South Shields - Primitive Methodists (1824)

South Shields, and the colliery district lying between the Tyne and the Wear, were made into a separate circuit in September 1823, at the same quarterly meeting at which Sunderland and Stockton branches were made into a circuit; and this new circuit also made rapid advancement during the year. Three months after its formation, Mr Branfoot, the superintendent, writing to the editor of the Magazine, says: "I am glad to inform you that the work of the Lord is prospering here. This last quarter our increase of members is 140. We have now 551 members in the circuit. We have a large and commodious chapel, which seats near nine hundred persons, and our temporal concerns are in a good state."

Four or five months later he writes, — "The work of God in this circuit is greats glorious, and extensive. In all parts of it, the work has been very rapid, and some of the most depraved characters have been brought to the blood of sprinkling, and are now savingly acquainted with the Lord Jesus." A great work of grace was witnessed especially at Hebbum, a colliery a few miles from Shields. Mr Branfoot says, — "It is only a year since we first went to Hebburn, and now we have six classes and one hundred members." The society in the town also prospered greatly. On the 7th of March, 1824, a love-feast was held there, at which, it was supposed, twenty souls were brought into Christian liberty. At the quarterly meeting held on the following day, the town society appears to have numbered three hundred members. ''This is the second quarter day since South Shields was made into a circuit," says Mr Branfoot, ''and our increase for the half year is three hundred and forty. In South Shields town we have three hundred members."

From, ‘The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion from its origin, by John Petty, 1860, p173.

Additional Information

The class-leaders in the loft were Edward Nettleship, John Robinson, and Joshua Hairs, and they and their fellow-worshippers began to build a chapel in the spring of 1823 to seat 900 people, on land belonging to St. Hilda’s Glebe, on the west side of Cornwallis Street. At the foundation-stone laying the collection amounted to £3 14s. 3d. The building of the edifice was not contracted for; it was done by the day and paid for as the work proceeded. Much of the work, such as preparing the site, etc., was undertaken by the members themselves. The ultimate cost of the chapel and the cottages alongside was £1,600, and none of the poor but enthusiastic members—except, perhaps, the three leaders—seemed to have realised at the start the greatness of the undertaking into which they had launched. The work came to a standstill for want of funds; and when John Robinson witnessed the distress of his brethren—they were having a prayer meeting when he arrived—he advanced £460, and some smaller sums were advanced by others, When the building was a mere shell, the first service in it took place on August 24th, 1823. Until the society was in a position to sustain the responsibility, John Robinson took upon himself the whole financial burden; and his son John, who was so long circuit steward, was a true son of his father in rendering financial help in various directions, in which, and all other good works, he was supported by his excellent wife. The following story has been often told concerning the first Glebe Chapel

“A couple of gentlemen, passing down the lane by the side of St. Hilda’s Church, came within sight of the chapel, which was approaching completion. One of them exclaimed: What building is this?’ Before his friend had time to reply, a boy, who was playing among the rubbish, said: ‘Oh, sir, its the Ranters’ Chapel.’ ‘The Ranters’ Chapel,’ echoed the gentleman; ‘why, how in the world have those folk got a building like this?’ ‘If ye gan aroond the other side, ye’ll see,’ quickly responded the lad. The gentlemen, following the advice of the youth, went round to the other side of the building, and read this inscription on the wall: ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’”

Devout men and women toiled in the first Glebe (in which Hugh Bourne preached in 1829) for forty-two years. In 1865 it was pulled down and rebuilt, but in the next quarter of a century the character of the neighbourhood changed, the town developed enormously, another site was obtained, the chapel was sold, and on April 23rd, 1889, the late Mrs John Robinson, whose husband had at that time been a member sixty-six years and for a great portion of that period arm official, laid the foundation-stone of the present Glebe Church —for the name is still retained—in Westoe Lane.

From 'Northern Primitive Methodism' by W M Patterson, p228-241.

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