Category Archives: History

North East Quiz 8

Test your knowledge of North East England with our latest North East quiz focusing on the history, geography and culture of the region.

Roman gatehouse at Arbeia
Reconstruction of a Roman gatehouse at Arbeia : Photo © David Simpson

1, Which place in the North East was known to the Romans as Arbeia meaning ‘place of the Arabs’? In Roman times it was home to a unit of bargemen from the River Tigris in what is now Iraq.

2, What is the name of the sculptor who created Tommy at Seaham and Fiddlers Green at North Shields?

‘Tommy’  at Seaham. Photo: © 2018 David Simpson

3. Which North East comedian was known as ‘The Little Waster‘?

4. Who was the Norton-on-Tees born director of Quadrophenia and creator or Auf Wiedersehen Pet (which he pitched to Ian La Frenais)?  He also created TV’s Master Chef.

5, What was the name of the community venture situated in a County Durham town that was sometimes known as the Pitmen’s Academy? It unearthed and encouraged the talents of pitmen like the writer, Sid Chaplin and local artists Norman Cornish and Tom McGuinness.

6. What is the name of the river local to Ashington and Morpeth?

River Wansbeck near Sheepwash, Ashington.
Here is the river at Sheepwash near Ashington. Question 6, Photo © David Simpson 2018

7. Which North East castle chillingly claims to be Britain’s most haunted?

8 .What was supposedly slain at Cleve’s Cross near Ferryhill by Hodge of Ferry around the year 1200?

9. Who was the author of De Temporum Ratione (The Reckoning of Time) that became the major influence for the way in which we still count our years today from the birth of Christ ?

10. What shapes feature on the ancient and mysterious prehistoric markings such as those found on Doddington Moor in north Northumberland?

11. Which famous entertainer and comedian once resided in Bishop Auckland and in North Shields’ Dockwray Square – where there is a statue to his honour?

Stan Laurel, Laurel Park, Dockwray Square, North Shield
Dockwray Square, North Shields. Photo © David Simpson 2018

12. What is the official name of the Lady of the North, a 44 acre landscape sculpture near Cramlington?

Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North
The Lady of the North. Photo Question 12. © David Simpson 2018

13. Where in the North East did King Cnut allegedly have his hair cut in the year 1031 before visiting St Cuthbert’s shrine at Durham?

14. What is the name of the Middlesbrough-born artist and former shipyard worker noted for his abstract art and ‘square sheep’?

15. In which Northumbrian dale can you find Otterburn?

16. In 1747 what did the Sedgefield vicar’s wife do to her deceased husband to ensure that she kept receiving payment for parish tithes?

17. Where on the North East coast would you find Sparrow Hall?

The remains of Sparrow Hall in the old part of Cullercoats.
The remains of Sparrow Hall. Photo © David Simpson 2018

18. Which frequently altered Northumberland village-name provided the inspiration for a lengthy comedy routine by the comedian Stewart Lee?

19. What famous painting by Velazquez was housed for many years in a grand hall near Barnard Castle from which it took its name?

20. What are the names of the twin rivers with valleys just to the west of Durham City that join together near the town of Langley Moor before joining the River Wear near Croxdale?

21. Which North East city has a place-name that is thought to mean ‘separated land’?

Jack Crawford nailing his colours to the mast, Mowbray Park
Jack Crawford nailing his colours to the mast. Question 22: Photo © David Simpson

22. Where would you find a monument to Jack Crawford, the hero of the Battle of Camperdown, nailing the colours to a ship’s mast?

23. The Prudhoe-born and Berwick-raised actor Henry Travers (1974-1965) is famous for playing which role in a black and white Christmas themed movie?

24. For what notorious activity was the Northumbrian village of Boulmer principally noted in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century?

25. Name the South Shields-born director (left)  whose movie credits include Blade RunnerGladiator, Thelma and Louise, Blackhawk Down and Alien?


26. What links the crags on which Hadrian’s Wall stands, Bamburgh Castle rock, the Farne Islands and High Force waterfall in Teesdale?

27. What was the name of the Anglo-Saxon palace of King Edwin of Northumbria of which the outlines including an auditorium can be traced in aerial photographs in Glendale to the west of Wooler?

28. What is the surname of the Ryton-born folk duo sisters Rachel and Becky?

29. Hesleyside in North Tynedale was the principal seat of which North East border reiver clan?

30. Which famous North East MP, commemorated in song, once resided at Whitworth Hall near Spennymoor?

Whitworth Hall.
Whitworth Hall. See question 30. Photo © David Simpson 2018

31. Alnwick, Sedgefield and at one time Chester-le-Street are linked by which February tradition?

32. Where was the Dean and Chapter Colliery located?

33. Which famous North East ship, built at Wallsend In 1907 captured the Blue Riband prize for her eastbound transatlantic voyage that was achieved during the maiden voyage return? She then went on to claim the same prize for the westbound journey across the Atlantic during 1909.

Segedunum and the Tyne at Wallsend.
Segedunum Roman fort (bottom right). Photo © David Simpson 2018

34. Segedunum was the Roman name for the fort in which North East town?

35. What remarkable discovery was found at Howick on the Northumberland coast in 1983?

36. In terms of national boundaries what is unusual about the course of the river called the Bowmont Water in North Northumberland.

37. What was the name of the Bishop of Durham who founded Durham University? He was also, technically, the last ‘Prince Bishop’.

38. What links names such as Shaftoe, Storey, Robson, Charlton, Heron, Milburn, Collingwood, Armstrong, Elliot, Fenwick, Forster, Ridley, Nixon, Potts and Pringle?

39. Which Northumberland village gave its name to the battle of 1018 which resulted in the loss of much Northumbrian territory and more or less established the border with Scotland as it exists today?

Raby Castle
Raby Castle © David Simpson 2018

40. Brancepeth Castle near Durham, Raby Castle in Teesdale and Middleham Castle in Wensleydale in Yorkshire were the principal seats of which powerful northern family of medieval times?

Answers below


  1. South Shields.
  2. Ray Lonsdale.
  3. Bobby Thompson.
  4. Franc Roddam.
  5. The Spennymoor Settlement.
  6. River Wansbeck.
  7. Chillingham.
  8. The Brancepeth Brawn, a wild boar.
  9. The Venerable Bede.
  10. Cup and Ring markings.
  11. Stan Laurel.
  12. Northumberlandia.
  13. Trimdon.
  14. McKenzie Thorpe.
  15. Redesdale.
  16. She pickled him, to preserve his body and pretend he was still alive.
  17. Cullercoats.
  18. Shilbottle.
  19. The Rokeby Venus.
  20. The River Browney and River Deerness.
  21. Sunderland.
  22. Sunderland’s Mowbray Park.
  23. Clarence the Angel in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
  24. Smuggling.
  25. Ridley Scott.
  26. The Great Whin Sill.
  27. Ad Gefrin (Yeavering).
  28. Unthank.
  29. The Charltons.
  30. Bobby Shafto.
  31. Shrove Tuesday football matches.
  32. Ferryhill.
  33. The Mauretania.
  34. Wallsend.
  35. Traces of a Stone Age house.
  36. The river begins in Scotland then heads northward – yes northward – into England.
  37. William Van Mildert.
  38. They’re all Border Reiver surnames.
  39. Carham on Tweed.
  40. The Nevilles.

North East Quiz Number 1: Test Your North East Knowledge

How well do you know the North East of England? Test your North East Knowledge with these regionally-themed questions to tax your brain.

Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough
The Transporter Bridge pictured from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1. Who was the Clarence from whom Port Clarence on Teesside is named and what did he become?

2. What North East location was known in Celtic times as Medcaut?

3. What is the name of the impressive thirteenth century manor house situated about a mile north of Corbridge and described as “almost completely intact”?

Aydon Castle
Medieval manor house. See question 3. Photo © David Simpson 2018

4. Alf Wight, who wrote autobiographical experiences of his life as a Yorkshire vet under the name ‘James Herriot’ was born in which North East city?

5. By what nickname was the 6ft 4 inch tall William Carr (1756-1825) known?

6. A tribal name Gyrwe, meaning ‘the fen dwellers’ gave its name to which North East town?

Grey's Monument, Newcastle
Grey’s Monument, Newcastle : Photo © 2015 David Simpson

7. What connects Penshaw Monument on Wearside and Grey’s Monument in Newcastle?

8. The Terris Novalis sculpture can be found close to a long distance cycle path near which North East town?

Terris Novalis
Terris Novalis sculpture. Photo David Simpson

9. Cobweb-covered dirty bottles have remained in a shop window of a pub in which North East town for around 200 years owing to a superstition that their removal will release a curse?

10. What was the name of the eighteenth century landlady of a pub at Picktree near Washington who was apparently commemorated in song?

11. John Miles, composer of the song ‘Music was my first love’ was born in which North East town in 1949?

12. Name the Monkseaton-born TV writer noted for Porridge, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Likely Lads and Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

13. Ha’ Hill was the site of which North East castle?

14. Longovicium was the Roman name for the fort in which North East village?

15. The villages of Eastgate and Westgate in Weardale once marked the boundaries of what?

16. Name the North East comedian born in Acklam near Middlesbrough in 1959 and ‘the son of a biscuit salesman’?

17. Who was the first ever £1,000 footballer (pictured). Which club sold him and which club bought him?



18. What is the name of the river at Rothbury?

19. What unique North East landmark across the River Tees dates from 1911?

20. Lauren Gofton is the real name of which Sunderland-born radio presenter?

Cliff of the spectre. © David Simpson

21, Which County Durham village has a name that means cliff or hill of the ghost or spectre?

22. Jimmy Allen, a gypsy who haunts a former prison cell beneath Durham’s Elvet Bridge was a musician with a talent for playing what kind of instrument?

23. Which famous Viking king visited St Cuthbert’s shrine at Chester-le-Street in 952AD, two years before the king met his death?

24. Name the Durham-born singer song-writer from Witton Gilbert who headed the 80s and 90s band Prefab Sprout?

25. What was the nationality of the talented 3 feet 3 inches tall ‘count’ who resided in Durham City during the eighteenth century?

Gertrude Bell
Gertrude Bell

26. Gertrude Bell who was born at Washington New Hall in 1868 and grew up near Redcar, was later noted as an explorer and for her part in drawing up the borders of which Middle Eastern country?

27. Actress and scriptwriter Val McLane is the sister of which North East singer, actor and songwriter?

28. In the 1850s, the Durham historian Fordyce mentions a derisive comment about shipbuilders in a particular North East town who in the earlier part of that century could either ‘make’ a ship or ‘build’ a ship depending on quality and price demanded. To ‘make’ meant to construct a ship on the cheap as a sideline job at low cost to the buyer with no guarantee of quality. Which town was he talking about?

29. What was discovered by the Hartlepool-born physiologist Sir Edward Mellanby that had an important impact on health and diet?

30. Which North East castle once belonged to Nathaniel Crewe, the Bishop of Durham in the eighteenth century and to the industrialist William Armstrong in the nineteenth century?

Empire Theatre and Dun Cow
Edwardian Baroque architecture : Photo © David Simpson

31. In which North East city would you find ornate Edwardian Baroque style pubs called the Dun Cow and Peacock in close proximity to a theatre of the same architectural style?

32. What was described by the Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1862 as “Our best modern street“?

33. Which well-known North East landmark hill was once known as Odin’s Berge from its association with the Viking god, Odin?

34. On 9th March 1761, during a protest against methods of conscription into the local militia, the Riot Act was read and soldiers opened fire resulting in the deaths of around 40 men and the injury of hundreds more in the market place of which North East town?

Delaval development. Photo © David Simpson 2018

35. What is the name of the little coastal port that was developed by the Delaval family between Whitley Bay and Blyth with its canal-like cut?

36. Which famous defensive structure dates from 122 AD?

37. What is the name of the Newcastle-born director whose films include the Resident Evil series, Mortal Kombat and Alien vs Predator?

38. Which Tyne Valley village is associated with the railway pioneers George Stephenson and William Hedley?

39. What has 27 miles of shoreline and opened in 1982?

John Simpson Kirkpatrick

John Simpson Kirkpatrick : Photo © David Simpson

40. The famed Australian and New Zealand war time hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick (pictured) hailed from which North East town?






Answers below

  1. William Duke of Clarence who later became King William IV.
  2. Lindisfarne.
  3. Aydon Castle.
  4. Sunderland.
  5. The Blyth Samson.
  6. Jarrow.
  7. Both designed by Benjamin Green. Also, Grey’s monument commemorates the Prime Minister Earl Grey. Penshaw Monument commemorates John George Lambton, the First Earl of Durham. Lambton was Grey’s son-in-law.
  8. Consett.
  9. Alnwick.
  10. Elsie Marley.
  11. Jarrow.
  12. Ian la Frenais.
  13. Morpeth.
  14. Lanchester.
  15. The hunting park of Durham’s Prince Bishops.
  16. Bob Mortimer.
  17. Alf Common. Sunderland sold him to Middlesbrough.
  18. Rothbury.
  19. Transporter Bridge.
  20. Lauren Laverne.
  21. Shincliffe.
  22. Northumbrian Pipes.
  23. Eric Bloodaxe.
  24. Paddy Macaloon.
  25. Polish.
  26. Iraq.
  27. Jimmy Nail.
  28. Sunderland.
  29. Vitamin D.
  30. Bamburgh.
  31. Sunderland.
  32. Grey Street, Newcastle.
  33. Roseberry Topping.
  34. Hexham.
  35. Seaton Sluice.
  36. Hadrian’s Wall.
  37. Paul Anderson.
  38. Wylam.
  39. Kielder Water.
  40. South Shields.

Sundered Land, New Castle, Goat’s Head : What’s in a North East Place Name?

North East place-names and their origins. DAVID SIMPSON explores the sometimes surprising meanings of place-names in the North East region.

Wearmouth Bridge
Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland : Photo © David Simpson.

Did you know that Sunderland was the sundered or separated land; Newcastle was simply a ‘New’ Castle and Gateshead was, quite strangely, the ‘head of the she-goat’? We take place-names for granted but all have an origin and meaning that is often long forgotten or sometimes lost in time. No one actually knows how London got its name, for example.

I’ve always been fascinated by place-name origins. It’s an unusual hobby perhaps, though I find it rather strange that few people share my curiosity for such everyday features of our world. Peculiar place-names like Pity Me arouse much interest – and are often rather plainly explained as ‘poor farmland’ although there’s a wealth of more popular if rather dubious theories. In truth I think that everyday names can be just as interesting.

Viking place-names

Some place-names give clues to the origins of the early settlers who founded the place. For example in the south of our region around Middlesbrough there are many place-names ending in the element ‘by’: Thornaby, Ormesby, Tollesby, Normanby, Danby, Lackenby, Lazenby, Maltby and so on. These ‘by’ names are all Viking – and usually Danish in origin, although Normanby points to Norwegian ‘northmen’.

Such Viking names are numerous just south of the Tees in the once intensively Viking settled area of North Yorkshire. Interestingly, they are quite rare north of the Tees – Aislaby near Yarm and Raby (Castle) near Darlington are exceptions that are not that far to the north of the river.

Transporter Bridge from Port Clarence looking towards Middlesbrough
The Transporter Bridge, Middlesbrough. Viking place-names are numerous in the Middlesbrough area.. Photo © David Simpson 2018

These ‘by’ ending names can also be found in Viking settled Cumbria particularly along the Eden valley all the way up towards Carlisle and there are a fair few in the Merseyside area in the North West of England associated with Viking immigration from the Viking colony of Dublin.

In Old Danish a ‘by’ was a Viking farm or village and even today a quick scan of a map of Denmark and you’ll find dozens and dozens of little villages with names like Norby, Kaerby, Staby, Balleby, Foldby, Karlby, Draby, Voldby, Rakkeby and Mejby. Many of these wouldn’t seem at all out of place in North Yorkshire.

Anglo-Saxon place-names

Most place-names in England, including the North East of England are usually of Anglo-Saxon origin. The Angles and Saxons were a Germanic people closely related to the later Vikings. The original Anglo-Saxon coastal homelands stretched from Frisia and the Netherlands up to the present day border of Germany and Denmark.

The Angles, for example, who gave their name to England (the Angle Land) settled extensively in Northumbria and originated from Angeln near the border of those two countries and settled in our islands as invading warriors some three centuries before the Vikings arrived on our shores.

Just about anything ending in ‘ton’ or ‘ham’ is Anglo-Saxon including most of those ‘ingtons’ and ‘inghams: Darlington, Bedlington, Billingham, Bellingham and so on. A ‘ham’ was a homestead and a ‘ton’ an enclosed settlement. Ton or ‘tun’ to give the old spelling was, incidentally originally pronounced ‘toon’ and is at the root of our modern word ‘town’. Sound familiar?

Nathaniel Buck's view of Newcastle 1745
Newcastle – an historic view of the ‘toon’ or should that be ‘tun’? Pictured in 1745..

I’m really into place-names for fun but with a quest for true knowledge about the place-names as part of our region’s history. I’m an amateur enthusiast when it comes to place-names to be honest. It is in fact a serious scholarly study and often a complicated one at that.

You can’t simply look at a place-name and guess what it might mean. You have to go back to the earliest known recorded spelling from perhaps a thousand years ago or more and work back from there.

Most place-name experts are skilled linguists with knowledge of several languages that are no longer spoken today like Old English (the language of the Anglo-Saxons), or the Old Norse of the Vikings as well as old Celtic languages like Brythonic and Old Welsh. The experts will have knowledge of how these languages evolved and changed over time and in the case of Old English and Old Norse, how they fused together along with the later Norman French to form the basis of the English language as we know it today.

A good knowledge of local dialect, local history and local topography is also very useful to the scholar of place-names. In fact its essential right down to a knowledge of local soil types, quality of drainage (at that time) and the suitability of land for early farming and settlement.

Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough

So, what about familiar names like Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead? Well the ‘separateness’ of Sunderland dates to Anglo-Saxon times and refers to land detached or ‘sundered’ from an estate by the King of Northumbria for the use of the Wearmouth monastery.

The ‘New’ Castle of Newcastle dates to Norman times, the first castle being built by William the Conqueror’s eldest son Robert Curthose in 1080 on the site of a Roman fort. At that time the long-since ruined and redundant Roman fort and its associated surviving settlement was called Monkchester, and although this might be considered the ‘old castle’, it seems the rebuilding of the Norman castle by Henry II in the twelfth century was the origin of the true ‘New Castle’.

Church of St Mary, Gateshead and Tyne Bridge
Gateshead – ‘Head of the She Goat’ : Photo © David Simpson

Just as intriguing, Gateshead across the Tyne lies at the head of the road or ‘way’ dating back to Roman times and perhaps earlier. Roads were sometimes called ‘gates’ in times past but this term was more commonly used for old streets in historic towns. ‘Head of the gate’ seems a plausible explanation for Gateshead, however, the Venerable Bede, writing in the seventh century describes Gateshead in Latin as ‘Ad Caprae Caput’ – meaning ‘the head of the she goat’ so perhaps there was some form of totem or symbol of a goat’s head overlooking the ancient bridge across the Tyne.

More North East place-names explained

Ashington: ‘Ing’ usually means a kinship or tribal group and ‘ton’ usually means an enclosed settlement. On the surface Ashington looks like ‘the place belonging to the people of a person called Ash’ or something similar. However the earliest spelling in old records is ‘Aescen-denu’ and this is an Anglo-Saxon place-name that means ‘valley (a dene or ‘denu’) overgrown with ash trees’. It shows how important it is to find the oldest spellings.

Bamburgh: From Bebba’s Burgh, a burgh or fortified place named from a Northumbrian queen called Bebba who was the wife of King Æthelfrith. Before Æthelfrith’s time it was known by the Celtic name Din Guayroi.

Beautiful Bamburgh.
Beautiful Bamburgh. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Bishop Auckland: A complicated one this. The old name was Alcuith – a Celtic name referring to a river. Later it became the home of a castle and palace belonging to the Bishops of Durham hence the ‘Bishop’ part of the name. The old name came to be changed to Auckland (perhaps because it was thought to mean ‘oakland’).

Chester-le-Street: Places containing the word ‘Chester’ are usually Anglo-Saxon in origin even though they refer to the earlier site of a Roman fort. ‘Street’ usually refers to a Roman road. ‘Le’ was added by the Normans as part of a suffix to distinguish places with similar names ‘Le-Street’ distinguishes it from other places called Chester. Other ‘le’ places that would otherwise have potentially confusing similar names are Houghton-le-Spring, Houghton-le-Side, Haughton-le-Skerne, Hetton-le-Hill, Hetton-le-Hole and in North Yorkshire we have Hutton-le-Hole.

Darlington : Originally something like Deornoth’s People’s enclosure. You’d never guess this unless you see the early spellings.

Durham : Originally Dun Holm, ‘the hill island’. In Norman French it was Duresme and in Latin it was Dunelm.

Hartlepool : Means ‘Stag Island Pool’. Le-Pool was added by the Normans to distinguish it from the nearby village of Hart. Unlike other ‘le’ place-names it doesn’t use hyphens but it could easily have been called Hart-le-Pool.

Middlesbrough: Means middle manor or perhaps middle fortified place. One theory is that it is named from its middle location between the historic Christian centres of Whitby and Durham.

Stanhope: Means ‘stony side valley’. Hope meaning land in a ‘side valley’ is a common element in North East place-names, especially in the hilly country of the west.

Warkworth: Wark comes from ‘weorc’ – an earthwork or castle and ‘worth’ means an enclosed settlement. The villages of Wark on Tyne and Wark on Tweed were both sites for castles built on earthworks.