St Chad’s Church

As the population of Herrington and district increased and the township grew, the feature lacking to bring this all together was a Parish Church. It has now reached its quarter century, but the echoes behind this short period reach many centuries beyond through the Christian heritage of the North.

The eastern walls and wooden bower of St. Cuthbert on the Farnes developed into the stone monastery on Holy Island. The carrying of the Saint into the North-East made for a temporary resting place and the growth of a church at Chester-le-Street. The White Church of Cuthbert’s resting place in Durham led to the magnificence of the Cathedral. The influence of Durham monks spread to Houghton where some hermit priest built a bower church on Houghton Hill – so grew St. Michael’s the parish church of Houghton and Herrington. The same influence spread to the erection of a chantry chapel at West Herrington. And again a tiny wooden church brought from Cuthbert’s last resting place in Durham has resulted in the building of St. Chad’s. So the strands in the tapestry of our heritage intertwine and extend.

The population of East and Middle Herrington grew from being a farming community and junction of transport services to something much bigger in the 1930s. New housing developed along the ‘main roads’ from the central Board Inn and Methodist Chapel area, this being the hub of the village. It spread North towards Sunderland, South towards Houghton-le-Spring; also the route East to Silksworth and West to West Herrington. Among the many people who were involved with the mission church were W. H. Cairns and Deaconess Mary Stikeman.

In 1929 the College Chapel of St. Chad’s, Durham University, escaped the flames as mere firewood for it was decided in that year to replace it. The “firewood” was bought. Various social events were held and enough funds raised to transport the chapel and its hut – itself a gift from the College – to Herrington, and on 26th February 1930 the complete Mission church was dedicated by Bishop Knight of Jarrow. It was to be served from the Vicar of St. Aidan’s, New Herrington (Rev. P. D. Bailey and the curate the Rev. G. C. Green).

Cross made from part of the altarpiece of St. Aidan’s, New Herrington. Now in St. Chad’s, East Herrington.

One hundred filled the little church of wood and corrugated iron at the junction of St. Chad’s Road and St. Chad’s Crescent. The collection we are reliably informed amounted to £5.10.10. Students of St. Chad’s College continued to show an interest in their old chapel for they conducted Sunday Evensong. The first baptism on 13th May 1930 was Peter Fawcett: the communicants that year numbered 1168.

Extensions took place in 1936 and the church was constituted as part of the Conventional District of St. Peter, Thorney Close where new housing estates multiplied. Congregations in Herrington were also increasing with the building of Parkside and Cairnside and the development of Durham Road.

The extension combined as a church hall, and with the removal of the upper part of a wall, an extra room for special occasions like anniversaries and confirmation services. The people in the extension were raised several feet above the main church and could gain access via several steps in the corner. This room was painted with a deep cream gloss paint. It was heated with a coke-burning stove. Behind this room, and leading to the church at the back left side, was the combined kitchen and vestry. A door there led to an outside toilet. Another one was to the left of the kitchen. One didn’t hang around here unless the weather was fine, then it was a place for star-gazing.

Another hut was added to the side. Here the drama group set up a stage and utilised the new hall for their many splendid productions. They also installed raised seating for their three productions a year performing each time for two Saturdays and the intervening week. Thrillers, farces and gentle family plays and dramas like “Dear Octopus” and “Random Harvest” were all on the list. People came in specially provided coaches and it was difficult to gain access unless you booked your ticket early.

St. Chad’s drama group

Primarily the halls were used extensively for Sunday School and all that it entailed. Mr Pat Maloney was the Superintendent for years. Vedra Norris and Jennifer McNish used to take the Kindergarten in the second hall. Later Mr Mitchinson, Muriel Staddon and Ronnie Dawson supervised, assisted by many young people over the years.

Also in that hall were ballet displays. Various dancing lessons and shows took place during different periods, from ballroom lessons to ballet. Here was the social centre for Middle and East Herrington. Throughout the war and afterwards public meetings, whist drives, dances, Brownies, Guides, garden and craft shows and elections all had their allotted slot. Of course the main priority of use was for the church social life e.g. The Mother’s Union, G.F.S., Men’s Meeting (joint with the Chapel). To attend Friday’s Youth Club with its snooker, board games, coffee, biscuits, table-tennis and dancing to a Dansette, you had to go first to Sunday morning’s Bible Class or Mr Lowther wouldn’t let you in. Many an apparently tough lad appeared, gingerly at first, often for the first time in years, for the thirty minute session.

In 1932 the Rev. A. W. Barber was made curate in charge followed in 1935 by the Rev. Harold Clarke and in 1939 the Rev. J. J. Graham who became chaplain to the forces. After the war he returned for a few months. In 1940 the Rev. W. A. G. Perrins was curate, in 1941 the Rev. W. H. Bateman. During the war period the Rev. J. W. H. Redfearn, master of Bede School had undertaken the services until Mr. Graham returned in 1945. Deaconess Stikeman also worked in the area.

At this time there were also those Herrington men, who as the Memorial Book in the Church states “Went out from this place and gave their lives in the defence of liberty”:

J. H. Bradley Sydney Ellison Jonathan MacKay
Jonathan Clark Robert A. Fawcett Noel Maunder
Alan Cockburn Joseph P. Garbutt Douglas Nesbitt
Alan Dobbing Thomas Hepple Wilfred C. Rowland

In 1949 the Rev. W. E. G. Fisk combined St. Chad’s with Thorney Close duties and by 1951 the 21st anniversary was celebrated with Mr. W. Cairns presiding, by Dr. Williams the Bishop.

21st anniversary, 1961

In 1945 Fr. B. J. Gurney Fox was licensed as curate in charge of the newly formed district of Thorney Close and East Herrington and in 1958 the Rev. J. McNaughton was appointed, with the title of Vicar following in 1962. He had a long spell at St. Chad’s and its sister church St. Peter’s, Thorney Close, before he left to be an Army Padre. It is safe to say he was generally a most popular priest. He was followed by Rev. Francis Dewar, Rev. Stephen Sandham, and Rev. Jeremy Chadd.

Meanwhile vigorous fund raising had been undertaken by coffee mornings (from 1954 to 1961 this had raised £956.17.7), Mothers Union, St. Chad’s Dramatic Society performing to full houses, and various other groups, in readiness for a cherished dream – the building of a parish church large enough to hold an increased congregation.

St. Chad’s, 1962

One of the first to build in the Durham Road area was Captain Binns-Caldecott of “Andania” who purchased from the Earl of Durham a site on the opposite side of the road to landscape as a garden. Mr. and Mrs. Cairns built a bungalow on the east side of the open space. Their son W. Cairns was a lay reader who gave every assistance in moving the chapel from Durham to its new position between St. Chad’s Road and St. Chad’s Crescent. His name commemorated in “Cairnside”, together with that of W. Weatherley will always be remembered with the mention of St. Chad’s, for their enthusiastic support.

When the Caldecotts removed to Bedale the chance arose in 1954 to acquire this site. The Dean of Durham agreed to the purchase of the land, the architect (a Herrington resident), Mr. Curry drew up plans and building commenced. The new church, also called St. Chad’s, result of so many individual endeavours and fund raising, was built of brick on the main Durham Road, East Herrington. It was consecrated on Wednesday, 6th December 1961 by the Bishop of Durham.