Hebburn and Monkton

Hebburn riverside pictured from Wallsend
Hebburn riverside pictured from Wallsend. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Hebburn: Colliery and Quay

Early spellings of the name Hebburn suggest that the name is Anglo-Saxon and that it meant the ‘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 the Baxters. By 1562 it was the property of Richard Hodgson, an alderman of Newcastle. The 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 had been the site of the earlier tumulus.

In the 1650s Hebburn became the home of Cuthbert Ellison, whose ancestors had been Newcastle merchant adventurers. Ellison replaced the defensive tower at Hebburn with a hall. The hall was rebuilt for the family around 1790 by the architect William Newton though parts of the earlier house were  incorporated including, it is claimed, the earlier pele tower.

In 1870 Hebburn Hall passed by marriage to Ralph Carr of Dunston Hill near Gateshead (who was also 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 had become a rectory and the other wing an infirmary, serving this role until the 1970s. Following restoration in 1990 the hall was divided into apartments. The grounds of the house had been given to the people of Hebburn in the 1920s by the Carr-Ellison family as Carr-Ellison Park.

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 its closure in 1932.

Hebburn Colliery played an important role in the investigations into the development of mine safety, following the mining 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 into the development of 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 that the lamps could shine more effectively.

By 1857 the village of Hebburn was a mining settlement and still a place 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 to the west of Jarrow. The street-names High Lane Row and neighbouring School Street mark the location of the village today. There were three pits associated with the colliery. A Pit was at the heart of the village, B pit was just to the south and C Pit to the west near another settlement called Hebburn Quay. Hebburn’s Wagonway Road marks the course of a wagonway that linked Hebburn to the C Pit.

The place called Hebburn Quay was situated on the river bend facing across the Tyne to Wallsend and was originally a separate settlement that was the home to an iron ship and boiler makers manufactory. Large quantities of ballast had been deposited by ships since the seventeenth century and this played its part in the development of the quay which jutted out into the Tyne.

Later in the nineteenth century, a third place called Hebburn – Hebburn New Town had developed just south of Hebburn Quay, quite close to Hebburn Hall. The present town centre of Hebburn is focused on this area. By the late nineteenth century industries focused in this area were along the river and 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 to the north and further 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.

Leslie’s Shipyard

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. Leslie grew up in Aberdeen, where, after working as a boilermaker and blacksmith he sought his fortune on Tyneside. Leslie 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 his 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 St Andrews Presbyterian church in Ellison Street which like the Protestant church at Jarrow has a rather tall spire.

Hebburn church and river
Hebburn pictured from Wallsend, showing the tall spire of St Andrew’s Presbyterian church. Photo © David Simpson 2018

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.

Monkton: Running Men and Bede’s Well

Monkton, to the south east of Hebburn Hall was traditionally the birthplace of St Bede, but in recent times it has been shown that Bede gave his birthplace as Sunderland. Though absorbed by Jarrow, some stone houses of Monkton village survive including old farmhouses and an 18th century house called Bede Cottage.

To the north of the village is a large open green area known by the rather unflattering name of the Slaggy. It was once a dumping ground for waste products from the works of Palmer but is now a much more pleasant spot than its name suggests. Sadly the industrial dumping of earlier times probably took its toll on Bede’s Well which 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 seems to have hosted some kind of midsummer festival for the locals so it was evidently a site of much curiosity. The well can still be seen, but it is really little more than a dried up square-shaped patch of stone alongside a path though it 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 were once a series of ponds or small lakes formed by quarrying that were filled with water from the damming of the neighbouring Bede’s Burn. Created in the 19th 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 the 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 medalist specialising in middle distance running, Cram was born in Jarrow in 1960 and as well as his Olympic silver is a World Championship gold medalist, a two times European Championship gold medalist and a three times Commonwealth Games gold medalist. He is also the President of the Jarrow and Hebburn Athletics Club at Monkton.

Jarrow and Tyne Dock | Bede’s Jarrow

South Shields | Roman-Saxon Shields 

Shields Industries | Shields and the Sea  

Villages : Westoe to Whitburn 

Tynemouth North Shields | Wallsend 


North East England History and Culture