Monday, 6 October 2014

High Revs at Heworth

The First Four

John Hodgson 

The Revd. John Hodgson M.A. F.R.S. Rector of Jarrow-with-Heworth, 1808-1833, sought separation from Jarrow to form a new Parish of Heworth, but in vain. Because he was an aclaimed historian he's the only one to get his own Wikipedia page

Matthew Plummer

The Revd. Matthew Plummer M.A., pursued the separation aim for a decade, succeeding in 1843. So he was the first Vicar of Heworth. During his 44 year ministry from 1833-1877, he subdivided his large parish and built two new churches, St. Alban's at Windy Nook in 1842, and Christ Church at Low Felling in 1866, both with their own parish.

James Steel

Dr. James Steel, was vicar for 40 years from 1877-1917. He spent his time and money on the education of Heworth children through his chairmanship of the Heworth School Board, and to improve the Church's interior, which was needed. Lack of finance had constrained John Hodgson in bringing about improvement but Dr Steel could and did splash the cash to transform the church. First, the original stone floor was covered with oak boards and mosaic tiling, followed by an oak panelled ceiling. The Georgian box stalls were replaced with oak pews. A font by W.S. Hicks was set at the west end, though the 18th century font was retained. The tower clock and a Harrison organ were installed, and the splendid carved oak pulpit and a rood screen from the Ralph Hedley workshops gave the final touch of Victorian grandeur. 
In 1912, Dr. Steel provided Heworth with its first Parish Hall, on the site of the first school in the village, the Parish School, founded by John Hodgson in 1815. In the same year was unveiled the finest window in the church, a lovely memorial to Mrs. Steel in stained glass by Ballantyre of Edinburgh. This window on the north west wall contributes largely to the listing of St. Mary's as a Grade Two building, and is visited by art experts and Victorian enthusiasts. 

Charles Lemuel Gwilliam 
The Reverend Charles Lemuel Gwilliam is the only vicar of St. Mary's buried in the churchyard. He died suddenly of pneumonia in 1928. Sadly his memorial is now damaged and the cross lies forlornly across the grave.

Two More

Ray Knell
In 1812 a pot and coins were found in Heworth Churchyard, leading to the belief that St Mary's church was of great antiquity. In 1984 the Rev Ray Knell wrote to the Newcastle Antiquities Museum's curator to say that his church was about to celebrate its 1300th anniversary and suggesting that, as the pot and coin should be a special feature of any such celebrations, perhaps the Museum would verify that it was a dedication beaker of A.D. 685. The reply was unexpected. The Museum could not confirm the antiquity of the pot and the coin was undoubtedly a forgery! per J.M. Hewitt

William David Taylor

The Rev W. David Taylor was one of three vicars killed in 1999 when their car was crushed between two lorries as they returned from a country walk.  Revs Taylor, 39, Michael Hough, 50, and 40-year-old Catherine Hooper all died instantly in the five-vehicle pile up at roadworks on an accident blackspot stretch of the A1. They were in a Rover 414 queuing at temporary lights on the Felton bypass in Northumberland. 


  1. I recently bought a Book called "Voyage into Space" from Barter Books in Alnwick. The book was published in 1913 and had a hand written message in the front cover. To Charles Gwilliam of Heworth. I did an internet search and found this page. It looks like my book was once owned by the Rev. Gwilliam of St. Mary's Church. Thank you for your interesting local history website Jon.

  2. Thank you for kind words, Kieron