It is not an easy task to assess the value of the individual or the corporate contribution in the life of a Church, nor is it easy to add all these contributions together and say, ‘here is what you have;’ so that I have refrained as far as possible from mentioning names in the compilation of this booklet.
It has been my earnest desire to gather together such information as will provide a permanent record of the growth and development of our cause in Wheatley Hill. So I apologise to all those faithful members who have borne the burden of the heat of the day in their several generations, but at the same time feel assured that they are mentioned in ‘the Lamb’s Book of Life.’
I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the many people who have spared me so much of their time in past months, and have patiently listened to all my questionings; and to my wife and Mr. Maurice Nixon for reading over the typescript.
Any errors and omissions are sincerely regretted.
Wheatley Hill, February 1954
I am happy to bring you the congratulations of the circuit on the attainment of your Jubilee, and to express the hope that the future will be even more fruitful than the past has been.
50 years ago has been described as ‘the mahogany age of Methodism’ in which there was a danger that middle class respectability would modify evangelistic zeal. At this time God raised up pioneers who provided Him with plans big enough to work through in what became known as “The Forward Movement.” Their flaming spirit was contagious, their zeal kindled others, and their informed but passioned evangelism gave a re-birth to Methodism.
It was in this period of advance that your church was built, and its founders would have rejoiced to share with Methodists of 80 different countries the Spirit prompted tasks of this past year of evangelism.
I am confident that you will celebrate your Jubilee by a renewed consecration, that your church may go from strength to strength, and that many may rejoice that within your fellowship they found that life which is life indeed.
With all good wishes, I remain,
Walter T. Rose,
The Circuit is divided into FOUR SECTIONS
THORNLEY SECTION - Thornley Bow Street and Waterloo Street; Cassop; Haswell and Haswell Plough.
This Section is in the Pastoral Charge of the Superintendent Minister the Rev. Walter T. Rose who lives in Thornley.
WHEATLEY HILL SECTION – Wheatley Hill Patton Street and Church Street; Trimdon Grange Rose Tree and Front Street; Shotton Colliery and Trimdon Village.
This Section is in the Pastoral Charge of the Rev. Noel Catherall who lives at Wheatley Hill.
COXHOE SECTION – Coxhoe; Quarrington Hill; Kelloe; West Cornforth; Bowburn and Fishburn.
This Section is in the Pastoral Charge of the Rev. Joseph W. Dickinson who lives at Coxhoe.
WINGATE SECTION – Wingate Central, North Road and Sinkers Row; Trimdon Station Front Street and Grange Road and Station Town Milbank.
This Section is in the Pastoral Charge of the Rev. Charles T. Gladstone who lives at Wingate.
The CIRCUIT STEWARDS are Messrs. Ambrose Johnson and Arthur Walker.
The Circuit Quarterly Meeting Secretary is Mr. Jesse Craig.
The Circuit Local Preachers Secretary is Mr. George Scott.
Society Stewards: Messrs. Joseph O. Hughes; George Poulson and Harold Lang.
Poor Stewards: Mrs. Elizabeth Parnham and Mrs. Selina Kipling.
Chapel Stewards: Messrs. Arthur Kirk and John J. Harrison J.P.
Trust Treasurer: Mr. Maurice Nixon.
Trust Secretary: Mr. James Robinson.
S.S. Superintendent: Mr. Joseph O. Hughes.
S.S. Secretary: Mr. Maurice Nixon.
Guild Secretary: Mr. Harold Lang.
Sisterhood Secretary: Mrs. Peter H. Galley.
Choirmaster and Organist: Mr. Ernest Goyns.
O.M. Secretary: Mr. Allan Straughan.
Christian Citizen Secretary: Mr. George Armstrong.
Caretaker: Mrs. Robert Slater.
Class Leaders: Messrs. J. Joseph Howarth, J. O. Hughes, James A. Park, J. J. Harrison, J.P., G. Armstrong, G. Poulson, H. Lang, Mrs. P.H. Galley, Mrs. J.J. Harrison.
Trustees: Messrs. J. H. C. Scott, Maurice Nixon, Joseph O. Hughes, Arthur Kirk, Ralph Nixon, George W. Armstrong, Donald Lang, John J. Harrison, J.P., John Dobson, Mrs. Lily Mason, Mrs. Maurice Nixon, Benjamin Elliott, Robert Ord, James Robinson, Sydney Smith, George Poulson, Thomas V. McCartney, Harold Lang, Peter H. Galley, Junr., Mrs. Peter H. Galley, Senr.
(Two Trustees Messrs. George Mason and Ernest Myers have died since the formation of the Trust in 1951)
Local Preachers: Mr. Kenneth Parks.
Methodist Ministers: Revs. Ronald Brown and Edward Harrison.
A Brief History of the Church
The occasion prompting this booklet is the 50th Anniversary of our Church Building. How soon the history of the building could be told, but what stories the bricks and mortar could tell us, if, as the scripture says, ‘the stones cry out.’
It is our intention, in this historic year of our Church’s history, to remind ourselves of the heritage, which is ours – thus we go back across the years.
We stop in our backward journey at about the middle of the last century and we find our area rapidly being transformed from an agricultural scene to an industrial one. Our own Wheatley Hill used to stand out so prominently in this rural setting – especially in its winter garment – as to earn the name White Law or Quetlawe. How strange it all seemed then, no pits, no heaps, no roads, just tracks and fields. But now as we stand in the fields we see pits at Thornley, Ludworth, Haswell and Shotton, and soon Wheatley Hill will change from a hill standing out snow capped in the landscape into just another Durham pit village.
It was in the Sixties that Wheatley Hill pit was sunk. The local farmer did not like it at all and when the sinkers came to cut the turf so as to begin their operations he drove them off and held them off until the bailiff was brought. Wheatley Hill, as we know it, had begun, and we shall follow its growth with particular reference to our Church.
Methodism was just over a hundred years old, only just over fifty years old as a separate Church, yet wherever a new community came into being there were Methodists anxious to meet together and build a church of their own.
The great centres in the North were Newcastle and Sunderland, and the Methodists in Wheatley Hill were united to the Newcastle centre by the old Durham Circuit which covered the whole of the North East of the County. This was a scattered Circuit indeed, how sparsely it was populated may be assumed from the fact that the whole Circuit comprised only 1,201 members. (In this our day Thornley Circuit alone boasts 1,541 members).
The industrialization of Durham brought increased populations and new villages and thus a growth in the number of Methodists. So in 1873 the Durham Circuit recommended that it be divided into smaller Circuits and the Newcastle District Committee of May 14th, 1873 approved the recommendations. North East Durham now had three Circuits instead of one – Durham, Chester-le-Street and Thornley. Thornley Circuit comprised eleven Churches – Thornley, Haswell, Wingate, Trimdon Grange, Trimdon Colliery, New Kelloe, Quarrington Hill, Shotton Colliery, Wheatley Hill, Cassop Colliery and Fishburn.
The Minister appointed to Thornley was the Rev. William Edward Gardner. Thornley was deemed a Home Mission Station until the Conference of 1875, at which time a house was to be furnished. The total number of members in the Circuit was 314 who had contributed £160 a year to the Durham Circuit.
The Rev. Gardner’s first impressions could have been most unfavourable, a quotation from an early record will explain – “Sept. 4th 1873 – Mrs. Gardner and infant remain five days in Durham, there being no lodgings to be had. Mr. Gardner’s boxes are to be sent to Wheatley Hill Colliery Office, there to remain until ‘other arrangements’ can be made.” The ‘other arrangements’ turned out to be an invitation from a Mrs. Matthew of Cassop Colliery, who entertained Rev. Gardner and family for six or seven weeks. Later Mr. Cooper of Thornley had them as guests, then they removed to Cooper’s Terrace until the Manse was ready in February 1875.
Many changes took place during the Rev. Gardner’s three years stay, but during that time, the foundations of the Thornley Wesleyan Circuit were well and truly laid. Of the eleven Societies in his charge six met in buildings on ‘sufferance’ from Colliery Companies. It will be remembered that ‘pit villages’ in those days were comprised mainly of Colliery houses. Wheatley Hill then clustered round the pit and the village ended at School House on the one side and Stephen’s Terrace on the other. Most of the old village went in slum clearance days but streets such as Ford, Wolmerhausen, Gullock, Pyman, Quarry, Webb, Robson, Patton, Gothay, Louisa, Arne, Maria, Plantation, Elizabeth, Emily and Grainger will remain notorious if not immortal.
When the Rev. Gardner came the Primitive Methodists already had a Church, Welsh Societies were meeting in houses in Quarry and Emily Street, and his Society met in a house in Ford Street and was 28 strong. Their Quarterly Assessment was £3 13s 8d. By 1875 it had grown to 79, and was the biggest Society in the Circuit.
The little Meeting House had been filing to overflowing, and the need for a larger building was sorely felt. On the 1st May, 1874 permission was received from the Chapel Committee in Manchester to build a Chapel at a cost of £720 and the members worked with a will to accomplish their dream, but it was never realised. Here is an extract from a memo of the Rev. W. E. Gardner “On July 15th, 1874, prior to commencing erection of the Chapel (a delay having arisen through local disputes in connection with Wheatley Hill Colliery – 300 families being forcibly evicted from their homes) Mrs. Patton and self secured from Mrs. Moon Senr. Of High Crows Farm the promise of land enough as a gift, on which to build a good sized Wesleyan Chapel. It was said that this land was part of an estate which was about to be transferred to the Old Hartlepool Coal Co. Ltd. that a proviso should be made securing the transfer by the Company of a certain plot as freehold to the Wesleyan Methodists and that it should be done as soon as possible.” Something went wrong and Mr. Gardner recorded after having made many enquires – “we are making haste slowly,” and went on “the matter remained stationary until Tuesday the 12th October, 1875.” On this day the following local Chapel Committee was formed for the contemplated new building, Charles Bennett, A. J. Dingle, Jno. Porter, E. B. Robson, E. Nichols, J. Clarke, G. Smith, J. Finney, - Thursby, Wm. Robson, Jno. Dobinson, Thos. Craddick, Chas. Sharp, M. Stafford, C. Vincent, G. Simmins, Geo. Donkin, F. France, R. Davis. The Treasurer was E. B. Robson and the Secretary Joseph Finney. But the Church was not built. Instead another house was taken and the two houses made into one “ Meeting House.” There was now accommodation for a hundred people (30 Sittings were to let, 25 were free, and 45 were for children). It is a temptation to feel this delay in building was ‘providence’ for in 1882 the pit closed and remained partially so until 1889. People moved away to seek work in other areas and the membership of our Society went down to 4 in 1886. Brothers Finney, Clymo and Robson did their best to keep the Society going, but in March 1885 the name of Joseph Finney only is recorded. Life in village and Society was almost extinct and grass grew in the houses and cattle wandered at will.
The ownership of the pit passed from the Old Hartlepool Coal Co. Ltd., to the Weardale Steel, Coal and Coke Co. Ltd. and gradually ‘life’ came back to the village and the Society; by 1900 the Society was 39 strong and hopes for a Church began to rise again. The village was growing as the pit flourished - Weardale and its neighbouring Streets to Stanhope were built, Front Street was extended, Institute and Shop Street followed, and then the ‘Numbered Street, affectionately know as the ‘Dardenelles’ were erected. Before these latter, however, the Methodists had decided to build a “Plain Chapel” to be called “BETHEL.” This time there was to be no trouble about land. A plot 100 feet by 53 feet was purchased from the Wilkinson Estate in 1902 at a cost of £73 12s 6d.
William Fenwick, a Master Mason at the Colliery drew the plan for the Chapel, which was to have a seating accommodation for 350. It was now to “work with a will.”
The women of the Church held their sewing meetings, Sunday School Scholars brought their pennies for bricks and soon ‘the hope’ became a reality. Our present building, registered on 8th February 1904 was opened for worship in March, 1904. But at what a cost!
The Colliery Company gave 20,000 bricks.
The building was erected by Henry C. Howe of West Hartlepool at a cost of £651 8s 6d.
The furnishings were supplied by the North of England School Furnishings Co. Ltd., of Darlington for £145 1s 2d.
Railings by Hill and Smith of Dudley for £17 13s 8d.
The electrical wiring was carried out by Thos. Morton and G. W. Bond. Heating Apparatus by Blakeborough and Rhodes of Stockton-on-Tees for £38 0s 0d.
The Rev. William J. Pearce (Superintendent Minister) and the Trustees may have wished to open clear of debt but this was not to be and the debt saddled the Society for many years. This may be well understood when we remember that at the beginning of the Century the highest paid man underground at the pit only received £4 per fortnight and the lowest paid man £2 15s 0d. Surface workers received as little as £1 19s 0d per fortnight. However, open air Singing Bands, Sewing Meetings (how many remember one of the brethren carrying the sewing machine from member to member), Coffee Suppers finally cleared the debt.
The first Trustees of the building were: - John Gray, William H. Galley, John English Junr., James Walker, William Shepherd, Thomas Morton, William S. Goynes, Richard Storey, William Todd, Joseph Howarth, James W. Jones, Robert Stoker, William James Knight, William Young, Anthony Young, Archibald Young, James T. Scott and Frederick Laverick.
The interior looked a little different then, the walls were not covered as they are now with hardboard but were plastered and coloured, the pulpit stood against the wall in between the two doors leading from the Vestry, and music was provided by a Harmonium and Bass Fiddle. All seats were free, but a box was placed in the Porch for subscriptions in lieu of pew rents.
In September, 1910 permission was given to the Organ Committee to install a Pipe Organ. This was eventually placed in its present position, with the Choir on either side, and the Pulpit was brought forward. In 1921 the organ was moved from the centre to the South side of the Church and only restored to its original position in 1951 – never more to rove!
A new Trust was formed in 1918 comprising: - William Galley, William Young, James T. Scott, Anthony Young, (old Trustee) and Ralph Kirk, Robert William Howarth, George C. Wick, George Armstrong, Robert Patterson, John Joseph Howarth, Samuel M. Kent, Adam Rutherford, Robert Hughes, Charles Cambell, Roger Smith, John Walton, John Nixon, Samuel Webb, Robert Hedley (new Trustee).
The Church was registered for marriages in 1922 and the first couple to be married were Alfred Martin and Margaret Patterson; closely followed by Thomas Emmerson Armstrong and Elizabeth Ford; the officiating Minister was the Rev. Holmes Keall. Since that time 125 couples have begun their life together in our Church.
All this time Wheatley Hill had been in the Thornley Circuit but with the sinking of the new Collieries on the coast and the growth of Easington and Horden a new Circuit known as the East Durham Circuit was formed in 1918. This Circuit remained in being until 1941, when this area was covered by what is now know as the Thornley Circuit and the Durham Coast Circuit. The Thornley Circuit was a union of four Circuits; Thornley, Wingate and Coxhoe (Ex P.M.) and the East Durham (Ex W. M.). In 1946 the Churches in the Coast section were formed into the Durham Coast Circuit, leaving the Thornley Circuit as at present.
Methodist Union had brought another appointment of Trustees for all excepting five of the 1918 Trust had ceased to act for various reasons, these five – James T. Scott, Ralph Kirk, Robert Patterson, Adam Rutherford and John Nixon together with James H. C. Scott, Benjamin Elliott, Maurice Nixon, James William Kent, Robert Ord, William Dobson, Joseph Owen Hughes, Sydney Smith, Alfred Martin, James Robinson, John Thos. Spence, Arthur Kirk, and William Hodgson formed the FIRST Trust of the METHODIST CHURCH, CHURCH STREET, WHEATLEY HILL. The New Model Deed was not adopted until November, 1949, which resulted in the present Trust being formed in 1951. The first act of this present Trust was to alter the interior of the Church and put it into its present state. These alterations were enhanced by the gifts of Communion Furniture.
We are almost at the end of our journey now, the road we have traveled has been a long and not an easy one, the building has seemed to be one, which demanded constant watchfulness and has been a steady drain on Trust resources. The last fifty years have been disrupted by two World Wars, two Coal Strikes, months of depression, yet we look to the future confidently and bravely. The spirit that prevailed in the days when carol singers sang through the night and met in the early hours of the morning for breakfast in the Church; the enthusiasm that gripped our young men when they had the “finest” football team in Durham is still with us.
Wheatley Hill has grown out of all recognition to the days when our journey began. No longer the mud strewn cart track to Thornley and the ‘outside world,’ no longer journeys to Thornley or Wingate to be married or buried, no longer the ‘toll gate’ and unbroken rows of Colliery houses. In the middle 1930’s a large new Council Estate changed the landscape, and a population of upwards of 6,000 now inhabit our village. Our Church is in the “old part” and though attempts were made to remove to the new area they came to nothing. Whither Church Street now? What of the future?
At the moment we have placed a contract for alterations to the building amounting to £360; this, takes care of the outside of the building. We have in hand a generous donation to furnish a Communion Rail, we hope for an enlargement to accommodate our ever-increasing Sunday School, these are our replies as far as the building is concerned. But what of our people? In common with many Churches our backbone is the Sunday School (over 200 strong) and the women; they have been “our help in ages past” and coupled with the consecrated service of all our members they are “our hope” for the years to come. The best is yet to be, if, ‘in the strength of grace, with a glad heart and free, our residue of days we consecrate to Him.’
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Special Preachers will conduct the Sunday Services throughout the whole of the Quarter, but the SPECIAL WEEK will be from the 13th to 22nd March when the following are the arrangements: -
Saturday, March 13th at 6-30 p.m. PUBLIC MEETING speaker:
Rev. Kenneth R. Tucker, B.A. of Headingley College.
Sunday at 10-45 a.m. and 5-30 p.m. DIVINE WORSHIP preacher
Kenneth R. Tucker, B.A.
at 7 o’clock Programme provided by Wesley Guild.
at 7 o’clock Programme provided by Sisterhood.
Wednesday at 7 o’clock Film Show “Methodism and the Miner.” The society’s evening.
at 7 o’clock Miscellaneous Concert by the Choir.
at 7 o’clock Concert by Girls Club.
Saturday, March 20th at 6-30 p.m. PUBLIC MEETING speaker:
Rev. J. Yeoman Muckle, B.A. Hartley Victoria College.
Sunday at 10-45 a.m. and 5-30 p.m. DIVINE WORSHIP preacher
J. Yeoman Muckle, B.A.
Saturday, March 22nd at 7 o’clock PUBLIC MEETING speaker:
Rev. William Gowland of the Manchester Mission.
The celebrations will end with a Mock Banquet in the Welfare Hall.
(From Allan Straughan)