Western Newcastle upon Tyne: Newburn, Scotswood, Benwell


Newburn lies on the Tyne in the far western reaches of Newcastle. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon, New Burg meaning, ‘new fort’ or ‘new manor’. In Anglo-Saxon times the vill or ‘manor’, belonged to the Kings of Northumbria. It was a place of importance being the lowest point at which the Tyne could be forded. Interestingly New Burg might also be translated as ‘New Castle’.

In 1640 the Battle of Newburn was of major national importance as it triggered the events of the English Civil War. A steelworks opened at Newburn in the 1820s giving rise to a local nickname, ‘New Sheffield’ that was used at the time.

The Scotswoood Bridge and Lemington Glass Cone
The Scotswoood Bridge and Lemington Glass Cone : © David Simpson


A Saxon-sounding place-name east of Newburn. Its most remarkable landmark is a prominent cone-shaped brick building of 1787 that is a remnant of the Lemington glassworks. It can be seen to the west of the Scotswood Bridge.

The Lemington Gut, which enters the Tyne here underneath the bright white two-arched Lemington Bridge of 2001, is actually part of the former course of the River Tyne. Here the Tyne once formed a rather tight S-shaped bend. The top half of the meander that created the S was cut through around 1880 by the Tyne Improvement Commission. This also deepened the river at Blaydon. The gut is still fed by a stream that flows through the wooded Sugley Dene.

The south half of the S-shape occupied the rounded riverside meadow land called Newburn Haugh which is now the home to Newburn Business Park. Until the river improvements of the 1880s there was an additional feature here on the southern edge of the haugh in the form of island. Here the river split into two parts briefly before rejoining, forming a complete island and the venue for the Blaydon Races, including the famous races of 1862 that are immortalised in song. A similar island called the Kings Meadow also once existed between Dunston and Elswick.


North of Lemington, the name of Denton means, ‘the settlement in the dene/valley’. This is the valley of Denton Burn, which enters the Tyne near Lemington Gut. The burn separates West Denton and East Denton. A turret on Hadrian’s Wall guarded the wall at Denton where it descended into the valley. Neighbouring Walbottle has an Anglo-Saxon name meaning ‘abode on the Roman wall’.


Named from the fourteenth century Richard Scot, Scotswood grew in the nineteenth century under the influence of the Tyneside industrialist William Armstrong, who built his factory on the Scotswood Road. Thirty-eight people died in a colliery disaster at Scotswood’s Montague Colliery in March 1925 when the mine was flooded by water from the neighbouring Paradise Pit. Paradise probably recalls a rural area on the fringe of an industrial one. Paradise and Scotswood Road both feature in the lyrics of ‘The Blaydon Races’.


Elswick is thought to derive from Aelfswige’s Wic meaning, ‘the farm belonging to Aelfswige’, an Anglo-Saxon. Henry, the son of King David of Scotland, held fishing rights at Elswick in the twelfth century. Until the improvement of drainage techniques in the 1860s the centre of the Tyne at Elswick was the home to a 30 acre island called the King’s Meadows. It had its own pub called the Countess of Coventry.

In the late 1830s the famed Newcastle builder Richard Grainger bought most of the land at Elswick for industrial development and intended to build a railway terminus. His expenditure almost bankrupted him. Fortunately he was bailed out by John Clayton. It brought an end to Grainger’s illustrious building career. In 1847 the industrialist William Armstrong bought five and a half acres of this land alongside the Tyne to build the armaments factory which proved to be a much greater success than Grainger’s speculative venture.


Was the homestead on the marsh or fen. In the twelfth century it belonged to the medieval crusaders called the Knights Templar and passed later to the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. From the eighteenth century it belonged to the Ord family who resided in Fenham Hall of 1745. This later became a convent school and a teacher training establishment. The West Road through Fenham follows the course of Hadrian’s Wall.

Arthur’s Hill

Arthur’s Hill, east of Fenham, is named from Arthur, the son of Isaac Cookson, who built the houses hereabouts. Sadly, it has nothing to do with King Arthur.


The original Saxon name binnan wealle means, ‘behind/within the wall’ and describes Benwell’s location close to Hadrian’s Wall. In earlier times there was a Roman fort here called Condercum. By the nineteenth century Benwell was a centre for coal mining. The Tudoresque Benwell Tower, built by John Dobson in 1831 was in more recent times known as the setting Byker Grove in the BBC children’s drama of that name. The building once belonged to the Bishop of Newcastle. This castellated tower house replaced the demolished Benwell Hall that belonged to the Shafto and Bowes families. A pond in the grounds of the tower was named Ben’s Well causing confusion over the origins of Benwell’s name.


Along with Blakelaw, Cowgate lies east of the northern extension of the Town Moor called the Nuns Moor, which is home to Newcastle golf course. The nuns, of Newcastle’s Medieval Benedictine Nunnery of St Bartholomew are thought to have grazed their livestock here. The nunnery was situated roughly where the northern part of Eldon Square Shopping Centre is found today. In later times farmers drove their cattle from the Nuns Moor into Newcastle along the neighbouring road or ‘gate’ giving rise to the name Cowgate.


Means, ‘black hill’. It was the name of a hill, also called Kenton Bank Top. In the nineteenth century a stationary engine on the top of the hill hauled coal-laden wagons from the nearby Fawdon Colliery.

Spital Tongues

Spital Tongues is bounded on its north side by the A167 and Claremont Road near the edge of the Town Moor. It is named from tongue-shaped land that was used by the hospital (spital) of St Mary Magdalene, established nearby in the twelfth century. This was a hospital in the medieval sense and cared for leprosy victims. It stood in the Barras Bridge-Northumberland Street area.

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