Methodist history on Tyneside would not be complete without a mention of the Smith family of Gateshead, Felling Shore and South Shields.
William Smith, who hailed from Sculcoates in the former East Riding of Yorkshire, came to Gateshead with his family sometime after the birth of their son Edward in 1817. He was a carpenter and joiner but we have no clear indication of his denominational preferences.
Edward , however, was soon caught up in the Wesleyan Church until in 1834 he joined with the Revd Joseph Forsyth who advocated a break from the Wesleyans and made a link with the New Connexionists.
Edward worked hard for his new found friends and cut the first sod when the building work began on the Oak Bethesda New Connexion Chapel in Melbourne Street Gateshead, and he was privileged to be the first person to enter the building at the opening, such was the measure of his acceptance into that Society.
He maintained his links with that Society for the rest of his life and took on roles as Local Preacher, Class Leader, Conference Representative and Sunday School Superintendent, all the while practising temperance and abstention.
For a while he took a position as school master at Lumley. He was well read and a good platform speaker.
From 1845 he became involved at the paper manufacturing works of Gallon & Co at Felling Shore, eventually taking overall control of the operation until his retirement.
He died at the age of 83 in Whitley Bay.
Two of Edward’s sons, John Edward and George followed their father into the New Connexion ambit.
John was a life long member at Felling Shore New Connexion Chapel and was the works manager at the Paper works (Fellingshore Mill) until his untimely and sudden death in June 1904 at the age of 61.
George Smith was Edward’s fifth son born in 1846 at Felling Shore. He started life in a Solicitor’s Office but soon changed to a more practical career and was apprenticed as a draughtsman in an engineer’s office in Gateshead. In 1875 he moved to South Shields and set up in partnership with a Mr Henderson as iron founders making marine castings. He was a devoted supporter of the Zion New Connexion Methodists in Laygate Lane and was subsequently the fore runner of the formation of the Society at the Deans. He was for a period of three or four years a member of the South Shields Borough Council. He died in 1905 at the age of 60.
Edward Smith was the only son of George Smith , born in 1869 at Felling , moving with his parents to South Shields in 1875. He followed his father into the business and eventually took over, taking into partnership a James Smith (no relation, but a Wesleyan Methodist and Freemason) and trading under the name Smith & Co (South Shields) Ltd.
At the same time he was, like his father before him, elected to the Borough Council where he attained high office becoming Mayor for the period 1921-23 and subsequently being appointed as a Centenary Freeman of the Borough in 1950, at which time he was an Alderman and “Father of the Council”.
He had a fine record of useful and public work and was prominent in local industry organisations having been chairman of the Newcastle branch of the Institute of British Foundrymen.
He was deeply involved in the affairs of the Deans Methodist Church and over a period of over 50 years held most Church Offices.(see Deans Methodist New Connexion Church).
He was a Freemason in the John Readhead Lodge, a founder member of the Westoe Lodge and held a number of Provincial Offices. He was also one of the founding members of the South Shields Rotary Club.
He died in 1955, aged 86, just a few short years before his beloved Chapel at The Deans was requisitioned by the Borough Council for redevelopment. Like his father and grandfather he was a life long abstainer.
The family involvement continued with his son Clifford who regularly played the organ at the Chapel , and much later his grand-daughter became a Local preacher in the Methodist Church in Bath.
Shields Daily Gazette and Shipping Telegraph
The Lost Mills- A History of Papermaking in County Durham , Jean V Stirk University of Sunderland Press 2006
© Jeff Parsons February 2022