Camperdown is a settlement squeezed between the little village of Burradon to the north and Killingworth to the south, in the upper reaches of what is now Tyne & Wear. It does not loom especially large in the history books, but its presence on the modern-day map is the result of a curious and pretty much undocumented series of events.
The place didn’t even exist until the 1820s. But with the sinking of Burradon pit in 1820 and the construction of the Seaton Burn waggonway in 1826 a few buildings began to appear, and the small collection of streets came to be known as Hazlerigge, after the name of the local landowning family. However – and no one seems to know quite why – the inhabitants of the little place soon began referring to their new village as Camperdown, with the first reference appearing in the local parish register in 1840. The new label almost certainly came from the famous battle of the same name fought between the British and Dutch in 1797. Camperdown was an important and decisive victory during the Napoleonic wars, and was probably the biggest battle we’d ever won at sea at the time. It was not uncommon for places to be named after such important events, and interest in the Battle of Camperdown continued for many, many years after 1797.
As for the name Hazlerigge, well, this continued to be used somewhat loosely in the area; but by 1872, the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle reported that the old name was no longer being used by the residents and that they preferred to use Camperdown. And so it eventually became official.
Now you’re probably looking at your map and thinking, hold on a minute, I know fine well that Hazlerigg (no ‘e’) still exists, so what exactly are you talking about? Well, yes, the name did indeed live on – well, after a brief gap, anyway. In the 1890s, when a new coal pit was sunk a couple of miles to the west of Camperdown near Wideopen, the name Hazlerigg was adopted by the new settlement which subsequently developed around the pit-head.
So now you know. For much, much more on the history of Burradon and Camperdown see http://www.burradon-camperdown.co.uk/ .