St James' Church, Benwell

St James' Church opened for worship in 1833 as a chapel of ease in the parish of St John in Newcastle. Chapels of ease were Anglican chapels built for the convenience of of remote parishioners. St Johns Church was in the city centre, some three miles from the western reaches of the parish.

At that time, Benwell was not part of Newcastle. It was not until 1904 that it was absorbed into the city. Back in 1833 it was a largely rural area of farms and big mansions and private estates. There were several coalmines in the neighbourhood and a growing concentration of industries along the riverside, but the resident population of Benwell numbered only about a thousand.

The church was designed by John Dobson and built on land donated by John Buddle, the famous mining engineer and colliery manager who is actually buried in St James' churchyard in a vault designed by Dobson. City centre developer Richard Grainger also lies in the churchyard in his family grave within an enclosure of Gothic-style iron railings.

The church has been extended and adapted several times since its original form. It remains a historically significant and beautiful building, with many special features. It is one of the few heritage buildings to have survived successive waves of clearance and re-building in Benwell. However, the fabric of the building is in poor condition in many respects, and a feasibility study is currently underway to find out what is needed to reinstate it once more as a focal point of community life as well as a place of worship.

1830 - plans launched at St Johns Church, Newcastle, for Chapel of Ease in Benwell

1831 - foundation stone laid at Benwell

1832 - consecration of church and churchyard

1833 - first celebration of Holy Communion at the new church

1836 - first resident minister attached to St James'

1843 - seperate parish of Benwell created, stretching from East Denton to Mill Lane

1843 - Rev W Maughan becomes the first incumbent of Benwell Parish

1858 - churchyard extended beyond original site between church building and vicarage

1864 - church extended by addition of chancel and south aisle to a design by Dobson

1879 - organ chamber and vestry added

1884/5 - creation of new baptistry and tower with spire and clock, and choir vestry

1899 & 1900 - further extensions to churchyard

1903 - north aisle added

1910 - chapel added to north aisle

1980 - conversion of south aisle into church hall

The description of the church was courtesy of a leaflet available in the church.

I'd also like to thank the staff and volunteers in the church for the knowledge and helpfulness when I visited the church at the recent Heritage Open Days. And a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit. :)

10th December 2013

10th September 2010

Richard Grainger's Grave

Grainger was a builder and developer. Together with the architect John Dobson and the town clerk John Clayton, Grainger was responsible for the development of Newcastle city centre in the 19th century. He lived for a period at Elswick Hall, and had ambitious plans for the area including a botanical and zoological garden.

Wikipedia - Richard Grainger

Timmonet - Richard Grainger

John Buddle's Grave

Buddle was a colliery manager and mining engineer. He is credited a number of major improvements in mining techniques. Buddle owned land in Benwell, part of which he donated for the creation of St James' Church and graveyard. He is buried in a vault designed by Dobson. It is said that a seam of coal was uncovered during the excavation for the vault, so Buddle is fittingly buried in the material to which he devoted his life.

Wikipedia - John Buddle

Durham Mining Museum - John Buddle

William Cochran Carr's Grave

Cochran Carr owned Benwell colliery and South Benwell firebrick works. On his death, the workforce subscribed to a memorial stone to be placed at the foot of his grave "in loving memory" of their employer.

Tyne and Wear Archives - William Cochran Carr

North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers - William Cochran Carr

William Isaac Cookson's Grave

Cookson was a major industrialist, involved in glass and lead manufacture as well as coalmining and other interests. He was personally responsible for several scientific inventions, having trained in Michael Faradays laboratory. Cookson lived at Benwell Hall before retiring to Yorkshire.

Grace's Guide - William Isaac Cookson

Sir Walter Scott's Memorial

Walter Scott is commemorated at St James,(although actually buried in France). His wide range of business activities included coalmining, steel, chemicals and railways, and he built the first underground electric railway in London. Not to be confused with the novelist Walter Scott, although he did have major interests in publishing.

Wikipedia - Sir Walter Scott

John Sowerby's Grave

Sowerby lived at Benwell Towers (which subsequently became in turn the Mitre pub, the Silver Lady nightclub, and the set for the BBC's Byker Grove). The family owned the huge Ellison glassworks in Gateshead which had offices in London, Paris and Hamburg.

Wikipedia - John Sowerby

Bishop Arthur Thomas Lloyd's Grave

Bishop Lloyd lived at Benwell Towers, which was home to every Bishop of Newcastle between 1882 to 1940. Lloyd was only the third Bishop of Newcastle, which had previously been the responsibility of the Bishop of Durham. There was a chapel at Benwell Towers from as early as the 13th century until shortly after the Second World War, although it was not in continuous use - thus arguably making it the first parish church in Benwell.

Wikipedia - Bishop Arthur Thomas Lloyd

Reverand William Maughan's Grave

Maughan was the first vicar of St James', holding the post from 1843 to 1877. He was married to Mary Atkinson, widow of Robert Thomas Atkinson who was John Buddle's nephew.

Henry Milvain's Grave

Milvain was one of the largest shipowners on Tyneside. He lived for more than 40 years at North Elswick Hall(now the site of the Sacred Heart high School). Milvain is buried in a vault marked by a marble tablet on the south wall of the church. There is also a stained glass window in his memory inside the church.

John Atkinson Pendlington's Grave

Pendlington was a businessman with a passion for cricket. A member of Benwell Cricket Club, he was the inventor of the Linear Method of cricket scoring which records the number of balls each batsman receives from each bowler and how many runs he makes from them. Pendlington was living at Fairholm Road in Benwell, when he died in 1914.

Wikipedia - John Atkinson Pendlington

Jack Palmer's Grave A.K.A John Liddle

John Liddle (better known as Jack Palmer) was a world class boxing champion in the early 20th century. Beaten by Tommy Burns for the World Heavyweight Title in 1908, he is buried at St James' with a memorial inscribed "erected by his many sporting friends as a token of esteem". - Jack Palmer

Jane Blair's Grave

Jane Blair was killed by a motorcar on the 13th May 1922. Age 71 years old.

8th June 2009

Once again, the descriptions of the buried came from a leaflet available in the church and the knowledgeable bunch of locals who formed a Heritage and Environment Group to help tidy up the graveyard and look after the place.

The group meets every Wednesday 10am - 1pm at St. James Church Benwell.
All volunteers welcome to help improve the graveyard.
* Chop down weeds and pick up litter
* Help map the graves
* Explore the history of the graveyard
Equipment and cup of Tea provided - just come along.
Access via Benwell Lane gates as all other gates are locked.
Email at

More Information:
See my other photos around Benwell:


Yvonne Young said...

Well done kidda. Great report and photos.

Newcastle Photos said...

Thanks, I really enjoyed it.
Pleasant people, good weather, I should get to Benwell more often.

Malcolm Knox said...

I was a choirboy at St. James' from 1962-64.I used to go straight to the church choir practice from Cubs on a Wednesday night which was held over the road at the Church Hall on Atkinson Terrace. I had to sing at Sunday Service and occasional evensong. Now and then I would get a paid gig on a Saturday for weddings - Half a Crown, a full 12.5p!
The church interior hasn't changed much and still looks in good shape. We choirboys used to shortcut across the graveyard to the vicarage but can't say I noticed any of those famous residents gravestones.
Nice piece / photos.

Newcastle Photos said...

Thanks, a half crown probably went a long way then. :)
I'm sure one of the guys from the graveyard group said the church was in need of structural repairs but I guess you could say that about most churches.

Angela Knight said...

I lived in joan Street and occasionally attended St James. It was a big old church.

Dorothy F said...

Dorothy Farrell (nee Fennell) I was married in St James Church in 1955. My mother was also married there in 1931. My father was christened there in 1910. My mother's funeral service was held there in 1975. Lovely photos. I now live in Wiltshire.

Ross Buddle Atkinson said...

Great Site.

John Buddle Jnr donated land for the establishment of St James Church as did his nephew & heir Robert Thomas Atkinson for further expansion.

Thanks for the great photos and information, however I would ask that you correct an error in the notes for thephoto of the grave stone of Rev William Maughan & Mary Maughan (Atkinson - Burnett). The reference to Robert Thomas Atkinson is that he is buried with John Buddle jnr & his mother, when in fact it is his Aunt Ann, JB's sister whom is buried with them.

Does anyone have any idea where Robert Thomas Atkinson's parents, Eleanor Buddle (John Buddle's sister) & Smart Atkinson, are buried, if they are buried at Benwell at all?

Kind Regards

Ross Buddle Atkinson -
Smart & Elaenor's 4th great grandson

Newcastle Photos said...

Thanks for your kind words and the correction.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I.m hoping to visit the churchyard next time I'm in the North to try to find the grave of my relative Thomas Gregson who I believe is burued there. It's great to hear that community minded people are willing to spend their free time clearing up these importnat historical sites in the north east. Thank you

Newcastle Photos said...

You are more than welcome. I'm sure the great team at the church will try their best to help you out.

Anonymous said...

Great history to St James's church I lived in Benwell during the 50s 60s &70s I was actually christened there in 1955 I will visit again soon and bring all this info with me a very interesting site well done and thanks. Steve Lambert

Anonymous said...

Great detailed article. Helped by local Historian some years ago after contacting Vicar of this Parish regarding Great Grandfather who died in Montagu Clay Pit disaster This contact was made after request from a Cousin based in Canada who was unaware that Church still existed Excellent response and appreciated data sourced on our behalf for Ancestor who is buried at St James's as was his wife our Great Grandmother. Many thanks