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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PROTESTANT DISSENTING CHAPELS.
HISTORY OF NONCONFORMITY IN NEWCASTLE UPON TYPE.
The assumption of spiritual supremacy by that brutal tyrant Henry VIII. and the general perusal of the scriptures, co-operated in exciting a spirit of enquiry in England, which led many not only to dispute the authority of kings over their consciences and faith, but also to reject "the sway of creeds and councils, of hierarchies and churches." These advocates of religious independence, afterwards denominated Puritans in derision, suffered severely during the reigns of Henry VIII. Mary, Elizabeth, and James I. In the reign of Charles I. they became triumphant, by joining the partizans of civil liberty; but on the restoration of Charles II. they experienced the vengeance of the crown and of the episcopal clergy. By the Act of Uniformity (14 Car. II. c. 4), all parsons, &c. who did not declare their unfeigned assent and consent to every thing contained in the Book of Common Prayer, were ipse facto deprived; and all schoolmasters were prohibited from teaching youth, under pain of three months imprisonment. In consequence of this law, more than two thousand ministers resigned their preferments in the church, and a numerous train of adherents joined in the separation from the Church of England. (fn. 1) Thus originated Nonconformity, or Protestant Dissent; for the Puritans had always, before this time, remained members of the established church, though labouring to promote a further reformation in it. (fn. 2)
Puritanism was very early and widely spread in Newcastle and the neighbourhood. The stern reformer, John Knox, aided by the zealous Mackbray and Udale, declaimed in the churches of this town against the show and ceremonies of episcopacy. (fn. 3) Many other bold and popular preachers have been mentioned in the preceding pages, who advocated the principles of the Puritans, amongst whom is Dr. Ralph Jennison, who died vicar of this town, and who had been suspended for some years for nonconformity. In consequence of the Act of Uniformity, his successor, Mr. Samuel Hammond was ejected from the vicarage. Mr. William Durant was expelled from the lectureship of All Saints, and Mr. Henry Leaver from the lectureship of St. John. The two latter continued to preach in Newcastle until their death, and were assisted for some time by Mr. Hammond, before his removal to Hackney. (fn. 4) The principles of Nonconformity were also supported and extended by many other ejected ministers. Mr. R. Ward, vicar of Hartburn, on his expulsion, came to Newcastle, where he opened a school, taught many gentlemen's sons, and preached occasionally. Mr. Thompson, rector of Bothal, also sought refuge in Newcastle, where he married a great fortune, and kept his coach. "That eminent servant of God," Dr. Gilpin, rector of Greystock in Cumberland, also settled in Newcastle, where he exercised his ministerial functions. He was assisted by Mr. John Pringle, the ejected minister of Eglingham, and Mr. William Pell, an eminent Orientalist, ejected from Great Stainton. Newcastle had also the services of Mr. Owen, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Pleasance, Mr. Lomax, (fn. 5) and, lastly, of the "Bold Mr. Rothwell, com monly called the Apostle of the North." (fn. 6) These men, from their eminent talents, exemplary piety, influential connexions, and, in some cases, from their opudence, were much respected, and seem to have enjoyed more liberty at Newcastle under the barbarous and vindictive acts of king Charles II. than their brethren in most other places. On this account, the bishop of Durham, in his letter to the mayor and corporation, dated 1668–9, calls this town "the nursery of faction in these northern parts," and threatens them with his "majesty's displeasure," for conniving at the "scandalous and offensive meetings" of those "catterpillers" who refused to conform to the law. (fn. 7)