Building of St John’s started in 1848 and it opened for worship in December that
year. It is a traditional building of the time in a Norman style.
Prior to that, Birtley and it’s surrounding communities had been part of the Parish
of Chester-le-Street but had grown and developed to a size where a seperate parish
A vestry and an organ were added over 1849 and it was finally consecrated by the
Lord Bishop of Durham on August 9th 1849.
In 1880 the building was further extended to include 2 transepts and 2 vestries with
a new entrance porch at the west end.
A new organ (the present one) was installed in 1899 to mark the Church’s 50th jubilee.
A basic but adequate instrument with 2 manuals (keyboards) and a set of 32 pedal
It still uses the original mechanical linkage system from the manuals to their pipes
and an air operated system to link the pedal notes.
In 1911 a new clock with peal of bells was added to celebrate the coronation of King
(Click on pictures for larger views)
< Bells prior to installation
The belfry today >
Apart from the addition of a Lady Chapel in the North Transept, the Church remained
much as built until the mid 1960’s.
In the 1960’s a new sanctuary and altar was installed in the nave, in keeping with
moves at the time to involve people more fully in the acts of worship and, apart
from small alterations to layout, is much how St John’s is, and works, today.
Prior to 1960’s alteration
New Nave Altar 1960’s
Over the 1990’s the building was re-roofed and rewired with a few other repairs and
These included a re-ordering of the West end and tower - mainly to make the west
end vestries and tower area more usable and to bring us into the 21st century.
An office was created in the clergy vestry and the central tower area made usable
as a small meeting place.
We are currently nearing the end of a project to restore St John’s stained glass.