News

Future  Events:

We regret to advise that due to the present Coronavirus crisis we are no longer able to provide presentations. In addition our base at the West End Library can no longer be accessed as the library is closed until further notice.

However one event is still being held and this is to celebrate the publication of  our “Scotswood through the years, a history in maps and pictures” booklet on Monday, 28th September on the open ground behind Denton Burn Library. Free copies, of this the third in our series of similar publictions, will be available between 10.30am and 12.00am as will chocolate biscuits!

The booklet will be added to our Publications page soon after this date.

Selected images from our Collection, and information about them, can be found on the St. James’ Heritage and Environment Group newsletter. For further details please refer to stjamesbenwell@gmail.com.

In the meantime everyone please stay safe.

Recent events:

On Tuesday, 3rd March Michael Young gave a presentation entitled “Lemington and Newburn” at Newburn Library.

On Tuesday, 11th February 2020 Ian Farrier gave an evening presentation entitled “Jimmy Forsyth’s Scotswood Road” at Denton Burn Methodist Church and on Monday, 17th February gave a morning presentation entitled “Scotswood through the years” at Denton Burn Library.

Our AGM was held on Monday, 4th November 2019 at the West End Library. A brief report  can be read in our November 2019 “Do you know” available below.

On Monday, 21st October 2019  Ian Farrier and Michael Young gave a presentation entitled “Pendower: The story of a place and a name” at the City Library as part of the Council’s celebration of 100 years of council housing. Pendower was the first such estate to be started in the city.

On Saturday, 28th September2019 Michael Young, Ian Farrier & Olive Taylor gave a presentation entitled “Scotswood through the years” at St Margaret’s Church in Scotswood. This was also a “test run” for our forthcoming publication of the same name, which will be the third in the series following on from “Benwell through the years” and “Elswick through the years”.

On Friday, 13th September 2019 we took part in the Library Service hosted Heritage Open Day at The West End Library. Nearly 100 people attended the various events over the day which included our presentation “WNPHC – the story so far” which related our development over the 35 years of our existence.

On Monday, 1st July 2019 Ian Farrier and Linda Sutton took part in in a pottery project creating objects connected to Benwell’s history, namely Benwell High Cross Farm and the Charlotte Pit respectively. The end results will soon be on display in the West End Library entrance hall!!!

On Monday, 10th 2019 June we hosted a visit by 31 eight year olds from  nearby Bridgewater School who were researching Hodgkin Park as part of a local studies project. Given that most of our “customers” are at the other end of the age scale this was a pleasant (and lively) experience for us!

On Monday, 20th May 2019 Secretary Ian Farrier gave a presentation entitled “Jimmy Forsyth’s Scotswood Road” at our base at the West End Service Centre and Library on Condercum Road.

On Tuesday, 2nd April 2019 Secretary Ian Farrier presented a selection of photos of outer west Newcastle (Newburn, Throckley, Blucher and Walbottle) at Newburn Library.

On Monday, 25th March 2019 Secretary Ian Farrier gave a presentation entitled “Elswick through the years in maps and pictures” at Cruddas Park Library in Elswick.

On Monday, 21st January 2019 Secretary Ian Farrier gave a presentation entitled “The (real) Military Road” at The West End Library.

Do you know: the main road from Newcastle to Carlisle                         March 2020          once passed through Cowgate?    

Before construction of the “Military Road” (the current day West Road) in the 1750s the main road to Carlisle ran through Cowgate. It started at the West Gate in the Town Walls and ran up current day Bath Lane and Ponteland Road to Cowgate and then onto West Denton, Newburn, Wylam etc.

Post the 1750s this route gained the nickname of the “auld heeway”.

There was a windmill and an inn at Cowgate in the 1750s, both of which survived until the 1920s.

Do you know: about the railway in west Newcastle?                               February 2020

In 1829 The Newcastle and Carlisle Railway Act was passed by Parliament enabling the first east – west railway route in the country to be contructed.

The line was built in stages from the west over the 1830s and included two ” skew” (ie in a diagonal line from bank to bank) bridges – at Scotswood and at Paradise. There was a station at Scotswood, opened in 1848 and closed in 1944, and another within the Armstrong Whitworth factory.

The line closed in the 1960s.

The cardboard ticket system, which was used nationwide in the nineteenth century, was said to have originated on this line in 1837.

Do you know: about the coal pits in west Newcastle?                                    January 2020

Coal extraction existed for centuries in west Newcastle and old and unrecorded workings have long caused problems for the properties built in the area. The following is a list of pits, their location and their closure dates (last century only):

Charlotte Pit     – Benwell         – 1939            Elswick Low Pit       – Elswick       – 1942          Gallowgate Pit – High Elswick – 1943           Montagu (View) Pit – Scotswood – 1959                  Caroline Pit      – Denton Burn – 1959           Blucher Pit                – Blucher      –  1956                Isabella Pit        – Throckley     –  1954           Maria Pit                   – Throckley   – 1953                Percy Pit            – Wallbottle     – 1937

Do you know: there were once islands in the Tyne?                            December 2019

In fact there were three islands “off the coast” of Elswick. The largest, at approximately 34 acres, was called Kings Meadow whilst its two, much smaller, neighbours were collectively called the Clarence Islands. Kings Meadow remained above the the waterline even at High Tide but, it is thought, the Clarence Islands did not.

Kings Meadow was let as farmland (although the farmhouse was also a pub) until it was dredged out of existence in the 1880s to allow warships, then being built at the Armstrong Whitworth Elswick Shipyard, to travel downstream.

Do you know: our AGM was held this month?                                       November 2019

The main point of discussion was the new, searchable online facility which we are developing. Within twelve months it is hoped to have a map of the entire west side of Newcastle available online with our images of streets, schools, pubs, churches etc etc marked in the correct location. Clicking on the relevant marker will then bring up  the appropriate image which will can be downloaded after a suitable donation has been made.

That is the aspiration, at least, subject to a lot of hard work and some upfront financial assistance. Watch this space.

Do you know: where Benwell’s water originally came from?                  October 2019

For centuries a natural spring has “outed” in the grounds of what is now Benwell Tower. It is still doing so today and the water from it is piped under Benwell Lane and reappears in Hodgkin Park as the stream which flows down the western boundary until it disappears underground again at Paradise.

This “spring of everlasting water” as old Title Deeds refer to it was (probably) the reason why the medieval forerunner of the present Tower was built where it was and, consequently, why Benwell Village was located next to the Tower.

Old maps of Benwell quite often show other “springs” or “wells” existed before the days of resevoirs and piped clean water.

Do you know: about the Northumberland Name Book Project?        September 2019

Prior to production of the first local Ordnance Survey map in the 1850s the Royal Engineers surveyed the land in question and spoke to numerous local worthies to verify the name and characteristics of any place or geographical feature.

Their survey book for Northumberland (and most of west Newcastle was in Northumberland at that time) has survived and is being transcribed by  volunteers.

The resulting information will soon be available on a dedicated website and, to a lesser degree, in paper format at WNPHC. The information seen to date is fascinating e.g. do you know where Smuggler’s Hole was in present day Fenham?

Do you know: Pendower Council Estate is 100 years old?                        August 2019

Pendower was part of Britain’s first full scale local authority housing programme to provide “homes fit for heroes” after the Great war.

Over a ten year period, starting in 1921, 589 houses were built on 45 acres of land . They were designed and grouped to resemble an English village with a low density of only 12-14 houses per acre.

Most of the street names have a local connection.

Newcastle Council is celebrating this anniversary. Please look at their website newcastle.gov.uk/100yearsof housing.

Do you know: about street parties in west Newcastle?                            July 2019

In the UK street parties are usually held to celebrate national events such as Royal coronations, weddings and jubilees or the end of a war.

The tradition is generally believed to have originated in 1918/19 to mark the end of the Great War. However we have one image in our Collection which is thought to date from Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Many of our images are to be displayed within the West End Library later this month.

Do you know: how Benwell High Cross got its name?                                    June 2019

This area is located between St James’ church and the eastern end of Adelaide Terrace.

It was the site of a market cross erected in either the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries to mark the spot, three miles from Newcastle Town walls, where local farmers could leave produce to be collected by townsfolk who were then suffering from an outbreak of plague. Similar crosses existed at Ravensworth and at Benton.

Circa 1830 High Cross House was built just over “the border” on Elswick Road. It was demolished in 1906-07 and the shops of High Cross House Parade mark the site.

High Cross farmhouse was located between modern day Adelaide Terrace and Atkinson Terrace.

Do you know: what our next publication will be?                                            May 2019

During the course of this year we intend to publish the third in our series “through the years in maps and pictures”, this time featuring Scotswood. A selection of four Ordnance Survey maps (1864, 1899, 1938 and 1993) and 23 images will illustrate the history of Scotswood between these years.

Please follow the links on our Publications page to view our existing Benwell and Elswick booklets.

As usual the new booklet will be a joint venture with St. James Heritage and Environment Group and the booklets will be provided free of charge.

Do you know: the origin of the names of our suburbs?                                 April 2019

Denton Burn. “Denton” means a homestead in a field or valley whilst burn refers to the stream which flowed (and still flows underground) through it.The area was prone to flooding, after heavy rain, until the late 1950s.

Please see the photos in the Denton Burn Album in our Flickr account using the link on our Welcome page.

Newburn was originally New Burgh where Burgh referred to a fortified place in Saxon times (like Bamburgh in Northumberland). This site was fortified as it was the first place upriver that the River Tyne could be forded.

Throckley was formerly part of the Manor of Newburn with early versions of the name being Throcklaw, Thorkley, Trockley and Throckslaw.

Walbottle derives from the proximity of Hadrian’s wall and the Anglo-Saxon word “botel” meaning abode. It, too, was formerly part of the Manor of Newburn.

Blucher village was named after the pit which was sunk here in 1800 and whose name was changed in 1815 to commemorate the Prussian Field Marshall whose (late) arrival on the field of Waterloo sealed the fate of Emperor Napoleon.

Do you know: the origin of the names of our suburbs?                               March 2019

Arthurs Hill is named after the eldest son of the landowner, Isaac Cookson, who initiated the residential development of the area in the 1820s and 1830s. The first streets were named after his other sons – John, Edward and William;

Benwell is a name of Anglo Saxon origin and derives from the proximity of Hadrian’s Wall. The Old English pre seventh century “bionnan” (the place) and “walle” (a wall) lead to Biens Vail (1052AD) and then Bene Wall (1242AD) and then Benwell. It is one of the few names in the region which predate the Norman Conquest;

Elswick derives from Elstewycke as mentioned in a thirteenth century document.

Fenham also derived from an Old English word meaning “at the marshes”.

Do you know: why fields have names?                                                         February 2019

The earliest Ordnance Survey map for what is now west Newcastle, dated 1864, shows a regular pattern of fields, all of which would have been divided, then as now, by hedges and fences. Earlier estate maps, of the eighteenth century, named these fields as well. Why?

According to Stan Beckensall, author of “Place names and field names of Northumberland” – “When a close relationship exists between people and land, in which people follow a plough pulled by animals, and a system of crop rotation, manuring, sowing and harvesting with labour intensive methods, which involve sharing and intimate use of the soil, it is natural to name fields”.

Some of the names are easy to understand, e.g. Pond Field, Pit Field and Mill Field. Many, however, are not, e.g. High Fishers Trod, Pill Croft and The Goodings.

Title deeds often quote field names so that the precise size and shape of an area of land to be sold could be established to the satisfaction of all parties.

Some field names live on to this day e.g. Rye Hill was originally a field in Elswick.

Do you know: why (the first) Scotswood Bridge was built?                       January 2019

Until it was, the first bridge upriver of Newcastle was at Corbridge, 19 miles away. There had been a ferry at Scotswood for decades but, in the 1820s, the need for a bridge to link both banks was recognised.

In 1828 a joint stock company was formed, The Scotswood Bridge Company, and the necessary Act of Parliament was obtained. An “Act for building a bridge over the river Tyne at or near a place called Scotswood ………. and for making convenient roads, avenues and approaches thereto, and branches thereto” received Royal Assent in December 1829.

The bridge (soon nicknamed the “chain bridge” because of its design) was a toll bridge and Scotswood Road was a toll road up to the boundary with Newcastle. Bridge tolls survived until the 1940s and the bridge itself was demolished in 1967.

Our Collection contains a copy of the Act of Parliament and numerous photographs of the “chain bridge”.

Do you know: the oldest surviving place of Christian worship in west Newcastle?                                                                                                                                     December 2018

We believe this to be the Mission Church of St John the Baptist in Benwell Village. Whereas the current building dates from 1950 a plaque near the entrance refers to St John’s Sunday School 1820. We hold images of the earlier stone building in our Collection, which was also used as a Board School after 1870.

In 1820 Benwell was part of the parish of St John’s church in current day Grainger Street, Newcastle. The new parish of St James’ was not created until 1842.

Do you know: that our AGM was held on 5th November?                  November 2018

After the formalities of Minutes, Accounts and election of Officers were completed we had a lively discussion about how to “spread the word” about WNPHC.

As a result we have decided to actively promote our slideshow / illustrated talk capability with local history societies, local history fairs, the Central Library, the Discovery Museum and residential homes.

We will also be issuing a new booklet, Scotswood: A history in maps and pictures, in May of 2019. This follows the success of our “Benwell” and “Elswick” editions and, again, we will be working with St James Heritage and Environment Group.

Our library of slideshows will also be reviewed and extended.

Do you know: that our AGM is due?                                                                  October 2018

Our Annual general Meeting will be held on Monday, 5th November, at West End Service Centre and Library, Condercum Road, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 9JH. The start time is 2pm and light refreshments will be available.

Please come and see us and discover what we have been doing over the last twelve months and what we aim to do over the next twelve!

Do you know: where Thorntree Farm was located?                               September 2018

Thorntree Farm was a 70+ acre tenanted farm whose land lay south of the West Turnpike, current day West Road. The early eighteenth century farmhouse still stands – it is now an Indian Restaurant – at Denton Burn.

All eleven fields on the farm had names, the most unusual was Thistley Sheath!

The farm was active until the mid 1920s when it became Lot 8 of the Blackett Ord land sale. The fields adjacent to Denton Bank were purchased by builders, Longstaff and Baines, who constructed the residential houses of the Thorntree Estate.

Do you know: where the ferries crossed the Tyne?                                     August 2018

Prior to opening of the first Scotswood Bridge in 1831 the only way to cross the Tyne from west of Newcastle to Dunston and Swallwell was by ferry. There were three ferries. The first was at Scotswood itself but this ceased operations once the bridge opened. The other two continued in operation until the late 1940s and were situated at the Boathouse in Benwell, which crossed to the Delta Iron Works in Dunston, and at Elswick, just downriver from what became the Vickers factory, which also crossed to Dunston.

The Benwell and Elswick ferry routes are both shown on the 1938 Ordnance Survey map of the area.

Do you know: what a Turnpike Road is?                                                                July 2018

Both the West Road and Scotswood Road were originally turnpike roads created by Acts of Parliament, in 1751 and 1831 respectively. Turnpikes were all weather roads usable throughout the year, unlike the dirt tracks which had existed previously.

Tax money was raised to build the West Road while private money built Scotswood Road. However the ongoing running costs (of maintenance and improvement) were met by charging for road use. There was a graduated scale of charge for people, animals, carts and carriages which were displayed on boards at Toll Houses, the places where the money (tolls) was collected.

Adjacent to each Toll House was a barrier which prevented actual use of the road until the appropriate toll had been paid to the toll keeper. Early versions of this barrier resembled a military device, called a turnpike, which had been designed to impede cavalry. The term turnpike became commonplace and survived the actual change of the barrier from a turnpike to a simple bar across the road (hence Kenton Bar) or a gate.

Do you know: how Big Lamp got its name?                                                        June 2018

The area at the junction of Westgate Hill, Elswick Road and Buckingham Street is still called Big Lamp even though there is no sign of such a lamp and the pub of that name is no more.

However, a big lamp was constructed there in the 1870s as our picture of circa 1900 on the Welcome page testifies.  It was probably powered by the electricity supply that powered the adjoining tram system. The date of its removal is not known. If anyone does know please get in touch via our Contacts page.

Do you know: how Pendower got its name?                                                          May 2018

The mansion of Pendower (the word Hall was only added in the 1920s, probably to differentiate the “big house” from the new Council estate) was built in the years 1864-67 for John William Pease and his wife, Helen Maria. They had been married in 1860, his wife originating from Falmouth on the south Cornwall coast.

A popular attraction near to Falmouth, as much then as now, is Pendower beach. So my theory is that calling their new home Pendower was a loving gesture by JWP to remind his new wife of her childhood home which, in those days, was probably several days travel away.

Ian Farrier, Secretary

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