This brief history of Holy Name is taken from Fr John White’s “History of The Holy Name Parish, Jesmond” published in 1980. While it contains important details of the origin and development of the parish, it over emphasises the role of clergy and is lacking in highlighting the contribution made by the lay members of the parish. Moves are underway to redress the balance and bring the history of Holy Name up to date.
The Catholic parish of the Holy Name, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne was founded on 1st December 1901.
The first parish priest, Fr Joseph Newsham, and his assistant priest, Fr James O’Connor, leased a house at 68 Manor Road, Jesmond and from there the work of the new parish was carried out for just over a year. A room in the house served as a chapel where Holy Mass and other Sacraments were celebrated. The first Baptism in the chapel took place in January 1902; the child baptised – John Anderson – went on to become a priest in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
In the following months land was acquired in St George’s Terrace where a temporary iron church was built and formally opened on 18th January 1093. This church supplied the needs of Catholics in Jesmond for the next 27 years.
In 1904 Fr Newsham, the first parish priest, moved to St Joseph’s, Gateshead and was replaced by Fr Aloysius Johnson who served at Holy Name for the next 45 years until his death in 1950.
In 1909 a Building Fund for a new church was started. Progress was slow – the fledgling parish was trying to finance expenditure for its day-to-day needs as well as clearing the debt incurred for the purchase of the land and building of the church and presbytery in St George’s Terrace. By 1912, the year when pastoral statistics were first published for Holy Name, the Catholic population of Jesmond was recorded as 420 with 13 baptisms.
In this same year, 1912, the Religious Sisters “Les Filles de la Sagesse”, who had moved into Jesmond a year beforehand, took possession of the property at North Jesmond House on a five years lease. In 1921 the property, consisting of the House, cottages and five acres of land, was purchased for £5,000.
In 1921, due to the increasing number of Catholics, the iron church was extended to give room for a further 60 places. And in 1922, a new parish Hall – known as the Osborne Hall – was built at a cost of £1,500. It proved to be a great asset to the parish, helping through various social and other events to build up the community and, at the same time, helping to raise funds for the new church.
In 1928 the Building Fund had reached £5,000 and permission was given for a new church to be built. A site was purchased at the junction of Mitchell Avenue and North Jesmond Avenue for the new church and presbytery at a cost of £2,640. The first sod was cut in June 1928 and the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop Joseph Thorman on 30th September.
The solemn opening of the new Church of the Holy Name took place on 19th November 1929. The cost of the church was £10,000 and the presbytery £2,600. Including the purchase of the site, the total cost was £15,238.
The site of the iron church on St George’s Terrcace was sold to the City and is now occupied by the Swimming Baths. The old iron church was sold for £50 and cost a further £1,000 to dismantle and reassemble in the colliery village in Murton, County Durham.
Meanwhile, the La Sagesse Convent and School was gaining in strength and numbers. During the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, and along with the other schools in Newcastle, it suffered great upheavals but emerged stronger than ever. In 1946, the Sisters purchased Jesmond Towers. ‘The Towers’ was officially opened in June 1948 and in December that year the Senior School, now with 750 pupils, took possession of the building.
Fr Johnson died in June 1950, aged 81, and was succeeded by Fr Michael Henry. Fr Henry died in retirement in 1971 and Fr John Crumbley succeeded him. Fr Crumbley remained in post for only for six months, having arrived at Holy Name in poor health and learning soon afterwards that his illness was terminal. He died in 1972.
Fr Owen Swindlehurst became parish priest in March 1972 and remained for six years until he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle and Bishop of Chester-le-Street in July 1977. One of his first tasks in the parish was to oversee the building of a new Parish Centre close to the church. The Centre was built for a tendered price of £34,616 and has proved since then to be an invaluable asset for the parish and its various social, cultural and spiritual activities.
Bishop Swindlehurst was succeeded by Fr John White in 1978. Fr White served here until 1992 when he was succeeded by Fr Benedict Carey. Sadly, Fr Carey died suddenly in post and was succeeded by Fr Adrian Dixon in 1994.
Following Fr Dixon’s appointment to St Joseph’s, Gateshead, Fr Michael Whalen became parish priest of Holy Name in 2005 and he served here until his appointment in 2013 to the Holy Family Parish of Newton Aycliffe and Shildon in County Durham.