A group of priests of the diocese are arranging a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the church of St Mary and St Thomas Aquinas at Stella, near Blaydon for St Cuthbert`s day ( March 20th). Mass will start at 12 noon and the music for the ordinary of the Mass will be Palestrina`s Aeterna Christi Munera setting which will be sung by the choir of St George`s, Cullercoats. This should be a splendid occasion and an opportunity to visit one of the most historic churches in the diocese for anyone who hasn`t been there before.
Here`s some information about the parish culled from `Down Your Aisles` by Michael Morris and Leo Gooch.
The earliest record of a Catholic presence at Stella is in 1149 when the bishop of Durham granted the manor of Stella to the Benedictine nuns of Newcastle as a summer retreat and a source of income. Stella Hall was created after the dissolution of the monasteries but was built by a Catholic, Nicholas Tempest. In 1598, the bishop of Durham writing about Catholic activity in his diocese wrote `Nicholas Tempest of Stella, that great recusant... where at Stella, if I am rightly informed, they keep up a Popish spiritual service`.
A priest was in residence at the hall throughout the penal period with Benedictines and Jesuits serving as chaplains. An interesting point to note is that the name of the tune for `Hail Queen of Heaven` is Stella because it was composed there.
The church opened on October 12th 1831 and was designed to seat 300. A three part Mass ( by Webbes) was sung with full orchestral accompaniment, preceded by the overture to the Messiah and terminated by the Hallelujah Chorus! The church is notable for the design of the presbytery which is added as a kind of facade to the church so that from the road it looks like a castle more than anything, presumably so as not to alarm any passing Protestants. Stella Hall itself was demolished in 1954. Four daughter parishes have been founded from Stella.