Tag Archives: Byron Eric Dawson

Herbert Barnes: long serving Unitarian church minister

Over fifty years ago a Heaton High School pupil sat on the number 11 bus to school when a teenage boy got talking to her. The pair later started going out together. That teenage boy is now a member of Heaton History Group and he has finally got round to researching an interesting member of his one time girlfriend’s family: Reverend Herbert Barnes, who was a well known non-conformist minister in Newcastle and one time Heaton resident.

Reverend Herbert Barnes

Early Life

Herbert Barnes was born into a farming family on 13 August 1885 at Greyabbey, a small settlement on the banks of Strangford Lough in County Down in Ireland (now Northern Ireland). The family were members of the Non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, a Christian church which placed emphasis on individual conscience in matters of Christian faith and which became part of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches on that organisation’s foundation in 1928.

In the 1901 census, Herbert was a 15 year old schoolboy, still living near Greyabbey. On leaving school, he entered into business in the art trade but by 1911, 25 year old Herbert was a theological student and boarding with a family in Belfast, some twenty miles from home. From there, he soon moved to Unitarian College Manchester, which has been ‘preparing students for ministry and lay leadership positions in the Unitarian and Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Churches since 1854′. It is still going strong. Herbert was ordained in 1915.

His first ministry was at the Oldham Road Unitarian Church in Manchester. We know from newspaper records that he also preached at other churches in the vicinity.

But just four years later, he transferred to Newcastle to take up a new post at the Unitarian church on New Bridge Street said to be the first non-conformist place of worship in Newcastle with a congregation dating from 1662, which worshipped initially in private homes. The first purpose built meeting house was built c1680 outside the Close Gate, roughly where the Copthorne Hotel is now. In 1726, the church moved to Hanover Square, behind what is now the Central Station before moving to the John Dobson designed New Bridge St church in 1854.

John Dobson’s Church of the Divine Unity, demolished in the 1930s

Heaton Ties

On 25 August 1920, in Cheshire, Herbert married (Lizzie) Beatrice Watterson who hailed from the Isle of Man. She had been a maths teacher firstly at Burnley High School and then in Manchester. 

For at least the first five years of their marriage the couple lived at 12 Cheltenham Terrace in Heaton. They had three children, Henry Greenfield, Herbert Abner and Mary, at least two of whom continued to have connections with Heaton even after the family moved to the west end of the city. Henry Greenfield, who became a general practitioner, used to play rugby for the Medics, whose ground is, of course, on Heaton Road. Herbert Abner became a lawyer and, in 1949, the recipient of the Law Society’s ‘Newcastle upon Tyne Prize’. Mary became a hospital almoner (a pre-NHS forerunner of a hospital social worker). After marriage, she and her family lived for a time at 35 Lesbury Road.

Sadly, Beatrice, Herbert’s wife, died in 1939 aged only 51. Her funeral was attended by many Newcastle dignatories, including Sir Arthur Lambert (Northern Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence) and his wife, councillors and the Reverend E Drukker of the Jesmond Synagogue. The chancel furnishings in the new church were gifted in her memory.

Ministry

The Reverend Barnes seems to have been very popular with his congregation. It is said that the church was so full at the services he led that that extra seats had to be crammed into the aisles.

In 1929, when he announced from the pulpit that he had declined a call to the ministry of Cross Street Chapel in Manchester, there was said to have been a round of applause in the church. Barnes said that to be invited to the ministry of the most historic and outstanding pulpit in the church’s general assembly was an honour that comes only once in a man’s lifetime but that he had decided to remain in Newcastle.

One of Herbert Barnes’s challenges during his ministry was the dangerous state of repair of John Dobson’s church. The cost of repairs eventually became prohibitive and after serious subsidence was discovered, it was decided to build a new church in its place.  A public building appeal fund was set up in 1938. The last service in the old church was on Sunday 26 March 1939 and the first in the new one in nearby Ellison Place, on the site of another demolished John Dobson church, St Peter’s, was on Sunday 21 January 1940.

Drawing of St Peter’s Church as it was being demolished by Byron Dawson, once of Heaton

The new church was also known as the Church of the Divine Unity. All of this was overseen by Reverend Herbert Barnes.

Church of the Divine Unity, Ellison Place

Arthur Andrews takes up the story:

‘In the 1970s, I used to work at Newcastle Polytechnic and every day would see the church and wonder what it was like inside. However, it was only when I noticed that not only was it open for Heritage Open Day and there was the link with Herbert Barnes but also I read that it might soon be sold and closed to the public, that I visited.’

The art deco building was designed by the architects Cacket, Burns Dick and McKellar, who had been responsible for many familiar landmarks including the Tyne Bridge towers and Pilgrim Street Police Station.

Interior of Church of the Divine Unity, Ellison Place

The new church could accommodate 500 people and the church hall, where there was a stage,  could hold 250 people and was used for meetings, as a theatre and for badminton. Rev Herbert Barnes’s Ministry celebrated his silver jubilee in the ministry three years after the new church opened.

Golden Book

Rev Barnes is said to have taken a vigorous stand against anti-Semitism. On 8 January 1934, it was reported that, later that week, ‘in appreciation of his personality and public works and services rendered to the Jewish People’ and in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of his ministry, he was to be honoured  by an inscription in The Jewish National Fund’s ‘Golden Book’ and a certificate marking this was to be presented to him.

The public works referred to included serving on both Newcastle Public Libraries Committee and Education Committee. This inscription in the ‘Golden Book’, given on the recommendation of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, was said to be the highest form of tribute the Jews can pay to those whom they wish to honour. Speeches would be made by Rabbi J Kyanski and Reverend Emmanuel Drukker from the Jesmond Synagogue. Members of Mr Barnes’s church were to be individually invited to the presentation. It was reported in Reverend Barnes’ obituary in ‘The Daily Journal’, that Herbert Barnes was ‘one of the few gentiles to have had their names inscribed in the Golden Book’

Statues

Herbert Barnes wrote a weekly piece for the Evening Chronicle from 1929 until 1941. It was called ‘The Weekly Epilogue’ and published under the pen name of ‘Unitas’. It dealt with aspects of daily life in relation to the bible and philosophy.

In April 1941 he started a new weekly piece called ‘A Saturday Postscript’, for the ‘Evening Chronicle’, which he wrote under his real name until the month before his death.

And he also wrote a column for ‘The Journal’ from 1936 until 1954, called ‘Weekend Thought’ under another pen name ‘Ignotus’.

His final column was entitled ‘They Ought to have Statues’, where he made a case for more statues dedicated to women and their unsung role in society. He cited the recently unveiled statue of Thomas Hardy, observing that the doctor who delivered Hardy was sure that he was stillborn and discarded his young body, only for a woman present at the birth to check the discarded child and found him to be breathing. Herbert Barnes thought that this woman deserved a statue in her honour for saving the life of the future, great author. Although, he could perhaps have mentioned female achievements in addition to saving the life of a famous man, he was certainly ahead of his time, given that this is a more widely understood issue 67 years later.

Tributes

Rev Herbert Barnes retired from the ministry on 19 July 1951. He died at his home in Wylam on 29 October 1954

On 1 October 1961, two commemoration services were held at the Church of Divine Unity to honour the memory of Reverend Hebert Barnes. The morning service was attended by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Dr H Russell and members of the City Council, at the end of which the ‘Herbert Barnes Memorial Stone’ was unveiled.

Someone who knew Herbert Barnes well said that, through his preaching and his newspaper articles, he brought his views before almost every thinking person in the north-east. It was also said that perhaps the greatest tribute to his personality was the fact that more than half of the £35,000 needed to build the Church of Divine Unity, was subscribed by people outside of his own congregation.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group. The drawing by Byron Dawson has been reproduced with the permission of Newcastle City Library. Thank you to Maurice Large, Church of the Divine Unity leader. Herbert Barnes’s grandchildren: Lesley, Jonathan and Paul, with fond memories.

Additional Sources

British Newspaper Archive 

Ancestry

FindmyPast

Wikipedia

Can You Help?

If you know more Herbert Barnes or have memories or photos to share, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Byron Dawson: renowned Heaton artist

Regular readers will know that Heaton has been home to a number of accomplished artists: Alfred Kingsley Lawrence, once of 42 Heaton Road, whose paintings grace the Houses of Parliament, the Bank of England and many national galleries; John Wallace, formerly of 28 Kingsley Place, whose work you can see in the Shipley and the Laing, and John Gilroy, commemorated by a plaque on the wall of his home, 25 Kingsley Place, who painted royalty, politicians, even a pope, but is best known for his commercial art for Guinness.

We would now like to add Byron Eric Dawson to our Heaton artistic ‘Hall of Fame’. Heaton History Group’s Arthur Andrews remembers that, back in 2008, before Heaton History Group was even a twinkle in our eye, he cut out this article from the ‘Evening Chronicle’.

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‘Evening Chronicle’ article about Byron Dawson, 2008

He had been impressed with Dawson’s drawings and saddened by his penniless demise. The 50th anniversary of the artist’s death in 2018 seemed to pass unnoticed so, to rectify this, Arthur wondered whether Dawson had, by any chance, any connection with Heaton and when his research showed that to indeed be the case, our intrepid researcher set about discovering more.

Family

Born in 1896, Byron was the youngest son of Samuel and Kate Dawson, who originally came from Lincolnshire but moved to Banbury in Oxfordshire, where Byron and his elder brother, Horace, were born. Kate died in 1906 at the age of 36, when Byron was only 11 and Horace 13.

It appears that the family then split up as, by the 1911 Census, 17 year old Horace was living as a boarder in Harrow, Middlesex, while working as an assistant clerk for the Local Government Board. During WW1, Horace served in the Household Cavalry. He died in Western General Hospital, Manchester on 23 April 1917.

Byron, meanwhile, had gone to live with his mother’s sister, Lucy, and her husband, Henry Cock, a prison warder, at 43 Grantham Road, in the Heaton ward of Newcastle upon Tyne. He lived with them for about ten years, until he was 21.

Working life

After leaving school, Byron started to serve an engineering apprenticeship at a so far unknown company. The engineering company recognised his drawing skills and encouraged him to become an art student at Armstrong College in Newcastle. (It would be interesting to know if the company was C A Parsons, as Dawson painted this interior of the works later in his career).

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Dawson painting of Parsons works (on a Parsons calendar)

In 1922, Dawson was living at 46 Hotspur Street, where he was lodging with fellow artist and friend, Thomas William Pattison, and his parents, Arthur and Annie.

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46 Hotspur Street

It is said that Byron described himself as an orphan but we know from the electoral registers, that his father also came to Newcastle: he was lodging on Jesmond Road in 1921 and 1922.

On finishing the art course, Dawson was asked to stay on as an assistant master in painting. By 1925 he and Thomas Pattison were sharing an art studio on Newgate Street and Byron was living in Benwell, while Thomas had moved to Earsdon. (By 1939,  Byron was again lodging with Thomas’s parents, now in Jesmond.)

Successes

Dawson became a full-time professional artist in 1927. In 1928 he completed a commission for Major Robert Temperley of Jesmond, originally known as ‘panel for morning room’ which was submitted to The Royal Academy. This painting, ‘Dawn’, was also shown at the 1929 North East Coast Exhibition at The Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park.

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NE Coast Exhibition catalogue

There were nine galleries in the palace, containing 1,139 exhibits. At least three other artists with Heaton connections were represented: Byron’s friend, T W Pattison (1 item), John William Gilroy (1 item) and John Atkinson, who will be the subject of a future article (5 items). Dawson also exhibited three times at the Royal Scottish Academy.

During his long career, Dawson and his easel became a familiar figure in the streets of Newcastle and beyond, as he drew many of the region’s important buildings. He seemed not make friends easily and would not work for people he did not ‘warm to’ for one reason or another. But he did regular commissions, notably the northern scenes published in the ‘North Mail’ (The predecessor of the ‘Journal’) over many years.

Later years

 Little did Dawson know when he drew Newcastle’s Plummer Tower in the 1930s, that this would become his final home in Newcastle.

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Plummer Tower by Byron Dawson

In the early 1960s, he was not in the best of health and was having difficulties making ends meet, so much so that, when it became a museum, he was offered the opportunity to reside in the Plummer Tower as caretaker.

In 1966 Dawson was taken to the Wooley Sanitorium near Hexham with acute chest problems. Unfortunately, did not recover enough to return to his Newcastle home at the Plummer Tower. He died in 1968 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Jesmond Cemetery.

On display

The first major exhibition of Byron Dawson’s work in 40 years was held in the Dean Gallery, Newcastle on the 25th anniversary of his death. Over 60 watercolours, oils and sketches were on display, all of which were for sale. Allan Graham, the gallery director at the time, said that the works were of immense historical as well as artistic importance and that Dawson was the best known artist of his era, thanks to his commission to draw ‘almost every building of importance in the North East’ for the ‘North Mail’.

That exhibition was temporary but it is still possible to see Dawson’s work. Newcastle City Library holds 69 of his drawings and prints. They can be readily be accessed on request.

The Laing Art Gallery has a portrait of Byron Dawson drawn by his good friend T W Pattison. Both painters, along with Alfred Kingsley Lawrence, were among those commissioned to paint individual ‘lunettes’ for the gallery – ‘half moon’ shaped murals, high up in the upstairs galleries, which you can still see today.

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Byron Dawson lunette, Laing Art Gallery

The ‘morning room panel’, ‘Dawn‘, is in the permanent ‘Spirit of the North’ Exhibition.

One of the most accessible paintings by Byron Dawson is a very large, eye-catching landscape situated in the Centurion Bar of Newcastle Central Station. A good excuse to go for a drink!

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Byron Dawson painting, Centurion Bar, Newcastle Central Station

Dedication

When Marshall Hall published his authoritative book, ‘The Artists of Northumbria’ in 1973, he prefaced it with the following:-

Dedicated to the memory of

Byron Eric Dawson

Artist

my tutor in art

and friend for more than a decade.

This article is also dedicated to his memory.

 Acknowledgements

 Written and researched by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group.

Sources

‘The Artists of Northumbria’ by Marshall Hall

‘Newcastle between the Wars: Byron Dawson’s Tyneside’ by Marshall Hall

Newcastle City Library

Tyne Bridge Publishing

Findmypast

National Newspaper Archive

The Laing Art Gallery

Can you help?

While looking for Byron Dawson artworks on-line, Arthur came across the print below of Heaton Hall in Manchester and bought it for £10. We still haven’t given up hope of finding a Dawson drawing or painting of our own Heaton Hall. Let us know if you can point us in the right direction or have any other information about or of photographs of Byron Dawson. You can contact us either through this website by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or by emailing chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org.

 

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Heaton Hall, Manchester by Byron Dawson