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Churches and Chapels of Newcastle

Extract from: History, Topography, and Directory of Northumberland...Whellan, William, & Co, 1855.



All the town and county of Newcastle-upon-Tyne is included in the parish of St. Nicholas, with the parochial chapelries of All Saints, St. Andrew, St. John, and St. Ann, whose churches we shall now proceed to describe.


ST. NICHOLAS' CHURCH occupies a fine position on the top of a bold eminence, which rise abruptly from the river nearly to the centre of the town. It was erected by Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury, in the year 1091, subsequent to which it was destroyed by fire, and rebuilt in 1359. Since this latter period it has undergone many extensive alterations and repairs, and as it stands is at once the most conspicuous, as well as the most antiquely beautiful and imposing of all the town's rich assemblage of edifices. It is a cruciform structure, in the decorated style of English architecture, consisting of nave and aisles, transepts, choir and aisles, and a steeple which has been described by almost every writer who has spoken of Newcastle. This steeple is believed to have been erected in the reign of Henry VI., previous to which period, the tower was surmounted only by a battlement of open stone-work and embrasures, and it is also probable that the body of the church was newly roofed at the same period. This steeple is upwards of two hundred feet in height. From the ground to the battlements it is divided into three stages, or architectural designs, the lower one being pierced by the principal entrance and a noble window. At the corners of the tower are bold buttresses, surmounted by octagonal turrets, with crocketted pinnacles. From the bases of these turrets spring four flying buttresses, of very graceful form, with crocketted edges, and from their points of intersection, near the centre, rises a very light and elegant square lantern, with a crocketted pyramidal spire at its summit and crocketted pinnacles for its angles. The whole appearance of this crowning termination is singularly graceful. It has been universally admired, and has furnished a model for the steeples of St. Giles's at Edinburgh, St. Dunstan's in the East, at London, and many other churches. The tower contains a peal of eight very musical bells, the largest of which was placed in the tower in December, 1833. The clock and chimes were put up in 1761, and its dials, facing north and south, illuminated with gas in December, 1829.


The extreme dimensions of this church are, from east to west, 245 feet, and from north to south, in the transepts, 128 feet. The grand entrance is in the west front, under a deep pointed arch over which is a fine large window of five lights, ornamented with tracery. The north side of the nave was, some time ago, newly faced, and, with the exception of its windows, the style of the original has been strictly preserved. The north transept is enclosed with an iron railing, and is remarkable for the beauty of its windows, especially the northern one, which is an exquisite piece of workmanship, consisting of five lights, separated by lofty mullions, and ornamented with elegant tracery. The east end contains a splendid seven-light window with flowing tracery, which lights the chancel. It is said to have been built by the beneficent Roger Thornton, the elder, and tradition tells us that it formerly contain representations of the twelve apostles, and the seven corporal works of mercy with this inscription :-



On the south side of the nave there are three narrow plain windows, each consisting of three long pointed lights and three small ones at the top, formed by the intersection of the mullions, which seem of a piece with the original structure, Specimens of the plain, square, upright, buttress are also still attached to this portion of the building. The south transept, usually called St. Mary's porch, contains a very fine window of five lights, similar in style to that at the eastern end of the church. 


Having now taken a hasty survey of the exterior, let us examine the interior of this venerable edifice. On entering the great west door of this ancient structure, the stranger will immediately notice its cathedral-like appearance, The boldness of the elevated groined roof, and the massive pillars by which the lofty fabric of the tower is supported the solemn effect of the light and shade presented through the arches by which the aisles are divided all combine to produce mingled sensations of awe and gratification. It is in very truth :-

"A dim and mighty minster of old time!
A temple shadowy with remembrances
Of the majestic past! The very light
Streams with a colouring of heroic days
In every ray which leads though arch and aisle
A path of dreamy lustre, wandering back
To other years."

The font is situated near the western entrance. It is a plain octagonal marble vase, supported by a fluted octahedral stone column rising from a similarly formed base, elevated on a broad stone pedestal two steps high, and its eight faces are each sculptured with a shield of arms. Suspended over the font by four light pillars resting on its rim is a rich and lofty canopy, which, as a specimen of carved work, is a masterpiece of its kind. The design consists of two stories, or rather tower upon tower, surmounted by a lofty pinnacle. These towers are both octahedral, and, though diversified throughout their corresponding parts by fanciful embellishments, yet so skilfully bas the elaborate design been disposed in its minutest detail that every distinct feature seems expressly in place, and appears indispensable to the beauty and elegance of the whole. This beautiful work of art formerly stood in the north transept. The south transept is handsomely stalled with a portion of the old oak furnishings which adorned the choir previous to the innovations of 1783. The chancel exhibits much of the character of the nave, except in its windows, which are considerably larger. The organ, a magnificent instrument, is placed over the principal entrance to the choir. It contains twenty-two stops, and was erected about the year 1670. The principal feature in this part of the church is the great east window, already mentioned. The centre compartment is occupied by a fine figure of the Redeemer bearing the cross, with the sponge and other adjuncts of the passion annexed. The figure of the suffering Saviour, which is 5 feet 2 inches in height, was executed by Mr. John Gibson, of this town, in a style which reflects the highest credit on his artistic skill and talent. Beneath this window there is a valuable altar-piece, by Tintoretto, presented by Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart., in 1818. The subject of this painting is, Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. This church contains several fine specimens of sculpture, and a great variety of sepulchral monuments, which will amply repay a careful inspection. It would be impossible in the compass of this volume to do justice to them, being of themselves sufficient to occupy the whole of our pages were adequate descriptions of them to be given, they can only be mentioned. generally, therefore, as a fine collection in this department of art.


Of all the northern churches this is stated to have been the richest in the number and beauty of its chantries, which, at the time of the Dissolution amounted to nine or ten. These chantries were endowed with lands and other revenues for the support of the chaplains. The living is now a vicarage in the archdeaconry of Northumberland and deanery of Newcastle, rated at £50, gross income, £833. Patron, the Bishop of Carlisle. Vicar, the Rev. C. Moody - Curate, the Rev. C.C. Snowden, M.A. - Afternoon Lecturer, the Rev. John Reed, B.A. The parish register commences in 1558. 


Adjoining the church on the south side is St. Nicholas's and Dr. Tomlinson's Library, containing many valuable and curious works. It is open to the public gratuitously every day (Sundays and holidays excepted) from ten to twelve. 


ST. ANDREW'S CHURCH is situated on the west side of Newgate-street, and is traditionally asserted to be the oldest church in Newcastle; its erection being ascribed to David, the church and abbey building monarch of Scotland. Its style of architecture seems to have been originally Norman, but, as a whole, the building has been much modified by frequent alterations and repairs. We find this church mentioned as early as 1218, and in 1280 the judges held their courts in this edifice. It subsequently underwent extensive repairs, but it suffered so much during the siege of Newcastle in 1644, that there was a cessation of service within its walls for more than a year. The tower of this church is low in proportion to its height, but is thought to have been different before the siege just alluded to, when it, in common with the chancel, sustained great injury. Since the period just mentioned it has been extensively repaired several times. There is a fine painting of the “Last Supper" by Giardino, in this church, which also possesses a splendid service of plate, and a fine organ containing twenty-nine stops. St. Andrew's formerly possessed three chantries, but they were dissolved at the suppression of the religious houses. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of Newcastle and the incumbency of the Rev. Richard Buckeridge, M..A.. The register commences in 1597.


ALL SAINTS' CHURCH is situated on the brow of a steep bank, on the south side of Silver-street, at the foot of Pilgrim-street. It was erected in 1796, at a cost of £27,000s on the site of the former church of All Saints, which was erected previous to the year 1284, but the precise date is unknown. It is an elliptical structure of 86 feet by 72, and in the Grecian style of architecture, the spire having an elevation of 202 feet. This elegant edifice is constructed of freestone, and the pews are all formed of mahogany. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of Newcastle, gross income £330, incumbent, the Rev, Walter Irvine. The register commences in 1600. 


ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, situated on the west side of Westgate-street, is a large cruciform structure, probably of the age of Edward I., and chiefly of the early English character, but greatly affected by comparatively modern alterations and enlargements. It is surmounted by a quadrangular embattled tower, and contains a font venerable for it’s antiquity, several ancient monuments, an altar piece, and a painted window, by Mr. Gibson, of Newcastle. This church, anterior to the Reformation, possessed three chantries, which underwent the fate of the other religious establishments at that period. The register commences in 1587. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of Newcastle, gross income £259. Incumbent, the Rev. H. W. Wright, M.A.


ST. ANNE'S CHAPEL is situated on the north side of the New Road. It was erected by the corporation, on the site of an old chapel dedicated to the same saint and is a neat and commodious structure, erected with materials, taken from that part of the town's wall which extended along the quay. This chapel was licensed as a district church, for baptisms, marriages, and deaths, in 1842. It will accommodate about 490 persons, The living is a curacy, gross income £110. Incumbent, the Rev. George Heriot, M.A.


ST. PETER’S CHURCH, Oxford-street, was erected in 1843, as a chapel of ease to St. Andrew's. It is in the Gothic style, from a design by Mr, Dobson, and is capable of accommodating 1,134 persons. The chancel is ornamented with beautiful stained glass windows, and a painting of the "Crucifixion, by Reed. It was forced into a separate ecclesiastical district in 1844. The patronage of this church is vested in the Crown and Bishop of Durham alternately. Incumbent, the Rev, C. A. Raines, M.A.


ST. THOMAS' CHAPEL AND ST. MARY MAGDELEN'S HOSPITAL is situated at Barras Bridge. This beautiful structure was erected in 1830 from a design by Mr. Dobson, at a cost of £6,000. Since its opening its accommodation has been increased by the erection of galleries - a new organ has also been added. This church will accommodate 1,500 persons. Patrons, the Corporation of Newcastle. Rev. R. Clayton, M.A., chaplain. 



The places of worship unconnected with the Established Church are numerous in Newcastle, and some of them are large, commodious, and handsome edifices. 


CATHOLICS. Catholicism has rapidly increased in this town, and indeed all through the kingdom, of late years, and its churches and chapels, some of them truly magnificent, are now to be found in almost every town of consequence. After the death of Dr. Thomas Watson, of Lincoln, the last Catholic bishop consecrated previous to the reign of Elizabeth, the Catholic church in this country became a foreign mission under the Holy See, which placed the secular clergy under an arch-priest, the Rev. G. Blackwell, with episcopal jurisdiction, which continued till 1623, when Gregory XV. deputed to the government of the English and Scottish Catholics, Dr. William Bishop, consecrated Bishop of Chalcedon, with the power and jurisdiction of an ordinary. After his death he was succeeded by Dr. Richard Smith, who received the same title and jurisdiction. It appeared afterwards, at the commencement of the reign of James II., that more favourable days were about to arise for the Catholic religion, and Innocent XI., immediately profiting by this circumstance, in 1685, deputed John Leyburn, Bishop of Adrumetum, as Vicar-Apostolic of all the kingdom of England, and, in three years afterwards, joined with him three other Vicars-Apostolic, Bishops in partibus; dividing at the same time England into four districts, and assigning one to each Vicar-Apostolic. This arrangement continued till the pontificate of Gregory XVI., who, in 1840, increased the number of Vicariates and Vicars to eight; but in 1850, the present pope, as it is well known, abrogated and annulled all previous arrangements, and for Vicars Apostolic appointed by himself and removable at his pleasure, substituted an ordinary hierarchy of bishops who take their titles from sees in this country, and are elected by the chapters of the respective dioceses. By the Same rescript the pope increased the number of bishops from eight to twelve, besides an archbishop, so that at present the Catholics of England have one ecclesiastical province, composed of an archbishop, or metropolitan, and of twelve bishops his suffragans, who take their titles from the following cities or towns in England, viz: Westminster, Beverley, Birmingham, Clifton, Hexham, Liverpool, Newport, Northampton, Nottingham, Plymouth, Salford, Shrewsbury, and Southwark. The Catholics of the north are included in the diocese of Hexham, which comprises the counties of Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and Westmoreland.


THE CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL OF ST. MARY is situated on a very eligible site in West Clayton-street, close to the Central Railway Station, and is a most successful revival of the old ecclesiastical structures of our country. It was erected from designs furnished by the celebrated architect, A.W. Pugin, Esq., and is a good specimen of the style of architecture which flourished during the fourteenth century. It is in the form of a parallelogram, and consists of a nave and aisles, with deep chancel and lateral chapel. Its extreme dimensions are - from east to west, 135 feet from north to south, 60 feet 6 inches, and the tower and spire, when completed, will be 200 feet in height. The grand entrance is in the west front, which is splendidly decorated. The entrance doorway is deeply recessed and richly moulded, over which is the great west window, consisting of five lights, and tracery above. At the sides of this fine window are two canopied niches the left hand one containing a statue of Venerable Bede, and the right hand one a figure of St. Cuthbert, both carved in Caen stone. The windows of this fine edifice are all of varied designs, some being headed with the geometrical tracery that was most common in the early part of the decorated period, and others with the flowing tracery of the latter periods of this style. The buttresses are plain, with offsets and triangular heads a little below the roof. The tower is at the south end, its lower part is made to serve as a south porch. At present, for want of funds to complete it, a temporary roof has been put on it at the height of its first stage. The door leading into the church from the porch is ornamented with rich mouldings, and in a niche over the doorway is a beautifully carved figure of the Blessed Virgin, with the infant Saviour, and angels bearing torches. Richly carved stoups, for holy water, are on both sides of the porch, which has stone benches running along its length. The interior of the church is characterised by an elegance of arrangement which bespeaks the master-hand by which it was designed, and reminds you on entering, of some of the best efforts of the ancient church-builders in this country. Standing at the west end of the structure, the visitor sees before him the long drawn nave, with its open roof the fine chancel, with its ever-burning light the altar, with its richly crocketted canopies-and, over all, the

"Stoned windows, richly dight,

Casting a dim, religious light." 

The nave is divided into four bays, the piers are clustered, with plain capitals, m1d are terl feet in height, supporting equilateral arches, with mouldings belonging to the decorated style. The roof of the nave is open, and is supported by beautifully carved corbels. The pulpit, which is constructed of Caen stone, is of very elegant design, and is placed on the north side of the nave, against the first pillar. The font is situated at the west end of the South aisle. It is of octagonal form, in Caen stone, and is finely carved, with the figure of a lamb, and the symbols of the four Evangelists.


The chancel is 37 feet long, and consists of two parts; the choir, raised one step above the nave, where the stalls for the chapter, choristers, etc. are placed; and the sanctuary, which is one step higl1er than the choir. The chancel and side chapels are laid with encaustic tiles; of various patterns. The rood-screen is not yet erected, but if the design of the architect be carried out; it will consist of open tracery work in stone, surmounted by a large crucifix and figures of the Blessed Virgin and the Beloved Disciple. The High Altar is of Caen stone, and its front is handsomely carved, with representations of the principal events in the life of the Blessed Virgin. Over the Altar is a magnificent window of seven lights, occupying the whole eastern extremity of the chancel. It is what is commonly called a "Jesse window," and represents the genealogy of Christ, according to St. Matthew. At the bottom of the centre light, is Jesse seated on a throne, and from his loins springs a vine whose branches and leaves spread over the whole window, till the royal fruit from the root of Jesse appears at the top in the Infant Saviour in the arms by his Virgin Mother. This splendid window was the donation of the Dunn family. On the north side of the chancel is the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, the area of which is 17 feet by 16 feet. It contains a beautifully carved altar and reredos, together with a fine stained-glass window, whose centre light is filled with a full-length figure of the "Good Shepherd," the side lights representing Seraphim. This window was presented to the church by the Riddell family, of Felton Park, whose arms are represented at the bottom of the centre light. The north side of this chapel has two windows filled with stained-glass, bearing inscriptions having reference to the Blessed Sacrament. On the south side of the chancel is the chapel of our Lady - it is 18 feet in length by 10 in breadth, and contains a beautiful altar and reredos of Caen stone, which are ornamented with some exquisite carvings. The east window of this chapel has, in its centre light, a figure of the Blessed Virgin, and in the side lights figures of St. George and St. John the Evangelist. This fine window was the gift of George Joseph Caley, Esq. Over the door in this chapel which leads into the cloister, is a small single light window, with a figure of St. Helena. Besides the windows above described the church contains a mortuary window to the memory of the Rev. James Worswick, who was for many years the senior priest of Newcastle. The centre light contains a figure of St. James, and the side lights are filled with representations of the reverend gentleman administering the sacraments of the Catholic Church. There is also a mortuary window to the memory of the Rev. J. L. Eyre. The centre light is filled with a representation of the crucifixion, while the side lights exhibit the various emblems of the priesthood, the chalice, paten, etc. In addition to these there is the "Bede Window," which was presented to the church by Mr. William Wailes, who executed the whole of the stained glass in the church, from designs by A. W. Pugin, Esq. In the centre light of this window is a full length figure of Venerable Bede, in his monastic habit, holding his various works in his right hand, and in the side lights the chief incidents of his life are represented. Such is a slight description of this splendid edifice, which occupied two years in building. It was opened on the 21st of August, 1844, on which occasion nine bishops and above seventy priests assisted at the solemn dedication. Take the structure altogether, with its massive columns, lofty arches, vaulted roof, and cloistered aisles, and it must be acknowledged that it is a credit to the body to whom it belongs, and an ornament to the town. The Very Rev. Canon Joseph Humble is the present pastor.


The following are the dignitaries of the Catholic diocese of Hexham :-


Right Reverend 'WILLIAM HOGARTH, D.D., Darlington.


Very Reverend WILLIAM FLETCHER, D.D., Durham



Very Rev. T. A. Slater.
Very Rev. Joseph Brown.
Very Rev. Philip Kearney.
Very Rev. William Knight.
Very Rev. Richard Gillow.


Very Rev. Ralph Platt.
Very Rev. Robert Smith.
Very Rev. Michael Gibson.
Very Rev. William Thompson.
Very Rev. Joseph Humble.



ST. ANDREW'S CHURCH, Pilgrim-street, was Opened in 1798. It is a brick edifice, 90 feet in length by 36 in width, and having undergone extensive alterations in 1630, will now accommodate upwards of 1,500 persons. It contains two side galleries, and a very fine-toned organ. The altar is placed in an alcove which is surmounted by a beautiful painting of the Crucifixion by Maria Cosway. The Revs. J. A. Brown, T. Foran, and T. Hannigan, are the officiating priests.


ST PATRICK'S CHURCH, Wall Knoll, was erected in 1765 by a Presbyterian: congregation, who gave it up in 1841. It was afterwards used as a Sunday School, and having been recently purchased by the Catholics, as opened according to the rites of their religion in June, 1852. The Rev. J. Crawley is the present priest. 


PRESBYTERIANS. The origin of Presbyterianism is referable to the period just succeeding the Reformation. When Calvin was invited to assume the government of the church at Geneva, he framed a code of church government which is recognised as the basis of the Presbyterian system whose fundamental principles are, the existence in the church of but one order of ministers, all equal, and the power of these ministers, assembled, with a certain proportion of the laity, in local and general synods to decide all questions of church government and discipline arising in particular congregations.


The Scottish Kirk adopts the Confession, Catechism, and Directory, prepared by the Westminster Assembly, as its standards of belief and worship. Its discipline is administered by a series of four courts or assemblies. (1) The Kirk Session is the lowest court, and is composed of the minister of a parish and a variable number of lay elders, appointed from time to time by the session itself. (2) The Presbytery consists of representatives from a certain number of contiguous parishes, associated together in one district. The representatives are the ministers of all such parishes and one lay elder from each. This assembly has the power of ordaining ministers and licensing probationers to preach before their ordination it also investigates charges respecting the conduct of members, approves of new communicants and pronounces excommunication against offenders. An appeal, however, lies to the next superior court, viz :- (3) The Provincial Synod which comprises several presbyteries, and is constituted by the ministers and elders by whom these presbyteries themselves were last composed. (4) The General Assembly is the highest court, and is composed of representatives, ministers, and elders, from the presbyteries, royal burghs, and universities of Scotland, to the number, at present, of 363, of which number rather more than two-fifths are laymen. 


The National Church of Scotland has three presbyteries in England, that of London, containing five congregations, that of Liverpool and Manchester, containing three congregations, and that of the North of England, containing eight congregations. 


Various considerable secessions have from time td time occurred in the Presbyterian church. The principal of the seceding bodies in these kingdoms are, the" United Presbyterian Church," and the "Free Church. of Scotland," that former being an amalgamation effected in 1847, of the "Secession Church" (which separated in 1732) with the “Relief Synod'" (which seceded in 1752,) and the latter having been constituted in 1843. The "United Presbyterian Church'' has five presbyteries in England, containing seventy-six congregations, of which, however, fourteen are locally in Scotland, leaving the number, locally in England, 62. The "Free Church of Scotland” has no ramifications, under that name, in England, but various Presbyterian congregations which accord in all respects with that community, and which, before the disruption of 1843, were in union with the Established Kirk, compose a separate Presbyterian body, under the appellation of the "Presbyterian Church in England," having in this portion of Great Britain, seven presbyteries and eighty-three congregations.


Newcastle possesses eight places of worship belonging to the various sections of the Presbyterian body. The largest of these is TRINITY CHURCH, which is situated in New Bridge-street. It was erected in 1847, from a design furnished by Mr. Dobson, and is in the early English style of architecture. This edifice is 74 feet long by 39 broad, and possesses ample accommodation for 850 persons. Minister, the Rev. T. Duncan. The CALEDONIAN CHAPEL, Argyle-street, is a fine brick edifice, erected in 1841, it will accommodate 800 hearers. Rev. A. Broom, minister. The UNITED SECESSION CHAPEL, Clavering Place, is a fine commodious structure. The congregation of this chapel was formed in 1801, and in 1808 they purchased premises in Clavering Place, which they used as a meeting house till 1822, when they were removed, and the present edifice constructed at a cost of £1,020. Two School-rooms and a dwelling house are attached to the chapel, which is capable of accommodating 655 persons. Rev. J. Pringle, minister. HIGH BRIDGE CHAPEL, belonging to the Scotch Presbyterians, was erected in 1763, and will accommodate 585 persons. CARLIOL STREET CHAPEL, belong to the United Secession body, by whom it was erected in 1823, at a cost of £1,430. It is a neat edifice, with a front of ashlar stone, hut its deficiency of altitude detracts from its general appearance, the interior is neatly arranged and contains sittings for 568 persons. Rev. G. Bell, minister. BLACKETT STREET CHAPEL, belongs to the same body as the chapel last mentioned. It was erected in 1821, at a cost of £1,350 by some members of the Original Presbyterian congregation, which assembled in the Castle Garth chapel. This chapel was embellished by a new Gothic front, from a design by Mr. John Green, in 1828. It contains seats for 576 persons. GROAT MARKET CHAPEL is situated between Groat-Market and Pudding- Chare, from each of which it has an entrance. It is a brick. structure, erected in 1715, and is capable of accommodating 506 persons. The JOHN KNOX CHURCH, situated in Bewick-street and Clayton-street, is a handsome and substantial stone edifice, in the Gothic style of architecture. It was erected by subscription, in 1854, at a cost of £2,043, exclusive of the amount paid for the site, which was purchased of Richard Grainger, Esq., for about £900. The church will accommodate 500 persons. Rev. Patrick Leslie Miller, minister.


INDEPENDENTS, OR CONGREGATIONALISTS. The great distinctive principle on which is based the separate existence of that large body called, indifferently, sometimes "Independents,'' sometimes "Congregationalists," has reference to the constitution of the congregations. Rejecting equally the episcopal and presbyterian model, congregational dissenters hold a "church" to be synonymous with a "select congregation” – and a Christian church to be, therefore, a congregation of true believers. To express the total freedom of the body from exterior control, the term "Independency"' is used, to convey the idea that every member of the church participates in its administration, "Congregationalism" a more modern appellation, is adopted. Two descriptions of church officers are made use of in this body, pastors and deacons, the former instituted to promote the spiritual, and the latter to advance the temporal, welfare of the church. The only valid call to the pastorate is held to be an invitation to that office by an individual church, and when a person is invited thus, no license, as in Presbyterian, nor ordination, as in Episcopal Churches, is considered to be requisite in order to confer authority to preach, or administer sacraments. Still, after this election by an individual church, an ordination of the chosen minister, by ministers of the neighbouring churches, is esteemed a fitting introduction to office, and this custom has always been followed by the Independent body. The doctrines of the Congregational Churches are almost identical with those embodied in the Articles of the Established Church, interpreted according to their Calvinistic meaning. The origin of Independency is referable to the latter portion of the sixteenth century. It is probable that some conventicles were secretly established soon after the accession of Elizabeth, but the first prominent advocate of Congregational principles appeared in 1580, in the person of Robert Brown, who diffused his sentiments by preaching from place to place. His followers, who were then called Brownists, were treated with great rigour, down to the time of the Commonwealth, when they gained great strength, and their leaders were among the foremost men of the day. From the Restoration to the Revolution the Independents suffered much, in common with other bodies of Dissenters, but since the latter period they have increased considerably.


The Independent body possess two places of worship in Newcastle, viz.- WEST CLAYTON STREET and ST. JAMES' CHAPELS, the former of which is a fine commodious structure in the Roman style, and is capable of accommodating 850 persons. The latter is a plain but well-built stone edifice, with a fine massive portico, of the Doric order, situate in Blackett-street. It was erected in 1826, from a design by John Dobson, Esq., at a cost of £2,218. The interior is well arranged, and contains sittings for upwards of 600 persons.


BAPTISTS. The distinguishing tenets of the Baptists relate to two points, upon which they differ from nearly every other Christian denomination, viz., the proper subjects, and the proper mode, of baptism. They hold that adults are the only proper subjects of the ordinance, and that immersion in water is the only proper mode in which that ordinance should be administered. These views are common to all Baptists. Upon other points, however, differences prevail, and separate Baptist bodies have in consequence been formed. In England, we have the following sections of this denomination: General (Unitarian) Baptists, General (New Connexion) Baptists, Particular Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, and Scotch Baptists. The “Seventh Day Baptists” differ from the other Baptists simply on the ground that the seventh, not the first day of the week should be the one still held as the Sabbath, They have only two congregations in England and Wales, The "Scotch Baptists” derive their origin from the Rev. Mr. McLean, who in 1765, established the first Baptist congregation in Scotland; Their sentiments are more Calvinistic than those of the other Baptists. They possess fifteen congregations in England and Wales.


The Baptists in this country date their origin from 1608; at which time the first Baptist congregation was formed in London. They have at present, (1854), six places of worship in Newcastle. NEW COURT CHAPEL, the property of the Particular Baptists, is situated on the south side of Westgate-street. It was erected in 1819, and is capable of accommodating 600 personal TUTHILL STAIRS CHAPEL was erected in 1797, at a cost of £1,300, and in 1820 the accommodation was much increased by the erection of a new gallery at the west end. It now contains sittings for about 600 hearers. PROVIDENCE CHAPEL, situated in Marlborough Crescent, was erected in 1835, for a congregation, of Particular Baptists, at a cost of £800, and it is capable of affording accommodation to 312 persons. BRANDLING PLACE CRAPEL is a small edifice erected in 1828. These two last named chapels are attended by the Revs. R. B. Sanderson, and R. B. Sanderson, jun. NEW BRIDGE STREET CHAPEL was erected in 1839, for a Baptist congregation, which had seceded from the New Court Congregation, in 1824. It will accommodate 221 hearers. There is also a chapel in Forth-place, Bewick-street. It is a handsome stone structure, erected in 1853 Rev, Mr. Pottinger, minister. 


FRIENDS. The "Society of Friends" was founded by George Fox, the son. of a Leicestershire weaver, ·who, in 1646, at the age of 22, commenced the public proclamation of his sentiments. The first assemblies of the Friends for separate religious worship were held in Leicestershire, in 1644. In eight years afterwards the society had extended itself throughout most of the northern counties, and before the Restoration meetings were established in nearly all the English and Welsh counties, as well as in Ireland, Scotland, the West Indies and the British provinces of North America. The society in the United Kingdom is not now increasing its numbers. Small communities are to be found in parts of France, Germany, Norway and Australia.


The whole community of Friends is modelled somewhat on the Presbyterian system. They possess monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings for the management of their secular polity and spiritual discipline. The MONTHLY MEETINGS, composed of all the congregations within a definite circuit, judges of the fitness of new candidates for membership, supply certificates to such as move to other districts, choose fit persons to be elders to watch over the ministry, attempt the reformation or pronounce the expulsion of all such as walk disorderly, and generally seek to stimulate the members to religious duty. They also make provision for the poor of the society, and secure the education of their children. At these meetings also, marriages are sanctioned previous to their solemnisation at a meeting for worship. Several monthly meetings compose of QURARTERLY MEETING, to which they forward general reports of their condition, and at which appeals are heard from their decisions. The YEARLY MEETING holds the same relative position with regard to the quarterly meetings as the latter do to the monthly meetings, and has the general superintendence of the society in a particular country.


As the customary names of the days and months derive their origin from Pagan superstition, the Friends object to use them, substituting “first day,'' ''second day,'' ''first month," "second month," for "Sunday," "Monday,' 'January,'' and" February," respectively, and so on of the rest. From the period of the Revolution in 1688, the Friends have received the benefits of the Toleration Act, and are now eligible for public offices.


The Friends possess one MEETING HOUSE in Newcastle, which is situated in Pilgrim-street. It was erected in l805, upon a site which had been purchased in 1698. In 1812 it was enlarged, and since that time has undergone several alterations, possessing at present ample accommodation for 500 persons. Adjoining the building, on the side next the Manors, is a burial ground, a school room, and also a large room used occasionally for meetings.



UNITARIANS. The form of government among the Unitarians is essentially "congregational," each individual congregation ruling itself without regard to any courts or synods. The modern Unitarians differ from the ancient Anti-Trinitarians, chiefly by attributing to the Saviour less of divine and more of human nature. Indeed, He is described by several of their leading writers as a man "constituted in all respects like other men." His mission was, they say, to introduce, by God's appointment, a new moral dispensation, and His death they look upon, not as a sacrifice or as atonement for sin, but as a martyrdom in defence of truth. The Scriptures they believe to contain authentic statements, but do not allow the universal inspiration of the writers. Many of the modem Unitarians believe that all mankind will ultimately be restored to happiness. Until 1813, Unitarians were debarred of civil rights, but since that period they have held the same position as all other Protestant Dissenters.


The Unitarians have two places of worship in Newcastle, HANOVER SQUARE CHAPEL, which was opened for service in 1726, but in 1810 it was considerably enlarged, and will now accommodate nearly 1,000 hearers. Minister, the Rev. G. Harris. The UNITARIAN CHURCH dedicated to the worship of One God, the Father, was built, in 1854, upon a piece of ground, purchased of the corporation, in New Bridge-street, and is situated between the Trinity Presbyterian Church and the old tower which formerly defended the walls of the town. It is in the decorated style, and has two entrances, the southern one in New Bridge-street is very handsome. The church is in the form of a parallelogram, 74 feet long by 48 feet wide, the whole area being covered by an open-timbered. high-pitched roof. The body of the church contains 300 sittings and there are galleries all round the sides of the building. Under the east gallery, and upon the ground floor, is the boys' school which will accommodate 250 pupils. It is separated from the church by sliding doors, so that the school can be added to the church when requisite. Communicating with the boys' school is another for girls, on the exterior of the north side of the church. It possesses sufficient accommodation for 100 scholars.


METHODISTS. Under this general term are comprehended two principal and several subordinate sections, possessing totally distinct ecclesiastical organisations. The two grand sections differ from each other upon points of doctrine one professing Arminian, and the other Calvinistic sentiments. The former are "Wesleyan Methodists," the latter the "Calvinistic Methodists." Each of the two grand sections is divided into several smaller sections, differing from each other upon points of church government and discipline. The Wesleyan Methodists comprise the "Original Connexion," the "New Connexion," the "Primitive Methodists," and the "Wesleyan Association." The Calvinistic Methodists comprise the body bearing that specific name, and also the congregations belonging to what is known as " The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion." 


THE ORIGINAL CONNEXION. As at present settled, the form of church government somewhat resembles that of the Scottish Presbyterian churches in the order of their courts, in the relation they bear to each other, and in their respective constitutions and functions. The difference is in the greater degree of authority in spiritual matters exercised by the Wesleyan ministers, who preside in their courts not as mere chairmen or moderators, but as pastors. The method of organisation in the Methodist body is so well known that there is no necessity for our enlarging upon it here. 


The Original Connexion possesses six places of worship in Newcastle. BRUNSWICK PLACE CHAPEL - This fine edifice, the largest possessed by any Dissenting body in Newcastle, was erected in 1820, at a cost of £6,726. The building is of brick, with stone finishings. The interior is handsome, and the chapel altogether is allowed to be one of the most commodious in the north of England. It possesses ample accommodation for 1,389 persons, and in connection with it are schools, class rooms, chapel-keeper's house, and a good circulating library. BLENHEIM-STREET CHAPEL is a fine, commodious, brick structure, with stone finishings, erected in 1838, and contains sittings for 767 persons. NEW ROAD CHAPEL - A handsome stone edifice, was erected in 1813, from a design by J. Dobson, Esq., at a cost of £4,700, and contains sittings for 743 hearers. The CENTENARY CHAPEL is situated at St. Lawrence. It was erected, as its name implies, to commemorate the centenary of the existence of the Wesleyan body, in 1839. It affords accommodation to 390 persons. Besides the above, there are chapels at Byker's Hill and Arthur's Hill belonging to this connexion.


THE NEW CONNEXION differs from the parent body only with respect to ecclesiastical arrangements. In the New Connexion the laity have a participation in church government, candidates for membership must be admitted by the voice of the existing members, not by the minister alone; offending members cannot be expelled but with the concurrence of a Leader's meeting, officers of the body, whether leaders, ministers, or stewards, are elected by the church and ministers conjointly, and in District Meetings, and the Annual Conference; lay delegates (as many in number as the ministers) are present, freely chosen by the members of the churches. This body has two places of worship in Newcastle. SALEM CHAPEL situated in Hood-street, was erected in 1835, at a cost of £3,700. It is in the Grecian style, with a recessed portico of four fluted Doric columns; the pilasters and entablature are encircled with wreaths, etc. The upper part consists of two projecting wings, with pilasters and a centre crowned with a bold entablature, with a perforated battlement over the centre, and turrets and vases over the two wings. The interior is commodiously fitted up, and contains sittings for 900 persons. There is also a small chapel at St. Peter's Quay, erected in 1827. It will accommodate 292 persons.


THE PRIMITIVE METHODISTS. This section of Methodism commenced in the year 1810, when its first class was formed at Standley, in Staffordshire. Their doctrines are the same as those of the Original Connexion, and the outline of their ecclesiastical polity is also similar, the chief distinction,. being the admission, by the former body, of lay representatives to the conference, and the greater influence allowed, in all the various courts, to laymen. This body possess six p1aces of worship in Newcastle. NELSON STREET CHAPEL is a fine commodious structure, with a polished stone front, in the Roman style, and contains sittings for nearly 1,000 hearers. There is a school beneath the chapel. OUSEBURN CHAPEL is a plain brick building, erected in 1841, and contains 271 sittings. There are also chapels belonging to this body, at Arthur's Hill, Ballast Hill, Byker Hill, and Dent's Hole.


WESLEYAN METHODIST REFORMERS. In 1849, another of the constantly recurring agitations with respect to ministerial authority in matters of church discipline arose, and still continues. As the history of this agitation is well known we will not enter upon it, but just observe that the loss to the Old Connexion, by expulsions and withdrawals on account of these questions, is stated to amount to I00,000 members. The Reformers have set in motion a distinct machinery of Methodism, framed according to the plan which they consider ought to be adopted by the parent body. They now possess three places -of worship in Newcastle. NEW BRIDGE STREET CHAPEL was erected in 1839, and has a fine front of ashlar stone. It will accommodate 227 persons. ZION CHAPEL is situated at the foot of Westgate-street, and was formerly possessed by the Catholics, from whom it passed to the Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and subsequently to the present possessors. It is seated to accommodate 500 persons. ZION CHAPEL, Gibson-street, is used as a Ragged School during the week. It was erected in 1837.


THE NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH. This body claims to possess an entirely new dispensation of doctrinal truth derived from the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish nobleman, who maintained that the sacred writings had two senses, one the natural, the other, their spiritual sense. The principle tenets he deduced from this interior meaning of the Holy Word, and which his followers still maintain, are these: That the Last Judgment has already been accomplished (viz: in 1757): that the former "Heaven and Earth" are passed away; that the "New Jerusalem" mentioned in the Apocalypse, has already descended, in the form of the "New Church" and that, consequently, the second Advent of the Lord has even now been realised, in a spiritual sense, by the exhibition of His power and glory in the New Church thus established. The usual doctrine of the Trinity is not received; the belief of the New Church being, "that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, comparatively as soul, body, and proceeding operation are one in every individual man.'' This body possesses one place of worship in Newcastle. It is a stone building, situated in Percy-street, erected in 1822, and is seated for 403 persons.


Besides the above there is a JEWISH SYNAGOGUE in Temple-street, a SAILORS' CHAPEL, Bethel Quay, and the LATTER-DAY SAINTS have a meeting room in Nelson-street. 



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Also in this Directory (Whellan, 1855) for Newcastle:

Newcastle, 1855 Religion


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