Thursday, 28 September 2023

More Post-WWII Plans for Newcastle

A short while ago I wrote about the 'Development Plan' the local authorities had for Newcastle in 1954. Well, a few days ago I stumbled upon another such scheme in a booklet entitled Plan - Newcastle upon Tyne, 1945. Here's the cover:

The publication is an official council effort, runs to more than 130 pages and includes many maps and illustrations. It is remarkable in its optimism and ambition - perhaps typifying the general mood of the nation a matter of weeks - days, in fact - after the conclusion of hostilities. As far as I can make out, virtually none of the 'plans' reached fruition, though there is so much in there that it is difficult to take it all in! To give you a taste of what the council had in mind I shall let you see a few images from the little booklet - the quality is not great, but I hope you can make sense of them (click on the pics to enlarge).

Take a look at this dramatic road restructuring plan!

The proposed new town hall was to be in exactly the same spot as the future 1960s effort.

Then there was a new Redheugh Bridge.

And a super new river crossing at Scotswood. This isn't too far removed from the structure which eventually opened in 1990.

And whatever became of the St.Anthony's Bridge?

Remarkable stuff. If you ever get the chance to get your hands on a copy of this booklet, then don't pass up the opportunity.

Friday, 22 September 2023

John Buddle: "The King of the Coal Trade"

A few days ago I attended a lecture by David Kidd at the Mining Institute in Newcastle. The subject under discussion was the life of John Buddle, the "The King of the Coal Trade". I'd heard of John Buddle, of course - my mother even spent a few years of her childhood living on the street named after him in Benwell - but I didn't really know very much about his life or his work. So it was an enlightening experience.

Buddle (1773-1843), was an unusual character. He was a self-made man, specialising in the engineering processes concerning coalmining. He was obsessed with record keeping and improving the safety of miners, and spent many thousands of hours underground in pursuit of these causes as a colliery viewer. 

He was an entrepreneur, too, and had extensive interests across many fields, including shipping - being especially prominent in the construction and development of Seaham Harbour. Safe to say that he had a major influence on the development of the Northern Coalfield during the early decades of the nineteenth century. He is most commonly connected with Wallsend Colliery, and the suburb of Benwell (where he is buried).

But Buddle was a complex man. Though obsessed with record keeping and safety, he oversaw many of the region's major mining disasters. His compassion in dealing with these tragedies and his follow-up work and research endeared him to the miners ... though he also inflamed hatred from them with his anti-union stance. But the times in which he operated were complicated, too, and general standards were, of course, much, much lower in those dangerous days. Whatever your thoughts and opinion of the man, the account of his funeral is quite extraordinary (see links below).

I was prompted to write this short piece by a desire to help raise the prominence of this half-forgotten individual. If you'd like to learn more then please check out the following:

The King of the Coal Trade: John Buddle - an eight-page (pdf) summary of his life;

Plenty of further reading for you there, then...

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Appeal for Articles, Recommendations, etc.!

I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but it occurs to me that this blog should really be a writing outlet not only for myself, but for ANYONE who has a passion about the history of Newcastle and/or the North-East. So do you fancy helping me out in this respect?

It seems to me that there may be a few of you out there who would like to pen a guest post for me along the lines of, say...
  • An article on the history of Newcastle or the North-East of England. Something that has not been covered before on the blog, of course; and perhaps around the 500-word mark (but longer or shorter is fine, too);
  • A plug for a local history book you may have written;
  • A review of a local history book you have read, or can recommend;
  • Any other recommendations, such as useful websites, articles, links, etc.;
  • Publicity for a forthcoming talk you may are giving, or may know about (and that it relevant to the history of the region);
  • Publicity for your local history society, and/or their forthcoming activities;
  • Are there any upcoming or current projects that you know of that may be of interest to my readers?;
  • Perhaps you need to put out an appeal for information on some topic?
  • Do you have an 'opinion piece' that you think deserves an airing?

I cannot offer any payment for material that appears on the blog, only a little bit of publicity. But please don't be shy - my own articles, as you can see, are very informal and not at all academic.

If you think you can contribute in some small way then contact me at micksouthwick @ (without the gaps), and we'll try to sort something out.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

The Haymarket: A Brief History

The Haymarket area of Newcastle, which is now dominated by the bus station of the same name, was once an area dedicated to the selling of fodder and other farm produce (now there’s a surprise). It was not always so, though.

In times of yore, it was well outside the old town walls, of course, and therefore lay undeveloped until relatively modern times. As Percy Street and Northumberland Street developed, the future Haymarket area was one of the last spots in the vicinity to receive attention. It was described as an area of “dirty, unseemly waste, full of puddles and pools of putrid water.” In 1808, however, it was paved and turned into a parade ground for local soldiery. Then, in 1824, a Hay Market was established there, held every Tuesday. “High-piled carts of hay and the groups of horses and buyers and sellers, formed a fine picture, with the background of picturesque dormer-windowed old houses on the west side of the street.” Here, too, would be the gathering point for “wild beast shows” and exhibitions of “wax-works, fat women and living skeletons.” Hiring for farmers’ servants was held there from 1838, turning the area into a great gathering point for country folk – no wonder, then, that the public house which once dominated the area was called The Farmer’s Rest. Hay, straw and the likes continued to be sold there until the early years of the twentieth century … and eventually the market passed into history, with the bus station opening in 1930.

[quotes taken from Charleton’s Newcastle Town of 1885]

[article taken from Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Fragments of the Past, Vol.2 - see left-hand column]

Wednesday, 30 August 2023

Newcastle upon Tyne's Post-War 'Development Plan'

(click for enlarged view)

In response to government legislation, Newcastle City Council produced and published a 'Development Plan' in June 1954. It provided a blueprint for the authority's 20-year ambitions for the city centre and its suburbs. Alongside the dozen or so pages of (admittedly very sketchy) ideas, were two large fold-out maps of the city, with bits shaded / coloured in to give us all a rough idea as to what would happen and when. Many of the plans never reached fruition, but a good deal did. 

I only know this because today I bought a copy of the booklet & plans in question from a second-hand bookshop for £15 (as you may know, I am a sucker for such offerings). As much as I'd like to share the whole thing with you, it is simply not practically possible - but above is an image from the same of the proposed new 'town hall' (civic centre), imagined well over a decade before the place was eventually opened. It is remarkably similar to the final, finished structure - though the famous circular council chamber and lantern tower which we are familiar with today are missing from the artist's impression. The civic centre itself was built during 1960-67 and formally opened in 1968.

As for an old West-Ender like me, I found it interesting to note that they also had in mind a 'Western By-pass' to skirt the suburbs much as the current trunk road does. Even as early as the 1940s/50s a ribbon of land was being reserved for this purpose ... but it wasn't actually built until 1990! When it was finally opened, it at once became the new course of the A1 (taking over from the Tyne Tunnel route).

Thursday, 24 August 2023

The Physical Aspect of Northumberland in the 16th century

The following extract is taken from the 1897 book by W.W.Tomlinson entitled Life in Northumberland During the Sixteenth Century.

" A large portion of the county, especially in the central and western parts, consisted of waste ground, which is described as 'very cold, hard, and barren for the winter' (1569). The lower grounds were in several places mere bogs and swamps. Till 1857 there were 1,100 acres of marshy ground, covered in places with large pools of water, within seven miles of Newcastle. This spot - known as Prestwick Car [sic] - has been drained, and is now for the most part under cultivation. Middleton Bog, Embleton Bog, and Newham Bog have also ceased to exist within recent times. Sheldon Lough, near Corbridge, at the present day is but a name, and Grindon Lough, near Housesteads, has shrunk under the process of draining to a mere pool.

" Previous to the sixteenth century the country had been denuded very largely of its woods. Leland, the Royal Antiquary of Henry VIII, who was in Northumberland in 1538 or soon after, wrote as follows:-

In Northumberland, as I heare say, be no Forests exept Chivet Hills, where is much Brushe wood, and sum Okke. Ground over growne with Linge [?] and some with mosse. There is greate Plenty of redd Dere and Roo Bukkes ... The great wood of Cheviot, he adds, is spoyled now and crokyd old trees and scrubs remayne.

" The explanation of the disappearance of this famous wood is given by Bowes and Ellerker in their Report of 1541:

The Scottes, as well by night tyme secretly, as upon the dai tyme with a more force, do come into the said forest of Chevyott div'se tymes and steale and carrye awaie muche of the said woode, whiche ys to them a greatte proffyte for the maynte'unce of their houses and buyldinge, and a small redresse thereof can be hadd by the lawes and customes of the M'ches, wherefore we thinke yt expedient that some greatter correcc'on and punyshemente were devysed for suche as steale and take awaie the said woode.

" Sir Robert Carey, also, in a letter to Burghley, dated August 4, 1598, makes allusion to this timber-stealing which went on along the Borders: Besides their hunting, their custom is to bring in 100 men at these times, to cut and carry away wood, and they have thus clean wasted 'one of the goodlyest woodes' in the middle March.

" Leland further tells us that there was very little wood between Newcastle and Tynemouth, Newcastle and Morpeth, Alnwick and Berwick. Almost none in Bamburghshire and Redesdale and along the Tweed. Between the two branches of the Tyne there was the 'Forest of Lowes', which Belted Will is said to have afterwards cut down as it harboured freebooters, and between Morpeth and Alnwick there might be seen 'good Plenty of wood in certayne Places and many Parks'. Between Newcastle and Hexham, there were woods at Benwell and Wylam, from which timber was procured for Berwick Bridge in Henry the Eighth's time, and at Bywell.

" In a survey taken in 1569 it is stated that to the Barony of Bywell belongeth a fforest of red deer well replenished with game, 6 miles E. by W. and 5 N. by S. And the ffarmes and Tenants in the said Baronies (Bywell and Bulbeck) are well planted with coppice wood for the preservation of the red deer, and in the wastes also are divers woods.


Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Tales from the East End

After I'd written up my last blog post I realised that, across the city, there is an equally excellent source of historical information for the East End - well, Heaton and its immediate environs, anyway. This is the superb Heaton History Group website.

When I was putting together my recent book on the city's suburbs, articles from this organisation's website would frequently come up in Google searches. And though I always try to get to the source of historical facts before I present them to you in my books and blog posts, I have learned to trust this particular source. It is essentially a blog about historical bits and bobs relating to Heaton, but is beautifully laid out, cross-referenced and catalogued - and with articles dating back more than a decade. And most of the pieces are lengthy affairs, too, with a good scattering of illustrations and lists of sources, etc.

You can join the group, too, for a very modest £15 per annum, and there are, of course, regular talks and other events for members (and indeed paying non-members) to enjoy.

So, though I'm a 'West-Ender' by birth and upbringing, I'd like to thank the good folk at Heaton History Group for extending my knowledge of the far side of the city. Boy, what an interesting place Newcastle and its suburbs is!