What this site is about

Gravestone inscriptions are a wonderful source of information for both the local historian and for the genealogist. Even the briefest epitaph can reveal such details as name, age, date of death, religious denomination and social class, while the more elaborate inscriptions can plot an entire family history. The aim of this site is to provide a photographic record of the old graveyard  at St Mary’s Church. Heworth. Gateshead and as a resource for the benefit of genealogists and the descendants of the people interred there, who live far away and for anyone interested in graveyard inscriptions and graveyard architecture. I now have photographs over 700 graves in the old churchyard, with more to come.

The old churchyard features a mixture of a few old family tombs and vaults, large and impressive family or individual graves and footstones, as well as the more traditional and reasonably-sized graves, such as will be seen in any church graveyard. Environmentally it has a mixture well-maintained  areas  and some of a more or less neglected nature. There is  evidence of vandalism but no evidence yet of the  recently introduced health and safety concerns, resulting in many gravestones being pushed over to lie flat, many face down. However I am concerned that may happen soon in the old graveyard . (Although Gateshead Council has recently announced they have no plans to do so) Whether there is a plan to erect the headstones again if they are ‘pushed over’ is anyone’s guess. However many have merely fallen over due to the unstable nature of the ground and the passage of time. It is not my intention to dwell on the history of St. Mary’s Church or of Heworth itself, though I will add a short history. (see below)
If there are certain images that you think should be removed, please let me know. Please be aware that there is no intention to harm the dignity of the dead.
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Please Note
If you use the Heworth St Marys Church  MIs (Memorial Index) in your research click here for some important information and……………………
If you have any enquiries regarding St. Mary’s Church, please contact the church direct. I am unable to contact the Vicar or Churchwardens for you.

A History of The Parish Church of St. Mary’s Heworth. 1822-1997
The simple sandstone exterior of St. Mary’s Church today looks much the same as it did on its day of completion, 184 years ago. Its walls are the right colour again. A century and a half of heavy industrial pollution had turned them jet black, and on its centenary in 1922, the church wore a look of apologetic gloom. After it was cleaned for its 150th birthday in 1972, its blocks of ashlar resumed their original honey tone. The roof line is different; since 1960, when dry rot destroyed the original, necessitating a new roof. The well-known clock in the tower was not there until 1883. A good one by Potts of Leeds, and held in affection by the people of Heworth, it was bought by public subscription – a good investment. The lych gate was an addition of 1937 as a memorial to King George V, but the little west gate is very old, as its worn and hollowed step shows. It was the only entrance to Heworth Old Chapel which replaced an even older chapel in 1710. The west gate is probably medieval and had the village stocks beside it until 1834.
St. Mary’s vast churchyard expanded repeatedly, as did the parish population. Here, in 1823, William Falla, the renowned nurseryman, carried out the first systematic plantation of trees round the new church, and here near the south door, he lies at rest among them. Heworth churchyard is acknowledged as a treasure-store of social history, where people come to seek their roots and at the same time discover its tranquillity, and the great variety and beauty among hundreds of monuments. Enclosing it is the traditional stone boundary wall, rebuilt, re-aligned or extended over more than two centuries by local masons, who well understood that the church, of Heworth sandstone, quarried in the village, needed walls of the same material to keep the whole harmonious.
“On May 23rd, 1821, the foundations of a new chapel to be built by subscription, began to be dug out at Nether Heworth in the county of Durham, the first stone of which, enclosing an appropriate inscription on copper, was laid the following day. This chapel was opened for Divine Worship on the 25th of May 1822. On the 27th of September, 1828, the Dedication Stone upon south wall and half an acre of new burial ground added to the old chapel yard were consecrated by the Lord Bishop of Durham.” (Syke’s Local Records)
Heworth in 1822 was a Chapelry within the Parish of Jarrow, a tie which had held the two together since the time of Bede,much to Jarrow’s advantage. The builder of the new church, 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. His successor, the Revd. Matthew Plummer M.A., pursued that aim, succeeding in 1843. Thus Mr. Plummer became the first Vicar of Heworth. His long ministry from 1833-1877, was eventful. He endured three epidemics of Cholera. He suffered persecution through his “Puseyism”, (the introduction of organ-led choral music, stained glass, decorative painting and sculpture, vestments and candles). He saw the need to subdivide 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. By the time he retired, Heworth was a large industrial town of collieries, chemical works, foundries, shipyards, quarries and quays, with an immigrant population.
Dr. James Steel, vicar from 1877-1917, brought further changes. A Victorian, with a strong sense of authority, he devoted his energy and wealth to the education of Heworth children through his chairmanship of the Heworth School Board, and to the enhancement of the Church interior. John Hodgsons’ vision was severely constrained by lack of money, therefore the entire church building outside and in, was substantial but plain. Dr. Steel had no constraints and set about transforming 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. It is notable that the ministries of three men, Hodgson, Plummer and Steel, covered one hundred and ten years, while the last eighty years has seen no fewer than eight vicars of Heworth. Each has made a unique contribution to the liturgy and life of the parish. Four vicars have served as Rural Deans of Gateshead – Canon Peter Dennis, Canon Rowlands, Canon Colin Purvis and Canon Ray Knell.
At intervals in all our lives there are periods of upheaval which cause anxiety, and so it has been in the life of this parish. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Heworth village began to disappear. Felling by-pass sliced through it, the parish hall was lost, and a new church hall had to be built. The lych gate was moved and a portion of the new churchyard given up to the highway. At the same time Heworth parish was divided for the third time when St. Andrew, Learn Lane was formed.
The village school survived until 1975 then vanished to make way for the new Heworth Metro Station. St. Mary’s stood on an island amid a sea of traffic, but was further threatened in 1980 by a proposal to extend the Metro system to Washington on its south side, destroying the vicarage and much of Sunderland Road, a scheme which the church people vigorously and successfully opposed. In 1986 there came a joyful occasion when, after a huge fund raising effort, a peal of six bells was hung in the tower, having once rung in St. Peter’s Church, Jarrow. They had lain forlorn in a scrap yard for years. Strangely, Heworth Chapel was given a bell once before, in 1721, from St. Mary’s Gateshead – “the little bell given to Robert Ellison for Heworth Chapel, in liewe of the arrears due to the chapelry for the Blew Quarries Spring.” It still hangs in the tower. St. Mary’s has a Lady Chapel in the north transept, divided from the nave by the oak screen, which in the 1890s was sent across the chancel, cutting it off from the body of the church. John Hodgson would recognise his church today, even without the three galleries long ago swept away. It is as he designed it once more, all one from the tower to the altar.
(J M Hewitt)

The Lych-Gate
Old place names recorded on memorials in Heworth Churchyard
The practice of putting the deceased person’s place of birth or residence on the headstone inscription went out of fashion early this century, and those in Heworth churchyard are almost entirely of the period 1700 to 1900.

Most of the names are very old, and cover the area which was once the Chapelry, then the Parish of Heworth, but is now divided into the four parishes in the Felling group. I have reproduced the exact spelling of the place names: Nether Heworth; South Wardley; High Felling; Heworth Village; Thistley House; Bogg House; Low Heworth; Woodgate; Alliance Villa; Heworth Shore; Bill Queay; Windy Nook; Heworth Lanes; Bill Shoare; Carr Hill; Heworth Dean; Haining Wood; Incline House; Heworth Grange; Hainingwoodgate; Westfield House; Low Lane; Cat Deane; Highburn House; Low Heworth Lane; Cowpath Farm; Greenfield House;High Lanes; Pelaw Main; Woodbine House; High Heworth; Pelaw Staithes; Sward Houses; Heworth Colliery; Staith House; Whitehill; Jonadab;White House; Snowdon’s Hole; Heworth Leam; The Tilesheds; The Leam; Ballast Hills; High Leam; The Nest; North Leam; Nest Cottages; Low Leam; Goose Bank; Bank Top; Felling Shore; Springwell Bank Foot; Low Felling; Gingling Gate; Felling Gate; Follonsby; Kirton’s Gate; North Follonsby; Garden House; South Follonsby; Pear Tree Place; White Mere; Dempsterville; White Mare Pool; Felling Colliery; Lingy Lane; Quarry Banks; Lingey House; Holly Hill; Wardeley; Felling Lodge; Wardley Manor Farm; Providence Place; Wardley Colliery; Crow Hall.

All photographs are free to copy for personal use and may be used on any non-commercial web sites on condition you mention or link to this site. You may not use any image for commercial purposes without permission, whether on a web page or in a book, newspaper or journal. If you do require an image for publishing purposes, then the usual photographic rates apply. I do accept requests for me to photograph graves not on this web site, however the approximate location of the grave site will be necessary. I do not charge for this!
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