Tyne and Wear HER(13206): Newcastle, Church of St. John, churchyard - Details
Newcastle, Church of St. John, churchyard
Religious Ritual and Funerary
St. John's Church is 12th century in origin. In 1589 340 plague victims were apparently buried at St. John's. Prisoners from Northumberland executed at the Castle or outside the Westgate were normally buried at St. John's, such as Clement Roderforthe, gentleman, who was executed at the Castle on 22 August 1599. In 1613 six executed prisoners were buried at St. John's, and three on 11 August 1744 (two for coining and one for horse stealing). Building alterations in the 19th century found re-used early grave covers and a water basin in the church construction. In 1875 many gravestones in the floor of the church were covered with concrete and tiles. The church floor was completely renewed in 1968-72. The will of John Vergoose, 1502, requested that he was buried in front of the altar of St. Thomas the Martyr. In 1544 Nicholas Carr asked to be buried in St. John's near to his wife. In 1571 John Wilkinson (merchant draper, Sheriff 1555 and Mayor 1561) asked that he could be buried near the organs. In 1576, Cuthbert Nicholson, late servant to William Dods, Newcastle tanner, asked that he was buried in the church near his mother. In 1623, Oswald Chaitor, linen weaver and parish clerk of St. John's was buried in the chancel. A memorial plaque to Adam Askew, physician, survives in the south transept. He was buried in the family vault in 1773. His family owned the Redheugh estate from 1748 to the 1880s. Askew Road is named after them. Surviving wall tablets - Nathaniel Clayton (1709-1786) north wall of chancel. He was preacher at St. John's for 50 years. Clayton Street is named after his grandson John. Richard and Rachel Grainger, south wall of nave. St. John's was their parish church but Richard was buried at St. James in Benwell in 1861 and Rachel was buried in Lanarkshire in 1842. Thomas Meham (1715-1782) south transept. Thomas was an ironmonger at The Close. His son operated Busy Cottage Iron Works in Jesmond Dene. In 1762 the churchyard was enclosed by a brick wall with railings above. Elm and lime trees were planted inside the wall. A few gravestones from inside the church were moved to the churchyard. In 1784 St John's Lane was built to link Bigg Market and Westgate Street across part of the churchyard. In 1825 the churchyard measured 2913 square yards. The parish hall was built in 1957. Gravestones were moved. The 'beastly looking' churchyard was transferred into a 'green oasis' at an estimated cost of £5870. In 1990 the churchyard was landscaped. Today very few gravestones remain. Surviving monuments - Ralph Waters Senior (1720-1798), artist. A table-top tomb in the west end of the churchyard. Brand's 'History of Newcastle' includes several of his engravings. One of his most popular paintings is 'St. Nicholas' Church from the South East'. John Cunningham (1729-1773), pastoral poet and Robert Carr (died 1783), printer. Thomas Slack paid for a ledger stone for Cunningham which survived until 1887 and Joseph Cowen paid for a stained glass window in the south transept. The surviving tombstone was paid for by public subscription and was unveiled by Dr Thomas Hodgkin in 1887. St. John's churchyard in fact had a poet's corner. The gravestones of Edward Chicken (1698-1747), Thomas Thompson (1773-1816) and William Watson (1796-1840) are now missing. Other gravestones - the six children of Anne Slack (1719-1778), hostess, writer, printer and bookseller, the table tomb of Soloman Hodgson (1761-1800) printer and newspaper proprietor.
Alan Morgan, 2004, Beyond the Grave - Exploring Newcastle's Burial Grounds, pages 29-36