St Edmunds Chapel
St Edmund’s Chapel
High Street Gateshead
A History of St Edmund’ s Chapel – 1248 to the present day
St Edmund’s Chapel is dedicated to Edmund of Abingdon, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1233 to 1240, who was canonised in 1246.
Around 1248, Nicholas de Farnham, Bishop of Durham founded a chapel and hospital, of which St Edmund’s is the surviving building. The hospital was chiefly intended for the ‘refreshment of the soul’. A master and three priests were appointed to celebrate four masses every day. Mediaeval hospitals also cared for the sick and aged, the poor and the pilgrim, but St Edmund’s Hospital records are silent on this aspect of its work.
By 1325 buildings included a buttery, kitchen, brew house, granary, byre, pigsty and the chapel, which would have been the focus of life.
In 1448 the chapel passed into the hands of the nuns of St Bartholomew, Newcastle. They had run into financial difficulties and the Bishop of Durham appropriated to them the hospital and all its possessions on condition that the nuns provided two chaplains to celebrate in the chapel, kept the buildings in good repair, and paid a yearly pension to the Bishop and Prior of Durham. When the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, the nunnery and its lands were surrendered to the crown. This was in 1540, and for two centuries the history of St Edmund’s Chapel is closely associated with two families, the Riddells and the Claverings.
William Riddell was related to the last Prioress by marriage and he bought the hospital lands and built a mansion just to the east of the chapel in the late 16th century. The next generation of Riddells converted to Roman Catholicism and the mansion became a centre for Jesuit mission. The Claverings were also staunch Roman Catholics, and a succession of chaplains served in the private chapel within the mansion. The Chapel was not used for worship. In those times of intolerance and persecution, that would have been too dangerous. In 1746 the mansion was burnt to the ground by an angry mob.
The Chapel was already in ruins by this time and at the turn of the 19th century it was used as a builders yard. A man called Cuthbert Ellison acquired the land in 1836 and the Chapel was given to the Rector and Churchwardens of Gateshead. It was restored for divine service in October 1837 as Holy Trinity Chapel.
Gateshead’s population grew and ironically, the Chapel was threatened with demolition in the 1880’s because a bigger building was required. Instead of demolition, the north wall was removed and the chapel turned into the south aisle of a new church dedicated to the Holy Trinity in 1894-6. Holy Trinity was declared redundant in 1969 but the Chapel was partitioned off and used for weekday services and private prayer. Sunday services restarted in the Chapel in 1981 after the parish church of St Mary’s was destroyed by fire. It reverted to its original name of St Edmund’s Chapel.
The Victorian addition to the church was leased to Gateshead Council and became Trinity Community Centre
St Edmund’s Today (Billy Harper, church warden, St Edmund’s Chapel)
St Edmund’s Chapel has been a presence on Gateshead High Street since the mid 13th century. Now part of Gateshead Parish, it is in fact the oldest working building in Gateshead .
We conduct church services on Wednesdays and Sundays almost every week.
The Chapel interior was re-ordered recently by the removal of the furniture, which was replaced with comfortable chairs. This was done in order to make the Chapel more user friendly, in the hope that it would encourage more people to hold wedding services and other events.
About nine or ten years ago we agreed to hold art exhibitions within the Chapel and a young clergyman was duly appointed as Arts Chaplain. Four of the interior arches were prepared in order that items of art could be displayed and thankfully it has proved to be successful.
The Sanctuary Art Space
In addition to the normal events we also have regular coffee mornings. Every summer we have a special service where the Roman Catholic congregation in Newcastle and surrounding areas march across the Tyne bridge in commemoration of the Catholic priest who was martyred on the High Street accused of treason in the late 16th century.
During the second weekend in September we invite members of the public to visit the Chapel as part of the annual “Heritage Open Day”; in addition we provide food in the form of a BBQ in the forecourt of the Chapel. This year we live in the hope of the increased population of Gateshead by the arrival of 900+ students to the new Trinity Square complex. It will bring new life to the High Street, Gateshead as a whole and especially our Chapel.
Come and visit us, you will not be disappointed