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Church History

The Need For A New Parish

Little wonder that the Vicar of Saint Hilda’s which was the only Anglican parish for the first half of the century, called for new parishes to be established and new churches built. A Chapel of Ease had been consecrated in 1819, in Fowler’s Close, (an area now known as the Denmark Centre) to relieve the situation, but it was only used for services and as a school. In 1864 a parish was created around it. This was known as the Parish of Westoe, even though it contained no part of Westoe Village. The old chapel was soon replaced by a larger building, dedicated to Saint Thomas.


Exterior view of the church soon after opening

In 1874 a mission church was opened in a room in Somerset Street. £400 raised at a bazaar paid for the building of a temporary church in Derby Terrace to replace it. This was Saint Andrew’s Mission, and the Reverend C.E.Adamson, a curate from St. Hilda’s, was put in charge. About this time the Ecclesiastical Commissioners allocated 2 acres of land adjacent to the Ingham Infirmary for a church and vicarage and promised a grant of £1,000 towards the building of a new church. The boundaries of a parish were established and it was constituted in 1878, to be known as ‘South’ Westoe, as distinct from the town parish of Westoe. This is an anomaly to this day, when only the newer parish still exists!

The New Church Is Built

The first vicar of this new parish was the Rev’d Cuthbert Adamson, formerly curate of St Hilda’s. His was the oversight of the building of the new church, which was consecrated by Bishop Lightfoot on Feb. 2nd, 1882, together with the furnishings, and the various improvements and extensions made and added in those early years. The building was a simple rectangle. Its style of architecture was 15th century perpendicular. The brick filled arches in the side walls would allow for wide aisles to be added at a later date.

The only adornment at that time was the 5 light east window. Measuring 20 feet high by 12 feet wide, it shows Jesus in the centre, surrounded by rays of glory, with Mary on one side and John the Baptist on the other. The Archangel Michael, patron saint of the church, with Gabriel and Raphael, are shown below. With chairs for 400 people, the building was complete within 12 months of the laying of the foundation stone; its cost was £4,380.

The following years were a period of expansion both of the building and also of the ministry to the ever increasing population.


Exterior view of the church soon after opening


A small vestry and an organ chamber were built. Cost £160


The Vicarage was built; previously the vicar had lived in Argyle Terrace.


The Institute opened for classes, meetings and Sunday school. (” church will thus be much cleaner for the evening congregation.”) !


The organ was dedicated on February 26th and a recital given by W Rea Esq., Newcastle City organist.


The beautiful hammerbeam roof was carved and installed. Cost £600


A bazaar raised £469 for the Building Fund.


The north and south aisles, together with porches, were built; they were dedicated by Bishop Westcott. Cost app. £1,000


A bazaar raised £1,048 for the Building Fund.


Electric lighting was installed, the cost being borne by a donation.


Large vestries were completed


An anonymous donor paid for the marble and mosaic chancel floor Between 1891 and 1901 the parish population had doubled to almost 21,000. A new parish, St. Oswin’s, was established on Stanhope Road in 1907 taking 2,500 souls plus Mr. Bowker, our curate, as the first Vicar.


The bell tower was erected and dedicated. Paid for by a legacy- £500. Its height is 99 feet, surmounted by a cross of 3 feet.


The Parish Hall connected to the Institute, was opened.


An anonymous donor, later thought to be Mrs. Flagg, paid for the remaining two bays of the north aisle to be built as a Chapel. This was consecrated and dedicated to St. Margaret, by Bishop Moule. He was the third consecutive Bishop of Durham to take part in the dedication of the church. This completed the structure of the building.


As a result of public feeling, a war memorial was dedicated to the Glory of God and in memory of those who fell in the Great War. It took the form of an alabaster reredos, four oak panels in the chancel on which are inscribed the names of those from the parish who died and a finely carved chancel screen. The cost of £2,000 was paid by public donations.


Lady Readhead paid for the building of the church hall extension, in memory of her husband, Sir John Readhead.


The Margaret Chapel was refurbished with new pews and kneeling desks which were given by several parishioners in memory of loved one.