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Local Histories - E

Earsdon

The earliest recorded evidence of human activity at Earsdon is a prehistoric polished stone axe (HER 729) found sometime before the 1930s. Finds and structures from later periods include rectilinear enclosures (HER 4847 and 5679), including a single-ditched enclosure (HER 4835) and possible roundhouses (HER 4848), all of likely Iron Age/Romano-British date. The first documentary references to Earsdon date from the early 12th century in a document listing the possessions of Tynemouth Priory. This shows that the village of Earsdon (HER 783) was established in the medieval period. In 1292, except for two freeholds, the whole township was in 17 bondage holdings, 14 owners of which are listed in a document of 1296 (the lay subsidy roll). The number of holdings decreased in the later Middle Ages, so that in 1538 there were only eight farms. In 1649 the common fields were enclosed. Earsdon was basically a two-row village, probably with a green, with a strong rectangular outline until developments in the 19th and 20th centuries. The chapel of St. Alban (HER 782) was built originally in the early 13th century, but in 1837 was demolished and replaced with the current church. Other probable medieval survivals in Earsdon are the earthwork remains of ridge and furrow cultivation features, which can be seen on the Common Fields (HER 784), enclosed in 1649. During the 19th century, coal mining grew in importance alongside the agricultural economy. The Duke and Duchess Pit (HER 1111) at Earsdon Colliery was open throughout the century until replaced by the Abbey Shot Factory. The Church Pit (HER 1114), was open between 1838-1933, and some of its buildings still survive. In St. Albans Churchyard there is a memorial (HER 5247) to the 204 miners that lost their lives at Hartley Colliery in 1862. Remnants from the Second World War can be found in Earsdon in the form of pillboxes and a Spigot Mortar Emplacement (HER 5420). The village is still largely built of stone and retains something of its earlier character, with two farms at the west end, and some rather grand houses. Modern sites of importance to the local cultural heritage include a World War Two weapons pit and pillbox, and a roadblock site.   

Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne     

Elswick is located in the west end of Newcastle upon Tyne on the banks of the river. Once a separate settlement the village was incorporated into Newcastle as the city grew.

The earliest evidence for human activity in the area can be found in the Bronze Age. In the late 1800s work in or near the Elswick Middle Quarry (HER 4103) discovered a Bronze Age burial cist (HER 1374). The cist contained a decorated food vessel (HER 1375), which is typical of the era known as the Beaker Period. This beaker was displayed in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1913. This evidence coupled with associated Bronze Age finds from nearby West Denton (HER 1250) and Benwell (HER 1376) could suggest prehistoric occupation in the area.

More reliable evidence for settlement at Elswick can be found during the medieval period. Elswick village (HER 1363) is named in a confirmation charter to Tynemouth Priory in 1189, yet the land may have been given to the priory as early as 1120. Elswick manor (HER 1366) was one of the buildings within the village, consisting of a farm and house, and was mentioned as one of the 10 listings in 1292. It was possibly located to the North-West of Elswick Hall (HER 1864) on the South side of Elswick Road. There was still a farm located there in the mid 19th Century.

The growth of Medieval Newcastle through coal mining seems to have also reached Elswick during the medieval period. Men were digging for coal on Elswick Moor as early as 1293. In 1330 the Prior of Tynemouth granted a formal lease for the coal mines (HER 1367). By 1387 the rental for the pits included the Staiths (HER 1368) on the bank of the Tyne for the transportation of the coal. The precise location of the Staiths is unknown. Quarrying also began in Elswick during this period (HER 1364).
By the 1700s the village (HER 1363) was growing. A map of 1780 shows two rows of houses on either side of Mill Lane which ran down the West side of Elswick Park. Elswick Quay (HER 4907) was constructed during this period and may have been associated with the ongoing coal mining in the area. The quay would probably have been used by the Elswick Lead Works (HER 4116). With the gradual industrial growth of Elswick came the development of workers cottages (HER 4896).

By the 1820s industry had arrived on a large scale in the local area making it unrecognisable from the previously largely rural area. By 1835 the boundary for Newcastle incorporated Elswick.

A number of pits and quarries had a physical impact on Elswick excavating a variety of raw materials such as coal (HER 4107, 4109, 4098), clay (HER 4119), gravel (HER 4117) and stone (HER 4103, 4104, 4320) for both local industries and for export. However by the time of the 2nd Edition OS the majority of these pits and quarries were out of use.

The varying manufacturing industries including the Elswick Engine works (HER 4108), Elswick Lead works (HER 4116), Lead pipe mill (HER 4901), Elswick Iron foundry (HER 4113), Firebrick manufactory (HER 4111) and Richardson’s Tannery (HER 4982) continued to develop.

The most significant manufacturer to be established in Elswick was the works of Sir W.G. Armstrong in 1847. Initially producing hydraulic cranes the advent of the Crimean War led to the production of armaments at the works. As demand grew so did Armstrong’s works. In 1885 shipbuilding began on the banks of the Tyne at Armstrong’s Elswick shipyard. Between the 1850s and 1890s numbers of rows of streets appeared on the slopes off the Scotswood road, many built by Armstrong.

By 1907 the Armstrong’s works employed over 25,000 people with the population of Elswick reaching almost 60,000.

By the 1930s Elswick was in decline, with the great depression hitting the industry of the area. The late 1980s saw the Armstrong’s Elswick works awaiting demolition. The Tyne and Wear Development Corporation re-developed the site into a modern day business park.