St Joseph’s, Highfield
By the end of the 1800s, the nearest Catholic parishes were St Agnes' Crawcrook (1892) and Blaydon (1898). St Joseph's Highfield was formed between 1912 and 1914; initially Masses were celebrated by visiting priests wherever a convenient place could be found -for some time, a room above a shop in Ramsey Street, High Spen was used, until St Joseph's church was built in 1929. Although the church was a temporary structure, the presbytery was a large and handsome building, intended for a priest, curate and housekeeper, as it was thought that the neighbouring alloy works would result in an increase in labour-force in the area. What came, however, was the depression and a slump in the demand for light alloy.
Following the building of the presbytery, work began on the grotto, built mainly by parishioners. Many church fittings were bought and even made by members of the parish. The original school building was dedicated by Bishop Thorman in 1932; before that, many children travelled to school by foot to Crawcrook or Low Westwood. 1943 brought new, temporary parishioners in the form of American soldiers from a small transit camp in High Spen, and after them some German and Italian prisoners of war who came to Mass each Sunday, under guard.
In the 1950s, the possibility of a large new town in the parish saw the initial planning work for a new, larger church. However, the land was deemed unsuitable and building work was concentrated in the Winlaton area, which saw the creation of St Anne's Parish and the loss of Winlaton Mill to the parish.
Major work to renovate the church took place in the 1990s, including re-roofing, renewal of timbers and extensive interior re-decoration and re-ordering, including new sanctuary furniture, made by parishioner Robin Clucas.
In 2007, St Joseph's School moved to new, modern premises in Whinfield Way - a shared building with Highfield Primary School. The old school is now occupied by local carers charity Crossroads.
However, following renewed attempts to build a new church for the parish, including proposals to convert the school, the church had further deteriorated and was closed by the diocese in 2012. The presbytery remains and is rented by Crossroads as a place of respite for families and young carers.
Adapted from Parish History by Tom Conway.
St Barnabas' Church
Since the closure of St Joseph's Church, our Masses have been held in St Barnabas' Church, the home of the Anglican community.
Our weekend Mass is a Vigil Saturday evening Mass at 5:30pm. Our dedicated team of volunteers ensure that the church is prepared and set out, ready for Mass. You will receive a warm welcome from our team of greeters and our music group provide lively musical accompaniment from the gallery
St. Barnabas is positioned in the very centre of Rowlands Gill next to Tesco. Built in 1956 to a traditional design, the new St. Barnabas replaced the tin church which had been on the same site. In the nave, there is seating for about 120 on the “Mousey” Thompson oak pews, but the organ and choir balcony above the rear of the nave can accommodate up to 30 extra people.
We are currently working with our Anglican partners to develop the church; in the last couple of years, the church has been re-decorated, new lighting and heating system installed and , most recently, a smart, new glass partition between the church and main hall. We are incredibly grateful to them for their hospitality and the sharing of their church with us.
The church grounds are well looked after and attractive and have won many awards. Attached to the church is a hall complex, consisting of two separate halls and kitchen. These are well used by the community.
Mass is also usually celebrated on Fridays at 10:00am, followed by tea/coffee in the hall. During Lent and Advent, we have devotions on Sunday afternoons, which are often lay-led.
Red Box Appeal
"Red Box" collections at St Joseph's raised £1,147.66 for the Missions in 2016. Grateful thanks to all contributors. If anyone would like to become a boxholder please contact Patrick Brennan at 01207 542585 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Every two years, many members of the parish community come together, along with members of the wider community, to form The Josephites, who have performed many memorable pantomime productions, dating back to 1999. Members range across the age span, from as young as 4 to 84. In the last two productions, members of St Agnes' and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes have joined the group, as well as children from our parish school. Contact: Joan Laidler.
St Barnabas Church, Stirling Lane, Rowlands GIll, NE39 1PS
Facilities: easily accessible, WC, Loop system