From St Mary's Tower
The Story of the 1935 Pageant of St Mary's
and Gateshead Town.
By G.N. Jeffrey.
The late Canon East, who ministered for fifty years on Tyneside, once said that it is impossible to over-estimate the spiritual value of an ancient Parish Church. This is especially true when the church is of the type of St. Mary's, Gateshead. There are "sermons in stones" giving the different ideas of a succession of builders for nearly a thousand years. Almost every village in Norfolk and Suffolk has a Church which can only be described as magnificent, but they tell only of the prosperity of the Middle Ages, being all in the Gothic Style. But a Church which replaced an older wooden structure erected somewhere about 665 A.D. has indeed a tale to tell.
Whether or not it was the wild goat whose butting horns barred the passage, that Bede meant by Caput Caprae in his Ecclesiastical History, it is certainly the first mention of Gateshead.
Some of the stones of the present Church may well have been part of the "Pons Aelii," the Roman bridge over the Tyne. Probably our old Church will still be keeping watch over the river when the New Tyne Bridge of to-day is worn out.
Our registers, frequently quoted in the following pages, go back to the time of Queen Elizabeth whose Chaplain, W. Byrche was once Rector. Communicants still use a Chalice presented over three hundred years ago, as "the free gift of James Cole to St. Marie's Church in the Parifh of Gotshead," while the congregation sit in carved oak pews of the same century.
Our Pageant will try to give a few of the stirring scenes that have been witnessed from the present Tower or the older one that it replaced.
H. S. STEPHENSON,
The Rectory, Gateshead,
UNTIL about a hundred years ago the story of St. Mary's Church was largely too the story of Gateshead.
The first mention of the church occurs in 1291 when the living was stated to be worth £13 6s. 8d. We know, however, that there were at least two older Churches on the same site or in near vicinity. In 653 occurs the first mention of Gateshead when Bede writes that "Utta was a renowned priest and Abbot of the Monastery which is called 'Ad Caput Caprae' 'At the head of the goat.'" No trace remains of this early Monastery, though in the Church porch stands a Saxon Cross and near the pulpit are stones showing Roman tooling. These may have come from this early church. A stone coffin, probably Saxon, stands outside the South transept.
THE MURDER OF BISHOP WALCHER.
The second church was probably a wooden one, standing to the East of the present church yard. Here in 1080 came Walcher, Bishop of Durham. He was a pious and learned man but delegated much of his power to two unworthy ministers, Leofwin, who plundered the treasures of the church, and Gilbert who dealt harshly with the populace.
The two favourites were jealous of Liulph a Saxon noble whom Walcher held in esteem. Gilbert slew Liulph and his family under cover of night. The bishop made no attempt to bring Gilbert to justice and thus increased the anger of the already restless Northumbrians. A gemot or assembly was called for May 14 at Gateshead. Walcher took with him only a small company and guard. He protested his innocence and declared his detestation of the crime promising that restitution would be made and that the Northumbrians should be freed from tolls and dues, but all in vain. The mob, led by Eardulf - a kinsman of Liulph - shouted "Short rede - good rede - Slay ye the bishoppe" and set fire to the Church whence Walcher and his party had retreated. As the Normans attempted to escape from the flames they were slain by the mob.
Walcher's body, cruelly mangled was found later by the monks of Jarrow and buried first at Jarrow and finally in the Chapter House at Durham.
The insurgents marched on Durham but were unable to surprise the Castle and were forced to disperse. Odo, the fierce Bishop of Bayeux, by way of punishment, ravaged the North, leaving it a veritable desert.
The present church was probably founded about 1150. As in many old churches the two oldest remaining features are the Norman dog-toothed arch in the porch and the fine Norman window (now built up) in the chancel. In the porch are two grave covers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries; another early tablet, probably a memorial tablet, is to be seen in the chancel.
The twist in the roof is also worthy of note; this is said to emphasize the tradition that the Saviour's body did not hang straight upon the cross.
The chantries founded in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were largely the outcome of the emphasis placed on the doctrine of purgatory. The Chantries of the Blessed Mary - The Trinity - St. John and St. Loy - were attached to this early church.
Amongst the manuscript registers at Durham is a licence granted by Bishop Bury on November 14, 1340 to the Rector of Brancepeth for:- "the selecting and assigning of a fit space in the Cemetery of the Church of the Blessed Mary at Gateshead, contiguous to the Church itself, to build on the same for the residence and habitation of a certain female anchoret, to be shut up therein, provided the goodwill and consent of the Rector and parishioners should be given to the same."
The female anchorets were in the habit of turning their cells into schools for girls - the teacher sitting at the window and the scholars in the porch. They could leave their cell or be visited only in cases of extreme emergency.
Anchorages seem also to have been "gossiping shops" for our ancestors - "banks of deposit and issue, where reports were received and whence they were retailed with interest.
The Reformation, although accompanied by less bitterness and cruelty than in the South of England, brought many changes. Foreign Rectors ceased to be appointed. Services were held at fixed times and as the congregation now remained for the whole of the service, seats were erected. Ornaments and images, pictures and frescoes were ruthlessly destroyed. The interior of the church was now whitewashed.
Wm. Byrche, Rector of Gateshead in 1593 was also Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth.
GOVERNMENT AND CUSTOMS.
The events of the day were no doubt discussed too, at the many pants or wells. For many years two pant masters were appointed to supervise the wells. The following are mentioned in early records, the Oak Well - the Pipe Well - the Salt Well - St. Mary's Well - the Chille Well - St. Elyn's Well - and the Pant in Bailley Chaire. Justices coming to Newcastle were met at the Chille Well (which stood where the Railway Arch in High Street now stands). Water was often scarce and had to be carried into the town.
The Churchwardens' accounts, which date from 1626, contain many references to the wells.
1626. John Taller for ye watter bringing to the towne 3s. 4d. 1634. Paid for mending the breach of water at the pipewell 5/-. 1648. Pd. for bringing ye water to the pant at Bailey Chaire. 3/4.
From very early time until 1621 Gateshead was governed by a Bailiff appointed by the Bishop of Durham, and the four and twenty. In 1681 two Stewards were substituted for Bailiff.
The four and twenty existed solely by ancient custom. Probably it was a continuation of the gemot or meeting of freemen in Anglo-Saxon times. It was a common form of church government but seldom governed both church and town.
Gilbert Gategang of Pipewellgate was bailiff in 1287; Sir Thomas Riddell of Gateshead House (also Mayor and M.P. for Newcastle) in 1620. The arms of the Riddells may be seen on a bench end in the N. Transept.
Many names familiar in Gateshead are also the names of members of the four and twenty: Coatsworth, Askew, Tysack, Cole, to mention only four. Timothy Tysack (a merchant adventurer) belonged to a family amongst the Protestant refugees from Lorraine who introduced the glass trade to Tyneside. His memorial is seen in the chancel floor.
A Chalice and Paten, "the free gift of James Cole to St. Maries Church in the parifh of Gotshead" is still in use. The family rose from the Smithy to the baronetage.
The chief parish officials were:- four wardens - the clerk - the beadle - the bellman - the waite or piper - four grassmen - four constables - soldiers - and overseers for the poor, waines, pants and highways. The bellman, beadle and piper received a new coat each year.
1635. 5 yeardes of red cotton for the Bedles Coate, 11s. 3d. 5 yeardes of black cotton for the Bellman's coat, 10s. 10d. 3 yeardes ½ of Blew Carsey and ¾ of Rede bayes for the Piper, 10s. 10d. For making 3 coates with buttons and threade 4s. 0d.
The town's four soldiers ought always to have been duly armed but many difficulties arose at times. In times of emergency many more men seemed to have been trained.
1680. Paid 4 soldiers, muster master, etc., 17s. 4d. 1645. Paid a fine of 11£ 15s. to Captain Grey "for lack of the comon armes." 1645. Three musketts for the townes use, 1£ 10s. Three bandaleryes, 4s. A Pike, 3s. Fower Swords, 12s. 1662. For redeeming a muskett yt was pawnd, 1s. 4d. 1666. Releasing a sword which was pawned, 2s. 1688. Pd in search of ye Townes Armes Pd for a warrant for delivering ye Townes Arms, 4s 4d.
For many years the town kept a blind drummer.
The four constables were appointed yearly.
1634. Pd for a constables staff, 4s.
In 1695 the beadle was paid 1/6 per week. His house adjoined the church and the anchorage. He was parish servant and messenger and was responsible for the punishment of wrong doers. Variety in method of correction was not wanting.
1502. Nov. 16. Thos. Turner is to have two fustigations (whippings) round the Parish Church of Gateshead and one round the parish church of St. Nicholas in Newcastle on Sunday in the second week in Lent. 1627. Paid the fine entreated for want of a ducking stool, 6s. 8d. 1628. Paid for the dokinge stoule, 12s. 1630. Paid for bringing the ducking stool from the trunk staith 6d. 1632. Paid for whipping black Barborie 6d. 1666. For a white sheet for penance 1/6. 1685. For Jyron for 2 prs of Stocks 9s. 8d.
By an act of Parliament of 1405 every village and town was bound to provide a pair of stocks. In Gateshead the stocks were used as late as 1825.
1636. A Barr, hespe, and staples to the Dungion doore. 2s.
The bellman usually was paid 2d. for each round of the town. Other duties are explained by
1626. On Shale to the belman 8d. 1634. Paid to the belman for burying the old beadle 4d. 1630. Paid the Bellman for going about to keepe in doggs and swine 2d.
During their tasks labourers were frequently encouraged by the waite.
1627. Paid the waite for goeing a day with the scaylers in the Town ffields 8d. 1627. Paid the piper for going to the highwaies when they were mended 8d. 1648. Pd. to the Towne's Piper for paines one day when the ffeilds were dressed 1s. 6d.
Four new grassmen to look after the herbage and the Town's Bull, and to collect rents were appointed yearly.
1627. For a bull £2 11s. 6d. 1626. Mr. Raphe Cole for the bull wentring 1£.
Straying cattle were put in the pound or pin fold. If the beasts were not claimed within a year and a day and all costs paid, they became the property of the Lord of the Manor.
1626. Mending the pinfould wall 1s. 1d. 1653. Monies received for pinlowes (i.e. loosing from the pinfold) 16 offenders £4 19s.
CHARLES FIRST PASSES THROUGH GATESHEAD ON HIS WAY TO SCOTLAND TO BE CROWNED KING.
Late in May, 1633 news came to the town that King Charles the First was travelling north to Scotland. Immediate efforts were made to smarten up the town, because in common with other towns they had received instructions from the Government to repair roads and bridges.
1633. To workmen for makeing the streets even at ye King's coming l8s. 4d. Paid the piper for playing to ye menders of ye high waies five severall dais 3s. 4d. Paid for laying 48 yds. of new stone and 6 yds. of old in the bottle bank £8 8s. 6d.
The King was accompanied by an imposing retinue of nobles and ecclesiastics. Peals from the bells and great rejoicing greeted the King as he passed down Bottle Bank to the Tyne Bridge.
1633. Bells rung for the several days at a cost of 3s. 4d.
It is interesting to note that following the Reformation because of the extreme Protestantism no religious symbols were used as decoration in the church, but only civic and secular designs. Thus in the pews which were erected in 1634 we find fleur de lis and the rose supply the motif, and on the bench ends the armorials of the principal local families - the arms of the Liddells and Coles on the bench ends now part of the reading desk, those of the Halls in the south transept, and those of the Riddells in the north transept. Even to this day there is only one reference to the Virgin Mary - an M on the Processional Cross of 1930.
THE SCOTS IN GATESHEAD.
Eleven years afterwards we read in a letter from Sunderland dated the first of August 1644:- "That fince the taking of Hartlepoole and Stockton the Earle of Calendar hath entered Gatefhead in the Bifhoprick of Durham and is as near Newcaftle Bridge as S. Marieoveries is to London Bridge, and that his Lordfhip both ftop all paffage over the Bridge and is quartered himfelfe on the top of Gatefhead Hill, and is in hope (if no force come raife the feige) to give fpeedy Account to Newcaftle."
Five batteries of guns were placed on the Windmill Hills and on other points of vantage. Earthworks and trenches were thrown through the beautiful gardens and grounds of Gateshead House. Soldiers seemed to have been quartered in the church.
1644. Paid ffor 2 horse lod of roles when the solgers was at the church 8d.
About this time it has been said that "the honest rectors used frequently to set their glass up, and preach it fairly well out, stopping only when them sand was down."
1641. Mending the iron that the houre glass standeth in 8d. 1649. A halfe Houre glass 8d. (Half hour sermons now?)
In those days, as in these, Churchwardens were occasionally hard pressed to meet bills.
1645. Paid by Timothie Heaton (a churchwarden) for charge in the court when the glaizier did arrest him, before money could be procured 4s. 8d.
The church windows had been glazed with plain glass at a cost of 9£ 19s. 10d. Probably the Scots had destroyed the old stained glass.
1641 Paid for drawing up the bill conserneing the Townes damages. thrice over, sustained by the Scotts 1s. 6d. 1641 Lancelot Rutter for saveing 8 stone of the Towns lead 8s. 6d.
The altar and pulpit seemed to have suffered at the hands of the Scots in 1644.
1645. Mending the pulpit 8s. 1645. Setting up seates and tables for communion 7s. 6d.
About the middle of the seventeenth century, many women - perhaps eccentric, ugly or even lonely were condemned by their neighbours as witches. In 1649 they were tried by a witch finder. It was believed that some part of the body of a witch or wizard had been touched by the devil and become deadened to pain. The witch finder stuck pins in the unfortunate women, and if no blood gushed out, denounced them as witches. In Newcastle 27 out of 30 suspects were condemned and many put to death.
On returning to Scotland the witch finder was seized, tried and put to death on the gallows, confessing first that "he had been the death of 220 women for the gain of twenty shillings a piece."
1649. Bellman paid 2d. for calling complaints against witches. Paid for going to the Justices about the witches 4/-. Paid at Mris. Watsons when the Justices sate to examin the witches 3/4. Paid for trying the witches £1 5s. 0d. Paid the constables for carrying the witches to gaole (Tollbooth) 4/-. For a grave for a witch 6d.
As elsewhere church and civil matters did not run smoothly during the Protectorate. Although the bells for calling complaints rang to commemorate the appointment of Cromwell as Lord Protector, the four and twenty were expelled in 1658. A copy of a letter from Whitehall in the Parish Accounts dated 22 June states that several of the four and twenty were displaced as being "persons who by the humble peticon and advice were disabled from excercising any place or office of publique trust, and guilty of profaneness and other crimes, soe that they are not fit to be entrusted in that employment." Thomas Weld was the intruding rector.
In 1657 we read in the Journal of George Fox that he came to Newcastle this year, "but ... finding that we could not have a public meeting among them, we got a little meeting among friends and friendly people at the Gateside." Rector Thos. Weld (intruder) along with others attacked the Friends in several pamphlets.
They met first near Quaker's Passage - then where Powell's Almshouses now stand and finally in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle. The Parish Books show that, later, opposition rose in Gateshead too.
1683. Pd for watching the Quakers 4s. 6d. 1684. Charge for carrying 26 Quakers to Durham 2£ 17s.
With the Restoration came signs of returning loyalty to the crown, many repairs and improvements were undertaken in the church. John Laydler, who displaced the intruding rector Weld, read the thirty nine Articles on Aug. 26, 1660.
1660. For ringing the bells severall times when the King was proclaimed and since 1£ 13s. 8d. Pd to Mr. Benedicke Hoarsley for drawing the King's Arms (still in the Church) 5£.
When the Scots came in 1640, in their fanatical zeal against Popery, they destroyed or defaced all religious monuments. The font was often the first to suffer. In Newcastle a stone mason; seeing the font at St. John's about to be destroyed, ran in haste and hid the fonts of St. Nicholas and All Saints. There is no record of what happened in Gateshead but we read in
1660. Mr. Reginald Hackman his free gift towards gilding the font £1. Mark Tod, carver, for his worke aboute the fonte 7/-. Laying the stone stepes about the font and setting it upp and levelling other stones in the Church. 3£ 6s. 8d.
This old font is now on one of the Farne Islands.
1661. Ordered that 45£ be assessed on the inhabitants ... towards the repaire of the church. 1662. For a Book of Homelies 8/-.
Homilies were sermons. The rectors were not allowed to preach their own sermons. A Book of Homilies (1663) has lately been presented to the church.
1662. Setting up the Commandments and King's Armes 3s. A booke of Common prayer 7/6.
These were in accordance with the Act of Uniformity.
1666. A New Chaire (to be seen in N. Transept) and covering a stole for the Vestry 1£ 2s. 0d.
Coronation Days were always celebrated in fine style. The following is one of the most complete records:-
1684. Expended on the coronation day April 23. 2 barrells of gunpowder 6£; 1 hogshd of ale 2£; Given the gunners and their-mate 15s.; paper, starch, match and pack thread 3s. 1d.; nailes, and a skin for the rammers 8d; bringing up and carrying downe 9 great gunns 1£ 0s. 4d.; 9 tar-barrells and labourers 11s.; labourers bringing the ale and powder barrels 2s.; for mending the churchyard wall wch was pulld clown for the gunns 2s. 6d.
The poor and sick were once the especial care of the monasteries. After the reformation the relief of the poor fell to the town and church. Needy strangers were not under any circumstances allowed to remain in the parish. In 1535 Henry VII ordered collections to be made for the impotent poor. Later, came assessments which were fully established by an act of 1601.
1573. We read that even lepers provided they were "poore, needie and indigente" were cared for at St. Edmund's Hospital.
In 1611 King James refounded the hospital for the reception of three old men (known now as elder brothers). Seventy younger brothers (beadsmen) now receive pensions. The Rector of Gateshead is Master of King James' Hospital.
In 1728 Thos. Powell in his will desired to be buried in a Christian like manner (8 ft. deep and not till he had been dead three days) and left all his possessions for building almshouses "for poor men and women in the Parish of Gateshead ... to be built between the goat at the top of the steepe hill and the toll bouthe or Popish Chapell ..."
1629. To a pore lass 3d.; tow a blind prest 1/-. 1640. To a poor seaman that was shipbroken 4d. 1664. For a paire of shoos for a poor boy and for a shift for him 4s. 1643. To a poore man who should have had a collection in the church but had not, 1s. 6d. 1669. To a woman who suffered by fire 2s. 6d. 1694. To Mr. Newton for carrying two poor children London 18s. 1671. Subscription for the redemption of the poor Christians now slaves under the Turks 15£ 7s. 9d.
THE PLAGUE AND CHOLERA.
The town was repeatedly devastated by the plague. Frankincense, pitch, rosin, juniper and broom were burnt to disinfect church and houses.
1636. 515 people died of the Plague in Gateshead. For Frankincense, pitch and rosen 2s. 6d. 1642 "For as much as it bath pleased Almighty God to visite this P'rish with the plague of pestilence, collected for the use. of the infected poor." 28£ 6s. 1645. Received at the church dore at severall tymes for the reliefe of the poore infected people 7£ 17s. 5d.
Temporary buts were built at Bensham for the sufferers. In the first half of the nineteenth century three visitations of cholera carried off many hundreds of victims.
RIDING THE BOUNDS.
A riding of the parish boundaries took place at varying intervals over a long period of time. The day chosen was usually one of the Rogation days. The custom was necessary as no plans or maps were in existence to define the extent of the parish and neighbouring estates had the habit of growing at the expense of the town's fields.
1664. Spent when the bounders were ridden £1 14s. 0d. Paid the piper that day 3s. 4d. Paid to Thomas Potts for his horse to rideing ye bounders 1s. 6d. 1651. Three stone of prunes to give the boyes 6d. 1653. To a proter who went a longest helping to pull downe incroachments 1s. 6d. 1664. For figgs prunes and drinke £1 1s. 0d.
The procession would be accompanied by two men on horseback with well filled panniers of "figges, prunes, etc." which were thrown among the people at every boundary stone. Whipping does not seem to have taken place in Gateshead, but in Chelsea Parish Books we read:-
1670. Given the boy, that were whipt 4s. at riding the bounds (in order that they might remember the place of their whipping).
There also walked with the procession "Men with Axes and Spades over their Shoulders as Pioneers to remove Obstructions and abolish all undue Encroachments upon the Priviliges and Rights" of the parish. Once a mistake was made and Wm. Cotesworth, Steward (on behalf of the four and twenty) paid £24 10s. as damages to William Shadforth for wrongly pulling down his wall.
At the riding of 1824 the bells rang a merry peal and guns were fired from Price's Glass works. Two pipers played "the Keel Row's merry hop." At Wrekenton the riders received bread, cheese and ale and "had a merry dance." The day ended with a dinner in the Black Bull. One of the medals struck to commemorate this perambulation may be seen in the church.
The earliest references to the bells are in the Churchwardens' accounts for
1490. Strynge to the, littel bell, iiijd. Item to Robert Wylkynson for making of the necessaries to the bells, iiijd.
In May 1553 the church possessed - among other things, "three great bells and one little bell in the Steeple."
1638. For a bald rope to the six a clock bell 4/-. (probably a "rising" bell). 1643. Worke for the 8 a clock bell 8d. (the curfew bell)
In 1701 the small bell was given to Robt. Ellison, Esq. (who presented it to Heworth Church where it now is) in lieu of rent owing for two springs which were diverted from Heworth Mills to Gateshead.
In 1729 eight new bells were cast and hung - the Corporation of Newcastle, the Trinity House and the family of Ellison were the chief subscribers. These bells have been re-cast and new hung several times.
The latest peal was rung in December, 1934 to commemorate the completion of twenty five years ministry in Gateshead of the present Rector.
TOWN LIFE, SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES.
Right up to the beginning of the nineteenth century the church was still the pivot of the town. Bottle Bank was the chief street. In it lived the prosperous tradesmen and merchants. Stephen Bulkley's press was in Hillgate and here too, in 1710 Saywell printed the "Newcastle Gazette or Newcastle Courant" - the first local paper. It was to Gateshead that the Churchwarden's of Chester-le-Street rode to "provide, buy and bring home a Bible of the rarest vellum; newly revised" and costing 116s. 8d. The town had its bull usually wintered by a Cole or a Riddell. Manure was dumped in the church yard until it was the season to dress the fields. Rubbish was thrown outside the doors of the houses, even of the most important people.
1649. Pd. for removing ye dunghill out of ye Churchyard 5/6. 1661. Pd. for looseing the bull and lookeing to it on the Windmill Hill 2/6. 1641. Carrying away the rubbish before Mr. Coles dore £2 0s. 0d.
Many millers plied their trade on the Windmill Hills. Coal had been increasingly worked since the 13th century. It was even delivered by rail wagons from Ravensworth to Dunston Staithes in 1671. Glass works were flourishing, shoes and cloth and stockings were at varying times noted industries. In 1730 Warburton pottery, chiefly white ware, was famous; and later came Paul Jackson's cream coloured, enamelled, fine black, gilded and spotted wares from Sheriff Hill. Boats were built at Wm. Stephenson's Boatyard. A source of loss to the churchwardens was the changing of clipped money.
1647. Lost by a changing of seven pounds in clipt monie 18/-. 1648. Lost in clipt money at severall tymes to pay the poore 1£ 12s. 6d.
Dishonest tradesmen clipped the silver and golden coins and passed the clipped money at its original value. We read of the Rector of Bothal being charged as a "clipper of coins" and with selling 900 ozs. of bullion from clipped coins.
The poor came to borrow the church coffins which were used only for carrying the corpse to the graveside.
1628. For making a new coffinge - and mending two ould ones 5/-. 1662. Pd for mending the church coffin 2/6.
A reward, usually 4d., was paid for each head of vermin nailed to the church door. By vermin was meant weasels, stoats and polecats.
1660. For nailing a fox head on the church door 1/-. 1694. For a brock (badger's) head 6d.
Potatoes were a great luxury being first grown in County Durham in 1736. Delicious salmon and trout were caught at the Bishop's fisheries in Gateshead. On some days more than a hundred salmon were caught at one fishery and sold for about two pence per lb.
In 1712 the first London-Edinburgh coach passed through Gateshead on its fortnight's journey.
Redheugh Hall, Cramer Dykes, Deckham Hall, Saltwellside and Gateshead House (burnt by the mob in 1746) stood in beautifully wooded grounds surrounding the town. On 4th Sept., 1729, Henry Ellison and Hannah Coatsworth were married in St. Mary's Church. The Bridegroom immediately set men to work to build a finer Park House alongside the old. Gateshead fell was boggy and covered with undergrowth and woods, amongst which lived pokers and muggers.
The town itself still clustered near the river, stretching little further south than the Toll Booth which stood about opposite to Powell's Court. The Toll Booth was used at various times as town gaol, school and a popish chapel.
The Bishops of Durham had granted charters at different times from 1164 giving the burgesses various rights of citizenship and free passage for their goods clear of all tolls and dues in the Palatinate.
A Borough Market was held on Tuesdays and Fridays "from the Blew stone on the bridge to the Cross" (near Trinity Church).
An ancient fair was held on Lammas Day (the 1st of August) each year, ceasing about 1850. Boots, clogs, broadcloth, stockings, pottery and all kinds of merchandise were sold. Along with the town's folk would come the apprentices, keelmen, colliers and country-people.
Morris Dancers, country dancers, gingerbread women, - orange women - lavender and flower girls - pedlars - beggars - fortune tellers - salt smugglers, fiddlers and jugglers would all add to the fun of the fair.
The pressgang would find the fair an opportune time to seize recruits. Sailors, mechanics, labourers and men of every description were forced on board ship. Washington once lost its beadle in this way! At one impressing a young sailor tried to escape by jumping into the Tyne - but losing his presence of mind was drowned.
1665. Edward Carnaby by Sir James Clavering order joining with Mr. Fre Gascoyne for pressing of Seamen 2/-.
The most popular sports were archery, wrestling, cudgelling, throwing the hammer and leaping for slippers.
The fair gradually declined towards the end of the eighteenth century - the last stall disappeared in 1853.
The earliest mention that we have of the schools is from the Parish Books.
1628. Lyme for the schoole 5s. 6d. 1641. The schoolmaister for teaching 2 children 2s. 0d. 1642. The schoolmaister for teaching 2 children at the Towne's charge one whole yeare 8/-. 1651. Mr. Jho. Thompson minister who teacheth schole in the Anchoridge.
In 1693 a Mr. John Tenant was by order of a vestry meeting discharged from teaching school any farther "In a certain room over the vestry of St. Mary's Gateshead, commonly known by the name of the Anchorage," he having come there "without the consent of, and in opposition to Mr. Geo. Tullie Rector of the said parish, whom we conceive to have a right to place a schoolmaster in the room above mentioned."
The school seems to have then been held in the Toll Booth.
In 1701 the Rector, Theodolphus Pickering gave £300 to pay a schoolmaster for teaching usually fifteen free schoolars the "three R's, Latin and Greek and the art of navigation and plain sailing, a sound religious training to be given."
In 1864 the master received £12 from the Pickering Endowment and £136 from fees. Many boys from the school passed on to become well known figures in public life. Foremost amongst these we must place the present Lord Joicey. The school closed in 1869.
Each year the governors of the Pickering Endowment now meet in St. Mary's School to award a year's scholarship to the Gateshead Secondary School to some suitable candidate who has been in attendance at one of the Church of England schools.
To further increase the educational facilities of the town subscriptions were made and a school opened in the long room of an inn known as Methuens. Soon 250 scholars were attending and the school was moved to St. Edmund's Chapel and became known as the "Chapel School." In 1842 newer and more commodious premises were built in the new residential district of Barn Close. This old school, after many alterations and improvements still carries on its work to-day. In 1930 a new infant's department was built.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
The early part of the nineteenth century saw an ever increasing expansion of the town - and "from St. Mary's Tower" (a new and higher tower erected in 1740) one could no longer look over all of Gateshead.
Orchards and market gardens, over which Bewick gazed from his house in West Street, fell into the hands of the builders who feverishly. built Melbourne Street, Mulgrave Ter. and the other nearby streets.
The four and twenty gave place to the town council and mayor (first elected in 1835). In 1832 Gateshead sent its first member to Parliament. Passengers now alighted at Oakwellgate Station from London by rail and made their way to Newcastle. With ever quickening speed, change and growth were seen on every hand and soon Via Regia (Bottle Bank) became a backwater of the town.
New churches were built in the rising suburbs and the Mother Church became a "down-town" church surrounded by slums.
In 1854, on Friday, October 6th, a fire broke out in Hillgate. Soon the church was endangered and the sexton and a friend worked courageously on the roof putting out the fire with their feet. The occupants of neighbouring houses piled their bedding and furniture in the belfry for safety.
Then came the dreadful explosion heard even by the miners in Monkwearmouth colliery causing them to come up in alarm. Of how the fire now spread even to Newcastle - of the great loss of life - and of the heroic deeds of rescuers the reader must read elsewhere.
The Church was greatly damaged and all the windows destroyed. Complete destruction was prevented by a Mr. Mather entering with axe and hose pipe into the ruined building and putting out a fire which threatened the church on the next day.
When the extent of damage was ascertained a public meeting was called. Despite the wish of many, including the Bishop of Durham, the Rector and wardens and the Mayor, it was decided to repair and restore the church .instead of erecting a new church on another site.
Since then slum clearances have taken away most of Old Gateshead including Bottle Bank, and St. Mary's stands at present revealed as it can never have been before in its long history.
While it is no longer the secular pivot of the town it is still the spiritual centre of many and varied activities, carried on through its schools and missions - its women's meetings, men's institute and boys' club - its scouts and guides - its guilds - its Girls' Friendly Society and Lecture Society.
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