Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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ROMAN CATHOLIC CHAPEL
LONG after the suppression of the monasteries by king Henry VIII. a great portion of the people of Northumberland and Durham continued to regret the change, and to adhere steadily to "the ancient faith." As there were many religious houses and hospitals in Newcastle, it is probable that the friars and chaplains possessed considerable influence, and that a great part of the inhabitants here also retained their attachment to the proscribed religion of their fathers. This feeling, during the reign of queen Elizabeth, was opposed by ruinous fines for recusancy, and by inflicting the cruellest punishments upon the priests who professed the Roman Catholic faith. Agreeably to this unchristian policy, three missionary priests suffered death in Newcastle upon Tyne, for performing their priestly functions (fn. 1) It being so dangerous and criminal to profess the Catholic religion, it cannot be surprising that there exist no records of its state in this town from the Reformation to the reign of James II. who, being a Catholic, suspended the penal laws against them.
Prior to the Revolution, the chapel belonging to the secular clergy was in the White Hart Yard, in the Flesh Market. In this chapel a sermon was preached before Sir William Creagh, knight, mayor, and the rest of the corporate body, by the Rev. Phil. Metcalfe, a Jesuit, one of the chaplains of king James II. and who appears to have been at that time on a visit to Newcastle, on the 29th of January, 1688, being the day of public thanksgiving for the queen having proved with child. (fn. 2) The priest of this chapel appears to have removed, shortly after the Revolution, to a house in the Nuns, which was broken into, and much of the furniture destroyed, by a mob, on the 28th of January, 1746, being the day on which William Duke of Cumberland arrived at Newcastle, on his way to Scotland, to combat the army of Prince Charles. The corporation, to shew their displeasure at this wanton outrage, offered a reward of £50 for the discovery of the offenders. At this time, the Rev. Thomas Gibson was the incumbent. He was the successor of the Rev. Thomas Ward, who, from the best accounts, appears to have been the first Catholic clergyman regularly established in this town after the Revolution. After the above occurrence, a room in Bell's Court, Newgate Street, was fitted up for a chapel. This room was for some years the Free Masons Lodge, and is now occupied as the library of the Literary, Scientific, and Mechanical Institution. (fn. 3) Mr. Gibson died January 26, 1764; and was succeeded, on the 10th June, 1765, by the Rev. Charles Cordell, who died January 26. 1791. (fn. 4) The Rev. J. Jones, who is now chaplain to the Right Hon. the Earl of Newburgh, at Hassop in Derbyshire, was the next priest who took charge of this chapel. He was succeeded, in June, 1795, by the Rev. James Worswick.
There was also a Roman Catholic chapel in the mansion-house of the Riddells at Gateshead, and which was served by Jesuit clergymen. An ill-judging mob set fire to this chapel, as a compliment to the Duke of Cumberland, while he passed through Gateshead. The clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Walsh, fled to Felling Hall, the seat of the grandfather of the late C. J. Brandling, Esq. of Gosforth, whose family at that time were Catholics. Shortly after, Mr. Walsh removed to a house in the Close, Newcastle, once the residence of the celebrated loyalist, Sir John Marley. This house was afterwards part of the premises of the Northumberland Glass Company, which were burnt down in 1821: and the scite is now occupied by part of the extensive soapery of Messrs. Doubleday and Easterby.
Thus there were two Roman Catholic chapels in Newcastle; the one served by secular clergymen, and the other by Ex-Jesuits. (fn. 5) Mr. Walsh died in 1775, and was interred in St. Nicholas' church-yard. He was succeeded by the Rev. William Warrilow, from Ellingham in Northumberland, who shortly afterwards removed from the Close to premises at the foot of Westgate Street, and fitted up a chapel at the top of his house. For, from the time of Elizabeth (excepting the reign of James II.) to the year 1778, when the first relaxation of the penal law against the English Roman Catholics took place, it was unsafe to open public chapels. All the chapels in this town, as well as other parts of the kingdom, were only rooms in the dwelling-houses of the residentiary chaplains. Mr. Warrilow, whose correct and impressive eloquence is remembered by many, died on November 18, 1807, and was interred in St. John's church-yard, beside his brethren, Mr. Gibson and Mr. Cordell.
On the death of Mr. Warrilow, the lease of his house and chapel was sold, and his congregation was incorporated with the one under the charge of the Rev. J. Worswick, who, in 1797, purchased the convenient premises in Pilgrim Street, which were the property and residence of Richard Keenlyside, Esq. surgeon. The front house the incumbent appropriated to his own use; and on the back grounds, near Erick-burn, he erected the present chapel. (fn. 6) It is dedicated to St. Andrew, and was opened on Sunday the 11th of February, 1798; on which occasion a solemn High Mass was celebrated, being, it is supposed, the first performed in Newcastle since the Reformation. (fn. 7) The chapel in Bell's Court, Newgate Street, was now discontinued. The new chapel is a brick building. It is 85 feet in length, 35½ feet in breadth, and 24 feet in height, and is lighted by six large Gothic windows on the south side. At the west end is a large gallery, in which a fine-toned organ, built by Donaldson, was placed in 1802. In 1808, the chapel was enlarged 13½ feet; and, in 1826, the gallery was enlarged 8 feet; so that now one thousand persons may be accommodated with seats. (fn. 8) The altar is placed in an alcove, which is ornamented by a beautiful painting of the Crucifixion, by Maria Casway. Below the east end of the chapel is a charity-school for girls, and in the yard another for boys. Underneath is a correct representation of the altar of this chapel. (fn. 9)