Tyne and Wear HER(7688): Newcastle, Hanover Square, Unitarian Chapel - Details
Newcastle, Hanover Square, Unitarian Chapel
Religious Ritual and Funerary
Non-Conformist Chapel in Hanover Square, built in 1727. Before this chapel was built, the Unitarians met outside Close Gate. Its front façade is represented on Thompson’s plan of 1746, and a plan of the building appears on Oliver’s plan of 1830. In 1810 the chapel was enlarged to take an organ. The pulpit was on the south on 13 steps.The ground floor contained 53 pews. There were side and front galleries with the gallery panpiece supported on four posts. The staircases to the galleries had 21 steps. There was a niche in the south wall for the organ gallery. The gallery had 51 pews. Total sittings 883 plus 136 sittings for children. In May 2008 Archaeological Services Durham University completed the recording of the remains of the Hanover Square Chapel of the Church of the Divine Unity, started by The Archaeological Practice in 2003. The chapel was opened on 27th March 1727. It was part of a proposed design which also included a square of houses for the followers of Rev. Benjamin Bennett, but only two houses were ever built. Inside the chapel was divided into four seating areas with a gallery above. The pulpit was at the front and the vestry on the south-west corner. From 1767 there was a small charity school for boys attached to the chapel. Mark Akenside, poet, Captain Edward Rotherham, who fought under Collingwood at Trafalgar, James Losh, Recorder of Newcastle and James and Thomas Hodgson, proprietors of the Newcastle Chronicle were amongst the notable members of the congregation. In 1823 William Robson, chief speaker of the congregation, was said to have been buried there. The Hanover Square Meeting House remained in use for 127 years. In 1854 the chapel was subsumed into a large brick tobacco warehouse which followed the curve of Clavering Place and was characterised by arched fenestration on the ground floor and sashes above. Despite the alterations undertaken for the tobacco factory, the exterior brick walls of the chapel survived intact. The arched and rectangular windows and doors shown on old sketches of the chapel were clearly visible, although they have long been bricked up. During subsequent excavations, the substantial stone footings of the chapel walls were recorded. William Turner was minister of the Hanover Square Chapel. He established the first Sunday Schools in Newcastle, teaching religious instruction, reading, writing and numeracy. In 1787 he started a library at Hanover Square. He wrote 'An Abstract of the History of the Bible' and in 1809 helped to found the (Unitarian) Auxiliary Bible Society and was its secretary until 1832. In 1810 he helped to found the Royal Jubilee School. He was a founder of the Newcastle Mechanics' Institute and its Vice-President. He ran a boy's day school between 1785-1803 and 1813-1824. He helped found the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society in 1793 and lectured there on 600 occasions on various scientific topics. He worked hard to encourage vaccination against smallpox, which was adopted in 1801. William Turner left Hanover Square in 1841 and moved to Manchester where he died in 1859. Hanover Square was Tyneside's first town square (1720s) but it was left incomplete.
The Archaeological Practice, 2003, 1-5 Hanover Square and 7-13 Clavering Place, Newcastle upon Tyne - Photographic Recording; S. Harbottle, 1997, The Reverend William Turner: dissent and reform in Georgian Newcastle upon Tyne; C. Stell, 1994, An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting Houses in the North of England; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2007, Hanover Square Chapel, Clavering Place, Newcastle upon Tyne -archaeological recording; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2008, Hanover Square Chapel, Clavering Place, Newcastle upon Tyne - further archaeological recording; Richard Potts, 2006, William Turner (1761-1859), nonconformist minister in Tyneside's Finest, pp 82-83; historical background kindly provided by RE Coulson, Church Secretary, Newcastle Unitarian Church; Thomas Oliver, 1844, Historical and Descriptive Reference to the Public Buildings on the Plan of the Borough of Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead; Grace McCombie, 2009, Newcastle and Gateshead - Pevsner Architectural Guide, p. 14, 112; Unitarians at Ellison Place, church folder, p 13