The 1907 Primitive Methodist magazine tells us that in 1821 William Clowes preached in Bishop Auckland, in a stable loft in Bondgate, and in 1842 the Society moved to a small chapel in William Street. Bishop Auckland Backway chapel is recorded in the 1867 Register of non-conformist places of worship.
In 1869 a new chapel in Tenters Street was opened. In turn, a new, large Central chapel with extensive school premises, was opened in 1902. Read about the story here.
Thanks to John Heslop for pictures of the 1842 Backway chapel. John’s pictures were taken around 1968-70, shortly before the chapel was demolished to build a small shopping centre and car park.
The chapel consisted of both adjoining houses and had a gallery, accessed from the exterior steps.
John also located in William Patterson’s Northern Primitive Methodism (1909) pages 95-96 some background to the chapel and society in its early years.
“A movement was made in 1836 to build a chapel, and two or three years afterwards a site was bought in the back-way behind William Street, what was then a beautiful garden and orchard. Not until Whitsuntide, 1842, however, was a place erected. The trustees were Robert Powell, John Robinson, Edward Blair, Thomas Mankin, Joseph Petty, Joseph Graham, William Thompson, and Thomas Firbank. The plain structure was only capable of accommodating a hundred worshippers, yet it was a great advance upon their previous tabernacles, and they entered it with joy.
Trouble came with the pitmen’s strike of 1844, and serious financial and other consequences confronted the society. Several of the trustees and members were evicted from their dwellings, and their furniture thrust into the streets. A year before Bishop Auckland had been made into a branch, with twenty preaching places, including Ingleton, Shildon, St. Helen’s, Toft Hill, Cockfield, and Staindrop, and John Snowdon was appointed resident minister, but in the strike year the society reverted back to the mother circuit.
For years struggle and difficulty were grappled with by a few, and had it not been for outside assistance, the probabilities are that the place would have had to be abandoned. New trustees were elected in 1853, and their names are full of interest :—James Wilson, Ralph Boddy, and George Calvert, all of Crook; John Dent, Benjamin Spoor, and Ferdinand Spoor, of Witton Park; John Palphraman, George Brown, and W. Wright, of Bishop Auckland.
Solid progress was made; a gallery was put into the chapel in his spare time by Mr. Wright, a joiner as well as local preacher; a string band became an important feature in the services, the principal per-formers being John Smith, John Brown, and John Robinson’s three Sons; and there was also what has been called the “Auckland Local Preachers’ Training College,” held in the farm-house of William and Nathan Race—now the Welcome Inn—where young men were encouraged to pray and exhort. John Binks, who occupies the premier position on the plan as a local preacher, whose term of labour is close upon half-a- century, and who is still hale and zealous, was one of the students.“
The book also gives background to other chapels in the area. You can access it on The Internet Archive here. The relevant sections are on pages 93 – 102
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907/299