The foundation stone of this chapel was laid by William Clowes on 21 November 1837. It was opened in October 1838 and, according to Kendall, cost £2,950 1. Designed and built by the famous Newcastle partnership of builder and property developer Richard Grainger and architect John Dobson, it had a font ‘in the Roman style’ 2, could seat 1,111 persons, had a large schoolroom underneath the chapel ‘adapted for the tuition of 500 children’ 3, and was regarded as ‘by far the most superior place of worship owned by the Primitives in the North’ 4. Nevertheless it was superseded in 1897 by the new Central Primitive Methodist Church, Northumberland Road. According to Richard Jennings elsewhere on this website it was sold in 1899, demolished, and the site became a warehouse that later was demolished to make way for the Eldon Square shopping centre, although the frontage of the later building still survives.
Both Kendall and Patterson provide a list of the Nelson Street Trustees. This includes Andrew McCree 5, who was converted at the earlier chapel in Silver Street and became Superintendent of the Sunday School for twenty-four years as well as Chapel Steward and Circuit Steward 6. Kendall describes him in these words:
“Though built on hard lines and wanting in flexibility, a stickler for rule and a martinet in discipline, he was an able man and a diligent and conscientious official, and it was wonderful to see how, as the end was approached, his character mellowed and softened.”
As a ‘leading figure’ at Nelson Street 7 it was, of course, McCree who completed the Return for the Census of Religious Worship, 1851. As well as the qualities listed above, his penmanship is also very fine and rather flamboyant. The only exception to this is his signature, which is not at all easy to read. In preparing the transcript I had almost given up on trying to decipher it until I hit upon the idea of consulting the historians of Primitive Methodism to see what they had to say about Nelson Street, and whether I could pick out his name from their descriptions.
This proved to be a correct assumption and so having found his name it was a straightforward matter to locate the relevant page in the Census Enumerator’s Book for the Population Census. This revealed that in 1851 he was 36 years old and a ‘General Merchant’ and lived at Moor Side Cottage, Chimney Mills with his wife Margaret, a ‘Tripe Preparer’, three daughters, a son and two house servants. His wife appears to have died in 1853. The 1861 Census Return lists him at 2 George Street East, Newcastle as a ‘Corn Factor &c’ with wife Helen, one daughter (also a ‘Tripe Preparer’ like her mother), together with a new son. Andrew died suddenly on 14 January 1865 aged 50 at 4 Campbell Street, Newcastle 8. An indicator of the high regard in which he was held may be the fact that less than two weeks later a local photographic studio was advertising a ‘Carte de Visite’ of him described as ‘an admirable likeness’, and priced at sixpence 9.
There remains another mystery concerning Andrew McCree. Rather than the address on the Population Census Return, Moor Side Cottage, for his address on the Religious Census Return he has written just ‘72, 73 & 74’. Local Newcastle newspapers provide the answer. From 1850 onwards Thomas and Andrew McCree were offering their services as ‘General Cartmen’ or furniture removers. But another advertisement, dated Feb. 7, 1851, was for ‘Pure Neats’ Foot Oil’ which they sold from their premises at 72, 73 and 74 Newgate Street 10. So maybe he just forgot to put his full address on the form.
Andrew’s brother Thomas was another Trustee of Nelson Street and he died on 23 April 1865.
Although the Primitive Methodist Magazine and other publications provide images of some of the Minsters who completed Returns, there must be very few laymen of whom this can be said. But we do have an image of Andrew McCree on page 193 of volume II of Kendall’s History. Was this taken from the Carte de Visite; and does he look ‘a stickler for rule and a martinet in discipline’?
1 H. B. Kendall The origin and history of the Primitive Methodist Church vol. II (London: Edwin Dalton, n.d) p. 192.
2 John M. Wilson The Imperial gazetteer of England and Wales vol. II (Edinburgh: Fullarton, 1872) p. 427.
3 Newcastle Journal 25 November 1837 p. 3.
4 Kendall p. 196.
5 W. M. Patterson Northern Primitive Methodism (London: E. Dalton, 1909) p. 312.
6 Patterson p. 313.
7 Kendall p. 193.
8 Newcastle Daily Chronicle 16 January 1865 p. 2.
9 Newcastle Daily Chronicle 23 January 1865 p. 1.
10 Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury 8 February 1851 p. 1.