North Shields Circuit, Northumberland
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. R. Laidler
There are now ten churches in this Circuit valued at over £25,000. There was a time in the history of the Station when more than forty societies were counted within her boundary, and her preachers had to travel as far north as Berwick. Since then extensive developments have taken place. The Newcastle, Gateshead, Berwick, Blyth, Seaton Delaval, and other Circuits have been “made” from North Shields. It is an interesting study to trace the movements of our early preachers as they covered great tracts of the Northern country, and set up the standard of Primitive Methodism in the many places they visited. The seed which was sown has issued in a wonderful harvest, and Northumberland has been, and is yet, being enriched by the ministry of the Church whose foundations were laid in “labours abundant” by our early fathers. The last Circuit, which was an off-shoot from North Shields, was Seaton Delaval, beginning its career in 1875. The mother Circuit was left with nine preaching places, 425 members, and property reported at about £5,000. We have at present ten churches, valued at over £25,000, and 730 members. Since 1823, no fewer than twenty new chapels have been erected, and three extensive enlargements carried out, in the ten places now occupied by the Circuit. During the last eight years the Station has experienced a remarkable period of chapel-building. New churches have been built at Cullercoats, Whitley Bay, Percy Main, Backworth, and Shiremoor. During the same period new organs have been placed in four of these churches, and extensive alterations made at Benton Square and Howdon – the latter church having also put in a very fine organ. In addition to this improvement the Circuit has purchased a minister’s house, and recently engaged Mr. J.C. Sutcliffe, as hired local preacher, who devotes the most of his energies to the mining districts on the north side of the Circuit.
This remarkable growth has been made possible by the hearty and cordial co-operation of the ministers and officials. Few Circuits are favoured with the sound administrative judgement and unwavering loyalty of so many outstanding officials. The Circuit Steward, Mr. T Lowes, is a life-long Primitive Methodist. He is a typical steward, and thoroughly understands the many phases of the “Chancellor’s” office. He is genial, large-hearted, and his readiness to give his time to Circuit duties, not withstanding the extensive claims of his own business, is only one expression of the deep and abiding love he has for Christ and the Church. The junior steward, Mr. W. Grant, like his senior steward, is a local preacher and life-long primitive Methodist. We have an excellent staff of local preachers, who take an intelligent interest in the churches. We cannot refrain from mentioning the following: Mr. A Rutherford, who held the post of Circuit Steward for sixteen years; Mr J.H. Joplin, whose services are so well known; Mr W.M. Patterson, whose literary efforts have widely helped to bring Primitive Methodism before the public; Mr J. Jefferson, whose “forward” policy at Cullercoats has secured for our Church a wider, and increasing, recognition; Mr J.G. Mariott, whose munificence and devotion are highly appreciated; Mr. J. Grant, who has been associated with our Church at Percy Main for fifty years; Mr. T. Johnson, whose long and faithful service is an inspiring example to our young preachers, and Messrs. Proudlock, Hibbs, Bolam, Potts, and others whose services as preachers of the Word are requisitioned throughout the northern counties.
NORTH SHIELDS. – The first chapel was secured in 1823, at a cost of £550. Later, the property was improved, and a schoolroom provided. The heavy financial liabilities incurred by the extension seriously embarrassed the society. So burdensome did the debt become that Mary Porteous, who commenced her ministry in the Station in 1836, was deputed “to take an extensive tour” to collect funds for North Shields Chapel. In 1860 61 a new site was purchased in Saville Street, and a chapel, with schoolroom underneath, was erected under the superintendency of Thomas Smith . This step was soon justified by the remarkable prosperity which followed. The membership rose to about four hundred in 1868. In later years further extensions were made by the addition of vestries. The property is now reported at £6,000.
PERCY MAIN. – The first chapel was erected in 1829 at a cost of £100, and the story of its erection is a proof of the loyalty and devotion of its early members. A considerable number of members devoted their leisure to assisting to build the chapel, and others secured the loan of waggons, and brought the stones “down the line” from a quarry four miles away. This chapel was enlarged in 1867. Since then a new schoolroom, with a splendid suite of class-rooms, and afterwards a new chapel, have been built at an expenditure of over £3,000.
ALLOTMENT. – The first chapel in this Colliery village was erected in 1829. When the building became too small to accommodate its membership, the officials approached the proprietors of the Colliery, and asked for a Brewery, which, in 186, was discontinued as a brewing house. They succeeded in getting it, and the Brewery was transformed into a chapel, and opened in 1868.
BENTON SQUARE. – The present chapel was built in 1833 at a cost of £72. In 1904 the chapel was enlarged, and is now the centre of a vigorous society.
EARSDON. – The first chapel was opened in 1834. The present chapel, with schoolroom underneath, was erected in 1887, at a cost of £800.
BACKWORTH. – Three chapels have been erected in this neighbourhood. One in, 1854, another in 1868, and the present one in 1901 – the latter costing £1,700. Men like Messrs. T. Johnson and the Bateys, have been alert to every interest of the Church. In raising money for the present chapel they organized a “tea” down one of the Backworth pits in 1900, and £35 was secured for the new chapel fund.
HOWDON. – Our Society ay Howdon was formed in 1822, and for many years services were held in dwelling houses. The society ultimately found a “home” in a temperance hall. It was not until 1844 that the first chapel was built, and in 1880 a more commodious place was erected at a cost of £2,200. In 1906 an extensive alteration was made by the addition of a lecture hall and vestries. A new organ was also put into the chapel – the whole undertaking costing £1,500. This has involved the Society in heavy financial liabilities, but they are facing the situation with resolute determination. A recent bazaar realised over £400.
CULLERCOATS. – The services at Cullercoats were originally held in a chapel “jointly used – by the Presbyterians and Congregationalists – each of the three denominations conducting one Sunday service therein. In the end the Primitives were left sole occupants of the chapel.” This chapel was rebuilt in 1868 at a cost of £1,240. In 1900 a new chapel was erected, costing over £3,000, and the old chapel fitted up as a school-room.
WHITLEY BAY. – In 1899 an iron chapel was built at Whitley Bay, but owing to the growing population a new venture was made in 1904, by building a chapel at a cost of over £3,000. This church is being helped by the Church Extension Fund, and such financial assistance, with the persistent loyalty of such men as the Rev. J. Young, Messrs. Patterson, Robsons, J.G. Marriott, and others, has contributed in no small way in raising the church to its now promising position.
SHIREMOOR. – The present chapel was built in 1902, at a cost of £760, and is situated in the centre of a growing mining district.
This history would be incomplete without a reference to two further features of the story. In tracing the movement of chapel building in the early days of Primitive Methodism, one is profoundly impressed with the fact of the poverty of our people. The following figures speak for themselves. In 1823 North Shields Chapel cost £550, and a debt of £530 remained after it was opended. Percy Main Chapel in 1827 cost £100, leaving a debt of £90 after its opening services. Howdon Chapel in 1844 cost £150, and a debt remained of £130. These and other figures point to the conclusion that early Primitives were chiefly drawn from the poorer classes.
The other feature that cannot be overlooked is the sympathy and financial support which chapel building scheme in mining districts received from Colliery owners. Many of the early societies would have been seriously handicapped ha it not been for the generous grants from the pockets of the Colliery proprietors. In 1839 we find the following significant report. That out of ten chapels reported in the Circuit, seven of them are Colliery chapels. The owners have in most cases generously assisted our Churches in mining localities.
There is no space left to speak of the praiseworthy efforts, and strenuous lives of the long list of ministers who have travelled on the Station. That is a history in itself. The present ministers are Revs. R. Laidler and G.W. Wellburn, B.A. We have also, as superannuated ministers, Revs. J. Butcher and J. Young, whose services are highly esteemed. Few stations in the North of England have finer traditions than North Shields. It has had the honour of having as its ministers men whose names have been a household word in Primitive Methodism. It has witnessed some of the grandest revivals the Connexion has ever known. It has nurtured and developed men of intellectual strength and heroic mould, whose strenuous lives have added to the strength and stability of the commonwealth. May its future be worthy of its splendid past.
Christian Messenger 1908/217