Hebburn: Colliery and Quay
Early spellings of the name Hebburn suggest the name is Anglo-Saxon and means ‘high tumulus’ though where that tumulus was located is uncertain. Later, Hebburn was part of the land belonging to the Norman monastery at Jarrow and later still it belonged to the Willys and Baxter families.
By 1562 Hebburn was the property of Richard Hodgson, an alderman of Newcastle. Families that owned Hebburn lived on a site now occupied by Hebburn Hall (Ellison hall) where in earlier times there had been a defensive pele tower dating to the 1300s. Perhaps this was the site of the earlier tumulus.
In the 1650s Hebburn became home to Cuthbert Ellison, whose ancestors were Newcastle merchant adventurers. Ellison replaced the defensive tower at Hebburn with a hall. This hall was rebuilt for the family around 1790 by architect William Newton though parts of the earlier house were incorporated, including, it is claimed, the earlier pele tower.
In 1870 Hebburn Hall passed through marriage to Ralph Carr of Dunston Hill near Gateshead (who was also the owner of Hedgeley Hall in Northumberland) and Carr took the name Carr-Ellison. Though Hebburn Hall is still known locally as Ellison Hall, it fell out of favour as a family residence at about this time.
By the end of the century one wing of the hall had become a rectory and another wing an infirmary, serving this role until the 1970s. Following restoration in 1990 the hall was divided into apartments. The grounds of the house were given to the people of Hebburn in the 1920s by the Carr-Ellison family as Carr-Ellison Park. The adjoining church of St John was completed in 1886-87 by the architect F.R Wilson and is in fact a conversion of the Hebburn Hall stable block.
Mining was important at Hebburn from early times though Hebburn Colliery itself opened in 1792 when it was owned by a Mr Wade. It had been a difficult colliery to win owing to severe flooding but the colliery successfully operated until closure in 1932.
Hebburn Colliery and Hebburn Hall played a role in the development of mine safety, after the disaster at Felling Colliery in 1812. Sir Humphry Davy stayed with Cuthbert Ellison at Hebburn Hall in 1815 and took samples of the explosive methane ‘fire damp’ gas from the Hebburn mine which were taken to London in wine bottles for experiments in developing a miners’ safety lamp. Davy’s lamps were tested in the Hebburn mine and remarkably the gauze that protected the naked flames could actually absorb the fire damp so the lamps could shine more effectively.
By 1857 Hebburn village was a mining settlement of modest proportions. There was a post office, a pub, a brick yard, two shipbuilding yards and chapels. The mining village was near the river just west of Jarrow. Street-names High Lane Row and School Street mark its location today. There were three pits associated with the colliery. A Pit was at the heart of the village, B Pit to the south and C Pit to the west near a settlement called Hebburn Quay. Hebburn’s Wagonway Road marks the course of a wagonway that linked Hebburn to the C Pit.
Hebburn Quay was on the river bend facing across the Tyne to Wallsend and was originally a separate settlement – a home to an iron ship and boiler makers manufactory. Large quantities of ballast deposited by ships since the seventeenth century played a part in the development of the quay which jutted into the Tyne.
Later in the nineteenth century, Hebburn New Town developed just south of Hebburn Quay, close to Hebburn Hall. Hebburn’s present town centre is focused on this area.
By the late nineteenth century, industries along the river included The Tyne Works or Tharsis Sulphur works (sulphur and copper) established in 1869 just north of Pelaw Main. They faced across the Tyne to Walker Shore. Just north and downstream on this river bend was Tenants alkali works (1864). Much of the remaining riverside stretching east to Hebburn Colliery was a home to shipyards.
The big name in Hebburn Shipbuilding was Andrew Leslie (1818-1894), the son of a Scottish crofter from Shetland where Leslie was born in 1818. He grew up in Aberdeen, where, after working as a boilermaker and blacksmith sought his fortune on Tyneside. He arrived at Hebburn by steamer and purchased land from Cuthbert Ellison for establishing a works, launching his first ship, The Clarendon in 1854.
Hebburn and Jarrow still had a relatively small population in the 1850s so Leslie supplemented the Tyneside workforce with labour from Aberdeen. Hebburn came to be known as ‘Little Aberdeen’ though significant additional labour also came from Ireland as well as the Hebburn locality.
Leslie had a reputation for looking after his workers and built schools and houses and funded the building of the impressive St Andrews Presbyterian church in Ellison Street which, like the Protestant church at Jarrow, has a rather tall spire. The church was built in 1872 by John Johnstone of Newcastle.
Leslie resided on the opposite side of the Tyne and travelled to his works by ferry. By 1886 Leslie, of Coxlodge Hall in Gosforth retired from the business and in that year the firm acquired the locomotive works of R and W Hawthorn of St Peters, Newcastle.
The company became Hawthorn Leslie and Co, though it parted with the locomotive side of the business in 1937. Though later acquired by Swan Hunter, Leslie’s yard at Hebburn continued building ships until 1982.
Along with Jarrow, Hebburn was home to a very significant Irish community and it seems that the Hibernian influence came from all corners of the Emerald Isle. The Irish Catholic Community are represented by the stark red-brick Catholic church of St Aloysius designed by Charles Walker (1888).
Perhaps a somewhat surprising legacy of Hebburn’s Protestant heritage is the Hebburn Orange Lodge, a short distance from Hebburn Hall on the corner of Station Road and Victoria Road West.
Monkton, to the south east of Hebburn Hall was traditionally the birthplace of St Bede, but in recent times it has been demonstrated that Bede recorded his birthplace as Sunderland. The name of the place certainly has a connection to the monastery of Bede’s famous Wearmouth–Jarrow monastery as ‘Monkton’ means the monk’s estate and belonged to Jarrow.
Monkton Burn, a tributary of the River Don flows south of Monkton eastward through Monkton Dene Park and Springwell Park (which has a prominent old drinking fountain). The burn joins the River Don in the Mill Dene View area which was once the site of the Springwell Paper Mills. From here the River Don flows north to join the Tyne near the site of the Jarrow monastery.
Springwell Park and Monkton Dene are separated by the intriguingly named Butchers Bridge Road which linked Jarrow to Monkton and is named from the site of a bridge across the Monkton Burn.
Though absorbed by Jarrow and Hebburn, some stone houses of the old Monkton village survive including old farmhouses and an eighteenth century house called Bede Cottage.
To the north of Monkton village is an extensive open green area once known by the rather unflattering name of ‘the Slaggy’ or ‘The Crusher’ but now the lovely and extensive Campbell Park, a place popular with local dog walkers.
This area was once a dumping ground for waste products from the iron smelting of the nearby Palmer’s works but it is now a pleasant green oasis.
An information board near one of the entrances to the park rather apologetically recalls the urban blight that was a by-product of the works and industry that brought life and work to the area. It notes the opening of a coal mine on what is now the northern fringe of the park as early as 1618 and the opening of a railway through the vicinity, built by George Stephenson that would later become the Bowes Railway. The informative sign also recalls the extensive Monkton Coke Works that closed in 1990. The works provided coking coal for steel making.
The slag heaps associated with the industry were cleared and the landscape was reclaimed and reshaped to become Campbell Park. Sadly, the industrial dumping of earlier times probably took its toll on Bede’s Well or the ‘healing well’ that was once the main attraction of the area.
Once a destination for a day out for people in the neighbourhood, the well or spring, which is rightly or wrongly associated with Bede, was thought to have remarkable properties that enabled the healing of sick children. In the 1700s it hosted some kind of midsummer festival for locals and was evidently a site of much curiosity.
The well can still be seen, now a dried up square-shaped patch of stone alongside a path that despite some abuse as an unofficial firepit, has a pleasant setting within a little circular grove surrounded by trees.
It was not the only water feature of the Monkton area that has now been dried up. Just to the north west towards Hebburn Hall and back into an area of Hebburn now occupied by St Josephs School was once a series of ponds or small lakes. They were created by the Ellison family from embankments that were filled with water from the Bede’s Burn which flows down from Wardley. Created in the nineteenth century and once used for boating and other recreation, the lakes were drained and filled in by the end of the 1960s following fatalities involving local children.
On a happier note, the south side of Monkton village is the home to the Monkton Athletics stadium a home venue for Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club. The Monkton Stadium was built in 1937 by returning Jarrow marchers alongside an earlier track of the nineteenth century that had been used by cyclists.
Jarrow and Hebburn are of course places renowned for their athletics through the fame of two local sporting celebrities. Hebburn is the birthplace of the long distance runner Brendan Foster CBE who was born in the town in 1948.
A European and Commonwealth Games Gold medalist and Olympic Bronze medalist, Foster was the founder of the Great North Run in 1981, now one of the biggest half-marathon events in the world. The annual race event attended by around 57,000 participants running for charity is staged from Newcastle to the coast at South Shields and passes through the outskirts of Jarrow.
Foster is now equally well-known for his work as a TV sports presenter as is another well-known athlete, Steve Cram CBE. An Olympic silver medallist who specialised in middle distance running, Cram known as the ‘Jarrow Arrow’ was born in Jarrow in 1960 and as well as his Olympic silver is a World Championship gold medallist; a two times European Championship gold medallist and a three times Commonwealth Games gold medallist. He is also the President of the Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club at Monkton.