James Worswick was born in 1771 to a wealthy, Catholic, Lancashire family. He trained for the priesthood at Douai in France but had to return to England during “The reign of terror” which followed the French Revolution. He continued his studies at Crook Hall (forerunner of Ushaw College) near Durham and was ordained at York in 1795.
Shortly after this he was to take up his first appointment in Newcastle, charged with the priestly duties at the small Catholic Chapel in Newgate Street. By 1798 he had built St Andrew’s Church in Pilgrim Street and by 1800 he had built school rooms to educate both boys and girls. He served one of the poorest communities in the town at that time and with the rapid increase in the population, mainly Irish immigrants, together with the regular outbreaks of cholera, conditions must have been desperate.
In 1832 he was caring for 4,000 Catholics so it must have come as a great relief to be joined by an Assistant Priest, Fr William Riddell. These two men were instrumental in forming the committee responsible for the building of St Mary’s but sadly in 1843, a year before the church was completed, Fr James Worswick died.
He is buried beneath the Sanctuary but his sepulchral brass memorial is located in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. His head is sculpted in the form of a corbel on the left of the Side Porch entrance and his contribution to the people of Newcastle is also commemorated by the plaque outside the present St Andrew’s Church in Worswick Street, named in his honour by the Corporation. On Sunday 8th July, we mark the 175th anniversary of his death. We acknowledge and are thankful for his life of service and faith. May he rest in peace.
A likeness of Fr James Worswick's head is sculpted in the form of a corbel on the left of the Side Porch entrance to the Cathedral