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Newcastle

In 1826, Anne Lutton, whose family had already introduced Methodism to Moira in the north-west of County Down, visited Newcastle for a holiday. It was then a fledgling resort for people seeking sea air and salt-water bathing. She was obviously a devout person who ‘was recognised by others as much under the influence of the Holy Spirit.’ During her stay in Newcastle the local people asked her to hold a meeting and a service. This she did in the drawing room of the home where she was staying. The room was filled to capacity with people eager to hear what Miss Lutton had to say. More meetings of a similar nature were held and many were converted to God. This was the beginning of the Methodist Society in Newcastle.

As a result of Miss Lutton’s work and influence the first Methodist Church in Newcastle was built in 1827. This new church was the first of any denomination built in the town, and a lively interest was shown in the building by ministers and people of all denominations. It was made freely available to other denominations, who later built their own churches.

This first church served the community for a hundred years and had a seating capacity of around 100 people. Not unlike today the congregation was considerably larger in the summer months owing to visitors to the area. In the late 1920s it was decided to replace the first church with a new and larger building on the same site. The Rev James Kirkwood, a retired minister living in Newcastle, was one of the driving forces behind the building of what was known for many years as ‘the new church’. This present building was opened for worship on 16th November 1928. It cost approximately £4,000 to build. In recognition of the leadership given by Rev James Kirkwood, and so as to perpetuate his memory and that of his wife, the church members decided to install a special window in their memory.

Stained glass is not necessarily characteristic of Methodist churches but several memorial windows are a feature of this particular building, constructed of local granite. The windows were presented at different times and the names on them, in alphabetical order, are Bracken, Gibson, Hart, Kirkwood, Loughlin, Newsam and Smiley.

The local congregation has never been large, but influence is not always dependent on numbers, and its members have been continuously active in the social and economic life of the town. The facilities were substantially upgraded in the 1990s and, as well as the witness of the church on the Promenade, the adjoining hall is used for a variety of community purposes and organizations. The work of God goes on.

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