A study of the 1895 Ordnance Survey map of Heaton reveals a building described as St Gabriel’s Church but it is not where you would expect it to be on Heaton Road. It is to the east of Chillingham Road on the north side of Rothbury Terrace. To the south is a cricket ground and the football ground where Newcastle East End, forerunners of Newcastle United, had played until three years earlier and to the north west just 121 years ago, you would have still seen Heaton Town Farm.
There is a record that states that in 1890 ‘the wooden building was replaced with a structure of corrugated iron lined with wood, costing £500, with seats for 500’. It is not known whether the earlier wooden building was also a church. The building was known as St Gabriel’s Iron Mission Chapel and was a daughter church of St Michael’s, Byker.
Lord Armstrong’s gift
It was also in 1890 that Lord Armstrong gave a new site for a permanent church to be built on the west side of Heaton Road near to its northern end and opposite a row of large villas between Simonside and Cartington Terraces. The architect appointed was Mr Frank W Rich and the Archdeacon of Northumberland recommended Mr Rich to prepare plans for a permanent church to be built in the Gothic design with a tower, a nave and one aisle, to hold 500 but capable of being enlarged to hold 600. Plans were submitted to Lord Armstrong for his approval.
1891 saw proposals being put forward for a new conventional district in the Diocese of Newcastle to be formed. At this time the population of the Mother Parish Church of St Michael’s, Byker was 18,500. The new Parish of St Gabriel, Heaton would take over 7,000.
Towards the end of 1892, the Archdeacon of Northumberland wrote to the Vicar of Byker:
‘The rapid increase of the population of Heaton makes it the imperative duty of us all to provide a new parish church in that part of the City and Diocese in the manner in which the law provides’.
The site of the new church on Heaton Road was found in 1896 to be too narrow to accommodate a large church built on a cruciform shape. Lord Armstrong generously gave another site directly north of the original site. On 1 December Bishop Edgar agreed that the architect Mr F W Rich should build a new stone church on the new site. The building contractor appointed was Mr Walter Baston, a member of St Gabriel’s congregation.
On 18 June 1898 the ‘East End Graphic’ published:
‘For some time the Anglicans in Newcastle have been anxious to see the growing district of Heaton supplied with some more substantial places of worship than the little iron structure in Rothbury Terrace, which has done duty for some years under the Charge of Reverend T H Atkinson. A site on Heaton Road in a field which commands a picturesque view of Jesmond Vale was given some time ago by Lord Armstrong, who also gave £800 to the Building Fund. Alderman Gibson donated £1,000.
A good deal of hard work on the part of the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Jacob, the curate in charge of the Iron Church and others has brought the total subscription up to £3,110 and the task of building a new St Gabriel’s has begun.
Plans were drawn up by the architect Mr F W Rich estimated to cost £10,000 to seat 1,000.’
You’ll notice from the architect’s drawings below that Rich’s plans evolved. For example, the spires originally planned for the top of the tower were never built. And the south transept wasn’t built at first.
Early architect’s drawings of St Gabriel’s Church
The foundation stone was laid by Mrs. Watson-Armstrong on 15 June 1898. Under the foundation stone was placed a description of the building, plans, local newspaper and coins. (The location of the foundation stone is unknown.)
The Consecration of St. Gabriel’s Church by Bishop Jacob took place on Friday 29 September 1899. A licence for marriages was obtained in October and on 27 December 1899 Queen Victoria sanctioned the formation of the new Parish.
There was no chancel, sanctuary or trancepts in the newly consecrated church. An altar was created just behind the present chancel steps and vestries were built where now stand the Lady Chapel and South Transept.
The fees (presumably from weddings and funerals) were reserved for by the Vicar of Byker.
The church building account was published in March 1900 and read:
1. Mr Walter Baston, Builder £3499.00.00
2. Mr F W Rich, Architect £307.18.00
3. Clerk of Works £104.04.00
4. Messrs Kirk Dickenson, Slates £224.10.00
5. Mr Robert Heron, Plumber £204.06.00
6. Messrs W Ferguson & Sons, Plasterer £200.06.00
7. Mr John Grundy, Heating Installer £105.00.00
8. Messrs Milburn and Sons ,Chairs £81.14.00
9. Gateshead Stained Glass £44.10.00
10. Messrs Robertson & Sons Painters £26.18.00
11. Messrs John Taylor & Co, Bell £8.16.00
12. Church Society Depot Lectern, Pulpit, Bibles & Prayer Books £4.13.00
13. Newcastle Co-operative Cabinet Makers Vestry Table, Forms £4.06.00
14. Messrs Henry Walker & Sons, Umbrella Stand £1.19.00
15. Mr F Beavan, Donation £19.19.00
(Those of you that can still remember pounds, shillings and pence may like to check the addition. It should be £4,837.19.00 or £4,837.95 in ‘new‘ money.)
More to Follow
This article was written by Heaton History Group member, Robin Long, who will continue with his history of St Gabriel’s in future pieces.
Information taken from Chronological History of the Parish Church of St Gabriel, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne. Researched by Mrs Joan Brusey (1890 – 1992) and Denis Wardle (1992-1999). Typed by Mrs Jennifer Dobson and Miss Valerie Smith. Bound by Mr John Dobson
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