Hidden Newcastle: St Nicholas’ Cathedral

January 8, 2016
Inside st nicholas cathedral looking at the stained glass windows

Have you been inside St Nicholas’ Cathedral in Newcastle? Dating back to 1901, stepping inside this magnificent cathedral is like stepping into history.

St Nicholas’ Cathedral is in the centre of Newcastle and really easy to walk past. Have you ever wondered what’s inside? It is full of interesting history. Read my complete guide to the interior and pop next time you pass.

History of St Nicholas’ Cathedral

The city of Newcastle upon Tyne is home to two cathedrals The Cathedral church of St Nicholas is the Church of England cathedral and is the seat of the Bishop of Newcastle. It is the oldest cathedral in Newcastle.  You will find it in the centre of Newcastle, just round the corner from Newcastle Castle in Newcastle’s old quarter.

Read more: A visit to Newcastle Castle

A cathedral has stood on this spot since Norman times when the castle was built. The original Normal cathedral burnt down in 1216. Today the cathedral is a majestic building.

It was built in the 13th Century and a lantern tower was added in the 15th Century. The spire dominated the landscape and for many years was the main navigation point for ships on the river Tyne below.

Newcastle cathedral takes its name from St Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors and boats.

St Nicholas Cathedral from the outside looking at the lantern tower and the clock

Inside St Nicholas’ cathedral

Whilst I have walked past the cathedral many times I have never been inside. We have been around the back of the cathedral to see the  Vampire Rabbit glaring at the cathedral. On a walking tour of Newcastle with Illes tours we learnt a bit about the cathedral’s history.

Some of the memorials inside St Nicholas Cathedral Newcaslte

We finally went inside during the Heritage Open Days. After visiting the Mining Institute and on the way to Holy Jesus Hospital we saw the Heritage Open Day banners outside the cathedral. My son wanted to have a look inside so we took the opportunity. I am glad we did as it is really interesting.

When entering St Nicholas cathedral you immediately feel the sense of calm that old cathedrals have. There is something about the high ceilings, stained glass windows and beautiful carvings that makes you feel a real sense of the past. You can almost hear the choir singing in the peaceful atmosphere. We could have taken a tour but opted to walk around and discover the cathedral for ourselves. There is history waiting to be discovered around every corner.

St Nicholas cathedral looking at the font in the distance with stained glass windows behind
St Nicholas Cathedral - a view of the choir stalls
St Nicholas cathedral - a close up of the font

The font is near the entrance of the cathedral and is beautiful wooden font dating from the 15th century. It must have taken ages to carve. There are plenty of examples of carving throughout the cathedral. The choir stalls and rood screen date from the 19th century and feature carvings by Ralph Hedley.

Ralph Hedley was a local artist and craftsman who was well known for his paintings depicting life in North East England.

Stained Glass Windows

There are plenty of stained glass windows which all tell their own story. All the windows are different and have their own style which makes every corner of the cathedral unique.

Most of the stained glass dates from the 18th Century. A lot of the original windows were destroyed in the English Civil War when Scottish invaders badly damaged the interior during a siege. The Scottish threatened to blow up the lantern tower until they learnt some Scottish prisoners were held inside.

One fragment of medieval stained glass remains in St Margaret’s Chapel. This is a roundel of the Madonna feeding the Christ Child. There are also more modern windows celebrating Tyneside industrial pioneers, including Charles Parsons’ window featuring the Turbinia. This was the first turbine driven steam yacht which you can now find in the Discovery Museum.

At the East End of the cathedral is a window by Leonard Evetts which is a thank you for the building surviving the Second World War.

Some of the stained glass windows inside the cathedral church of St Nicholas
Stained glass windows inside Newcastle cathedral

Memorials inside the Cathedral.

Wandering around the sides of the cathedral there are plenty of memorials. The tomb of Bishop Lloyd, third bishop of Newcastle is really impressive. There is lots of ornate decoration covering the tomb and if you look closely you can see small faces and figures hidden among the vines.

The tomb of bishop Lloyd

In the corner of the picture below you can see the Madison Memorial. This celebrates three generations of the Madison family, prominent town people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Henry Madison and his wife are kneeling in prayer at the front and they got married in the cathedral in 1594. The family made their fortune from coal mining.

A quiet corner of Newcastle cathedral
Inside St Nicholas cathedral showing stonework and stained glass windows in the background

There are plenty of other memorials and graves inside the cathedral which are interesting to read. The stories on some of the graves telling of life in the army and navy are fascinating.

As you walk around you will notice the colours or regimental flags. The cathedral is the chapel of the Northumberland Fusiliers. When they renew their flags the old ones are put on display in the cathedral. As a result it has the finest collection of colours anywhere outside London.

Regimental flags hanging from the wall of Newcastle cathedral

This lovely side chapel also contains a reading corner for children. It’s white walls make for a lovely oasis of calm inviting you to linger.

A cathedral side chapel with a kids reading corner

Collingwood Memorial

One part of the cathedral where we really lingered was the Collingwood Memorial. Admiral Lord Collingwood, who was friend and colleague to Admiral Lord Nelson was baptised and married in the cathedral. He went on to conclude the Battle of Trafalgar after Nelson’s death. His monument is a testament to the bravery of the armed forces and the flags are a reminder of battles fought in the past.

The collingwood memorial
The collingwood memorial

The Organ

In another side chapel we found an amazing array of treasure as well as a wonderful organ. Charles Avison, one of the most influential composers of the 18th Century was the organist here in 1736. This is the original organ, although it has been repaired and modified since then.

Some of the valuables on display in St Nicholas Cathedral
The organ at St Nicholas Cathedral

There was plenty to see in St Nicholas cathedral and much of it is a great record of the history of Newcastle. If you are passing it is well worth stopping in and having a look around. It is a fascinating place to visit.

Read more: Amazing Newcastle buildings to visit during Heritage Open Days

What you need to know

You will find the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas on the corner of Mosley Street and St Nicholas Street.

St Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Sq,
Newcastle upon Tyne

There is parking on Dean Street and it is walking distance from Central Station.


You can visit the cathedral Sunday – Friday 7.30am – 6.00pm

On bank holidays its open 8.00am – 4.00pm

Have you ever visited the cathedral? Let me know below.

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Have you been inside St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle? This medieval church is full of hidden treasures. Why not click through to find out more

5 responses to “Hidden Newcastle: St Nicholas’ Cathedral”

  1. Galina V says:

    Very impressive. The font is beautiful, and every corner tells a story. Thank you for the insights, I have never visited this Cathedral.

  2. I love visiting new places from my armchair and I really felt like I was there with all the photos 🙂

  3. I love discovering Newcastle through your blog, seeing as I have never been. Churches and Cathedrals are always my favourite things to see in a new place.

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