Shiremoor, Longbenton and Killingworth

Looking to the coast from the sundial scupture at the Silver Link park near Shiremoor.
Looking to the coast from the sundial sculpture at the Silver Link park near Shiremoor. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Shiremoor

Shiremoor village is situated west of Whitley Bay and east of Forest Hall, Benton and Killingworth. The village began as a mining settlement and Shiremoor Colliery was situated between this village and places called The Allotment and West Allotment to the south. The original village of Shiremoor consisted of about half a dozen terraces in the Earsdon Road area with names like Percy Street, Duke Street and Duchess Street being a reminder of a connection to the Duke of Northumberland who owned the mining rights.

Railway junctions at Shiremoor and nearby Backworth to the north were a hub for a number of railway and colliery lines that were linked to places like Gosforth in the west; Seghill, Hartley and Blyth to the north and Monkseaton, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth to the east. Lines also linked the colliery to the Tyne at Willington Quay and the Albert Edward Dock.

As with many mining villages Shiremoor has a strong community spirit. In 1906 the miners of Shiremoor began an annual tradition called the Children’s Treat in which money was raised for the giving of gifts for local children each July. This popular, well-attended event includes a funfair and is still going strong today due to the efforts of its well organised fundraising committee.

Shiremoor is named from the common land of the district and the name of the moor dates back to medieval times when it was historically known as Tynemouthshire. In times past the ‘Shire Moor’ was called Tynemouthshire Moor – the moor belonging to Tynemouthshire. The moor was described as a great tract of desolate country. To the west near Gosforth it was called Killingworth Moor and near North Shields to the east it was called Billy Moor.

It is possible that the moor is the ‘Tine-Mor’ (Tyne Moor) associated with a battle in 918 AD between Ragnald, the Viking King of Dublin who fought inconclusively with the Northumbrians and King Constantine of Scotland somewhere in the region of the Tyne. These events are easily confused or perhaps connected with the battles of Corbridge that took place in 914 and 918. After 918 lands along the coast south of the Tyne stretching from the River Wear to Billingham were given by Ragnald to his followers and it is possible that Tynemouth was a Viking fortress at this time.

Holystone

The Shire Moor belonged to Tynemouth Priory and the borders of this moor were marked out by stones that included a stone cross called the Holy Stone. The remnant of the Holy Stone can still be seen today close to Holystone Farm though Holystone is best known today as the site of a commuter village and the Holystone roundabout on the A19. An old pitmens’ song mentions the Holy Stone in verse:

The Holy Stone’s a holy place :
the trees are thick and la’
But they are nought to the Moor Yate
for footy again the wa’

Holystone may be a modern village but its industrial estate called Benton Square occupies the site of an earlier settlement also called Benton Square that was described as “a square of pitmen’s houses” as early as 1825. The square was removed in the post-war years.

Just south of Holystone on the northern edge of Wallsend’s Rising Sun Country Park is the intriguingly named Scaffold Hill and Scaffold Farm. It is apparently named not from the scaffold of a hangman’s gallows but from a grandstand that is once thought to have stood here for the viewing of horse racing on the moor. This area was historically part of Killingworth Moor.

Silver Link Park
Silver Link Park. Photo © David Simpson 2018

West Allotment and Silver Link Park

Farmers in Tynemouth and North Shields used the Shire Moor as common land but in 1790 the enclosure of the moor began. The Duke of Northumberland, who was lord of the manor, retained a sixteenth of the land following the enclosure with his lands centred on Shire Moor Farm which he owned. The duke also retained royalty rights to mining on the moor.

A colliery village called ‘The Allotment’ sprung up in this area in the early nineteenth century and was named from one of the allotted pieces of divided land given to various farms. The Allotment belonged to the owners of nearby Backworth Colliery.

The Allotment village has now gone but was situated in what is now the Silver Link Park (or West Allotment Park). The park was created from the reclaimed pit waste heap of Backworth Colliery’s Algernon Pit and at its centre is a beautiful 6 metre high cast iron sun dial created in 1997 by Anthony Walker Environmental Design in association with North Tyneside Council. The views from the sundial are fabulous taking in the coast including St Mary’s Island at Whitley Bay, Cleadon Tower, Penshaw Monument, the Cheviot Hills and extensive parts of Newcastle upon Tyne,

Nearby, the neighbouring community of West Allotment consists of modern housing and older terraces and was initially built in the 19th century as a single terrace of houses called West Allotment in what is now the Turner Street area. The village is bordered by the traditional sheds and vegetable growing allotments that are so often associated with mining settlements but the name West Allotment has nothing to do with these and in fact comes from another apportionment resulting from the enclosure of the old Shire Moor.

The Silver Link Park – a lovely biodiversity park is located at the northern tip of a huge cluster of business parks and industrial estates that cover an area half a mile wide and stretch southward for two miles to the Percy Main and Chirton areas of North Shields.  On Tyneside this area is only equalled in area by the Team Valley Retail and Trading Estate over at Gateshead and it is the workplace for thousands of people.

Modern offices at the Cobalt Business Park.
Modern offices at the Cobalt Business Park. Photo © David Simpson 2018

This business, light industry and retail zone is bordered by the A19 on the west and divided into two parts by the Coast Road (A1058). It collectively consists of Cobalt Park, which is the UK’s largest office park (at the north end) and is adjoined by the New York Industrial Park to the east, Silverlink Shopping Park to the south and then over the Coast Road to the south is the Orion Business Park and Tyne Tunnel Industrial Estate.

Stephenson Railway Museum

All the roads within the business and industrial parks of the Silver Link are modern ones built on what was once part of the wilderness of the Shire Moor. The exception is Middle Engine Lane which follows the course of an old road across the Moor. Middle Engine was the name of a stationary engine on a neighbouring colliery railway line called the Seatonburn Wagonway.

Today this lane is best known for its locomotives the ‘travelling engines’, as they were originally known to distinguish them from the established rope-hauling stationary engines. Today Middle Engine Lane is home to the Stephenson Railway Museum.

The star exhibit at this museum is ‘Billy’, or ‘Killingworth Billy’ a ‘travelling engine’ built in 1816 at West Moor near Killingworth (also in North Tyneside but four miles west of the museum). The locomotive was built under the supervision of George Stephenson.

‘Billy’ was originally thought to have been built in 1826 but an investigation into its construction carried out in 2018 has pinpointed its origin to 1816. This makes it the world’s third oldest locomotive and the world’s oldest standard gauge locomotive.

Other locomotives in the collection of the museum include a Consett Iron company No 5 locomotive from about 1883 and a locomotive called Ted Garrett of the 1950s (Garrett was a Wallsend MP). This locomotive was built at the Forth Bank Works in Newcastle. A railway line is still in place as part of the museum and follows the course of the old Seatonburn Wagonway. It is now the North Tyneside Heritage line and the museum provides a four mile return trip train rides on this line on selected days. The trip heads down towards the Percy Main area and back.

New York and Murton Village

New York, North Tyneside, so good they named it twice. New York is the northernmost suburb of North Shields on the west side of the New York Industrial Estate and overlooks the fields to the north towards Murton Village. It began as a mining village and was named from New York in the USA because it was founded during the American War of Independence (1775-1783).

New York, North Tyneside
New York, North Tyneside. Photos © David Simpson 2018

New York’s main street is New York Road and is the home to the  New York and Murton Social Club, the New York Convenience Store (incorporating the New York Post Office), the New York Forge and a takeaway outlet called ‘The Bronx’. There was once  a neighbouring little village just to the north of New York called Philadelphia. This Philadelphia was situated in Murton Lane near Murton Village and was another pit village established around time of the War of Indpendence but all traces of that village are now gone.

New York merges with the North Shields suburb of Murton to its east but this should not be confused with the little village of Murton which is isolated in an island-like fashion in amongst the fields to the north and is reached from New York along Murton Lane.

Also not to be confused with the village of Murton in County Durham, Murton, like kits Durham namesake means ‘moor-ton’ –  the moor settlement – and was for centuries along with Backworth one of the few settlements on the Shire Moor up until the age of mining developments. Murton was first mentioned in the 1180s when it was part of the lands of the Priory of Tynemouth and spawned a family called the De Mortons or Mortons who were named from the place. Murton is a pleasant village and although old stone walls line the main street, the houses are those of a modern suburban estate rather than those of the old village.

Earsdon

Earsdon is a pretty, old country village with lots of pleasing old stone houses of the Georgian era along its Front Street. North east of Shiremoor and east of Backworth it now lies near the western fringes of Whitley Bay but was originally surrounded by open country. Early spellings of the place-name include Hertesdona and Erdisdunam.

Earsdon
Earsdon. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The second part of the name refers to the don or hill on which Earsdon is located. The first part of the name is thought to derive from a shortened form of an Anglo-Saxon personal name, perhaps Eardwulf, Eanred, Eoraed or something similar.

Earsdon
Earsdon. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Throughout the medieval period Earsdon belonged to Tynemouth Priory and was the home to a medieval church, described in the 1820s as a “plain, ancient building”. The church was dedicated to St Alban, a reminder that Tynemouth priory ultimately belonged to the Abbey of St Albans in Hertfordshire. The parish registers of the church began in 1593 and in the early 19th century some “very ancient spurs” were found during the removal of earth at the church.

In 1837 the church was demolished and replaced with the new one that is still there today and is also dedicated to St Alban. The architects were John and Benjamin Green, the renowned Northumberland architects whose work includes Grey’s Monument and Theatre Royal in Newcastle and the Penshaw Monument near Sunderland.

Earsdon Church.
Earsdon Church. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The churchyard at Earsdon contains a memorial to the victims of the Hartley Colliery pit disaster of 1862 in which 204 men and boys were killed. Most of the miners were buried in the Earsdon  churcyard.

To the north of Earsdon are the old mining villages of East Holywell and West Holywell associated with neighbouring collieries. The East and West Holywell Collieries were founded in the 1850s and situated nearby. The West Holywell Colliery was short-lived, closing in 1861, but the East Holywell Colliery operated into the early decades of the twentieth century.

The old village of Holywell itself is a little further north across the Seaton Burn in Northumberland and was named from the holy St Mary’s Well which supposedly had medicinal properties. Remarkably for that time, a woman from that village called Mary Sharp died in the year 1789 age 109. Holwell merges with the neighbouring village of Seaton Delaval to the north.

Backworth

Backworth’s name means the enclosure (a ‘worth’) belonging to an Anglo-Saxon called Bacca but who Backworth was we don’t know. Backworth is first mentioned in the 1270s but for much of its history it belonged to Tynemouth Priory. After the monasteries were dissolved in the 1530s Backworth was principally associated with the Grey family who resided here and their estate extended as far as Monkseaton and Longbenton. In the 1780s the Greys employed the architect William Newton to construct the beautiful Backworth Hall as their mansion house.

In 1792 Ralph William Grey of Backworth Hall was a Sheriff of Northumberland. Ralph Grey’s son and heir later sold the estate to the Duke of Northumberland in the early 19th century. The duke presumably had an eye on the coal mining fortunes to be gained from the neighbourhood.

Backworth Hall was falling into disrepair when it was purchased in 1937 along with 87 acres of ground by the Backworth Colliery Miners’ Welfare scheme. This scheme was supported by the large mining population of the district who initially paid a subscription out of their wages for membership. Today the organisation is still going strong and the hall and its grounds include a golf club along with cricket, croquet, archery and bowling clubs while the hall itself serves as an elegant club house and venue for weddings and functions.

Backworth Hall.
Backworth Hall. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Backworth’s main Colliery was situated to the north of the village, half way towards neighbouring Seghill in Northumberland. The colliery was started in 1818 by Humble, Lamb & Co and was followed by a succession of different owners later in the century. In the early twentieth century it belonged to Backworth Collieries Ltd, passing to the National Coal Board in 1947. The colliery finally closed in June 1980.

In North East culture Backworth was the home of the fictional character ‘Geordie Broon of Backworth’ created by a local writer (and lay preacher) Richard Haswell who wrote witty monologues and poems about the character in local dialect during the 1960s:

When Geordie Broon of Backworth went ti war in thorty nine,
He myed a pal of Billie Bland from Howdon on the Tyne,
And on parade or in the mess, when hevin cups of tea,
Where ivvor one of them waas foond, the other one wad be.

Killingworth

Killingworth means the farm or enclosure of someone called Cylla or that of his sons, Cylla being an Anglo-Saxon personal name. Killingworth is situated in an area once caleld Killingworth Moor, that was the western part of Shire Moor, forming a district also called Forest Hall.

The Earls of Carlisle were lords of the manor of Killingworth for centuries and medieval families associated with Killingworth included the Killingworths who are first mentioned with certainty as early as 1166 and took their name from the place. They resided at Killingworth until the family line died out in 1705 with four female heirs. Other Killingworth families of the medieval era included the St Peters, the Harles, the Merlays, the Prodoms and the Barrets. Like Shire Moor, Killingworth Moor was enclosed in 1790 but here it was the Earl of Carlisle who retained one sixteenth of the land.

The old village of Killingworth was described in 1825 as a “fine village seated on an eminence, in the midst of a beautiful and well-cultivated country”.  At that time it was mentioned that the village was home to many shoemakers. Notable residents then included a Henry Uttrick Reay, a William Buckle Puncheon and there was a house that had once been the home to an Admiral Roddam. ‘Old Killingworth’, as this village is sometimes known is still there, an attractive place with a number of pleasant stone houses and even a castellated cottage.

Killingworth Lake
Killingworth Lake. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Killingworth New Town (designated by Northumberland County Council rather than central government) was built to the north of Killingworth Village in 1963 on 760 acres of mostly moorland and reclaimed colliery land stretching north to Burradon.

A small shopping centre was built at the centre of the new town (replaced by a new mall in the early 2000s) and a fifteen acre lake was created to the south of the town to the west of Killingworth village. In the early 1970s huge concrete local authority apartment blocks were built near the town centre called Killingworth Towers. Later deemed unsuitable for living and suffering from the usual kind of problems associated with such schemes, they were demolished in 1987.

George Stephenson and Killingworth

Killingworth is of course most famous for George Stephenson, the engineer who made his name at Killingworth Colliery’s West Moor Pit near the Forest Hall area. In fact the colliery and its associated mining village were at West Moor just south west of Killingworth.

This famous colliery was located roughly where Westmoor Primary school stands just north of the Great Lime Road (the road from West Moor through Forest Hall to Palmersville and Benton). Founded around 1802 this mine was initially owned by Lord Ravensworth who was one of the powerful mining families known as the Grand Allies and the mine operated until around 1882. Another mine called Killingworth Colliery existed to the south of Killingworth village and was owned by the Bowes family.

Dial Cottage, the one time home of George Stephenson
Dial Cottage, the one time home of George Stephenson. Photo © David Simpson 2018

The original West Moor colliery village for the West Moor Pit was where we now find the Stephenson Industrial Estate. The roads on this industrial estate are named from Stephenson locomotives. So we have Comet Row, Planet Place, Samson Close and Blucher Road. Killingworth Lake just to the north of the industrial estate was part of the pit’s reclaimed land and was created about 1964 as part of Killingworth New Town.

George Stephenson came to West Moor from Willington Quay in 1805 after he was appointed Brakesman at the West Moor pit. This put him in charge of the colliery’s winding gear. He resided at the humble Dial Cottage which can still be seen – at West Moor on the north side of the Great Lime Road. The cottage originally consisted of one room and a garret which could only be reached by a ladder but over the years as Stephenson’s reputation grew and his earnings too – with successive promotions – he extended the cottage into a four room house. Above the front door of the cottage is a sundial made by Stephenson himself from which the cottage takes its name.

George Stephenson's sun dial at Dial Cottage
George Stephenson’s sun dial at Dial Cottage. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Stephenson resided at Dial Cottage until 1825 and although it was during his time here that his prolific career as a locomotive builder blossomed it was also a place associated with great tragedies in his personal life. Stephenson had moved to Dial Cottage with his wife, Frances and their young son, the destined to be famous Robert, who was born at Willington Quay in 1803. Robert would later attend a parish school at nearby Long Benton.

George and Frances Stephenson’s second child, a girl, named after the mother was born at West Moor in July 1805 but died only three weeks later and the following year Frances herself died from tuberculosis. The grief-stricken George left West Moor for some months to find work in Montrose in Scotland, leaving young Robert in the care of a local woman. George returned to the North East to work at West Moor after his father was partially blinded in an accident. George would have no further children but would marry again, in 1820, his second wife being a Betty Hindmarsh. There would be a third marriage, much later in his life after Betty died, but this was long after he had left Killingworth.

After successfully offering to repair a Newcomen pumping engine at Killingworth High Pit in 1811, Stephenson was appointed enginewright at the Killingworth collieries in 1812, a significant promotion and the following year his responsibility in this field was extended to all the collieries belonging to the Grand Allies.

In 1815 during his time at West Moor Stephenson was famed for pioneering a miners’ safety lamp – known in the North East as the ‘Geordie Lamp’ – which reduced the risk of explosions in the collieries by restricting the exposure of the lamp’s naked flame to explosive gases within the mines. The use of his lamp is a probable reason why the miners of the North East were known as ‘Geordies’ during the later 19th century. It is, however through his work as a locomotive engineer that Stephenson is principally remembered.

Stephenson’s expertise in the mechanics of steam engines rapidly grew following his appointment at Killingworth and in 1813 he designed and built his first locomotive which was called ‘Blucher’ at the wagon workshops in West Moor. The locomotive could pull a train of coal wagons weighing 30 tons at 4 miles per hour. Named from a Prussian General who was allied to Britain during the Napoleonic war, Blucher was the first of 16 locomotives built by Stephenson during his time at Killingworth Colliery. These locomotives were built for use hauling coal on the Killingworth Wagonway though some locomotives were also built for the 8 mile-long Hetton Colliery Railway in County Durham (now part of Sunderland) which Stephenson was employed to build in 1820.

In 1825 Stephenson went on to work with the Darlington businessman Edward Pease in constructing the Stockton and Darlington Railway, though this railway’s first locomotive, the Locomotion Number One, was built in a new locomotive workshop at Newcastle upon Tyne. The railway was noted for its experimentation with passenger travel from the onset.  Stephenson’s construction of the victorious ‘Rocket’ locomotive for the 1829 Rainhill Trials and his building of  the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, were the next major milestones in the great engineer’s career, however, he had already moved on from West Moor and Killingworth Colliery in 1825.

Benton

Benton and Longbenton south of Killingworth have names that mean ‘settlement where beans grows’ or a ‘settlement where grass called Bent grows’. Today most of Benton and the whole of Longbenton lie within North Tyneside, though some parts of Benton are within the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. Benton was originally called Little Benton to distinguish it from Long Benton to the north. The original Little Benton was a tiny settlement situated roughly where Newcastle United Football Academy is now situated and the site of the Bigges Main Colliery later lay across the railway to its east.

In times past Little Benton was the home to a family called Benton who were named from the place. A Eustace De Benton is mentioned as holding the land here in the thirteenth century during the reign of Henry III. Benton later belonged to the Greystoke family, then to the Fitzhughs and became the manor of Thomas Bigge in 1706 through his marriage to an Elizabeth Hindmarsh. The Bigges continued their association with the area into the nineteenth century.

To the south east of Little Benton once stood the grand mansions of Benton Hall and Benton Park which in the 1800s belonged to William Clarke and Thomas Bigge. The halls were demolished and superseded by post war housing in the Benton Hall Walk and Warwick Hall Walk areas to the north of the Coast Road.

Longbenton and Forest Hall

Described in the 1820s “as one long street built upon a rock” Longbenton has the same meaning as Benton, to its south but the village was distinguished for being a long settlement and its length is still evident today. Sometimes known in the distant past as Mickle Benton or Benton Magna, the old village of Longbenton stretches along the Front Street.  This begins at the Four Lane Ends roundabout and stretches eastward to become the Whitley Road that crosses the East Coast main line a little further east.

Four Lane Ends and Longbenton stand just within the boundary of North Tyneside (on the border with Newcastle). The four converging lanes are now busy roads – Benton Road to the north and south; Benton Park Road to the west and Longbenton’s Front Street to the east. Another old lane called Coach Lane joins Front Street to the east and leads south to the Coach Lane campus of Northumbria University.

The huge government offices of the Department of Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs usually described as ‘at Longbenton’ occupy the complex called Benton Park View and are situated off Benton Park Road within the city of Newcastle upon Tyne to the west of Four Lane Ends. They are situated next door to the Novocastrians Rugby Football Club.

There are plenty of old stone houses along the Front Street of Longbenton to give an impression of the extent of the old village and it is certainly a place with a long history. In medieval times Longbenton was the manor of Roger de Merley who was the Baron of Morpeth and through his family’s descent it passed to the Earl of Carlisle who sold it to the Brandlings of Gosforth and Browns of Longbenton in 1800.

Longbenton’s old village church had parish records dating to the 1670s and the parish encompassed Benton as well as Killingworth and Weetslade to the north. The village church is to the north of the old village and somewhat isolated from it – apparently, according to an old legend due to the determination of the Devil who tore down all attempts to build a church near the village. In 1339 a Philip Somerville granted revenue from this church along with other lands for the upkeep of six scholars at Baliol College in Oxford.

The present church is dedicated to St Bartholomew and dates from 1791 with a number of later Victorian additions but is built on the site of the earlier parish church that was seemingly approved by the Devil. His approval of the new church seemingly lasted until 1839 when the church began to crack although this seems to have been attributed to the colliery workings at nearby Heaton rather than Beelzebub. Restorations and repairs were undertaken in the 1840s and 1870s. The church is found along Station Road – the road to Forest Hall – just to the north. Interestingly an entry in the parish register of the original church, in 1789, records the birth of a Thomas Atkinson who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

The mansion called Forest Hall from which the area called Forest Hall now takes its name was located in what is now the Woodside Crescent area of Forest Hall but the hall’s origins are obscure. ‘Forest’ is probably used in the old sense of open land or wilderness rather than woodland.

In the second half of the 19th century the hall found itself accompanied by dozens of scattered villas stretching from Longbenton north towards the Great Lime Road at Killingworth. The villas were occupied by the wealthy from Newcastle who were able to enjoy the open country and travel into town from nearby railway stations. Roughly from south to north the villas included Winston House, Carlton Villa, Westbourne, Eastfield Lodge, Woodlands, Swiss Villa, Olive Villa, Claremont Villas, Woodside, Stone Villa, Villa Rosina, Benton View and several others.

A number of these old houses still remain in amongst the modern streets of Longbenton and Forest Hall. A terraced street called Palmersville, presumably named from the proprietor or developer (Charles Palmer?) also came into being in the later part of the 19th century along the north side of the Great Lime Road.

In the early part of the twentieth century Forest Hall and Long Benton continued in their suburban development with the early terraces in the Oswin Avenue of Forest hall later accompanied, as the century, progressed by surrounding modern estates. Today much employment in the area is based on industrial estates and business parks such as the Quorum Business Park to the west which is bordered by Longbenton, Forest Hall and West Moor. Then we have the Tyne Industrial Park towards Holystone in the east and the business and industrial estates at Killingworth New Town to the north.

Burradon and Camperdown

Burradon and Camperdown are neighbouring former mining villages on the northern fringe of Killingworth New Town. Camperdown was formerly called Hazlerigg but was renamed from the Battle of Camperdown which took place in 1797. The earlier name Hazlerigg should not be confused with Hazlerigg near Wideopen, which is two miles to the west (where a Hazlerigg Colliery operated from 1892 to 1964).  Hazlerigg means ridge where hazel trees grew and gave rise to a local surname Hazelrigg.

The old part of Burradon consists of Burradon Farm Houses and Farm Cottages and was once noted for its neighbouring ‘freestone’ quarries. One of the houses here was a fortified tower house – and the ruins remain. This pele tower was associated with a Bertram Anderson and is dated to 1552. The place-name Burradon incidentally derives from Burgh-Dun meaning ‘fortified hill’ so perhaps this tower house occupied an earlier fortified site of more ancient times.

Burradon Colliery and its associated mining village developed just to the south of the old farming village. The colliery was opened in 1820 by Lord Ravensworth and a major explosion here in 1860 claimed the lives of 76 men and boys at the mine. The youngest included boys ages 10, 11 and 12. From the 1890s the colliery was operated by the Burradon and Coxlodge Coal Company and passed to the NCB in 1947. It continued to operate until November 1975.

Dudley and Annitsford

Dudley and Annitsford are situated to the north of Burradon close to the modern border with Northumberland. Dudley, named from a coal owner’s son was a mining village that came into being with the nearby Dudley Colliery established in 1856. It was worked until 1977. Dudley colliery owners included Joseph Lamb and then the Cramlington Coal Company in the 19th century and later Hartley Main Collieries and the National Coal Board in the 20th century. From 1878 to 1958 Dudley was the home to Annitsford Railway Station which was situated on what is now the East Coast Main Line.

Annitsford, originally called ‘Annet’s Ford’ is situated on two sides of the Seaton Burn. Its neighbour to the immediate north is Cramlington New Town in Northumberland and to the east are Seghill and Seaton Delaval, also in that county. In the early nineteenth century Annitsford consisted of little more than a farm house.

In the 1820s the ford across the Seaton Burn at Annitsford was described as “dangerous after rain” and the need for a bridge was acknowledged. The bridge came a little later in the century after which Annitsford grew into a village with houses clustered along its north to south Front Street and in terraces alongside the Cramlington Colliery Railway’s Dudley branch.

More substantial growth occurred in the twentieth century, particularly in the post war years, but Annitsford is still relatively small. Most of the development was on the north side of the Seaton Burn with some development on the south side in the area known as Fordley. One of the streets here is called Owen Brannigan Drive, after the famous Annitsford-born bass opera singer and performer (1908-1973) who made his name in London but was perhaps best-known in the region for his rendition of the ‘Blaydon Races’. Brannigan is buried in the cemetery at Annitsford’s Roman Catholic church.

Seaton Burn, Wideopen and Weetslade

West of Dudley there is an 18th century house called Seaton Burn House and nearby the village of Seaton Burn is just off the A1. Seaton Burn is named from the Seaton Burn stream and not from a coastal location as it is a good seven miles from the sea. The burn itself eventually enters the North Sea on the Northumberland coast at Seaton Sluice.

Seaton Burn is a mining village and served a colliery of that name which lay just to its west near the present A1. Seaton Burn’s Front Street still  follows the course of the original old Great North Road. The Seaton Burn colliery was established in 1844 and its owners in the 1850s included John Bowes and Charles M. Palmer. The colliery was in operation until August 1965.

Also on the A1 south of Seaton Burn is Wideopen. In the 19th century Wideopen consisted of a couple of farms called East Wideopen and West Wideopen. They were either side of the Great North Road but that was not the present A1 which bypasses Wideopen to the west. In the twentieth century Wideopen began to develop as a commuter settlement with growth in the first half of the century initially clustered along the main road with neighbouring estates developing in the post-war years.

Over on the other side of the present A1 is Brunswick village, the name given to the mining village formerly known, in the nineteenth century, as Dinnington Colliery. The colliery itself here operated from 1867 to 1960 and was opened by John Bowes and partners. The village was presumably renamed to avoid confusion with old Dinnington village in Northumberland a mile to the west. Brunswick later merged with the neighbouring colliery village of Hazlerigg just to the south where a colliery had operated from 1892 to 1964.

The whole area stretching from Wideopen north to Annitsford and east to Burradon was historically known as Weetslade, a name first recorded in the 1190s. A Low Weetslade Farm once existed in the Dudley area but has now gone but High Weetslade Farm can still be seen between Wideopen and Burradon.

The name Weetslade comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘withy-slaed’ and means ‘willow valley’. To the south of High Weetslade are the wide open spaces of High Gosforth Park in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here we find the Parklands Golf Course, Northumberland Golf Course and of course the famous Newcastle racecourse but here we have gone off course and veered away from our little journey through the history of the northern parts of North Tyneside.

Tynemouth North Shields | Whitley Bay and Cullercoats

 Newcastle | Gosforth – Jesmond 

 Ouseburn – Byker |  Wallsend 

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