St Nicholas' church: History and architecture

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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Eneas Mackenzie, 'St Nicholas' church: History and architecture', Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827), pp. 235-255. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

Eneas Mackenzie. "St Nicholas' church: History and architecture", in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) 235-255. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

Mackenzie, Eneas. "St Nicholas' church: History and architecture", Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827). 235-255. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,

In this section




THE Church of St. Nicholas (fn. 1) was anciently styled, by way of eminence, "The Church of Newcastle," it being the mother or parish church of the town. Bourne supposes it was built by king Henry I.; but, on the authority of an old book which was preserved in the vestry of this church, it was founded so early as the 4th king William Rufus (1091), by Osmund, bishop of Salisbury, who was a Norman by birth, came over with William the Conqueror, was created Earl of Dorset, and afterwards, according to some, made chancellor of England. King Henry I. gave the church of St. Nicholas, with that of Newburn, and others held of him by Richard de Aurea Valle, to the church of Carlisle, at that incumbent's death. (fn. 2) By this charter, Richard, and the clergymen that served the other churches, were ordered to acknowledge of the canons of Carlisle, and to do them such service as had been usually done to himself. The churches, on the demise of each of their respective incumbents, were to revert to the above canons; and the clerks that served them were to have necessary subsistence out of their several revenues, and the said canons the remainder.

In the year 1193, Hugh Pudsey, bishop of Durham, confirmed to the prior and convent of Carlisle, all the churches that belonged to them in his diocese. Among the usual yearly pensions to be paid to the incumbents, there occur 26 marks to be paid from this of St. Nicholas: on the respective deaths of each of these incumbents, the above prior and convent were to take the churches into their own hands, and severally present vicars to them, paying to the bishop, annually, 40 marks, in lieu of aids for the whole. In the following year, this bishop, with the consent of the prior and convent of Carlisle, who held the vicarage of this church, appointed, for the support of the vicar thereof for the time being, all fruits, annual profits, oblations, and obventions whatsoever belonging thereto, except the great tithes.

In 1197, the church of Newcastle stood indebted sixty shillings to the king, for an aid. In the year 1216, this church is said to have been destroyed by fire.

Richard de Marisco, consecrated bishop of Durham 9th Kalends of August, 1218, ratified the churches of Newcastle, Newburn, Werkworth, Corbridge, and a moiety of that of Whittingham, to the bishop, prior, and convent of Carlisle, and their successors, for ever.

Farnham, bishop of Durham, in consideration of the poverty of the church and see of Carlisle, granted them their several churches in his diocese, to be equally divided amongst them, reserving out of their revenues a competence to the respective vicar of each church, and excepting forty marks, which had been granted from thence by Silvester, bishop of Carlisle, during his life; and after his death, forty pounds sterling, to be paid by the bishop, prior, and convent of Carlisle, at a certain term for ever, at the exchequer of Durham, out of the possessions of the above churches. This was confirmed by the chapter of Durham in 1246.

In 1290, king Edward I. by his charter of inspeximus, confirmed the charters of Henry I. and Henry II. of the above churches to the bishop and canons of Car-lisle. (fn. 3) Three years afterwards, his majesty brought an assize before H. de Cressingham and his companions, the itinerant justices at Newcastle upon Tyne, against the bishop and prior of Carlisle, for the advowsons of the churches of St. Nicholas of Newcastle upon Tyne, of Rothbury, Corbridge, and Warkworth. The defendants pleaded that they held this church of St. Nicholas in common; and the jury returned a verdict against the king. (fn. 4)

In the year 1359, (fn. 5) this church is said to have been rebuilt; but, from an old record which was preserved in the church, it appears only to have been finished at this time, which was nearly a century and a half after its destruction by fire.

During this year, an indulgence of forty days was granted by twelve foreign bishops, "and confirmed by Thomas Hatfield, bishop of Durham, to all such (having repented and confessed their sins) as performed the following things, viz. If they came to this church to Mass, to prayers morning or evening, or other divine offices, on the feast of its patron, and the others below written, viz. on the feast of Christmasday, the Circumcision, the Epiphany, Easter-eve, the Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, Corpus Christi, the Invention and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Michael the Archangel, the Nativity and Decollation of John the Baptist, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and all other Apostles and Evangelists; the commemoration of All Souls, and on the feast of the dedication of the said church of St. Nicholas; and also on the feasts of St. Stephen, Lawrence, George, Martin, Dionysius, Blasius, Mary Magdalen, Catherine, Agatha, Margaret, and in the octaves of all feasts, and on every Lord's Day and Sabbath through the year. They also were intitled to this indulgence who followed the Body of Christ, and the Holy Oil, when they were carried to the sick; or who went round the church-yard, praying all the while for the dead. Those also were intitled who assisted in the repairing of the said church, or gifted it with lamps, books, chalices, vestments, or any other necessary ornaments; or gave, or left to it by will, gold, silver, or any part of their substance. Those also shared in it who, on the Sundays, said their prayers when the bell rung at High Mass, at the consecrating of the Body of Christ; and lastly those who devoutly prayed for the soul of Catherine de Camera, whose body was buried in the said church, and for the healthful estate of John de Camera, Gilbert de Dukesfield, and Agnes his wife, as long as they lived, and for their souls when they were dead." (fn. 6)

Thomas Hatfield, bishop of Durham, by a charter of inspeximus, dated June 6, 1360, confirmed the ordering of the vicarage of this church, formerly made by Bishop Pudsey.

Nicholas Coke, of Newcastle, by his will, dated September 3, 1379, gave to the high altar of St. Nicholas' church twenty shillings; the same sum to the fabric of the choir window; and thirty pounds to chaplains to pray for his soul in this church. In the ordinary of the Coopers' Company, dated January 20, 1426, part of their fines is directed to go to "Sancte Nicholas kyrke warke," which evidently means to the reparation of this edifice. In 1429, Roger Thornton, the elder, bequeathed forty marks to the reparation and ornamenting of this church.

On the 13th of August, 1451, a ratification of the truces of Scotland was made in the vestry of St. Nicholas' church at Newcastle upon Tyne.

King Henry VIII. by his charter, dated May 6, 1541, granted to the dean and chapter of Carlisle, among other things, "a moiety of the rectory of Newcastle upon Tyne," enjoining the payment of "eight pounds to the bishop of Durham out of the said moiety."

On July 26, 1777, the church of St. Nicholas was opened by a sermon for the benefit of the Infirmary, after having been shut up for several weeks, for the purpose of having it thoroughly cleaned and repaired. The subsequent history of this ancient edifice will be noticed in the description of the different parts which have undergone alteration or reparation.


It was the custom in ancient times for people of great wealth and piety to build small chapels, or side aisles, in their parish churches, designed for burying-places for their families, and which they frequently endowed with lands, &c. for the support of chantry priests, to pray daily at altars erected therein, for the souls of the founders, and those of their ancestors and posterity. This church surpassed all others in the north, both in the number and richness of its chantries. There were nine, or rather ten, at the suppression, which were valued at £48, 4s. 6d. per annum.

1. The chantry of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle was situated on the north side of the church. Its foundation is so remote as 1149. Laurentius, prior of Durham, founded it: and, two centuries after, it was re-founded by Richard de Embleton, a magistrate of Newcastle, who made a great figure in that age, being above twelve times chief magistrate of the town. He obtained letters patent from king Edward III. to build this chantry upon a vacant piece of ground over against the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr, that he might present it to three chaplains, to procure their prayers for him while he was living, and after he was dead, and also for the souls of his wives and his father and mother, every day: and by an order from Richard, lord bishop of Durham, the chaplains for the time being, on the anniversary of his death, every year for ever, to celebrate his memory by a solemn tolling of the bells, and devoutly singing by note, in the evening of the anniversary, and sol-emnly to sing mass, for the soul of Richard himself, the souls above-mentioned, and the souls of all the faithful departed; and, after mass, one of the chaplains was to distribute, among one hundred and sixty poor people, the sum of six shillings and eight-pence; and this annually for ever. This chantry was also enriched by Robert Rhodes, during the reign of king Henry VI.; and, after the death of that worthy character, the corporation of Newcastle gave seven pounds, seven shillings, and tenpence, with a house, as a maintenance for one chaplain, to pray for his soul, for whose memory they had the highest respect, and to whom the town owed many obligations. Previous to the year 1540, George Leighton was presented to the chaplainship of this chantry by James Lawson, mayor, and the guild brethren of the town, its true patrons; and, on his death in this year, William Clerke was instituted his successor. (fn. 7)

2. The chantry of St. Catherine was, it is said, anciently founded by Alan de Durham. It was re-founded, or augmented, in the reign of Edward III. by William Johnson, and his wife Isabell, for a perpetual chaplain. The annual value was £6, 15s. Sir Peter Angrym was confirmed in the chaplainship of this chantry, August 27, 1378, on the previous presentation of the mayor, bailiffs, &c. of Newcastle, its true patrons. He was succeeded by Robert Mitford. On an inquisition taken September 2, 1557, a house and waste near St. Nicholas' church is said to have belonged to this chantry, of the annual value of 3s. 4d. (fn. 8)

3. The other chantry of St. Catherine was founded by Nicholas and John Elliker, for one priest; but king Henry's commissioners reported that the deed of foundation was embezzled by Richard Wallas, the late chaplain. The revenue of this chantry arose out of certain tenements situated in the Close, Castle-mote, the Side, and in Sandgate. (fn. 9)

4. The chantry of St. Peter and St. Paul was founded by Adam Fenrother and Alan Hilton, and licensed by king Henry IV. Its revenue arose out of some tenements in the Close, the Side, and Westgate. At the dissolution, A. D. 1547, Edward Fyffe was incumbent of this chantry, and had a yearly pension allowed him of £4, 4s. 6d. which he enjoyed in the year 1553. (fn. 10)

5. The chantry of St. Thomas appears to have been founded by John Shapecape, and licensed for one chaplain by king Edward III. (fn. 11)

6. The chantry of Our Lady, styled also the Altar of St. Mary, was the south transept of the church, and hence called St. Mary's Porch. The deed of foundation was said to have been embezzled by Thomas Ireland, chaplain, previous to its suppression; but it was, at least, as old as the reign of king Edward I. for, in 1305, Peter Graper, mayor, gave two shillings a year to the priest of this chantry. Two shillings per annum was also granted to it by a charter signed Nicholas de Carliol, chief bailiff of the town in 1328. John Coke, of Newcastle, in 1379 bequeathed to the altar of St. Mary, in this church, the sum of 6s. 8d. (fn. 12)

7. The chantry of St. Margaret was founded in the 17th Richard II. (1394) by Stephen Whitgray, and Mary his wife. It was in the south side of the church, and is supposed to be the place called Bewick's Porch. The founders constituted John de Etall chaplain of their chantry; but, after the founder's decease, he was to be chosen by the vicar, mayor, bailiffs, and four of the honest parishioners of St. Nicholas. (fn. 13)

8. The chantry of St. Cuthbert was founded in the reign of Richard II. by Thomas Harrington and William Redmarshal, and was supported by the rents of certain tenements in the Sandhill, Side, and Close, in Newcastle. (fn. 14)

9. The chantry of St. Loy was founded by Robert Castell, by the licence of Edward III. The annual revenue arose out of tenements in the Close, Westgate, and a little field situated without the Westgate, called Goose-green Close: but the amount being small, John Galile, the chaplain, obtained a licence, dated May 22, 1498, to take annual service for three years; though the incumbent, it is said, "should be daily resident." (fn. 15)

10. There was a second chantry of Our Lady in this church, founded by George Carr, merchant, as appears by the extract from the certificate in the margin, and which remains in the Augmentation Office. (fn. 16)


This noble and magnificent structure crowns a bold eminence, which rises abruptly from the surface of the river to near the centre of the town. Occupying this commanding situation, and towering in proud majesty towards the clouds, it presents from every point of view a most striking and august specimen of architectural skill. It is an object of pride and boast to the inhabitants; and it never fails, by its singular and original combinations of magnificence, delicacy, and ingenuity, to enchant and gratify every stranger "who has an eye to see and a soul to feel."

The old Norman church of St. Nicholas was, it is said, destroyed in the year 1216, and the present edifice was finished in 1350. If this presumption be correct, it occupied more than 130 years in building. This great work, it is probable, commenced at the east, or choir end, which was usually first erected, and rendered fit for divine service; and proceeded next to the transept, finishing with the nave and tower. Yet the east division of this edifice seems to have undergone so many repairs as to retain few marks of its original formation. There are three narrow, plain, unassuming windows, with two mullions bisected at the top, in the pointed style, on the south side of the nave, and four similar ones on the north side, which are doubtless parts of the original building. Specimens of the plain, square, upright buttress, are also still attached to the north side of the nave, and to both of the transepts. The windows in the choir are larger, and ornamented at the top by a quatrefoil. The large window in St. Mary's porch, and some others, are on a more expansive scale, and portioned out with mullions and ornamented heads, and diversified by horizontal decorated transoms or cross-bars: they belong to a later period. The windows in the roof of the middle aisle, with their ungraceful obtuse arched tops, are quite modern, and foreign to the general character of the building. The grand and magnificent east window was evidently introduced as an alteration of the ancient structure, and displays the later form of English architecture in its most just and beautiful proportions, being adorned, but not crowded, with tracery, which runs out in the most elegant manner. According to Grey, this window was built by the munificent Roger Thornton the elder, and there was inscribed upon it, "Orate pro anima Rogeri de Thornton & pro animabus filiorum et filiarum." There were also in it the twelve apostles, and seven deeds of charity, painted on glass. Thus the glare of light, objectionable to the utility of a sacred edifice, that would have proceeded from such a spacious window, was rendered productive of new and splendid beauties, and of lessons the most instructive and appropriate. There remain but two heads, and a few small fragments of the pictures, in this once "sumptuous window."

On entering the great west door of this sacred pile, the spectator finds himself beneath the lofty dome of the tower. The bold height of the groined roof, the stately and massive pillars by which it is supported, the blended light and shade of the arches that divide the aisles, the distant chancel seen through the great door of the screen, all combine to produce mingled impressions of solemnity and delight. Here the mind bows before the genius of the architect, and freely confesses that the boasted structures of Greece possess none of the mysterious sublimity which characterizes English architecture, and which is so well suited to the adoration of Omnipotence.

The interior of the nave measures 109 feet 10 inches in length, and 74 feet 2 inches in breadth. The width of the middle transept is 24 feet 10 inches; and the length of the choir, from the organ gallery to the great east window, is 110 feet 4 inches. This measurement makes the total length of the interior 245 feet. The breadth of the choir is 63 feet 6 inches.

The strong clustered columns that support the tower, at the west end of the nave, are singularly majestic. Each measures, above the base, 36 feet 2 inches in circumference. Slender shafts of the main cluster support the springers of elegant groin arches, which branch out and intersect each other in a manner the most fanciful and beautiful. The centre is of an octagon form, ornamented with arms. The space between the pillars of the tower and the transept is divided into three aisles, by two rows of arches, supported by firm, elegant, octagon pillars, the eight sides measuring 10 feet 8 inches. The arches, though acute, are open, and remarkable for symmetry and beauty. They seem to approach to segments of a circle including an equilateral triangle from the imposts to the crown of the arch. The extradoes of the arches are joined by small ornamental heads. The cross arching of the middle transept is bold and lofty. Four arches, on each side of the middle aisle of the choir, divide it from the side aisles; but the interior curve of the arch before the school-gallery has lost its regularity. The roofs of the aisles, both in the nave and the choir, are strongly ribbed with oak, supposed to have been done when the steeple was built; but the middle aisles are lighted at the top by modern windows.

In 1777, the church was repaired, and thoroughly cleaned; but, shortly after, a scheme was suggested for converting it into a kind of cathedral. Accordingly, a subscription was opened at the common council, on Monday the 20th of January, 1783, for assisting the parishioners to execute this plan; when the corporation, and most of the magistrates and common councilmen, very liberally headed the subscription-list. (fn. 17) On the 12th of February following, a parish-meeting was held, and a committee appointed to assist the churchwardens in carrying the project into effect. The churchwardens were, Anthony Johnson, Thomas Saunderson, Thomas Greenwell, and William Pollard. The plans for the alterations presented by Messrs. New-ton and Stephenson were finally adopted; and these gentlemen were commissioned to superintend the work, which was not finished until the year 1787.

Brand says that the alterations were "completed with great taste and elegance; but the antiquary must for ever lament the alterations, as almost all the ancient funeral monuments have been destroyed." Now, the plan is certainly as destitute of either taste or elegance as can be well conceived; though the dilapidations committed upon the sepulchral monuments is as barbarous and unjustifiable an outrage as ever disgraced any age or place. A resolution being taken not to permit any burials in the choir in future, the churchwardens sold all the old tomb-stones, in that part of the church, which were either not claimed, or belonged to extinct families. Many of them were large, curious, and of blue marble. They were purchased by Mr. Christopher Blackett, post-master, who buried them in the foundation of the house he was building in Mosley Street. The stone coffin formerly found in this church, as well as that found in the tower of the bridge, underwent the same fate. Other monuments of departed greatness, as will be noticed hereafter, were disposed of in the same indecent manner. But the worst feature in this business is, that the churchwardens' book does not give any account of the money received for the marble tombs.

It was found that the choir contained 961 square yards, of which 615 yards were occupied by burial-places. (fn. 18) Those who belonged to these burial-places were mostly satisfied with others assigned them in the west part of the church; but by these means we are informed of the deposit of remains as in that place, which lie in other parts of the church.

It is difficult to ascertain the old arrangements or divisions of this church. The place occupied by the Rood-loft. (fn. 19) which separated the chancel from the nave, was afterwards chosen for the organ-gallery. Below and on each side of this gallery the church was entirely open, and the view uninterrupted. The pulpit, which faced the east, stood in the middle aisle of the nave, a few feet in advance from the two great pillars of the tower. The eagle, or reading-desk, adjoined the east pillar of the south aisle of the nave. Near the base of the opposite pillar was a huge head, with the tongue lolling out. This ludicrous specimen of monkish wit was cut off by order of Dr. Ellison, when vicar. Most of the congregation occupied pews in the middle aisle or great body of the church. When these pews were first set up is uncertain; but Staveley, in his History of Churches, says that before the Reformation there were no pews in churches, but such as were appropriated to persons of distinction. However, there was a pew-book belonging to this church, of the date of 1579, containing references to a still older one. In 1635, some new pews or seats were built. The gallery commonly called the School-gallery, being chiefly for the use of the boys of the Grammar-school, was erected in 1620. It stood in the north aisle of the nave, and reached from St. George's Porch to within a short distance of the north entrance. The corporation and some distinguished families were accommodated with stalls, which stood in the middle of the chancel.

That part of the church east of the organ-gallery was called the chancel. Bourne pronounces it to be "a very noble and stately one."—"At the top," says he, "is the word Jehovah, and under that in a glory a part of the name of the Lord, which he himself proclaimed before Moses." The high altar stood near the spot now occupied by the pulpit. It "was in the year 1712 very sumptuously and yet decently adorned." At the same time, the chancel was wainscotted at the expense of the corporation. (fn. 20) When the alterations were made in 1783, that division of the church properly called the chancel was thrown open, and the communion table removed close under the great eastern window. Part of the old wainscotting remains on each side of the chancel, executed in the style that prevailed about a century ago. The communion-place is of a segment form, inclosed by a balustrade, and is elevated about six inches above the level of the church.

Agreeably to the plan for altering this church, the west end was cleared of all erections, and devoted to the purposes of sepulture. It was divided from the choir by a wooden screen, executed in a miserably bad taste. A new organ-gallery was also erected, and the instrument was turned so as to front the east. The Schoolgallery was removed to the front of St. George's Porch. The pulpit, and the noble brass eagle in front of the reading-desk, were set up at the side of the middle aisle, near the south-east pillar, from which awkward situation they were removed in April, 1798, to the situation which they now occupy. The pews were built of wainscot, in a substantial manner, and are calculated to seat 964 persons, including the seats for the poor in the middle aisle, but exclusive of the School-gallery. In round numbers, it may be taken that there is accommodations for an audience consisting of 1000 persons.

There were three rows of coats of arms on the ceiling, between the organ-loft and great eastern window; and when these alterations were made, many modern ones were added. (fn. 21)

On Thursday, July 16, 1818, there was placed above the high altar, and under-neath the great eastern window, a valuable painting by Tintoretto; (fn. 22) the subject, Jesus Christ washing his Apostles' feet: but the light does not shew it to advantage. This interesting picture was presented to the church by Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart.


Is what may properly be called the north transept of the church. Grey imagined it to have been built by one of the kings of England; and Bourne, without giving his authority, says it was one of the chantries of this church. In 1617, while the lord president and council of the north were at Newcastle, Lord Sheffield, being then president and knight of the garter, celebrated the feast of St. George in this porch. The society of Drapers, in their ordinary, dated 1652, are ordered to meet every year on the Monday after St. Bartholomew-day, at nine o'clock A. M. in St. George's Porch, to choose two auditors. Their electors are also to claim "their place in St. Nicholas' church, which was the north side in St. George's Porch, under a penalty of forty shillings." The corporation, in 1710, gave £100 towards its reparation.

This porch is nearly 49 feet in length, and 29 feet in breadth. In Bourne's time, there was "on the north window the head of the king, the father of the lady whom St. George delivered from the dragon." There also remained on the east windows some of the painted glass, "particularly the picture of St. Lawrence, and some skin marks and coats of arms. It has been," he continues, "a beautiful little place. It is ceiled at the top, and has been surrounded with carved work in wood, some of which still remains to speak the curious art and commendable expense of the days of old." When Brand wrote, there were preserved, in the painted glass windows, the arms of St. Oswin, or Tynemouth Priory, of St. George, and of Edward the Confessor. On the north window was a mermaid combing her hair, and a female saint below, with a whip in her hand, treading on some angry beast.

The large, beautiful Gothic window of this porch or chapel, after being long in a ruinous state, was partly blown down by a high wind on March 3, 1823. The reverend the vicar, and some other spirited individuals and lovers of antiquity, had, some time before, subscribed to restore this interesting ruin to its pristine state; and measures were now adopted for carrying this design into effect. (fn. 23) Mr. John Dobson, architect, made an exact drawing from actual admeasurement of the whole window; which Mr. William Brown, mason, undertook to execute in stone for the small sum of £150. The work was completed, in the summer of 1824, in the most masterly manner. The ornamental part of the old window had been clumsily repaired, and was quite out of proportion: but these defects are now remedied, and this window presents a fine specimen of the beauty, delicacy, and grace of the pointed style of architecture. The tall mullions, though no broader than the original ones, are much deeper; so that the decorative part has acquired strength, without suffering in appearance. (fn. 24)

There is a place below St. George's Porch, called a "vault," or "charnel-house," which was opened in November, 1824. It was found nearly full of rubbish and human bones, which were removed. (fn. 25) The entrance to this place is on the west, and part of the roof of the porch still remains. It extends to about half the breadth of the transept; and at the east end was found a beautiful small window, in the form of a Catherine wheel, which had been blocked up. In the south wall is part of a bason, for holy water; and a deep drain, cut in the floor, had been boarded over. The roof is arched with stone. Various conjectures have been formed respecting this place. It has not been a subterraneous oratory, for anciently it must have been very little below the surface of the ground, which has been much raised on the outside even in modern times. Some think that it was originally designed for a chantry; and others, with greater probability, that it has been used as a confessional. The door and window of this curious place have been built up again, and the earth levelled; but the small east window, which opens into St. George's Porch, may still be seen.

The west arch of St. George's Porch has been walled up, and formed into a kind of vestry, used as a robing-room for the magistrates, and for the accommodation of christening parties.


Is the south transept of the church, and is supposed to be the chantry of Our Lady, founded in the reign of king Edward I. It is 48 feet long, and 25½ feet broad, and is enclosed by iron railing. It was formerly much larger; but, in 1783, the west arch was built up with brick, and the space thus gained formed into a porch which leads into the church-yard. Since that time, no burials have been permitted in St. Mary's Porch, which was used till lately at morning and evening prayers. The funeral service is generally read here; and on each side are part of the old oak stalls belonging to the church.


Bewick's Porch, on the south side of the nave, was formerly the chantry of St. Margaret. The South Porch appears to have preserved its original form. It is remarkable that the watchmen, until recently, were mustered here every evening before they went upon duty. (fn. 26) The west part of the North Porch was repaired in 1736. The door-way has since that time been rebuilt, but in a manner that disfigures the north side of the church. It is to be hoped that an opportunity will soon occur for altering this incongruous and unpleasing erection. The arch of the West Door is simple and bold; but the Small Door which leads from the choir to the vestry is remarkably beautiful, and affords a pure specimen of the style that prevailed when this part of the church was erected. In 1734, Sir Walter Blackett built over the vestry a handsome modern house, for the reception of the books of Dr. Thomlinson and other benefactors. The style of this erection but ill accords with the Gothic fabric to which it is so awkwardly appended; but at the time of its erection, very few had cultivated a taste for architectural antiquities. The windows of the choir in the line of this building were necessarily blocked up; but the want of light is partly supplied by a dome light in the roof of the south aisle. It deserves notice, that both the transepts of this church are of an irregular form.


The font of this church stands in the north transept. (fn. 27) It is of a simple form, but has a most magnificent and very lofty cover, or canopy, of very delicate and curious workmanship. It is supposed to have been made by Robert Rhodes, the builder of the steeple; which conjecture is very probable, not only from the airy elegance of the design, but also from his arms being sculptured upon the basin. The arms are, "parted per fess, gules and azure—in chief is a greyhound current, and in base three annulets. There is likewise quartered with this coat argent, a chevron gules, between three rooks, or, within a border engrailed—supposed to be the coat of Agnes, wife of Robert Rhodes." These arms have been formerly coloured. The font is not now used; and the canopy, instead of being suspended from the roof, is supported by small, slender pillars, fixed upon the rim of the bason.


Brand says, "I have found no account of any organ in this church during the times of popery, though it is very probable there has been one." (fn. 28) About the year 1676, the corporation contributed £300 towards the erection of the present organ. They added a trumpet stop in 1699, and in 1710 paid £200 for finishing the back front, and cleaning and repairing the whole instrument. The swell was ordered by the common council in 1749; and which, it is supposed, was added by Snetzler, the celebrated organ-builder. About the year 1798, it was cleaned by Donaldson. Immediately after the late bishop had delivered his last charge in Newcastle, on the 26th July, 1814, the organ was taken down by Messrs. Wood, Small, and Co. of Edinburgh, who added a double diapason and a set of foot pedals, and repaired the whole instrument. This cost the corporation £500. In September, 1824, the organ was again taken down, cleaned, and tuned, which cost between £70 and £80.

The great organ, in its present improved state, contains open and stop double diapason, two principals, twelfth, fifteenth, sesquialtra, mixture, tierce, cornet, and trumpet, with a set of pedals. The choir organ has open and stop diapason, flutes, twelfth, and fifteenth: annexed is a fine swell, containing open diapason, dulciano, trumpet, cornet, and hautboy. The frame-work of this fine instrument is mahogany, highly ornamented. The two pillars of the front are peculiarly magnificent. The centre is surmounted by two recumbent angels; and the compartments of the front are embellished by numerous pipes, richly gilt. The back part is also beautiful, and adorned with gilded pipes. The salary of the organist was raised, in 1777, to £50 per annum. (fn. 29)


This is one of the noblest and most admired structures that adorn our island. It exhibits an originality, boldness, and magnificence, which render it an architectural prodigy. Viewed at a distance, the whole combines to produce one grand effect; and examined closely and in detail, the happy application of the principles of arcuation. of thurst, and of pressure, to every part, excites the greatest surprise and delight. The ornaments also, though simple, are appropriate and significative. All, indeed, must concur in admiring the refined taste and consummate judgment of the architect, who, without any servility of imitation, has produced this triumph in English art, which rivals in execution, and surpasses in ingenuity, the proudest edifices of the ancient Greeks and Romans. (fn. 30)

The tower, which stands at the west end of the church, measures, at the outside of the base, 36 feet 9 inches by 35 feet. It is substantially built, and of elegant proportions. (fn. 31) From the base to the battlements, it is divided into three separate parts or stories. The first, or lower story, is the west entrance to the church. The large window above the door is boldly ornamented with tracery, and the mullions strengthened with horizontal bars or transoms. The second story has one small window, handsomely turned, and divided by a single mullion, with small pointed heads. From the ground to this story rise buttresses of three sides. The third story being set within the lower ones, gives the tower at a short distance a pyramidical and elegant appearance. At the angles of this story are flat buttresses, rising over the battlements, and resting against the turrets: they are tastefully terminated by a human figure on a bracket. Each side of the tower is divided into two equal spaces by a delicate buttress, which rises up square to the battlements, and then, by the contrivance of a little arch, is canted off, forming a small octagonal turret. The sides of the tower by this buttress are divided into two spaces, each of which contains a large unglazed window, through which the sound of the bells passes. These windows are of elegant proportions, with rather a flat-pointed arch head, divided into compartments by a mullion, and the height by a transom, each ornamented with quatrefoil turns. The tower terminates with perforated battlements.

Eight turrets and pinnacles of matchless elegance rise from the angles and sides of the tower. The pinnacles are crocketed; and each finishes with a lofty vane, ornamented with fleurs-de-lis at the angles and sides. The angular turrets are considerably larger and higher than those of the sides. From their base spring four segments of arches, elegantly curved, and cut into mouldings. At their intersection, twenty feet above the battlements, they support a very elegant, lofty, square lantern, which has an open window on each side, divided by a mullion and cross-bar. There are small buttresses at the angles, surmounted by ornamented pinnacles, each of which supports a vane. From the great bows rise small buttresses, which form an additional support to the lantern, by which means the upper line forms an ogee curve, and is crocketed. The lantern, surmounted by a lofty and well-proportioned pinnacle, and ornamented with crockets, which terminates with a noble vane, "finishes this unexampled and extraordinary building."

Such is the conclusion of a professional writer. Its resemblance, in the general outline, to an imperial crown, has given rise to many vague suppositions. Others, again, have supposed it to be an imitation of the ornamented cover of the box in which the consecrated host was preserved. But it more probably is the creation of a rich and refined fancy, corrected by scientific and mathematical principles.

This beautiful steeple is 193 feet 6 inches high. The height from the ground to the top of the battlement measures 117 feet 9 inches; and to the bottom of the lantern, (fn. 32) 138 feet 6 inches. The masonry is executed in the bold manner of the Associated Free and Accepted Masons. Most of the stones are such as the workmen might have carried under their arms. The tall, stately, and elegant pinnacle at the top, is hollow within, and built with stones only four inches in breadth! The other pinnacles are also remarkably light and ingeniously constructed. The lateral pressure at the butment of the intersecting arches is counteracted by two strong oak beams, which are preserved by being covered with lead. Indeed, in every part, the skill, science, and ingenuity of the architect are manifest.

The steeple is plainly a superstructure raised upon the original tower, which appears to have had a battlement of open stone-work and embrasures. Some have ascribed the building of the steeple to David king of Scotland, who resided here about the year 1135; but the style of the architecture is alone a sufficient refutation of this conjecture, for it possesses all the distinctive lineaments of the mode which obtained in the time of Henry VI. This adds to the probability of the opinion espoused by Brand, who thinks it was raised by Robert Rhodes, who lived in the fifteenth century. He was a most munificent friend of St. Cuthbert, the great tutelar saint of the diocese, and more particularly of the churches in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he resided. His arms are on the ceiling underneath the belfry, and this inscription:—"Orate pro anima Roberti Rhodes." (fn. 33) The corporation have been charged with the reparation of this steeple from time immemorial.

In 1608, about ten feet of the highest part of the steeple was taken down and rebuilt. New vanes were also set up.

Bourne has the following tradition of this building:—"In the time of the civil wars, when the Scots had besieged the town for several weeks, and were still as far as at first from taking it, the general sent a messenger to the mayor of the town, and demanded the keys, and the delivering up of the town, or he would immediately demolish the steeple of St. Nicholas. The mayor and aldermen, upon hearing this, immediately ordered a certain number of the chiefest of the Scottish prisoners to be carried up to the top of the old tower, the place below the lanthorn, and there confined. After this they returned the general an answer to this purpose,—that they would upon no terms deliver up the town, but would to the last moment defend it: that the steeple of St. Nicholas was indeed a beautiful and magnificent piece of architecture, and one of the great ornaments of their town; but yet should be blown into atoms before ransomed at such a rate: that, however, if it was to fall, it should not fall alone; that the same moment he destroyed the beautiful structure, he should bathe his hands in the blood of his countrymen, who were placed there on purpose either to preserve it from ruin, or to die along with it. This message had the desired effect. The men were there kept prisoners during the whole time of the siege, and not so much as one gun fired against it."

This steeple, however, seems to have sustained considerable injury during the siege, as there is an order of common council, in September, 1645, for its reparation. It was again repaired, at the expense of the corporation, in 1723; and in October, 1761, it was adorned with a new clock, made by Mr. John Walker, an ingenious artist, residing in the Close, Newcastle, and which is esteemed an excellent piece of workmanship. The pendulum is ten feet long, and it is wound up every morning. It is now regulated and kept in repair by Mr. John Smith. (fn. 34) A conductor was affixed to the steeple in 1777; and, at the same time, one of the pinnacles was rebuilt, and several other necessary reparations were made. This business was conducted by Mr. Wooler, one of the architects employed in the building of Tyne Bridge. The steeple was again repaired, pointed, and painted, and a new copper vane placed upon the upper spire, in 1795, under the direction of Mr. Stephenson, architect. One of the vanes was blown down, during a violent gale of wind, in August, 1790, but was restored. Two other vanes were blown down, March 3, 1823. They were afterwards replaced.


This steeple contained originally but five bells. The peal at present consists of eight, which, Bourne says, "are very large ones, have a bold and noble sound, and yet an exceedingly sweet and harmonious one." The great "common bell," used for convening the burgesses to guild, was cast in the year 1593. In 1615, the great bell, which weighed 3129 pounds, was sent to Colchester to be new cast. This bell, being broken in 1754, was recast in London. The present one weighs 4032 pounds, or 36 hundredweight. (fn. 35)


  • 1. St. Nicholas lived about the beginning of the fourth century, and was bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. At the general council of Nice, where he strenuously opposed the heresy of Arius, he shone "like a sun amongst so many stars." He conformed so strictly to ecclesiastical rule, that, when an infant, he would suck only once on Wednesday and once on Friday. Having restored two murdered schoolboys to life, he was chosen the patron of scholars and youth, who anciently, on this saint's day, the 6th of December, elected a Boy Bishop. On this day, the school-boys in many parts of Northumberland still continue to "bar out the master." The religious fraternity of Parish Clerks in London were incorporated by king Henry III. under the patronage of St. Nicholas. This distinguished saint was likewise the patron of sailors, "for which there are reasons enough in Ribadeneira, if relations of miracles be reasons." On this subject, Bourne says, "At the north door of this (St. Nicholas') church, it is observable, that the large flagg which is the first step into the church, is cut all along the surface with uneven lines, in imitation of the waves of the sea. This is a silent remembrancer of the saint the church is dedicated to; for St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, who lived in the time of Constantine the Great, is so famous among some for his miracles and apparitions by sea, that he has merited the title of the patron of the sailors."—See page 151. Also, Hist. of Northumb. vol. i. p. 220. Lives of the Saints, vol. ii. p. 507. Hone's Anc. Myst. p. 208. Brand, vol. i. p. 2. Bourne, p. 58. Dr. Ellison's MSS. state that this church was founded by Rufus, and refer to a book, doubtless a MS. preserved in the vestry. Brand very naturally expresses his sorrow that not only this book, but almost all the other ancient writings and evidences of this church, are now lost.
  • 2. Leland says, that one Walter, a Norman priest, whom William Rufus set over the city of Carlisle, began to build the monastry there in honour of the Blessed Virgin; but that Henry I. completed it, introduced into it regular canons, and gave six churches to the monastry, i. e. Newcastle, Newburn, Warkworth, Rothbury, Whittingham, and Corbridge. The above Richard de Aurea Valle, who is also called Richard Goldburn, held by royal charter the churches of Warkworth, Corbridge, Whittingham, and Rothbury. Brand fixes the date of this charter between the years 1115 and 1128.
  • 3. In a valuation of benefices, &c. in the diocese of Durham, made in the year 1291, the following are the entries concerning this church:— "The rector of St. Nicholas at Newcastle upon Tyne, i. e. the bishop of Carlisle, together      £.      s.      d. with a pension of 13 marks which he receives of the vicar                                                       38    13       4 The portion of the prior of Carlisle                                                                                            38    13       4 The portion of the prior of Tinmouth in the same                                                                      8       0       0 The vicar of the same                                                                                                                  20       5       0" See Tinmouth Chartulary, fol. 155, quoted by Brand. In a valuation of the temporals and spirituals of the clergy of the bishopric of Durham, A. D. 1318, the portion of the bishop of Carlisle in the church of St. Nicholas at Newcastle upon Tyne is mentioned as being an hundred shillings—the portion of the prior of Carlisle as a like sum—that of the prior of Tinmouth in the same forty shillings, and that of the vicar ten pounds sterling.
  • 4. It appears that in 1280 the justices itinerant held their courts in St. Nicholas' church.
  • 5. It is recorded that a mass was celebrated in St. Nicholas' church, on September 18, 1322, at the funeral of Peter le Mareshal, an officer of the king's household. John Craggs bequeathed by will, made in 1349, six shillings to the high altar of this church, for his tithes and oblations, not duly paid.
  • 6. The late Richard Fisher, of Newcastle, stationer, had the original Indulgence, to which thirteen seals had been attached.—See Brand, vol. i. p. 246; also Bourne, p. 61.
  • 7. The commissioners appointed the 37th of king Henry VIII. to enquire concerning colleges, chantries, &c. in Northumberland and Durham, gave the following account of this chantry:— "The chauntrie of Saynt John Baptiste and Saynt John the Evangeliste in the parishe churche of Saynt Nicholas within the towne of Newcastell upon Tyne was founded by one Robert Roodes and Agnes his wyffe by license of king Henry the 6th to find a preist for ever to say masse dayly and pray for their sowles and all Christen sowles as by the said licence shewed before the said commissioners more largely dothe appere and is so used hitherto by reporte—Yerely value 100s.—value accordyng to this survey £7, 7s. 10d. as appereth by a rentall of the same wherof is to be deducted for the charge of an yerely obytt 10d. and for the tenthes paid to the kinge's majestie 10s.—10s. 10d. and remayneth clerely £6, 17s. whiche ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of William Clarke, priest, incumbent there accordinge to th' ordynnance of the said foundacion.—The said chauntrie is within the parishe church of Saynt Nicholas aforesaid.—Ornaments, jewells, plate, goodes and catalls 113s. 4d. as doth appere by a perticler inventorye of the same.—Ther wer no other lands nor yerelie profits &c. belongyng to the said chantrie syns the 14th day of Februarie in the 27th yere of the sayd kinges majesties reigne more than is before mencyoned."
  • 8. "Yerely value of the chauntry of Saynt Katheryne 112s. 10d.—value according to this survey £6, 15s. as aperethe by a rentalle of the same whereof is to be deducted for rentes resolut' 13s. 4d. and for the tenthes 11s. 3d. ob. paide to the kinges majestie—24s. 7d. ob. and remayneth clerely 110s. 4d. ob. whiche ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of Wyllyam Johnson priest nowe incumbent ther for his service according to the tenour of the said foundacion.—Ornaments, &c. nil.—bycause all the ornaments of this chauntrie doo serve also for the other chauntrie of Saynt Katheryne, within the same churche here under written and be charged in the same within the summe of 79s. 2d. as playnly doth appere," &c. The said William Johnson had a pension of £5 a year assigned him.—Certificate of Colleges, Chantries, &c.
  • 9. "One other chauntrie of Saynt Katheryn—Yerely value 73s.—value according to this survey 74s. 8d. as apereth by a rentall of the same whereof is to be deducted for the tenthes paid yerly to the K. majestie 7s. 5d. and remayneth clerely 67s. 3d. which ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of Edwarde Walker clerke now incumbent ther for his service according to the foundacion.—Ornaments, &c. 79s. 2d. for all maner of ornaments ther apperteynyng as well to the other chauntrie of Saynt Katherine above written as to this chauntrie as apereth by a perticler inventory of the same.—Ther wer no other landes," &c.—Ibid.
  • 10. "Yerely value £4, 7s. 4d.—yerly valew according to this survey £4, 13s. 4d. as apereth by a rentall of the same, whereof is to be deducted for the yerelie tenthes paid to the kinges majestie 8s. 8d. ob. quad. and remayneth clerely £4, 4s. 7d. quad. whych ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of Edwarde Fyffe clarke now incumbent ther accordyng to the foundacion.—Ornaments, &c. 78s. 10d. as doth appere by a perticuler inventory of the same.—Ther wer no other landes," &c.—Ibid.
  • 11. "Yerely value £4, 2s. 2d.—value by this survey £4, 12s. 6d. as apereth by a rentall wherof is to be deducted for rents resolut' 6s. 2d. for an yerely obytt 5s. 4d. and for the tenthes 8s. 2d. ob. paide to the kinges majestie—19s. 8d. ob. and remayneth clerely 72s. 9d. ob. which are employed to the sustentacion and relief of Charles Newton incumbent ther accordyng to th' ordynnaunce of the foundacion.—Ornaments, &c. 18s. 6d. as doothe appere by a perticuler inventory of the same.—Ther wer no other landes," &c.—Ibid.
  • 12. "Yerely value 105s.—value accordyng to this survey 116s. 10d. as appereth by a rentall of the same wherof is to be deducted for the yerely charges of two obits 12s. and for the tenthes paide to the kinges majestie 22s. 6d. and remayneth clerely £4, 14s. 4d. which are employed to the sustentacion and relief of Robert Baker prieste incumbent ther.—Ornaments, &c. £6, 2s. 10d. as apereth by a perticuler inventorie of the same.—Ther wer no other landes," &c.—Ibid.
  • 13. "Yerelie value 106s. 8d.—value according to this survey 108s. as apereth by a rentall of the same wherof is to be deducted for rents resolut. 3s. 6d. and for the tenthes paide to the kinges majestie 10s. 8d.—14s. 2d. —and remayneth clerely £4, 13s. 10d. which ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of John Cowper, clerke, incumbent ther accordinge to the tenour of the said foundacion.—Ornaments &c. 58s. 10d. as doothe appere by a perticuler inventory of the same.—Ther wer no other landes &c."—Ibid.
  • 14. "Yerely value 110s. 2d.—value accordyng to this survey £7, 3s. 2d. as apereth by a rentall of the same wherof is to be deducted for rents resolut' 7s. 4d. going out of the same for an yerelie obytt 4s. for an yerelie almes 6s. 8d. and for the tenthes paide to the kinges majestie 11s. quad—29s. quad. and remayneth clerelie 114s. 1d. ob. quad. whiche ben employed to the sustentacion and relief of Rauffe Watson, clerk, incumbent ther.—Ornaments &c. £4, 20d. as dooth appere by a perticler inventorye of the same.—Ther wer no other landes &c."—Ibid.
  • 15. "The dede of the foundacion was lost or imbecilled away long syns and Thomas Hollyman (alias Holman), clerk now incumbent ther is not resident but giveth to one other olde priest 46s. 8d. to supplye his rometh.—Yerely value £4, 8s.—value according to this survey £4, 10s. as apereth by a rentall wherof is to be deducted for the yerelie tenths paid to the king's majestie 8s. 9d. ob. quad. and remayneth clerly £4, 14d. qua. which ar employed to the sustentacion & relief of the incumbent aforesaid.—Ornaments &c. 8s. 6d. as dothe appere by a perticuler inventory.—Ther wer no other lands &c."—Ibid.
  • 16. "Value accordyng to this survey 106s. 8d. to be paid yerely by the heires of George Carr founder of the said chauntrie out of the manors of Irby, Madomysley, and Evington in the countie of Yorke and the bishoprick of Durham by way of a rent-charge as by a feoffment thereof made and a wylle declared upon the same beringe date the 16th day of September (16 Hen. VII.) remaininge at present in the custody of Henry Whitereason Esquire to the kinges majesties use and behofe more plainly is specified and declared to the fyndyng a chauntrie priest which is deteyned by one Thomas Carr as hereafter is declared—Ornaments &c. nil—for that suche goodes and ornaments as were apperteyning to this chauntrie ar charged before in the value of the goodes and ornaments of the other chauntrie of our Lady beinge within the same parishe church in the sume of £6, 1s. 10d. whiche doo serve for the use of booth the saide chauntries.—The said chauntrie hath ben dissolved & the service therof discontinued syth the 4th day of Februar' in the 27th of (Hen. VIII.) now being of a late time by one Thomas Carr without any licence obteyned of the kinges majestie in that behalfe and by what title or colour we knowe not."—Ibid.
  • 17. Subscription list for altering and repairing St. Nicholas' church:—                                                 £.           s. Corporat. of Newcastle       210          0 Aubone Surtees, Esq.             10        10 J. E. Blackett, Esq.                 10         10 John Baker, Esq.                    10          10 Charles Atkinson, Esq.             5            5 John Hedley, Esq.                  10           10 Hugh Hornby, Esq.                10           10 Richard Bell, Esq.                  10           10 Christ. Wilkinson, Esq.            5             5 Francis Johnson, Esq.               5             5 James Rudman, Esq.               10          10 J. T. Loraine, Esq.                    5              5 Wm. Cramlington, Esq.            5            5 Isaac Cookson, Esq.                 5             5 Mr. William Yielder                5             5 Mr. Joseph Saint                     10          10 Alexander Adams, Esq.          10          10 Mr. Thomas Harbottle              5            5 Mr. James Wilkinson                5            5 Ogle Wallis, Esq.                     5             5 Mr. Robert Hedley                   5             5 Rev. D. Dockwray                 10            10 William Wilson, Esq.               5             5 Rev. N. Ellison                        5               5 Earl of Bute                          52              10 Lord Ravensworth                52              10 Mr. John Soulsby                    3                3 Mr. John Temperly                  2                2 Mr. John Bell                           2                2 Mr. Robert Clayton                 4                4 Mr. William Loftus                 1                1 Mr. James Wharton                 2                2 Mrs. Pearson                            3                3 Mr. Charles Williams              3                3 Mr. Robert Thompson             2                2 Mr. Anthony Griffith               2                2 Mr. Anthony Easterby              2                2 Carried forward                £ 515              11 Brought forward                 515               11 Mr. George Charlton               2                2 Mr. Snow Clayton                   5                5 Mr. James Liddle                     5                5 Mr. Robert Coulter                 2                2 Mr. William Wolfal                2                2 Mr. Thomas Charlton              2                2 Mr. James Bell                         5                5 Mr. Robert Young                   2                2 Mr. John Worthington             2                2 Mr. John Langlands                 5                5 Mr. Martin Barber                   2                2 Mr. Robert Sadler                    1                1 Mr. Thomas Bulman              10             10 Mr. Rich. Westmoreland          1               1 Mr. John Robinson                   1               1 William Lowes, Esq.              10             10 George Errington, Esq.          10             10 Rev. H. Ridley                          5               5 Christ. Fawcett, Esq.              10             10 Mr. Daniel Mowbray                5               5 Mr. John Byerley                      5               5 Mr. George Sadler                    5               5 William Ingham, Esq.               5               5 Messrs. Davidsons                    5               5 Mr. Bartholomew Kent          10             10 Mr. William Newton                5                5 Joseph Reay, Esq.                   10              10 Mr. Richard Chambers              5                5 Mr. Hugh Brodie                       2                2 Mr. William Watson                 5                5 Mr. James Pollard                     2                2 Mr. John Hudson                       1                1 Mr. Bart. Thompson                  1                1 Mr. Robert Widdrington            3               3 Miss M. Bulman                        5                5 Mr. John Bulman                       4                4 Mr. Michael Wilson                  1                1 Mr. William Pollard                 5                5 Mr. James Hornigold                2                2 Mr. Thomas Harrison                2                2 Mr. Joshua Alder                       1                1 Mr. Edward Stoddart                 1                1 George Stephenson, Esq.         10              10 Mr. George Jefferson                 2                2 Sir M. W. Ridley, Bart.             31             10 Mr. Henry Mewburn                  2                2 Rev. Hugh Moises                     5                5 Mr. William Smith                    2                2 Mr. William Surtees                  5                5 Mr. James Davison                    5                5 Mr. Ivie Gregg                            1                1 Mr. Michael Widdrington          1                1 Mr. Edward Anderson                5                5 Mr. Robert Harrison                  3                3 Francis Forster, Esq.                21                0 Mr. James Scott                          2                2 Mr. Henry Cuthbertson              5                5 Mrs. White                                10              10 Mr. Thomas Simpson                 5                5 Ralph Carr, Esq.                       10               10 Mr. James Webbersly                 2                 2 Mr. Anthony Hopper                  5                5 Edward Mosley, Esq.                21               0 Exchange Bank                          21               0 Newcastle Ditto                        21                0 Tyne Ditto                                 21                0 Mrs. Stewart                                3                3 Mr. M. Hawdon                           2                2 Mr. Thomas Sheen                      2                2 Mr. D. Cameron                         2                2 Mr. Benjamin Gibson                 5                5 Sir Thos. Clavering, Bart.         21               0 Percival Clennell, Esq.               5                5 Lord Mount-Stewart                 50                0 Matthew Bell, Esq.                   21                0 John Simpson, Esq.                  40                0 Mess. J. & D. Stephenson           5                5 Rev. J. S. Lushington               10               10 Ralph Heron, Esq.                      5                 0 J. Reay, Esq. 2d sub.                10               10 H. Ellison, Esq.                        10               10 Mrs. Atlee                               100                0 Total                                 £   1210                7 To this may be added £507, 15s. 6d. received for pews in the "New Church." By the accounts, it appears that up to May 8, 1786, there was expended by the committee £1906, 16s. 2d. Mr. Peter Paxton engaged to pew the church; but on representing that he would lose by the contract, it was instantly cancelled, and the work was undertaken by Mr. Shotton and Messrs. Wardle and Smith. Mr. John Dodds, architect and surveyor, in a public advertisement accused the committee for conducting these alterations of ignorance and extravagance. He, at the same time, divided the five guineas which he had received for a plan and estimate, among the public charities of the town.
  • 18. A plan of the interior of St. Nicholas' church was made, some years previous to the alterations, by Hutton, the celebrated mathematician. It describes the situation and dimensions of all the burial-places within the church, and gives the proprietors' names at that period. The original, in very bad condition, was in the possession of the late vicar, the Rev. J. Smith; but both Mr. John Bell, surveyor, and Mr. R. Thompson, woollen draper, have exact copies. A curious perspective view of the interior of the church in its former state, belonging to Mr. Henry Waters, shews that the old screen has been very beautiful and magnificent.
  • 19. The Anglo-Saxon word rode, from which comes "rood," denoted any sort of image, but more particularly that of Christ as fixed on the cross. "And wot ye what spiritual things was couched in this position thereof? The church (forsooth) typified the church militant; the chancel represents the church triumphant; and all who will pass out of the former into the latter must go under the rood-loft, i. e. carry the cross and be acquainted with affliction."—Fuller's Hist. Waltham Abbey, p. 16. In the year 1548, the first of king Edward I. the images were ordered to be taken from the Rood-loft. Texts of scripture, in many instances, supplied their place. Queen Mary commanded the old decorations and paintings in the Rood-loft to be restored. The Rood-loft in this church appears to have stood until some time between the year 1632 and 1645, when the king ordered the churchwardens to remove it. The mandate being disregarded. Dr. Morton, then bishop of Durham, wrote the following letter to the Rev. Yelderd Alvey, the vicar:—"Mr. Alvey. It was required of the church-wardens of St. Nicholas, according as his majesty hath commanded, that the gallery which obstructs the chancel should be removed: which being not done, the church-wardens of All-Hallows, who were afterwards commanded the like, presumed that theirs might likewise stand. I pray you, therefore, to call upon the church-wardens of St. Nicholas, that they, without any longer delay, perform his majesty's command: and if they shall neglect to do it, let me understand, that I may question them accordingly: and as soon as they begin, require the same performance of the church-wardens of All-Hallows for their gallery: for without farther questioning both must be down: and thus commending you to the preseuce of the Almighty, rest your loving friend, Thomas Duresme."—Dr. Ellison's MSS.
  • 20. "It cost them £126, viz. for the joiner's work for the altar-piece, £45.—For wainscotting the outside, £17. The books and velvet over the altar cost £21. The carpet, £38. The painter's charge, £5."—Dr. Ellison's MSS. quoted by Brand. The plate for the altar consists of two flaggons, three chalices and covers, three salvers, a small spoon drainer, and a funnel. In 1805, Thomas Young, Hugh Shields, James Reed, and Thomas Potts, churchwardens, added a christening bason and two collecting plates, which were purchased with the remaining balance of a subscription for distributing loyal tracts at the church door.
  • 21. The following coats of arms are on that row that is on the spectator's right hand, as he stands under the centre row, and looks up the church from the communion-table:—1. Rhodes (old). 2. Selby (old). 3. Law, late bishop of Carlisle. 4. Lushington, vicar in 1782. 5. Arms of England, with a file of five points. 6. Greystock, as supposed (old). 7. Field ermine, lion rampant sable (old). 8. Earl of Bute. 9. Alderman Simpson. 10. Alderman Baker. 11. Sir Thomas Clavering, Bart. 12. Mrs. Atley.—On the centre row, beginning at the eastermost, 1. St. George's Cross. 2. Thornton (old). 3. Arms of Newcastle. 4. Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart. 5. Arms of England, with only three fleurs de lis (old). 6. Lucy and Percy (old). 7. Neville (old). 8. Lord Ravensworth. 9. Alderman Bell. 10. Alderman Surtees. 11. Alderman Mosley. 12. Date "1783."—On the row on the spectator's left hand, looking as before, 1. Unknown (old). 2. Ditto. 3. Egerton, bishop of Durham. 4. Dr. Dockwray. 5. Arms of England (old), file of three points. 6. Ogle (old). 7. Unknown (old). 8. Lord Mountstuart. 9. Alderman Forster. 10. Alderman Blackett. 11. Alderman Hedley. 12. Dr. Sharp, archdeacon of Northumberland. Messrs. Greenwell, Pollard, Johnson, and Saunderson, the church-wardens, also caused their arms to be put up. On the ceiling in St. Mary's porch, on the spectator's left hand, standing near the reading-desk in the centre, and looking towards the organ, 1. Rev. Mr. Ridley. 2. Mr. Joseph Saint. 3. George Errington, Esq. 4. Ralph Carr. 5. Rev. Hugh Moises. 6. Mr. B. Kent.—On the centre row, looking as before, 1. (old). 2. (old). 3. Supposed for Wallis. 4. (old). 5. Supposed for Harding (old). 6. Snow Clayton, Esq.—On the row on the spectator's left hand, 1. Rev. N. Ellison. 2. Joseph Reay, Esq. 3. William Lowes, Esq. 4. George Stephenson, Esq. 5. William Ingham, Esq. 6. T. Bulman. On the roof of St. George's Porch, 1. Ogle Wallis, Esq. 2. W. Cramlington, Esq. 3. Ralph Heron, Esq. 4. — Wilson, Esq. 5. Isaac Cookson, Esq. 6. James Thomas Loraine, Esq. 7. Christopher Wilkinson, Esq. 8. (old). 9. Alderman Yielder. 10. C. Fawcett, Esq. 11. Richard Bell, Esq. 12. Alexander Adams, Esq. 13. Tyne Bank. 14. Newcastle Bank. 15. Exchange Bank. On the roof between the west end of the church and the organ, 1. Below the centre of the tower, Rhodes. Then, 2. Alderman Rudman. 3. Alderman Hornby. 4. Unknown. 5. Alderman Atkinson. 6. Lawson. 7, 8. (old). 9. Carlell. 10. Dent.
  • 22. The impetuous Tintoretto was dismissed, from motives of jealousy, from the school of Titian. He surpassed all the artists of the Venetian school in quickness of genius, fertility of invention, and rapidity of execution. His manner of painting is bold, with strong lights opposed by deep shadows; his pencil is wonderfully firm and free; his disposition is good, his execution easy, and his touch lively and full of spirit. Many of his grand performances are in Venice, Spain, England, and Ireland. He died in 1594, aged 82 years. His daughter Marietta was a celebrated portrait-painter.—Pilkington's Dict. p. 456.
  • 23. In taking down this old window, the workmen found, built up in the wall, a grotesque head, very similar to that above the entrance into Durham cathedral. This monkish jeu d'esprit was purchased by the late vicar.
  • 24. The learned Whittaker says, "There is something radically vicious in modern masonry. By no skill, by no vigilance, can we construct a building like those of our forefathers for duration." This absurd opinion affords a striking instance of the influence of prejudice, in a mind which usually displayed the characteristics of acuteness, vigour, and originality.
  • 25. In digging a trench a little east of the north transept, wherein these bones were deposited, part of a Saxon arch was discovered, and which probably belonged to some sacred edifice that stood near this place.
  • 26. Civil business was formerly transacted in the South Porch of churches. It was here the priest used also to join the hands of a couple who were to be married, and perform the greatest part of the matrimonial office. Chaucer describes his "Wife of Bath" as receiving her husband at "the church dore."
  • 27. In primitive times, the rite of baptism was performed in rivers and fountains. In process of time, the greater churches had rooms adjoining to them, in the middle of which was the bason, into which springs flowed by pipes and aqueducts. The baptisteries had oratories and altars in them. Fonts were afterwards placed in the church-porch, and lastly in the church itself, near the entrance, as subservient to the sacrament of initiation or admittance.—Robinson's History of Baptism. Staveley on Churches. Bede's Eccles. Hist. lib. ii. cap. 14.
  • 28. Annalists agree that organs were invented in Greece. St. Jerome mentions one with twelve pair of bellows, which might be heard a thousand paces, or a mile; and another at Jerusalem, which might be heard to the Mount of Olives. The first seen in France was sent from Constantinople, a present from the Emperor Constantine Copronymus VI. in 757, to king Pepin. According to Bellarmine, this noble instrument began to be used in churches about the year 660. Aimonius says, after 820, in the time of Lewis the Pious. Others have disputed these dates; but both Mabillon and Muratori affirm that organs became common in Italy, Germany, and England, during the tenth century.—Burney's Hist. of Music, vol. ii. p. 66.
  • 29. The following names of the organists occur in the common council books:— Mr. Samuel Nichols. Succeeded, October 1, 1719, by Thomas Powell. Succeeded, October, 1736, by Charles Avison. Succeeded, in 1770, by his son, Edward Avison. Succeeded, December 17, 1776, by Matthias Hawdon. Succeeded, in 1789, by Charles Avison; and, In 1797, the office was given to Thomas Thompson, the present organist, who is highly and justly esteemed for his professional talents and gentlemanly deportment. Charles Avison, the elder, above-mentioned, acquired great celebrity by his musical and literary compositions. The place of his birth is not known; but his early years were spent in Newcastle upon Tyne. On July 12, 1736, he was appointed organist of St. John's church, which he resigned for the church of St. Nicholas in October following. In 1748, when the organ of St. John's required repairs which would amount to £160, Mr. Avison offered to give £100, if the parish would raise the other £60, appoint him organist with a salary of £20, and allow him to supply the place by a sufficient deputy. This proposal was accepted, and the place supplied by his son Charles. In 1752, he published "An Essay on Musical Expression;" in which, with uncommon neatness and elegance of language, he treats of the power and force of music, and the analogies between it and painting; also of musical composition, as consisting of harmony, air, and expression. The second edition appeared in 1753, with an ingenious letter, written by Dr. Jortin, on the music of the ancients. Dr. Hayes, professor of music at Oxford, during the same year published a tract, containing some remarks on the Essay by Mr. Avison, whom he accuses of being ignorant or neglectful of our ancient musicians, and of having depreciated the merits of Handel. It is also insinuated that he was obliged to abler pens for the style and matter of his Essay. This last was probably true, as both Dr. John Brown, and Mr. Mason, the poet, are supposed to have assisted him, but in what proportions cannot now be ascertained. Mr. Avison replied to Dr. Hayes nearly in the same uncourtly style, which was republished in the third edition of his Essay in 1775. Avison had been a disciple of Geminiani, who, as well as Giardini, had a great esteem for him, and visited him at Newcastle. The latter, who is admitted to have been in many respects the best player on the violin during the last century, performed for his benefit. Whenever Geminiani affected to hold Handel's compositions cheap, it was usual with him to say, "Charley Avison shall make a better piece of music in a month's time." Avison attributed the corruption and decay of music to the torrent of modern symphonies with which we were overwhelmed from foreign countries. Dr. Burney thinks differently; though he observes, "I can readily subscribe to many of the opinions of that ingenious writer." Sir John Hawkins also dissents from the doctrines advanced in the Essay on Musical Expression, but acknowledges that "there are in it some judicious reflections on music in general." Avison assisted Marcello's music to the Psalms, adapted to English words. Of his own compositions, there are extant five collections of concertos for violins, forty-four in number, and two sets of sonatos for the harpsichord and two violins, a species of composition little known in England till his time. Rameau was his model in harpsichord music. His violin concertos were, after the lapse of twenty years, revived, amongst other venerable musical compositions, at the Concert of Ancient Music. Here they are still played in turn with those of Corelli, Geminiani, Handel, and Sans Martin. Avison's music is peculiarly light and elegant; but critics say it wants the force, correctness, and originality, requisite in order to obtain the highest rank amongst the works of masters of the first class. On the other hand, a gentleman amateur and composer, of this town, thinks that his merits have not, in general, been justly appreciated. It requires a full band, which can be seldom obtained, to develope effectually the ingenious combinations and beautiful harmony of his music. This circumstance has induced many to pronounce an hasty and incorrect judgment on its real character, which, however, continues to be esteemed by the most eminent professors in the science of harmony. Mr. Avison had visited Italy in his youth, and improved his taste in that land of harmony. He was an ingenious and polished man, esteemed and respected by all who knew him. He corresponded with many of the most distinguished literary characters of his time, and was generally admired by his professional contemporaries. He died May 10, 1770.
  • 30. "No ideas of the elegance of the design of the forgotten architect, or lightness of the execution of the masonry of the pinnacle, or upper part of this steeple, can be conveyed by descriptions of the pen."—Brand. "The tower of St. Nicholas' church is very justly the boast of the inhabitants."—Pennant. "It is of a very ingenious model."—Dr. Stukeley. "The whole (is) much admired."—Wallis. This steeple "is supposed, as to its model, to be the most curious in the whole kingdom."—Bourne. "It must unquestionably be regarded as an uncommon specimen of ingenuity and taste."—Gent. Mag. It would be tedious to notice all the eulogiums that have been pronounced on this structure. Unsuccessful attempts have also been made to prove that it is a mere copy of some other, but inferior building. The following riddle is preserved in Grey's Chorographia, and said to have been made by Ben Jonson, the poet, concerning this steeple :— "My altitude high, my body four square, My foot in the grave, my head in the air, My eyes in my sides, five tongues in my womb, Thirteen heads upon my body, four images alone; I can direct you where the wind doth stay, And I tune God's precepts twice a-day. I am seen where I am not. I am heard where I is not. Tell me now what I am, and see that you miss not."
  • 31. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine says, on the authority of an inhabitant of Newcastle, "A deep drain has been recently made so close to the steeple as to have caused the foundation to give way, by which a considerable crack has been occasioned, which, in my humble opinion, endangers its safety daily."—Vol. Ixxxiii. May, 1813. This is denied in a subsequent number; and the alarmist is accused of indulging himself "with the superb idea of what a tremendous crash the steeple would make should it ever fall." There are, however, many cracks in the pillars and the roof underneath the tower, which have been plastered over; but they are not of that magnitude to occasion any serious apprehensions for the safety of this lofty erection. On March 31, 1801, a fabricated account of the fall of this steeple appeared in the London Courier.
  • 32. According to Stow, the lantern in the steeple of Old Bow church, London, was anciently illuminated, for the conduct of travellers by night. Some have conjectured that this lantern was used for a similar purpose.
  • 33. On the north side of the eastern arch that supports the steeple, there is a coat of arms cut in a stone,—a dolphin between three mullets. Robert Rhodes, as before noticed, founded in this church the chantry of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, in 1428. He occurs as having presented, on January 10, 1446, a cross of gold to the shrine of St. Cuthbert at Durham—he is styled, "Robertus Rhodes de Novo Castro super Tynam juris regni Anglie peritus et senescallus prioratus Dunelm. (See Appendix to Smith's edition of Bede.) Robert Rhodes, Esquire, afterwards is mentioned in various deeds, in an inquisition taken at the Castle of Newcastle in 1447, and again in another taken after the death of the Earl of Warwick in 1461. He occurs as one of the bishop's justices after 1486. But, in 1500, Robert Rodes and Agnes his wife are mentioned as both dead Brand, vol. i. p. 261.
  • 34. It is surprising that the corporation have not caused a minute pointer to be added to the dials of this clock. Were they constructed, as in some other places, so as to be illuminated at night with gas, it would be found of great convenience to the public.
  • 35. On October 25, 1809, being the National Jubilee, when his majesty king George III. entered upon the 50th year of his reign, a complete peal of Holt's gransire tripples, consisting of 5040 changes, was rung by the Union Society of this town, in 3 hours 20 minutes. The performers who rung this grand peal were, J. Bell, J. Stephenson, J. Ireland, J. Shipley, J. Preston, W. Stephenson, J. Buckham, and E. Smith. A monument, commemorating the feat, is erected in the bell-loft. It represents the steeple, and is richly adorned with the town's arms, the figures of Adam and Eve, and other devices. The ringer of the second bell, John Stephenson, with uncommon labour, wrote the peal at full length, with the method of calling it, which was shortly afterwards printed. Several gentlemen were presented with copies of this elaborate performance. The same number of changes was rung November 15, 1808, of which a memorial is likewise preserved in the bell-loft.