our Deanery churches, but I’ve never been in. The church’s website is http://www.stmatthewsnewcastle.org. It is at the very Catholic end of the Church of England; they and I will not agree on many things (ordination of women just being one of them). Perhaps those of my congregation who think I’m “High” should come to a service here!
The church’s grid reference is NZ238642. If you want a photo of the Big Lamp look at the Newcastle Libraries flickr site – http://www.flickr.com/photos/newcastlelibraries/4087812506/in/photostream/ – I must research the tram lines.
I came here on the DAC trip on 29 August, and was surprised to see that some of the nearby streets are rather lovely. Others are rather un-lovely. It is an interesting (difficult) area – the website comments the area now has many different races and nationalities. I don’t know how many they get to worship, how they survive financially, but I’m glad they do.
For me (and regular readers will know my wife is in a wheelchair) the biggest sadness is there is no disabled access – the wheelchair at the bottom of this flight of stairs speaks volumes. What you do about it is an interesting question.
I didn’t get any good photos of the interior – it is huge. The Chancel and Nave were consecrated in 1880, the tower and western ends of the aisles were completed in 1905. The architects came from the firm of Austin, Johnson and Hicks. R.J. Johnson i/c the first phase, W.S. Hicks the second. The plot of land they had to build on was house-shaped, and the church is almost square. The roof apparently drops down five levels to detract from the square-ness – I could go back and count. A view right through to the altar. The east window is by Kempe – the left side is a Jesse Tree (the lineage of Christ), the right is an Arbor Vitae (listing the succession of prophets associated with the coming of Christ). The reredos (designed by Johnson) is a later addition. The marble floor and the sedilia are rather beautiful, and the huge organ came from a church in Cheshire “that was slowly sinking into a salt mine” (says the leaflet) in the 1980s.
I liked this window on the south side of the church – late Kempe & Co, I think. Most recently they have installed a new altar and triptych in the north aisle – as the DAC we were there to see what we had given permission for. I’m glad we did. The images were painted by a Romanian iconographer Christi Paslaru. The central panel depicts the meal at Emmaus (Luke 24) at which Cleopas and his companion recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread. In Lent the side panels are closed and images of the Passion provide the backdrop of the Chapel. Having just posted I am told this is my 100th blog – no bad thing to end the 100th blog with a modern icon of the Eucharist.