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The history of Houghton Methodist Church, including William Street Wesleyan, Neasham Place United, and Mautland Street Primitive

There appear to have been three different Methodist Churches in Houghton-le-Spring – a Primitive, a United and a Wesleyan. These occupied a variety of sites over the years, before being either demolished or amalgamated. The following time line shows the evolution of the Methodist movement in Houghton, culminating in the building of a new Church on Mautland Street in 1980, the congregation of which prospers to this day. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

The Bernard Gilpin memorial clock in Houghton Parish Church

For ease of reading the time line has been colour coded as follows:

Blue = generic Methodism
Red = Wesleyan Methodists
Green = United Methodists
Black = Primitive Methodists and the 1980 Houghton Methodist Church Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1742 – John Wesley, the ‘father of Methodism’, first visited Newcastle upon Tyne.

1740 – Matthew Errington, aged 29 years and of Houghton-le-Spring, heard John Wesley preach at the Foundry, London. He became Houghton’s first Methodist.

1795 – There were twelve Methodists in Houghton. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1796 – There were ten Methodists in Houghton, who would meet in a building called the Pinfold (known as ‘the Fold’) in Houghton’s Market Place. Their names were: John Ward (leader); Anne Ward; E. Matthews; E. Bowden; W. Collpits; J. Lee; Alice Watson; T. Nicholson; D. Moore; and J. Findlater. The Fold was located next to what is now the junction of Lake Road, Nesham Place and the Gravel Walks.

1829 – There were 81 members in Houghton.

1832 – October - St Michael's Curate, Rev Mr Shepherd, refused to perform the usual Service during the burial of a deceased child in the Parish churchyard, owing to the fact that the child had not been baptised by a church clergyman, but by a Wesleyan Minister. A “very conciliatory apologetic letter” was sent to the family afterwards from Houghton Rector, Rev Thurlow, following legal measures taken by the Sunderland [Methodist] Leader's Meeting.

c1836 – Houghton became the head of the Wesleyan Circuit. It had 90 members and a resident Minister.

1837 – The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on William Street opened for Divine Service on November 9th 1837. The building cost £900. In 1856, the minister was John H Faull. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1837 – A small United Methodist Church, comprising of the Wesleyan Association and Methodist Reformers, was built at Nesham Place, next to Mount Pleasant, on land which had been purchased for £120. Land to the rear was owned by A. E. Dawson, who had the Chemists on the Quay, Church Street, and was occupied by his stables.

1848 - Peter Mackenzie, a well known Wesleyan Methodist preacher, visited Houghton Feast. Somebody stole the saddle and bridle from his donkey and the animal had rolled around in the mud. Peter was not amused and vowed never to return to Houghton-le-Spring!

Pupils from the Wesleyan School on William Street, around 1900.  The photo was taken by C. Plews, whose premises were based on the nearby Sunderland Street.

1851 – Schoolrooms were built out of stone behind the William Street Wesleyan Chapel. The Day and Sunday school was built out of stone in the Gothic style at a cost of £300. In 1856 the teacher was Henry P Priddin. On the 1858-1871 OS map, the building was labelled as Tabernacle (Reform Methodist).

1855 – A Primitive Methodist Chapel opened on Sunderland Street in September 1855, literally around the corner from the William Street Wesleyan Chapel (the property’s number on Sunderland Street is still to be confirmed; it was located five properties before the William Street opening on the east side of Sunderland Street).

1859 – Houghton-le-Spring Primitive Methodist Chapel was built on Grey Horse Lane (later called Robinson Street and numbered as 32 Robinson Street). Copyright © Books of the North 2011

Houghton-le-Spring United Methodist Church, Neasham Place, around the 1920s.  The name plate stone, which read 'NESHAM PLACE CHURCH', can be seen.

1867 – A new, larger United Methodist chapel was built on the front of Nesham Place on land costing £200. The old chapel from 1837, located behind the new one, became school rooms.

1869 – Hundreds of people crowded into William Street Wesleyan Chapel to hear the Messiah given by the choir; thousands listened to the performance from outside, as the event was attended by well know musicians, William Preston, John George Craggs and others.

1875 – A plan of the intended new [Primitive] chapel to be built on ground purchased from Mr George Hopper was presented to Houghton Board of Health on April 5th 1875.

1875 – The large Mautland Methodist Chapel was erected at a cost of £3000.

1876 – The new Mautland Street Primitive Methodist Chapel opened. Their former premises, at 32 Robinson Street, were purchased by the Houghton Miners’ Lodge.

1886 – Rev Mark Shaw, a Wesleyan Minister, died on July 24th 1886. The congregation of Houghton-le-Spring Circuit and Societies of Sunday Schools erected an impressive memorial on his grave at Hillside Cemetery. This memorial was bulldozed during the Cemetery clearance of the 1970s, but was excavated by Paul Lanagan in 2003, when he stumbled upon the small pyramid-shaped corner poking out of the ground.

1888 – William Rawling, a member of Houghton’s Local Board of Health and a prominent Primitive Methodist, died on January 28th 1888. He was subsequently buried at Hillside Cemetery. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

The young men of Mautland Street Methodist Church’s Sunday School, 1896.  The photograph shows the old church and its original doorway, which was later modified.

1888 – Rev Richard Stepney, who had been in the Wesleyan ministry for more than fifty years, died on November 13th 1888, and was buried at Hillside Cemetery. His home address was given as the Quay, Church Street.

1891 – Thomas Davison presented a Communion jug and plates to the Trustees of the Mautland Street Primitive Methodist Chapel.

1894 – Rev John Phillipson (Primitive) was listed in a directory as living in Neasham Place (sic).

The Harvest Festival display in Houghton-le-Spring United Methodist Church, Nesham Place, 1912.

c1918 – A brass plaque was erected inside Houghton-le-Spring United Methodist Church, Nesham Place, in memory of the two “sons of this church who fell in action” and in honour of twenty-one others who served.

1932 – The Methodist Union 1932 saw the joining together of Wesleyan, Primitive and United Methodists, now known as the Methodist Church. It does not appear to have affected the three churches in Houghton, which remained on three separate sites.

1934 – month unknown – Mrs Mary Thompson (nee Bell) collapsed and died in Mautland Street Chapel after the hymn singing at the end of the annual Women’s Rally service. The hymn was ‘O Jesus I have promised to serve thee’. Mary had never been able to sing because of severe breathing problems, however somebody remarked to another lady during the hymn: “Mary Bell is singing.”

A certificate for Mary Jordison, recognising her as a member of Mautland Street Methodist Church on Sunday November 8th 1936, signed by Lancelot Brown, Minister.

1935 – Mautland Street Methodist Chapel celebrated its Diamond Jubilee (1875 – 1935) with a Re-Union Service on Saturday May 11th 1935, which was attended by past and present members of the congregation and school.

1945 – The first meeting of the Church Renovation Committee took place in Mautland Chapel on Thursday April 5th 1945 at 7pm, to discuss possible alterations and improvements; the rear premises had been requisitioned during the War and the wooden floor had been damaged by the soldiers’ hob nailed boots. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1947 – Several memorial windows were installed in the Mautland Street Chapel to commemorate the end of World War II.

1958 – Nesham Place Chapel celebrated its 121st anniversary.

Lydia Scott's 'Quarterly Ticket of Membership' for Houghton-le-Spring Wesleyan Methodist Church, June 1904.

1962 – The Wesleyan Church on William Street closed. The Church was in a bad state of repair and the A690 road scheme sounded the final ‘death knell’ for the building; it was subsequently demolished and the organ was relocated to the newly built St Chad’s Church in East Herrington (where it remains to this day).

1966 – October 4th – a public inquiry was held in Mautland Street Methodist Chapel schoolroom with regard to the A690 dual-carriageway and town centre redevelopment proposals.

1976 – A centenary event was held in Mautland Street Chapel on Sunday June 20th 1976. The oldest members at this time were a Mrs Bennet and Mr Wilf Francombe; the youngest member was Judith Anne Hunter.

1977 – At a meeting of the Houghton-le-Spring Circuit Steering Committee on November 3rd 1977, is was recommended that Mautland Street and Nesham Place Chapels merge, with Mautland Chapel being demolished, however it was later decided to build a new Church on the Mautland Street site owing to it having a central and therefore more accessible location.

1979 – July - The last service in Mautland Street Church was held on Sunday July 22nd 1979.

1979 – August – The Mautland Chapel building was demolished, while the church halls and school rooms were retained.

A stone laying ceremony took place on Saturday July 26th 1980, when the foundation stone for the new church building was laid by Rev J. B. Ewin.

1980 – July - A stone laying ceremony took place on Saturday July 26th 1980, when the foundation stone for the new church building was laid by Rev J. B. Ewin. Copyright © Books of the North 2011

1980 – September - Nesham Place Chapel closed on September 21st 1980. After demolition the land lay unused for many years before a private dwelling was erected on the site.


1980 – September – The new Houghton-le-Spring Methodist Church, Mautland Street, was officially opened on Saturday September 27th 1980. First day covers were issued to commemorate the event and to help raise funds. A plaque was unveiled inside the church and reads as follows:


The postmark commemorating the opening of the new Houghton Methodist Church, September 27th 1980.

1981 – When Houghton Colliery closed in September 1981, commemorative lamps were presented to Houghton’s churches. Two can be found inside Houghton Methodist Church on Mautland Street.

1984 – A new organ was installed in Houghton Methodist Church at a cost of £4,330.

The exterior of Houghton Methodist Church, Mautland Street, 2011.


Article and research by Paul Lanagan, local historian

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Paul Lanagan wishes to place on record his thanks to the following:

:: Ike Cowler, Joan Lambton, Jack Jordison and Kathy Heyworth.
:: Twenty Five Years On, Houghton-le-Spring Methodist Church, booklet, 2005.
:: Methodism Came As A Beacon to Thousands of Homes, by C. A. Smith, November 10th 1960.
:: Celebrating 100 Years of Methodism in Houghton-le-Spring 1876 – 1976, brochure.



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