James Worswick

A missionary to the secular Geordies.

Born in Lancaster in 1771, James Worswick was the sixth son in an old, respected Roman Catholic family. Two of his uncles were professors at the famous English College at Douay in France. In 1782 he attended the Douay seminary, but whilst there the college was suppressed by the French revolutionary government. Worswick and four other students made their way to the allied armies and the Duke of York gave them money and passports so they could get back to England.

Worswick continued his studies at Crook Hall. In 1795 he was ordained as a priest, and after a few weeks was appointed to take charge of the 'secular mission' in Newcastle. The old house in Bells Court, where Mass was said, was dilapidated and inadequate so he acquired a house, with a large garden, in Pilgrim Street.

He was intrumental in building St Andrew's church in his garden and opened it for worship on 11 February 1798, with the first celebration of Roman Catholic High Mass since the Reformation. At that time, there was also a chapel in Westgate Street which was in the care of a Jesuit, Fr. Warrilow. When he died in 1807, the two congregations were combined and the St. Andrew's church was enlarged. The numbers attending Mass grew rapidly and two further extensions were made to the building. To relieve the pressure of numbers further, a mission was set up in North Shields and a start was made on a church there in 1817.

Further growth in the Roman Catholic population led to a decision in 1838 to build St Mary's Cathedral, Clayton Street. Father Worswick was a leading member of the committee overseeing the project and he contributed to the building fund. Work began in 1842, but before the church was completed, James Worswick died in 1843.

His body is buried in a vault beneath the sanctuary floor of the Cathedral. In 1983 when the Cathedral was reordered the sepulchral slab which marked his burial place was moved to the floor of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. When the old house was demolished to make way for the Combined Police Station, Magistrates' Court, and Fire Station in 1933, the adjacent street was renamed. The townspeople were happy that it should be named Worswick Street: an unusual honour for a Roman Catholic in those days.

Worswick's memorial brass, now located to the left of the Blessed Sacrament altar in the Roman Cathlic Cathedral, was designed by A.W.N. Pugin and made by John Hardman of Birmingham, Pugin's close associate. The Latin inscription reads as follows:

Orate pro anima Reverendi Domini Iacobi Worswick hocce in oppido annos quadraginta octo Pastor vigilans obdormivit in Domino die octavo mensis Iulli Anno D-ni MDCCCXLIII Štatis suŠ LXXII  + Cuius corpus hic iacet + Cuins animŠ eius propicietur Deus + Pater Ave Amen
"Pray for the soul of the Reverend Master James Worswick in this very town for forty-eight years a watchful Shepherd. He fell asleep in the Lord on the eighth day of the month of July in the year of the Lord 1843, aged 72. His body lies here. On his soul may God have mercy. Our Father, Hail Mary, Amen."


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