One of our regular and popular speakers, Old Low Light trustee and volunteer, Stuart Barlow, will talk about the life and contribution of Francis Robert Newton Haswell (1834-1912).

F R N Haswell was the son of a Methodist minister who came to North Shields, after completing his apprenticeship with a Darlington architect, to establish his own architectural practice. He went on to design many buildings in the North Shields/Tynemouth area, and elsewhere, for over 50 years.

His Methodist connections earned him The Methodist Architect title from a Wesley Historical Society author because he designed so many Methodist chapels and schools, including a Wesleyan Chapel on Tynemouth’s Front Street which later became the Carlton Cinema.

F R N Haswell became a leading civic figure within North Shields, serving on  committees supporting local social and financial institutions, as well as being involved in establishing the Victoria Jubilee Infirmary on Hawkeys Lane. He was also involved in local politics, as a member of the local Conservative Party Association, as well as being a Justice of the Peace.

He was a member of the Tynemouth Volunteer Artillery, which was raised in response to events in Europe to provide potential protection to the River Tyne, and served as a volunteer for 40 years, holding a number ranks and eventually earning the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In addition to Methodist chapels F R N Haswell designed or altered a number of churches within the area, and the north east, including the Wesleyan Methodist Memorial Church on Albion Road, now home to Kiki’s Kabin. He was also responsible for a number of very large houses in Preston Park, as well various civic and commercial buildings in the town, including some public houses.


F R N Haswell became the Tynemouth School Board’s architect in 1871 and over the next 30 years he designed nearly all of the Board Schools built across North Shields, Percy Main and Chirton, to provide an elementary education to children that wasn’t being provided by the existing church or voluntary sector schools.

His story tells us much about North Shields at the end of the 19th century, its social aspects as well as its buildings.

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