Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Demise of Gateshead House (NZ257632)

(taken from the iSeeGateshead website – copyright expired. 
Click on image to enlarge)

In the early days of 1746, everyone south of the border with Scotland was a little agitated. Both anti-Scottish and especially anti-Jacobite sentiment was running high – well, among the protestant majority, at least. In January of that year, a few weeks before the decisive encounter at Culloden, King George II’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, marched north, passing through Gateshead and Newcastle en route.

Delayed by troublesome roads, he arrived in Gateshead at 1am on the morning of 28th January …

…  where he was welcomed by a kind of illumination which gave his royal highness great uneasiness to see. The mob having set a mansion-house, with a popish chapel within it, on fire, at that place on the occasion. The outrage is said to have proceeded from the following circumstances. The family being from home, the house, chapel, &c. were left to the care of the gardener whose name was Woodness; when the duke and his attendants were coming down, the mob being anxious to see them, several of them climbed upon the garden walls to have a better view, when the gardener afraid of his master’s property, let loose some dogs upon them which bit several who were keelmen; being exasperated, they attempted to catch the gardener, who, no doubt, would have fallen a victim to their rage. Finding the object of their fury had eluded them, they set fire to the mansion-house, &c.

The mansion in question was Gatshead House, which used to stand to the east of the present-day St.Edmund’s Church on the High Street (aka Holy Trinity). Once the property of the Riddells, a catholic family, at the time the house was torched it was the seat of the Claverings, who were related to them. The fire rendered the property uninhabitable and it fell into ruin. It was eventually demolished – and the site is now taken up by high rise flats and a major trunk road. A repositioned gateway from the house remains in the grounds of St.Edmund’s Church. 

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dunston Staithes (NZ237626)

© Copyright AndrewCurtis and licensed for reuse under this CreativeCommons Licence.

The riverside monster that is Dunston Staithes is well known to all Tynesiders. Despite being severely damaged by fire twice of late, its skeletal form still looms large over all within a good mile or so of its muddy situate on the southern shore of the River Tyne.

The bare facts alone are all you need to know…

  • Contructed by the North Eastern Railway Co. during 1890-93 to transfer coal from trains into seagoing vessels
  • 1,709ft long, 50ft wide and 40ft high – reputedly the largest timber structure in Europe (and possibly the world)
  • Total weight of timber: in excess of 3,000 tonnes
  • Cost: £120,000+
  • Materials: North American Pitch Pine
  • Shipped 1.5 tonnes of coal in first year
  • Peaked in 1939 with nearly 4 million tonnes shipped
  • Operations ceased in 1977, and structure closed in 1980
  • Centrepiece of Gateshead Garden Festival in 1990

Recent uncertainty over the structure’s future seems to have been averted as plans are afoot to preserve and develop the site.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Shocking Suicide at Dunston, 1888 (c.NZ230626)

From the Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore & Legend, August 1888 –

July 7 – A shocking case of attempted murder, followed by the suicide of the perpetrator, occurred at Dunston, near Gateshead. About eight o’clock in the evening, Sergeant Green and Police-Constable Lindsay, the only two policemen in the place, were informed that John Swaddle, a waterman, had gone into the house of Thomas Dawson, and assaulted him with a poker. They went and turned Swaddle out, the latter making no disturbance about the matter at the time. An hour later, however, the officers came across Swaddle carrying a double-barrelled gun, which he immediately levelled at the sergeant and fired. Green reeled and fell, shot in the left side. Lindsay rushed at Swaddle, who fired at him also, the result being that the constable fell to the ground. Swaddle, after a moment’s glance at his two victims, ran off, taking the gun with him, in the direction of the River Tyne. Green, meanwhile, assisted by the people of the village, his wounds being serious, was conveyed with all speed to his home. Lindsay had received a large number of pellets in his arm and back, but was not so dangerously hurt as his superior. Swaddle, on reaching the riverside, threw his gun into a boat, and jumped into deep water. He soon rose to the surface, and was seized by a man who was in the boat and dragged on shore. An unattached locomotive soon afterwards came steaming along the Redheugh Railway close by the river towards Gateshead. Swaddle jumped to his feet, sprang over the low wall at the side of the railway, and flung himself upon his face right in front of the advancing engine, which literally cut him in two. Swaddle, who was 41 years of age, left a wife and a large family; and the jury, at the inquest on his body, returned a verdict of death by suicide. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Bensham Tram Crash of 1916 (NZ246619)

(image from the iSeeGateshead website)

Private Edward Hutchinson was one of the many who dutifully joined up (with the Durham Light Infantry) during the First World War – doing so in mid-September 1914. In April 1915 his battalion was posted overseas, where he fought in (and survived) the Second Battle of Ypres. Returning home due to sickness or injury, he found himself in the Gateshead suburb of Bensham in early 1916.

Despite his major scrape with death in the trenches, Hutchinson had the ironic misfortune to find himself crushed to death under a runaway tram one chilly winter’s evening, in what became known as the Bensham Tram Crash of 5th February 1916.

The vehicle in question was travelling up Bensham Bank, having just passed the junction with Saltwell Road, when the driver, 20-year-old motorman Leonard Jane, applied his brakes and left his tram to assist a colleague in an oncoming vehicle who had had to deal with a fight. In his absence, the half-full car filled with several more passengers and the extra weight caused it to trundle slowly backwards. On meeting the junction with Saltwell Road, it turned sharply and its momentum caused it to topple over.

All on-board survived (though there were several injuries, including a couple of broken legs), but the four pedestrians trapped under the hulk of the falling tram were all killed – among them our WWI veteran. The other three were all members of the Morrell family – a father, mother and a boy of seven. The distraught motorman was later acquitted of manslaughter.

Strangely, Gateshead tramcar No.7 was later repaired and pressed back into service – and it now enjoys a new lease of life at the National Tramway Museum in Derbyshire.