The Primitive Methodist magazine for 1889 contains a report of the laying of the foundation stones for a new chapel at Longhurst (sic) Colliery in the Blyth circuit. Longhirst Colliery is almost certainly Longhurst Colliery.
The stone laying ceremony took place on April 19th 1889.
Previously the society had met in the colliery reading room. The colliery company also supported the construction of the new chapel
However, the 1907 Christian Messenger contains an article about the Ashington circuit which tells us that “at Longhirst, owing to the stoppage of the colliery, our Church is practically closed.” I cannot see a Primitive Methodist chapel on Ordnance Survey maps of the area.
Richard Jennings provides much more detail to the story:
This Society began meetings in around 1885 in the former blacksmith’s shop at the colliery and when this became too small for the growing numbers, transferred to the Reading Rooms in the village. There was concern in 1887 that the Society may have to close when the Estate and Colliery were put up for sale and many miners lost their jobs but the sale was in their favour as the new owner was James Joicey, a man who supported the Primitive Methodist cause.
On Good Friday, 1889, the members and friends gathered to lay the foundation stones of a chapel building of their own on colliery land granted to them by James Joicey MP who also provided a generous donation towards the costs involved. A Trust was established consisting of Nicholas Gregory, Secretary (deputy manager of the colliery); Thomas Reed, Treasurer; John Smith, Joseph Gregory, T Richardson, R Maddison and W Crawford of Longhirst and Edward Gregory, Thomas Horn, John Hay and Charles Main of Ashington.
Plans were drawn up by Mr Charlton, the engineer at Ashington Colliery and Mr Spence of Amble was commissioned to construct the chapel which was to be built of pressed bricks and measuring 35 feet by 20 feet. A small vestry, with moveable doors allowing extra seating on special occasions completed the building.
The pews, rostrum etc. were constructed of polished pitch pine and the chapel would be capable of seating about 140 people at a cost of £240 almost half of which had been raised by the time of the foundation stone-laying. It was expected that the chapel would take two months to build.
The foundation stone was laid by Mrs R L Booth of Ashington Colliery and corner stones were laid by Mrs Horn and Mrs Soulsby of Ashington who were each presented with pocket bibles. After the ceremony, the large congregation gathered in the colliery granary, loaned for the occasion, for tea and cake and following this, a well-attended outdoor service was held.
The new chapel was opened on Saturday 3 August 1889, by the Rev A J Campbell of Morpeth in front of a very large congregation accompanied by Hugh Pyle playing the harmonium. A public tea was afterwards held in the New Lecture Hall in the village and in the evening, a public meeting in the new chapel. The following day, three sermons were preached in the chapel morning and evening by Rev A J Campbell and in the afternoon by William Hedley of Morpeth. Special services were planned during August when the choir would be in attendance and the funds raised transferred to the Trust.
In 1907, there were stoppages at the colliery and many of the miners lost their jobs or transferred to other collieries in the area leaving the village devoid of inhabitants. This had a significant effect on the life of the chapel and was the turning point towards its ultimate closure.
Longhirst Colliery closed in 1896 but the coal continued to be extracted via Pegswood Colliery until 1935. The colliery houses, reading rooms, lecture hall, colliery viewers’ house and co-operative along with the chapel, were part of a model village constructed from 1868 onwards but which had become redundant. These were sold off by auction in 1921 though a few of the houses remain and the Institute Hall, built to replace the reading rooms in 1936 is still used for social functions in the village. The PM Chapel was demolished and all traces of it have long since vanished. Longhirst Hall, the impressive Grade II star listed mansion that forms the heart of the estate is now three luxury houses.
There do not appear to be any surviving records of the chapel within the various collections of the Newcastle Methodist District, nor any photographs.
Christian Messenger 1907/12