Jesmond Parish Church, Church Growth and Launching New Churches - A Century Ago

There is nothing new about JPC having a vision for church growth locally and worldwide and for the planting of new churches. A century before the development of Holy Trinity Gateshead, JPC launched Holy Trinity Jesmond. This is an abridgement that I have made, with permission, of part of chapter 4 of Alan Munden’s book ‘A Light in a Dark Place: Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle upon Tyne’ (which is available from the JPC bookstall at £12.50). This section of the book describes the period 1898 – 1907, when Thomas Brocas Waters was the fifth vicar of Jesmond.

Jonathan Pryke

A vision for soul-winning

Thomas Brocas Waters was born in Bowden, Cheshire in October 1862. He was educated at Tonbridge School and Trinity College, Cambridge. On his appointment as vicar of Jesmond he was a bachelor and lived with his sister Edith in rented accommodation at 4 Granville Road, and then at the vicarage at 14 Victoria Square. In June 1902 he married Alice Young, a member of the congregation and daughter of James Young a consulting engineer, and they subsequently had a family of two sons.

During Brocas Waters’ incumbency he was responsible for the opening of two daughter churches, the promotion of Christian Holiness, the introduction of the Prayer League, and the active encouragement of Christian witness and practical service. It was his conviction that ‘more and more do I feel that true life centres and pivots itself on the atonement and the resurrection, and that all the realities of our existence seem directly or indirectly to be united to these great facts.’ He was deeply influenced by the Holiness movement, and from 1902 a party of over twenty people from Jesmond attended the Keswick Convention, but for Brocas Waters, Holiness was no dead-end spirituality. ‘I plead that we shall no longer play at evangelisation, but make it the serious business of our lives, and have a definite plan of campaign.’

Brocas Waters wanted laymen and laywomen to be active in their witness and service and not to be indifferent to the needs of those around them. He wanted wholehearted Christian commitment so that individuals would be prepared for service at home and overseas, and at the same time he believed that active lay workers were essential in every parish for without them ‘the work in parish after parish is drooping for the want of this very lay help.’ He issued three questions for a daily self-examination. Is there a particular person whom I am trying to win for Christ and the church? Am I relying upon Christ for power to win men? Am I trying to excuse myself from the duty of soul-winning?

World mission

Brocas Waters continued the tradition of supporting CMS [the Church Missionary Society] and each year large amounts were given to the Society. The assistant clergy at JPC were also committed to CMS. John Fall, the curate from 1898 to 1900, had already served as a CMS missionary in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and from 1889 had been the vice-principal of Trinity College, Kandy; principal of St John’s College, Jaffna; and superintendent of the Tamil Cooly Mission, Haputale. Fall’s contemporary Humphrey Wightwick left JPC and spent the rest of his ministry in Australia before returning to England.

Fall and Wightwick were succeeded by James Hannington, the eldest son of Bishop James Hannington who had been martyred in East Africa in January 1885. Undaunted by the family tragedy, the younger James became a CMS missionary and returned to Uganda and in 1906, at what must have been a most moving occasion, baptised the son of Luba, his father’s murderer. Several men and women from the congregation served overseas with CMS, in Nigeria, China, Hong Kong, Uganda and Bengal. Also in Bengal JPC gave financial support to the ‘Jesmond Primary School’ in Krishnanagar.

Mission at home

Brocas Waters was equally concerned with home mission and actively promoted CPAS [the Church Pastoral Aid Society]. In May 1901 Brocas Waters spoke at the annual meeting of CPAS. He pleaded for ‘a new ideal of God’s claim upon us for the evangelisation of England.’ But this should not be a casual undertaking. It was essential to have ‘a definite plan of campaign … [for] … the winning of souls, [and] the spreading of the gospel.’ In concluding he challenged his hearers: ‘it depends on you and me how far these claims are heard and met in this generation.’

In May 1905 Brocas Waters preached the CPAS annual sermon. He believed that the greatest problem facing the church was that it failed ‘to grapple with the home mission of our day’ and to reach out to ‘the overgrown populations of the poorer parts of our great cities.’ He was convinced that what was required were ‘workers, men and women of education and Christian refinement and experimental knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus’.

Training Christian workers

In the 1890s two training homes associated with CPAS were opened in Blackheath and Bristol for the training of women for ministry. Brocas Waters was aware of these developments and in 1895 he was present at the opening of Dynevor House in Blackheath, the object of which was clear: ‘Dynevor House offers a bright and happy home to any ladies who may have received a call to home mission work, and who are prepared to throw themselves heartily into it.’ It is more than likely that these developments provided the model for the Jesmond Church House for Lady Workers that was opened by Brocas Waters in March 1899 at 21 Portland Terrace. The aim was to instruct and train women for missionary work at home or overseas, and ‘to be a centre where Christian gentlewomen may have the opportunity of devoting themselves to work for their master, free from domestic responsibility; yet with the care and cheerful surroundings of home.’

Instruction was given in ‘Holy Scripture, church doctrine, church history, Christian evidence and other kindred subjects, as well as practical direction in the various branches of parochial work and its subsidiaries, district visiting, Sunday school teaching, mission needlework etc.’ Brocas Waters was the chaplain and lecturer in doctrine and church history and other people, including the curates, assisted with the teaching. The superintendent, Emma Leslie, who was a clergy widow, taught biblical studies. She was a woman of some experience and had previously trained women for parish work in Aston, Birmingham and was described as ‘a woman of steadfast faith and most saintly character.’

The fees at Jesmond Church House were £50 for a one year course, and in 1901 there were five ladies in residence. One former student said, ‘I learnt so much at Jesmond, I should be delighted to have the opportunity of another year’s course.’ By the time the House closed in July 1907 nearly forty women had been trained and it was estimated that 48,049 visits had been made in the area and 3,029 meetings had been held. It is evident that Evangelical faith rather than feminism enlarged the opportunities for female Christian service at home and overseas.

In addition to recruiting and training lady workers Brocas Waters believed ‘that we should put before our boys, [and] our sons, the call of God to the ministry of his church’ and ‘that we should put before our girls the office of deaconess in the church of Christ as a possible profession for life, and not let them think that to be suitably married is the only thing to be aimed at.’ A number of men from the congregation trained for ordained ministry.

Bible reading and prayer were central to the life of JPC. Outline sermons and prayer topics were included in the parish magazine, and members of the congregation were encouraged to read their Bibles with the Scripture Union daily readings card. From February 1899 a training course on the Bible and doctrine was held on Wednesday evenings for those considering overseas service, and from May 1903 there was a Greek class for men who were considering ordination. Brocas Waters held a high view of scripture. In October 1903 in response to ‘the present attacks on the Bible’ the curate Fairlie Clark gave a lecture to men on the inspiration of scripture and Brocas Waters preached a sermon on the integrity of the Bible.

Expectant prayer

Brocas Waters was a man of prayer and vision and in October 1902 began the Parochial League of Prayer that continued throughout his incumbency at Jesmond. His was a ‘systematic, expectant and definite’ prayer ‘for the outpouring (or rather inpouring) of the Holy Spirit of power into every branch of the work’ and to that end he composed the following prayer for the parish:

Gracious and Holy God, who hast revealed it as they good pleasure to give us the kingdom, grant, we beseech thee, that the work in the parish of Jesmond may be so directed, controlled and inspired, by they Holy Spirit, that it may be in all things according to thy mind, and that thy blessing may manifestly rest upon it. Fill every post with earnest whole-hearted workers. Increase, we beseech thee, with vital growth every branch of the work. So breathe through the words uttered in thy name, that many may definitely turn and give themselves to thee. Call out from this parish, both men and women as workers in thy ministry both at home and abroad. Make all who know and love thee to show forth they character and power; and cause thy ministers to be filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost. Hear us and answer us, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord! Amen.

He repeatedly urged all true believers in the parish to pray at least once a week for:

1. Definite growth in every department of our parish work.
2. Definite awakening or quickening of souls especially amongst our communicants.
3. Definite realisation (especially among the young) of the claims of God’s work at home and abroad on both men and women.
After all is said and done, we come back to prayer as the foundation of all work and success.

A growing church

From the information that is available it is not possible to give precise attendance figures at JPC. However from 1898 to 1903 there was a 25% increase in the number of communicants and in 1907 for the first time there were 1000 Easter communicants in the parish. From April 1898 a monthly afternoon communion service was held for invalids and domestic servants, and in the following year a 7.00am communion service was begun for domestic servants. Each year there were nearly one hundred confirmation candidates. For the watch-night service in January 1901 the ground floor of the building was full [with 800 people] but the galleries were empty. There were increasing numbers attending the evening service and in April 1899 it was agreed by the seat holders that all seats unoccupied after the church bell ceased to by rung would be free. This meant that in future it would be possible to invite and welcome strangers to the evening service.

In 1898 there were a total of 700 children in the four Sunday schools in the parish, and in September 1903 Brocas Waters had written in the parish magazine, ‘we must not be satisfied until we have at least 1,000 children under instruction on Sundays.’ The prayer was answered and in 1906 that target was reached.
To enable the clergy to get to know the men in the parish regular ‘at homes’ took place at which Brocas Waters supplied the men with coffee and cigarettes. In 1899 the platform in the church hall was raised so that underneath it could be used to store large chairs, sofas, tables and carpets for the ‘at homes’. These occasions were attended by one hundred men.

From October 1902 a weekly conference was held for men for lectures on spiritual and other topics. In 1907 eighty men attended an inter-denominational day conference the object of which was to re-instate Sunday ‘in its proper place in the national life, as a day of rest and worship.’ In the parish magazine Brocas Waters constantly encouraged his male parishioners to attend Sunday worship.

Changes at the church

In the year 1898 to 1899 various minor repairs and improvements took place inside JPC. A church restoration fund was launched to raise £420 for repairs to the roof of the tower and for the rebuilding of the pinnacles; and internally making the free seats in the north aisle more comfortable; improvements to the choir stalls, and the replacement of broken cast iron heating gratings. At JPC ‘music is made a strong point, but [is] essentially congregational’ and ‘anthems are only given on Sunday evenings.’ From 1902 JPC had its own amateur orchestra and a year later J.E.Hutchinson was appointed as the organist and choirmaster and he remained in post until 1947.

In the first few years of the twentieth century some major internal changes were made to JPC. In January 1901 to mark the fortieth anniversary a text (from Hebrews 10:19-23) was applied to the front of the three galleries. In 1901 the income and expenditure of the church was about £1,250. The most significant change to the internal appearance of the building took place in 1906. The north and south galleries were set back behind the nave columns, the fronts were provided with oak panelling to which the biblical text was reapplied, and what gas lighting remained was replaced by electricity. The west gallery was removed and a baptistry was constructed. In removing the west gallery ninety-eight seats were lost, but another eighty-one were created in the baptistry, the north gallery and the south gallery.

Jesmond Church Extension Scheme

Early in his ministry Brocas Waters had spoken of his vision to erect a temporary church to serve the growing number of parishioners in Jesmond. By the end of the nineteenth century three large housing developments took place – in the grounds of Goldspink Hall, in Sandyford and in Jesmond Park – and it was decided to divide the parish of 20,000 people into three. Half of the parishioners would be served by JPC, and the rest shared between two new churches – St Barnabas in Sandyford and Holy Trinity in Jesmond Park.

In October 1900 Brocas Waters, supported by one of the JPC churchwardens, launched the ‘Jesmond Church Extension Scheme’ with the aim of raising £35,000. It was estimated that the two sites would cost £6,000, the two churches £20,000, the internal fittings £4,000 and two parish halls, £5,000.

Within a month of launching the appeal £10,967 was donated and over the course of the next few years £19,392 13s 6d was given to the Extension Scheme. Donations could be earmarked for either of the two churches, and the names of the contributors were listed in the parish magazine, some of whom were particularly generous like Ralph Lambton who gave a total of £1,500.

St Barnabas, Jesmond

On 24 November 1900 a temporary dual-purpose church and hall was opened. The building, that could seat 350 people, was situated on Springbank Road, Sandyford. All of the fittings were portable and were removed when the building was used as a parochial hall during the week. Initially Humphrey Wightwick, the curate of JPC, was in charge, but in January 1901 he was succeeded by Henry Edwards. But the autumn there was insufficient space on Sundays and people were being turned away.

On 2 November 1901 the Bishop of Newcastle laid the foundation stone of the new church in Goldspink Lane and it was opened on 23 March 1904. The building could accommodate 511 people and all the seats were free. Some of the fitting came from the parish church and included the former choir stalls. By July the new church was out of debt.

Holy Trinity, Jesmond

The Bishop of Newcastle supported Brocas Waters in the provision of another church. ‘There is no reason that you should not begin your second church and many reasons why you should. So set to work: and may God prosper you in this as he has at St Barnabas’. Don’t get into debt! The name you propose [Holy Trinity] I fully approve.’ The new church was erected in two stages in October 1905 and September 1922, and the initial debt of £300 was cleared by May 1907.

Before St Barnabas and Holy Trinity were available much of the pastoral and evangelistic work among the working classes was based at the Mission Room in Brandling Village and St Christopher’s (the Mission Church). However once the new churches were operational the three churches (JPC, St Barnabas and Holy Trinity) catered for different social classes. At ‘the parish church … its work is chiefly amongst the upper classes. St Barnabas … its work is amongst the working people. Holy Trinity … its work is amongst the middle classes.’


Brocas Waters achieved much during his ten years at Jesmond, and it was said that he was ‘a faithful and diligent pastor and preacher of power and earnestness. Canon [Brocas] Waters was much in request as a speaker at meetings throughout the county and in London … and was a leader of the Evangelical school in the Newcastle diocese.’ However, his labours were detrimental to his health, and in the summer of 1906 he was absent from his duties for three months.

Following his resignation he left Jesmond in July 1907. In the following September he became the vicar of St Mary, Bury St Edmunds, and two years later became one of the Trustees of JPC. From 1917 he was the vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead. He died of typhoid fever in September 1922 and was buried at Bury St Edmunds.

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