The origins of the Nelson Street Society can be traced back to 16th November 1819 when Metheun’s Long Room was being used for early day meetings. In 1822, a preaching room was opened in Garden Street, Gateshead, and regular services were organised by friends from Newcastle. The extent of poverty in the area resulted in the room being closed and rooms rented around the town including the long room in the Brandy Vault’s public house on Church Street, from which the early Ranter’s were expelled for “being too noisy“!
A large chapel was eventually constructed on Mulgrave Terrace in 1838 however the treasurer absconded with the funds and the building had to be given up. Several more rooms were rented until the foundation stones were laid of the Nelson Street Chapel on 17th May 1853. The chapel, with seating for 400 was officially opened on 1st January 1854 by Ralph Fenwick.
In the early 1870s, an extension was provided for the Nelson Street PM Day School which catered for 185 children. At this time, the chapel was still in an ideal location but by 1886, surrounding properties had deteriorated and it was decided to sell the building and consider a move away from the town centre, to Durham Road.
Note added by CH
The Primitive Methodist Magazine for March 1854 contains an account by W Dent of the opening of Gateshead Primitive Methodist chapel.
Mr Dent hints at the financial story behind the chapel but does not reveal. He writes, “in the history of Primitive Methodism in Gateshead, there are some things which it is wise to pass over in silence.” However, he excuses the present members who have no “occasion to hold down their heads while remembering these things, having been sufferers from the misdoings of others.”
The only glimpse he gives is a reference to “the loss of the large chapel in 1840 which had been imprudently erected about two years before (which meant that) the society was reduced to a condition of distress and reproach. … Many who in the day of prosperity appear very zealous, in the day of adversity lose all their courage and all their attachment to a good cause.”
The recovery started with the opening of a small room in West Street, and as things progressed an effort to raise funds for a new chapel began in 1850. It took a while, but a plot of land was acquired from Mr CJ Pearson for £190 and the foundation stone was laid by “our old and popular friend, Mr H Hebbron,” on Whit Monday (May 16th) 1853. The number of those from “other evangelical denominations” was particularly pleasing.
Building the new chapel was not straightforward – it was hard to find a mortgage and one of the three contractors “fell victim to the fearful epidemic that was then hurrying off so many busy mortals into the eternal world.” However, the chapel was opened on January 1st 1854. Next day there was a tea meeting where the addresses were “moderately good.” Opening sermons were preached by W Dent, Mr Hebbron, Mr Hallett and H Kendall of Sunderland.
The chapel measured 40′ x 41′ outside and accommodated 376 people. There was a school room below the chapel and a double vestry. They had sufficient room for a future gallery should it be needed and land for a house behind the chapel.
Primitive Methodist Magazine March 1854 174-177