Hebburn; Argyle Street Primitive Methodist Chapel

This chapel began life as an offshoot of Charles Street PM whose records do not appear to have survived the WWII bombing of that place. Some people suggest that, whilst some Trustees wanted a chapel in the Hebburn Quays area, the real reason behind the establishment of Argyle Street lay in the erection of an organ or harmonium in the Charles St. Chapel. Whilst organs, generally, had become accepted, the fact that the installation was, at least partially, funded by the Carnegie Trust, had not struck a very positive chord within local Methodist circles.

On 8th September 1889, the first meeting of a new Trust was held & two weeks later a “New Chapel Site Committee” was selected to begin the task of establishing a new site. At the same meeting £79 2s 0d was pledged towards the total cost of the new building. The proposed Trustees were: William P Huntley, Thomas Thompson, Matthew Potts, Robert Foster, John Holmes, George Laverick (removed before the Trust was formed), George Scott Eadington, John Talbot, RR Banks (removed before Trust formed), Matthew Dent, Thomas Gibbon, George Hepburn, Edward Larner, TJ Harvey, Joel Bannister & Robert Huntley.

The non-survival of the Charles St. records (particularly the Trust Minute Books) leaves many questions unanswered. The Argyle St. records give the impression that, in November 1889, the new Trust were planning a “take over” of the old Trust irrespective of the thoughts of them or the members of Charles St. who didn’t want to move out of the New Town and close the chapel that had been opened in 1867. Resolutions recorded in the Minutes state that the new Trustees would invite the Trustees of the “old chapel to become Trustees for the proposed new site” and further, assume that they (and not the old Trustees) would be able to sell the Charles St. Chapel and put the money towards the new building.

It is later in the Minutes (1891) that it becomes apparent that there was a definite split in both the Trustees and the membership. Copy of a letter written to the new Trustees clearly shows that the Charles St. members wished to carry on in their own building and took the bold decision to offer £100 (under certain conditions) to, as it were, pay-off the New Trust. The new Trust weren’t too pleased about this and seemed to think that they had every right to over-rule the existing Trustees however, they decided to accept the £100 offered (although they wanted more) but would not allow Charles St. to keep the harmonium. Furthermore, they insisted that the School & Library books should be equally divided between the two chapels – their one act of “kindness” being that Charles St. could keep the bookcase.

Following the investigations on a number of possible sites around the Argyle St. areas, the land agent AD Carr, offered a site facing Bell St. but actually on Alwyn St. This offer was later withdrawn as the proposed chapel would have been too close to the Roman Catholic Church.

By March 1891, the Argyle St. site had been offered and accepted and fund-raising had begun – lectures, a bazaar, sewing meetings, cantatas and coffee suppers. Building plans were drawn up and plans made for the foundation stone-laying ceremony which was held on a suprisingly warm October day – Wednesday 26th, 1892.

Following the opening the choir were invited to raise funds for the purchase of two harmoniums – described in the minutes as “1 harmonium @ 34 guineas & 1 organ @ 10 guineas”. Apart from the usual services, the first real event in the new chapel was a bazaar on Easter Monday, 1893 which resulted in over £70 being raised on the first day and a further £23 the following day. Bazaars and other events such as choir concerts and suppers became a regular feature for many years until the debt was erased.

The Trustees had borrowed substantial amounts of money to ensure that the church could open and it was with some surprise that one of the loans was called in in 1895 resulting in the Trustees having to call upon the Chapel Aid Association (CAA) to arrange a loan of £600. In later years, once all the debts had been paid, substantial funds were invested with the Association.

Adjacent to the school chapel was a plot of land owned by the Trustees bought for a proposed chapel to be built at a later date. This land was used for Tennis Courts for a number of years and later, for allotments gardens, it never being used for its original purpose. With the chapel debt cleared in 1908, the Trustees began investing in the CAA towards the proposed chapel. This investment carried on for many years – by 1913 this amounted to £500. Electric lights were installed in the chapel in 1910 it previously being lit by gas.

A new Trust Board was established in 1932 following national union of the various Methodist factions. This Trust consisted of: Matthew Potts, George W Turnbull, Henry Charles Stewart, James Turnbull, Michael Stewart, Thomas Ruddick, John Henry Colledge, James Neil Craggs, Albert Clayton, James McAllister, James Fairless, Herbert Banks, George Brown, Fred Brown, Joseph Matthews, William Turnbull and William Sharp. The Trust was again renewed in 1960 following the deaths of a number of members and, for the first time, included three female Trustees – Isabella Lawson, Elizabeth Fairless and Mabel Loads. Following the national union, the two chapels on Argyle Street were renamed. The former Wesleyan Chapel becoming known as Trinity and the former Primitive Chapel as Central.

In 1952, as standards in sanitation generally were improving, it was decided that ladies and gents toilets were needed in the school chapel which necessitated a new building being constructed on the side of the existing building. Alterations and repairs to the heating were also needed at this time and the Trustees were endeavouring to obtain a hall or hut that could be used by the Scouts for example. Whilst space at the Central premises was at a premium, income was not and the idea of obtaining a hut was dropped in favour of renting the hall of Argyle St. Trinity Chapel. The toilets were not completed until 1957 at considerably more cost than originally quoted – almost £600.

The first piano was purchased in 1916 by the Choir and Christian Endeavour this was not replaced until 1948. The organ caused a number of problems over the years and was regularly attended to. In 1922, the first thoughts of obtaining a new instrument were put into gear by the Choir. Unfortunately, the Choir came to a number of disagreements with the Trustees over the appointment of a new Choirmaster with the result that the Trustees took over the Organ Fund and invested the money in the CAA, over-riding the signatories and contacting the bank direct.

Following the closure of Charles St. PM which was bombed during WWII, the organ from there was transferred to the new Burnheads Road church (St. Luke’s). This was offered to Central PM for £1,150. The Trustees felt that this was a lot of money for a second-hand instrument and offered £200 plus their reconditioned reed organ to the new church however, the Burnheads Road Trustees later rescinded their offer and Central were left to consider the purchase of a new organ of their own, possibly an electric one. The cost of a new electric one proved to be too much at approx. £800 and so it was that the pipe organ from the former chapel at Billy Row was purchased for £700 including the cost removal and reconstruction by Nelson’s of Durham. The old organ was sold in 1960 for £5.

1960 started with proposals by Hebburn Urban District Council (UDC) to redevelop the area in which the chapel stood – their proposals actually covered five Methodist Chapels in Hebburn, all of which would result in them being sold and/or demolished. As far as Central were concerned, a site at Campbell Park was offered but was rejected due to the pressures on the Trust to spend money on the existing premises.

In 1961, the Trust was again renewed and consisted of: Albert Clayton, James Fairless, Herbert Banks, William Turnbull, Henry Gladman, Joseph Moderate, Mary Fairs Turnbull, Ralph Jackson, Isabella Lawson, Elizabeth Fairless, Mabel Loads, Edmund Dixon Hall, Leonard Jackson, Jennie Jardine and Margaret Catherine Craggs.

The boiler and heating apparatus continued to cause the Trustees much expenditure over the following years and in 1962 a fire caused several hundred pounds worth of damage to the upstairs room. Whilst the damage was put to rights the Trustees were aware that the UDC were keen to see the church demolished and in 1965 the council were once again presenting their plans for the redevelopment of Hebburn. For Central, this meant amalgamating with High Lane Row Church (Hebburn Colliery PM) and the council providing a new freehold site. High Lane Row had a number of years remaining on its lease and remained open until 1974. There were other changes to take into account too. In the Boldons, there was a proposal put forward in 1966 for East Boldon (then in the Sunderland North Circuit) to join the Jarrow Circuit. It was also proposed that Boldon Colliery Ebenezer (ex PM) then in the South Shields Circuit also join with Jarrow. The Circuit Quarterly meeting pointed out that unless the Home Missions were prepared to finance a minister to serve the churches, they could not support any more chapels as, apart from the five Hebburn closures there was also the closing of St. John’s (ex WM) to take into account – a loss of £100 per quarter assessment from that church alone to be found by the remaining socities. It was hoped that the number of ministers could be reduced to two in the Jarrow Circuit and the number of churches to eight with Jervis St. and Argyle St. Trinity closing by August 1967. The possibility of the Hebburn Churches uniting was further lost when Glen St. decided to remain where they were for the time being. (Boldon Colliery Park left the Jarrow Circuit when it joined with Boldon Colliery Ebenezer and became part of the South Shields Circuit in 1967, together they formed the new Hedworth Lane Methodist Church).

Central decided to stay put for a further twelve months as there was no where suitable for their youth work to be carried on. In August 1967, the boiler from Glen St. Chapel was moved to Central and the roof of the chapel was repaired following severe gales. In 1970, it was reported that a number of windows had been broken and guttering was repaired but the end was almost in sight. Despite the minister’s claims that a new church would be built and Central would not be joining with Burnheads Road, in October 1972, matters were in hand for the selling of the chapel and the removal to St. Luke’s. The Central Chapel’s organ was stored at Burnheads Road (presumably until it was sold?) and in 1973 the final entries in the Trust Minute Book confirm that closure had taken place. Over £116 was transferred to the funds of St. Luke’s as an emergency reserve whilst £900 held in investments was set aside for furnishings in the new church.

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