History of Unitarianism in the North

The Northern Unitarian Association is over 170 years old! Here’s some more about our history.

The Unitarian districts

The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (the umbrella body for Unitarians in the UK) divides the UK up into 16 districts. Each district has an association, most of which formed in the 19th century, and which exist to promote Unitarianism in their district, and provide support for congregations within the district.

Unitarianism in the North

Some of the homes of the Newcastle Unitarian Church throughout the centuries.

The Northern region is bordered by the Yorkshire Unitarian Union and the North & East Lancashire Unitarian Mission to the south and west, and the Scottish region to the north. The NUA has its roots in the “Newcastle and North of England Unitarian Tract and Missionary Society”, which was founded in 1845. It later became the “North of English Unitarian Christian Association” in 1850, later being known as the “Northumberland and Durham Unitarian Association”, then simply “The Northern Unitarian Association”.

In terms of the number of member churches, we are the smallest district with just two: Newcastle upon Tyne and Stockton-on-Tees. It was not always so small; at one time there were no fewer than 14 churches, chapels and meeting houses in the region; Barnard Castle, Carlisle, Choppington, Darlington, Durham, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, Newcastle upon Tyne (Ellison Place), Newcastle upon Tyne, (Byker Mission), Newcastle upon Tyne, (Pandon Bank), North Shields, South Shields, Stockton-on-Tees and Sunderland. There has also been a Fellowship in Durham in the past. A full list of the original Northern Unitarian congregations is here: Northern Unitarian Congregations.

The last of these closures took place in 1980 and the district continues to support the two remaining churches, and promote the growth of Unitarianism in the North wherever possible. We do not underestimate the challenges we face as we work to strengthen and grow the Unitarian presence in the North East but there is a great spirit of determination to succeed!