150 Years of the St. George’s U.R.C., Morpeth.
The existing St. George’s building has been in use since 12 April 1860 though St. George’s as a Presbyterian ministry dates from 1693. The first service took place in a tannery loft in February 1693 and later, a chapel, still surviving as a private house, was built in 1721 in Cottingwood Lane.
The congregation grew in size and the then minister Dr. Anderson and church members decided a further move was needed when the early 18th century Old Mill (designed by Sir John Vanbrugh), beside Telford Bridge, conveniently became available in 1850. The new building was to be of stone, “church like and not a chapel, a new ornament to the town” though remains of the former mill race can be seen under the church.
In 1850 the congregation’s occupations varied considerably and hind, miller, sailor, servant, cooper, mason, drayman, miner, blacksmith, wagon man, coal owner, hawker, glover, saddler, pitman, steward, gamekeeper, clogger, jobber, letter carrier and chimney sweep are among those that no longer exist.
The foundation stone of St. George's Church was laid in 1858 celebrated appropriately by a no doubt sober dinner at the Queen's Head and the first service in the building was held on Thursday 12th April 1860. The building is in the early English style and includes a stained glass rose window. Pevsner (in his The Buildings of England [1951–74]) was far from ecstatic about it stating “that it faces the full length of the street with its perversely steeped up west tower ending in an Octagonal spirelet”.
The three-faced clock was presented by Mary Hollon in memory of Revd Robert Trotter and her uncle, Dr William Trotter, General Practioner and Mayor of Morpeth, to the people of Morpeth. Technically therefore it does not belong to the church and is maintained by the local council. The clock features in the plot of the musical play ‘The Love of Mary Hollon”, presented as part of our 150 years celebrations.
In the early 1960’s, the Church was divided horizontally, services continuing downstairs but with a new church hall, kitchen and three meeting rooms above. Unfortunately the large rose window is now in one of the rooms and the dormer (hall) windows look a little unusual from the outside. The cost of the alterations was £16,500. How much today?
Rebuilding began in March 1962 and was completed in June 1963 during which time church functions temporarily moved either to the Town Hall or the Congregational Church in Dacre Street. Today the hall is in constant use but the proposals for change were only carried by one vote. Without that single positive vote, it is possible that the St. George’s Community Players, the church’s own ceilidh band ‘sgurc’, the monthly country dance club, two carpet bowls clubs, badminton groups, rainbows, brownies and guides, keep fit, music groups, tea time talks, coffee clubs and discussion groups might not have a home (or even exist).
St George's was flooded to a depth of over two feet in September 2008 when, after heavy rain over two days, the adjacent River Wansbeck burst its banks. The church was out of use for six months when we initially shared services with the Morpeth Methodists and later used the valuable hall upstairs.
As part of our 150th Anniversary celebrations, eminent local artist, Anji Allen, produced a new graphic (see above) depicting the west end of the church and we are grateful to have been permitted to use this in our publicity.