Gateshead; Windy Nook Ebenezer Methodist New Connexion

The 1865 building shown with altered frontage nd c1968 | Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives
The 1865 building shown with altered frontage nd c1968
Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives
The chapel premises with later 1950s alterations | Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives
The chapel premises with later 1950s alterations
Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives
With the additions of the 1970s, a view of how the chapel looks today (2020) | Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives
With the additions of the 1970s, a view of how the chapel looks today (2020)
Image from the collections of the Newcastle upon Tyne District Archives

The Methodist New Connexion seems to have reached Windy Nook around 1831 and by 1844 the New Connexion Northern Association was recording 15 members there.

Long before the chapel was built, the MNC members were meeting in a cottage which stood on Stone Place, later occupied by Phillip & Catherine Stephenson. This was extended in 1862 to include numbers 2, 3 & 4 Stone Place. In 1863, the Windy Nook Society purchased all three cottages and retained them until the early 1940s, letting them out to various chapel members and using one as a Caretaker’s House.

Land for a new 200 seat chapel was acquired on what would become Stone Street and work commenced on the building in the later months of 1864 with the foundation stone being laid by Miss Townsend of Newcastle and an address being delivered by Rev. J G Williams. The mortgage, dated October 1865,  was for £400 with interest payable to a Miss Catherine Scott. The building was constructed of local stone from the quarries of Richard Kell & Co. by Thomas Kay at a cost of £55 and the joinery work undertaken by John Southern. The building opened for worship on 13 June 1865.

In 1877, the person to whom the chapel owed the money died and the mortgage was transferred though the actual details are rather sketchy. By 28 September 1883, an agreement was made between William McKie and un-named others to undertake the liabilities and responsibilities of the old Trustees and the following day they appointed new Trustees for the chapel. Circuit records show that there were difficulties in July 1885 and the Circuit Meeting convened to decide whether or not the building should remain open. The exact nature of the “difficulties” is not explained in the Circuit Meeting Minutes but one can assume that it was the financial situation that the chapel found themselves in. In 1886, it appeared that the chapel would be shut for good and after what was to have been the last service and the doors were closed, the people went home very saddened. But during the night, one man had an idea and put it to the others who agreed that they would mortgage their homes to raise money to help pay off the debt. Several payments were made – £25 in 1888 & 1891 and £50 in 1894. Following the death of John Teasdale on 26 January 1896, the Conference gave £50 towards the debt and in 1897 the chapel commenced fund-raising in earnest with a Pie & Pea Supper. This was followed by a concert at Whitehall Road Church by the Newcastle Salem Choir in October of that year and a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the November for which Windy Nook gave the choir 10 shillings and provided a tea.

1897 seems to have been a busy year all round for the life of the chapel and its members. In addition to all the fund-raising efforts they were applying themselves to, the Circuit Plan shows that  three services were held each week as well as a Band of Hope meeting, Christian Endeavour, Chapel Choir, Married Ladies Choir and the Sunday School. Camp meetings were still recorded taking place at Windy Nook even up to 1910 when most societies had ceased these. Members of the chapel attended the Circuit Picnic at Ravensworth Castle in July 1897 and several members took issue with the Chief Inspector of Police at Felling over whether or not rabbit coursing in the village was legal or not.

The fund-raising continued into 1898 and one of the ideas put forward – but rejected – was for a demonstration of the new-fangled “Talking Machine” – the first commercial recording had only been made 12 months previously in London. Lantern shows were acceptable and were held throughout 1899. In 1900, a bazaar was held over three days for which quite detailed records survive.

With the new century upon them, the members continued their struggle to clear the chapel of debt and to pay back to the members what was owed to them. Originally, it had been planned that by 1908 all the money would have been paid but whilst the adult membership was dropping due to deaths, the Sunday School was growing at a phenomenal rate and it was decided that the buildings should be extended to accommodate the school and to add a vestry to the chapel.

120 yards of land were purchased at a cost of £25 1s 6d and the foundation stone laid on Saturday 4th April, 1903. The total cost of the building work was £58 and by the time of its opening, the Sunday School had increased from 67 scholars to 98. The building work of course left the Society with more debt to pay off and it was considered that numbers 2, 3 & 4 Stone Place the site of the original chapel – should be sold off to pay for the work. The minutes reveal however that discussions on this matter “went off the boards” and it was decided to let the cottages to the Chapel Cleaner, by then a Mrs Fairlamb.

One can imagine the rejoicing that took place in that little Bethel on 6th October 1910 when a service of thanksgiving was held to mark the final clearance of the debts and all loans to members had been paid off.

Music has always played a great part in Methodism – particularly singing – and Windy Nook was no exception. In 1882, Windy Nook acquired the harmonium from Washington Colliery MNC chapel which had closed. This was later sold for £1 and a Corsician Organ in a walnut case purchased for £15 down and £10 on delivery in 1906.

To celebrate its installation, a recital was given by Mr G Forster of Felling with Miss Lightfoot of Felling Shore and Mr Allen of Felling providing the singing. The organ must have been a terrific boon to the chapel particularly when one thinks of accompanying the hymns at the “Old Hymns Concert” on 16th November 1916. If a piano was required at any time, one was borrowed from Sheriff Hill Zion Chapel until 1912 when a new instrument was purchased for £23.

Windy Nook Temperance Band began life in the 1860s though their history is now lost. It is not known if the Band were actually connected with the chapel but they did use the chapel for practising on a Tuesday night and the Northern Regional Brass Band Competition was held at the chapel in 1874. Windy Nook and St.Hilda’s Colliery Bands were amongst the competitors.

In 1920, with Joseph Thew as organist, a new organ fund was instigated with a sale of work that raised over £37. In the following July, chapel members built a frame for an organ from St.Mary’s, Heworth which was successfully installed shortly afterwards. The organ fund had a surplus of nearly £35 of which £15 was banked with the Co-Operative to repair the swell at a later date. It was not until 1964 that another organ was purchased and installed in the chapel. This was later moved to the new building and still serves the church well today.

A choir has existed at the chapel for a great many years, how long exactly is lost in time. Newspaper reports of the day note that the “singers” – as the choir would have been called – were present at the opening of the chapel in 1865 however, it does not make clear if these were actually from Windy Nook or another chapel. The choir certainly took part in a great number of events connected with the chapel and regularly held concerts and Services of Song in addition to performing the great cantatas. They also went out Carol Singing in the early hours of Christmas morning. When this tradition began is unclear at present. John McKie, the late organist at Windy Nook, recalled that 14 years of age was the minimum anyone could be to go out and had been the rule for a long time. His grandfather was 14 in 1891 and went Carol Singing for the first time – but the tradition was probably established a long time before then. Fourteen at that time would have been the age when most young men began work and anyone younger would have been classed as a child. The tradition continues to this day.

It would be impossible to record the history of this chapel without making some reference to the terrible murder which took place in the village in 1907 as John Patterson who was killed was a member of the Windy Nook Ebenezer MNC Chapel.

The events in question began when it was noticed by the Co-Operative Store committee and some of the employees, that a systematic amount of pilfering was taking place in the butchers’ shop. The manager had reported the loss and had one night scattered sawdust on the floor before locking up for the night. The following morning there were tell-tale footsteps shown on the floor from the front door to a hook where previously a joint of meat had hung. On 13th October, a sirloin of beef was missing and on the 22nd a side of mutton. Following the theft of another joint it was decided to set a trap and endeavour to catch the culprit without the involvement of the police.

On the night of Thursday 31st October 1907, the volunteers who had undertaken to take the watch – George Ather, Christopher Carr and John Patterson (all committee members) and John Joseph Cowell, a young man in the butchering department, entered the shop and took their places with Ather in the office and the others in the mincing room. At about one o’clock in the morning someone – believed to have been a policeman – tried the door but other than that the night was quiet until about 4 o’clock. One of the watchers noticed that the lamp in Howard Street in front of the store had gone out. Soon afterwards a key was inserted in the front door and a man entered carrying a stick in one hand and a lantern in the other. He crossed the shop and entered the slaughter house behind, then returned to the shop. At this point, Patterson and Carr rushed out and seized hold of him, soon joined by Ather. Cowell in the meantime pulled the string on the gas pendant and flooded the shop with light.

There was a considerable struggle which culminated in the man producing a revolver and shooting Patterson in the forehead and Carr in the left hip. There followed some confusion whilst Carr ran for the police and Ather held the door from the outside to prevent the intruder’s escape. Ather’s wife arrived on the scene just as the man was making his escape through a broken side window into Union Street. He ran off in the direction of the quarries hotly followed by Mrs Ather (armed with an axe) but she lost him in the darkness of the quarries. Patterson lived for about two hours but never regained consciousness. Carr was taken to the Royal Infirmary in Newcastle where he recovered sufficiently to return home the next day.

The story continues for some time with the police work in finding the culprit and the subsequent arrest of Joseph William Noble who, after trial at Durham, was hung for the murder of 33 year old John Patterson.

John Patterson was a Trustee of the Ebenezer Chapel and a member for many years. He was born in the village and lived at Paradise with his wife Hannah and their children. He was a devout Sunday School worker and strove to promote the cause of temperance within the village. Naturally, his funeral service was conducted in his beloved chapel. Beginning early in the day, crowds began to assemble in the village and particularly around his home. When the appointed hour arrived, the coffin was carried from the house to the chapel accompanied by the singing of “Lead kindly light”. The North Mail gave a list of the chief mourners in its report on the proceedings on the 5th November. These included: William Patterson of Halifax – brother of the deceased; John and Mary Patterson – son and daughter; Mrs Arkless – an aunt; Mr and Mrs Joseph Dance; Mr and Mrs John Dance; Joseph Dance; Mrs McKie (older sister) and Mrs Bell (father and mother-in-law); Mr & Mrs John Bell and George, William, Mark and Joseph Bell (brothers-in-law). Also attending were representatives from the store – James Melville the store manager, William Foster and John Grey, Chairman and Secretary respectively of the Windy Nook & District Industrial Co-Operative Society. Following the service, the coffin was carried across the road and John Patterson was buried in St. Alban’s graveyard. A memorial service was held in the chapel about 3 weeks later and a memorial tablet erected in the chapel (this no longer exists).

As the 1920s progressed, a number of New Connexion chapels in the circuit closed due mainly to falling numbers and lack of finance. Ship Lane Chapel at Wrekenton succumbed in 1921 and Windy Nook took advantage of the sale of interior fittings by buying 7 fine chairs at five shillings each. Windy Nook was progressing quite well since the debt on the building was cleared and established a new Trust. Unfortunately, that is where the Minute Book ends so the remainder of this history can only be gleaned from Circuit Minutes and other sources.

Following Methodist Union, the Trustees carried out extension work to the schoolroom to provide a stage area and a small kitchen at a cost of £260. The Act of Methodist Union brought all the major Methodist church bodies together and in 1935 there was a major overhaul of the Circuits. This produced some remarkable results – in some towns, Felling for example, there were now seven Methodist Chapels in the one town and now in the same circuit (Felling almost became a one-town circuit as a result). At the relatively small village of Windy Nook this put the MNC Chapel and the Primitive Methodist Chapel in the same circuit and very close to each other. It was decided that the two societies should amalgamate and split the work between the two buildings. Albion Street PM was used for youth work and the Stone Street MNC chapel for worship from where Windy Nook Methodist Church operates today.

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