Parish History News and Articles

Willow Bridge Choppington c 1900

HISTORY

St Paul the Apostle

The Parish of Choppington was established some 154 years ago as a poor mining church as 'St Paul the Apostle, Choppington.  Our Parish currently includes Choppington, Guidepost, Stakeford and West Sleekburn.  These are the residential built up areas which now for a 'U', boundaried by the Wansbeck river to the North: the United benefice to the East and South; and the Lindisfarne Archdeaconry to the West.  (Boundary almost identical with the Political boundary of Choppington Parish Council) 

The Church of the Holy Family of Nazareth (Known as 'Holy Family')

The Holy Family was built some 59 years ago as part of 1960's Leach Development of Stakeford and was built next to the Cherry Tree estate pub.  This was originally designed as a hall for a new Church.  The Church was not built and the hall become a church-cum-hall.

Background to Choppington (extracted from sixtmedia.org.uk)

Like other places and districts Choppington has had several names. At one time it was known as Challynton, and in 1701, it was called Chaypynton. It was possessed by Hugh de Henson, of Newcastle, who held it of the Bishop of Durham in capito by fealty and 6 marks rent. In those far away days the district was wholly agricultural, but during the last fifty or sixty years great and mighty changes have been effected and the population has increased from about a score to seven or eight thousand. No one is alive now who remembers the time when what is now a garden behind the Railway Hotel, Choppington Station, was a pit pond, and the cottage to the east of it was an engine house. Nor does anybody remember when what is now a grass covered hillock near the Willow Burn and the bridge there stood a prosperous landsale Colliery.

Scotland Gate

Mention of place names brings to mind that few people are aware how Scotland Gate came by it’s name. It is dimly supposed that it came from a battle between the Scots who had come over the Border on one of their marauding cattle stealing expeditions, and the inhabitants of that district. That is not so, however. Nearly everybody is aware that all the fields on a farm have distinctive names, and it happened that a field behind the plantation was called Scotland. A roadway from the main road was made through among the trees which had been cut down, and this was enclosed by a large iron gate. One house after another was built near it, (but on the opposite side) so they naturally became known as those at Scotland Gate, hence the present name. Perhaps it would be rather difficult to find so many places with names of their own all coming under one general name, and all situated within about a straight mile as are seen at Choppington. First of all there is Guide Post, which according to the post office directory, is Choppington proper: Then Whinney Hill, Scotland Gate, Choppington Station, Pace or Peas Bush, Willow Bridge, and Choppington Station. These places are almost all united, and a stranger can be excused in thinking he is at Choppington sometimes when he is not. 

Colliery

It was not until the commencement of the colliery that the district began to make a name, and the population began to increase by leaps and bounds. In the early 1860’s people had to walk to Bedlington Church to attend a Divine Service, but after the erection of the first colliery school, (which is now used as a Mechanics Institute) church services were held in it. A Sunday School was also commenced, and became so popular that the building could not accommodate all the scholars at once. The boys attended in the morning and the girls in the afternoon, and the full service was held at night by the Rev. Wm. Crass, one of Canon Whitley’s curates. In 1863, Choppington was formed into a separate parish, and the late Rev. Richard Foster was appointed vicar. That gentleman lodged with the late Mr. T. Lawes, West Choppington, and on him chiefly lay the choice of a suitable site for the new church. This was not definitely decided upon at once. First Mr. Foster thought the most suitable place was the stackyard at Whinney Hill ! The farmer, the late Mr. Swann, father of the present highly respected occupier of the farm. Mr. J. Swann, C.C., however, objected so strongly and forcibly, that Mr. Foster, greatly against his inclination , had to look further afield. His next choice was the place where now stands Foster’s Buildings, but happening to be passing by it one day when the colliery refuse heap was burning merrily and dense clouds of smoke were being blown across it by a strong westerly breeze he changed his mind, and the present site was ultimately elected. Building operations were commenced by the contractors, the late John and William Hogarth, and in 1866, the church was completed. 

Consecration

The day of the consecration was naturally a great event to the parishioners, and they attended in large numbers in spite of the most disagreeable weather which prevailed. The ceremony was performed by the late Bishop Baring of Durham, and there were also present the clergy of the district. Owing to the downpour of rain it was found necessary to go through the consecration of the graveyard under cover, and it was therefore held in the porch. The instrumental music in the sacred edifice at that time was rendered on a harmonium assisted by a bass fiddle. These continued to supply it until a pipe organ was erected at the west end of the building in 1871, at a cost of £300. After surviving thirty years wear and tear and the tinkering of various repairers, and the dampness, a new organ was obtained a few years ago. For it’s reception, a chamber was added to the north west corner of the church. The ecclesiastical parish of Choppington is included now by the North Eastern Railway to the Wansbeck, and bounded by North Choppington on the west and the road leading from Bedlington Station through to Stakeford to the river on the east. 

First Marriages, baptisms and burials

As arguments frequently take place to the first married, baptised and buried, it may be of interest to mention a few which are taken from the registers by permission of the Rev. G. A. Brown and the church wardens. The first baptism took place on November 18th, 1866, and were :- Margaret Pringle, daughter of Thomas and Sidney Morris, Guide Post; John William, son of Henry and Jane Dixon, Choppington Colliery; James William, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Millican, Choppington Station; James, son of James and Elizabeth Foster, of Choppington Colliery; and Jane Ann, daughter of John and Ellen Hatch, Choppington Colliery. The first marriage was that of Fenwick Armstrong, the well known and the latter at Scotland Gate, and the event took place on December 29th, 1866. On March 25th, 1867, Wm. Hogarth of Choppington, was married to Barbary Mather, of Newbiggin, this being the second wedding. The next did not take place until May 6th, 1868, when Robert Carr and Sarah Ann Henderson, both of Choppington were married, and the fourth was that of Thomas Hall, (now postmaster at Choppington) and Mary Ann Dixon of Sunniside. The first internment took place on December 7th, 1866, and were as follows :- Thomas Summers, aged 34, Guide Post; George Andrew Temple, 1 year, Choppington Colliery; and John Johnson, 3 years, Choppington Colliery. 


Choppington Man Who Became Prime Minister 

A Prime Minister, three M.P.s and a newspaper editor are only three of the sons to fame who have originated from the small colliery village of Choppington. The man who must possess one of the most romantic careers and who became Prime Minister of Queensland, Australia, was Thomas Glassey, an Irishman from Belfast, who came to Choppington as a very young man. 

He became a coal hewer and was a born organiser. It was recorded that he was the inseparable companion of Thomas Burt, the first miner to enter Parliament. Glassey, together with several other local Irishmen, formed an Orange Lodge. Glassey’s resolute character is emphasised by the tale that at meetings of the lodge, which were held in the Queens Head, the chairman's mallet, a formidable looking instrument, could be converted into a dagger. If a blow of the mallet upon the table was not sufficient to bring the meeting to order, it was said that the mallet handle could be unscrewed, revealing the dagger blade. 

The Orangemen were said, however, to be “very fine fellows” who held annual processions through the small village of Choppington, carrying banners and it was never necessary for the chairman of the meeting to display the dagger in order to control the meeting. Glassey, who supported Burt in his first contest, strongly advocated the emancipation of the workers and took a keen interest in politics. 

He joined the Radical School with characters like Dr. James Trotter, Henry Saddler, William Locke, Robert Lawther and Robert Elliot, the well known pit-man’s poet, who penned a poem to commemorate Burt’s success in entering Parliament. Glassey emigrated in 1879 and ultimately became Prime Minister in the country of his choice, Australia. 

First of the three local M.P.s from Choppington was Thomas Burt, who was elected in 1874. He was an extraordinary example of the way that a man born in a humble mining community could rise to fame and power. He raised himself from the position of a miner to a man of eminence in the world of politics. Despite the fact that Thomas Burt only received a smattering of knowledge at the colliery village schools, he had an eager thirst for education and studied much In 1865 he was appointed general secretary of the Northumberland Miners Association, while in the year 1889 he was also made president of the national organisation. 

When Burt retired he was succeeded by John Cairns and eventually by Mr. Ebby Edwards, who was born at Red Row, Bedlington, but who, as a boy, went to school at Choppington. Mr. Edwards went on to take up the position of general secretary of the Miners Federation of Great Britain. From pit-man to newspaper editor is the romantic story of the life of a native of Choppington, Mr. John Bell. He worked at Choppington High Pit and during that time he took lessons in shorthand from a local teacher. During his working hours he used to chalk shorthand messages on the tubs, and to his surprise he one day discovered that one of his workmates in another part of the mine could correspond with him in that manner. Subsequently, Mr. Bell aroused the interest of a gentleman called Mr. Joseph Cowan. Mr. Bell had an adventurous career during which he was Paris correspondent for the Morning Post and many other leading newspapers, before becoming editor of a London daily newspaper. 

Among the many others who gained advancement in the same community were Mr. Charles Thompson, a railway clerk who went to South Africa and became transport manager for the South African Docks and Railway Co. Mr. William Hall and Mr. John Gibbison, two engineers; and Mr. A. V. Murray, who was elected vice-president of the Methodist Conference.