History of the Methodist Church in Morpeth

The beginnings of Methodism lie in the evangelical conversion of the two brothers John and Charles Wesley in May 1738. However, it took almost another one hundred years before Primitive Methodism reached Morpeth! It was in 1811 that Hugh Bourne (1772 - 1852), a millwright, and William Clowes (1780 - 1851) of Burslem, joined in leadership to establish a "Connexion" called the Primitive Methodist Church which broke away from the main Wesleyan Church. By 1860 the Primitive Methodist denomination had 675 ministers, 11,384 local preachers and 132,114 members. Members sought to live the Christian life through methodical study and devotion - thus the name Methodists.

For Morpeth and the surrounding area things started to happen in 1822. The Methodist conference appointed Revd John Nelson and Revd. William Clowes to the Northern Mission. After visits to Blyth and Newbiggin these two preachers sent the bellman through the streets of Morpeth to announce preaching at the Market Cross. Primitive Methodism had arrived. A class of fourteen members formed the Morpeth Mission as part of the North Shields Circuit. The preaching room was in Bullers Green later in Union Street. Preachers walked to and from North Shields to preach at this Mission. In 1834 the Mission was transferred to the Hexham Circuit, but from 1837 until 1858 the Mission was virtually extinct and only a few open air services were held.

However in 1868 Mr N. A. Swinney, a local preacher, restarted the Mission with six members who met in a room in Hillgate. The mission soon transferred to the Old Pulp Mill (off Staithes Lane) and then to a room in Swinneys Foundry (demolished at the time of the redevelopment of Back Riggs). By 1869 there were 22 members.

Nevertheless within two years membership had fallen again to thirteen, but these few members decided to build a small chapel on the south-east side of Manchester Street, currently used as the Co-op funeral parlour.

So between 1871 and 1905 there was a Primitive Church almost opposite a Wesleyan Methodist Church!

By 1904 members of the Primitive Methodist Church had decided to change their premises and build the present Church at Howard Terrace. However, at a national level union was achieved in 1932 when the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists were consolidated, and the Methodist Church, with a membership of 800,000 was legally constituted by an act of union. But it took another thirty-two years before union happened in Morpeth. It was in 1964 that the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manchester Street (now the Boys Brigade Hall) closed down in the interests of economy and its congregation joined that at Howard Terrace.

The old Primitive Chapel on Manchester Street was relet initially to the Salvation Army from 12 May 1906 for three years at a rent of £26 per annum (8/- per week), the money from which would help to establish the new building at Howard Terrace.

The old Primitive Chapel on Manchester Street was relet initially to the Salvation Army from 12 May 1906 for three years at a rent of £26 per annum (8/- per week), the money from which would help to establish the new building at Howard Terrace.

The foundation stone was laid by Mr George H. Mouat of Morpeth (a house furniture manufacturer in Blyth) on 18th June 1904. In the cavity wall below this foundation stone (on the front of the tower of this Church) was placed a glass bottle containing:-

  • A Morpeth Herald
  • A Newcastle Chronicle of 18 June 1904
  • A block of the new church
  • An architects description of the building
  • A bill of services
  • A circuit list
  • A list of trustees
  • A photograph of the new President ( Revd. R Harrison Hall)
  • Coins ½ d, 1 d, and a 3 d piece.

Building continued until April 1905 at a cost of £2,000 providing a church to seat 350. Between Christmas 1904 and the official opening, public worship was held in this Church Hall at the lower level, which was to seat 250. The Church was built from local quarry stone, the Architect being Mr J. Walton Taylor of Newcastle and the builder Mr Thomas Turnbull of Rowlands Gill. On the lower floor ‘was a large room for the infants' school with a cooking range, tea boiler and a closed-in sink unit - and a china cupboard for social meetings, sewing gatherings and Christian Endeavour functions. There was also a ladies cloakroom and toilet.'

The official opening of the new church was on Saturday 24th April 1905 at 2.00 pm by Mrs Easton of Blyth. Revd. George Fawcett, Minister of Morpeth and Rev. T. Elliott of Ashington, Superintendent of the Circuit presided, but Revd. James Travis, ex-president of Conference was the preacher. At 4.30 pm there was a "public tea" in the hall and at 6.00 pm a "public meeting". On the Sunday the Mayor and Corporation attended the church. Over £65 was raised over the two days towards the cost of the building.

As with the rebuilding and refurbishment schemes of 1984 - 86 and 2003 - 4 so in 1904 - 5 money - raising to pay the costs became an on - going issue. In 1903 - 4 the church collected £509 towards the £2000 anticipated costs of the building. The 1904 Bazaar held in the Town Hall raised over £200. Events were held in the old Presbyterian School in Cottingwood Lane (used later by the Methodist Church as on ‘overflow' space for the Sunday School prior to the building being sold for a private residence). The organ for Howard Terrace Church was commissioned on 14th September 1905 at a cost of £230 (and made by Nelson and Company of Durham). A Mr Carnegie had promised to pay half of the cost of this organ so subscriptions were invited from the congregation and general public to raise the balance.

Further money - raising events included a ‘Glee Concert' by twenty singers, a recital of Nicholas Nickleby, a travel talk with lantern slides on the Holy Land, Gold and Silver Tree events, and sales by auction of Supper Baskets,' prepared by Ladies and bought by Gentlemen'

In 2004 the Church has established itself as a ‘Centre for the Community,' but even one hundred years ago similar functions were taking place. For one week in 1905, soon after the opening of the building, the Church provided public entertainment and education sessions every night for one week. "Professor Ray, world-renowned character reader, author and lecturer; Paul Vogler, celebrated violinist; Miss Olive Stirling with cinematograph pictures of world events; music, advice, laughter and delight; a different subject every night." In 1915 a battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers occupied the Church so services had to be held in the old chapel in Manchester Street.

By 1920 the Church was helping to support fund - raising for other organisations including the Cottage Hospital. In 1921 the Church formed a Football Club ‘for young men.' Throughout the years regular music performances were given including ‘The Messiah,' Handel's oratorio ‘Judas Macabaeus' and various operettas. In 1936 a Fair Bazaar for one week reflected the pattern of daily life at that time. Stalls with a certain theme were:

  • Sunday - Come to tea
  • Monday - Washing
  • Tuesday - Sewing and Mending
  • Wednesday - Mail Day
  • Thursday - Baking
  • Friday - Cleaning
  • Saturday - Bath Night
There are many of us in the present day congregation who can remember that pattern of weekly life!

 

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