The Ouseburn, a major stream or small river begins its life near Newcastle Airport, flows through Gosforth, Jesmond Dene and Heaton Park then disappears underground in the Shieldfield-Heaton area. It re-emerges near Ouseburn Viaduct and Byker Bridge eventually entering the Tyne on Newcastle’s eastern Quayside.
The lower Ouseburn is an interesting quarter. Once crossed by Hadrian’s Wall, this was a hive of industrial activity from the 1600s to the 1930s. Glass, lead, flax, white lime, pottery, toffee making and an iron foundry were amongst the industries of times past.
Robert Mansel established a glassworks here in 1623 and pottery was important from the 1700s. A flax mill built by Dobson in 1848, which has a remaining chimney, is now occupied by studios and the popular Cluny bar. The bar recalls a whisky plant that manufactured blended Scotch whisky called Cluny.
Nearby, Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books, which opened in 2005, occupies a nineteenth century brick flour mill. Further south, a bridge carries Newcastle’s Quayside across the mouth of the Ouse.
To the west of the Ouseburn mouth is Sandgate and St Ann’s the old keelmen’s quarter. St Ann’s is named from an eighteenth century church in City Road. To the east we reach the lovely marina called St Peter’s Basin on the Byker riverfront. Originally called Sir Peter’s quay it belonged to the powerful merchant Sir Peter Ridell in the 1600s.
Just east of the city centre and the A167, the name of Shieldfield probably means, ‘the field with a shieling’ (shelter) or is perhaps named from being on the road to Shields. It formed open countryside outside the medieval walls to the east of the Pandon Burn and was once the site of a rope works shown on a map of Newcastle in 1736, when the area was still open land. Sadly, a picturesque cottage-like house on Shieldfield Green known as King Charles House was demolished in the 1960s. The building, with lovely Dutch-gabled windows, dated from the 1600s.
One of only a few Viking place-names in the area, it derives from ‘by kiarr’, meaning, ‘village on the marsh’. However carr and kerr were words in common English use after Viking times so Byker could simply mean, ‘next to the marsh’ – carrs are usually marshy areas. In medieval times Byker belonged to a family who took the name De Byker from the estate they owned. They also owned land at Pandon where there was once a Byker Chare near the river.
Byker and the Ouseburn valley were a focus for Tyneside’s glass-making industry from the 1600s. Byker’s famous block of public housing called the Byker Wall was built by the architect Ralph Erskine in the early 1970s. The children’s TV drama which made household name of Tyneside entertainers Ant and Dec was not filmed in Byker but was filmed in Benwell in the west of the city.
Derives from Wall Kerr, meaning, ‘the marshy land near Hadrian’s Wall. Walker’s Scrogg Road recalls the Viking word Skog, meaning, ‘woodland or brushwood’. The place-names Walkerville and Walkergate are derived from the original name Walker. The gate or way in Walkergate is the ancient Fossway that follows the course of Hadrian’s Wall. Wallsend, to the east is officially in North Tyneside rather than Newcastle but has a strong cultural affinity to the city.
Heaton has a Saxon name meaning, ‘the high farm/settlement’, from its position on a hill above the Ouseburn. It belonged to Nicholas Grenville in the twelfth century but in the thirteenth century became the home of Adam of Jesmond, who was Sheriff of Northumberland from 1262. The pretty ruins of Adam’s house, called Adam’s Camera can be seen in Heaton Park. In the nineteenth century Heaton was a mining area. Seventy-five men died at Heaton on May 3, 1815 when the Heaton Colliery flooded.