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Local Histories - J


The earliest recorded evidence of human activity at Jarrow is the recorded find of two flint flakes (HER 490) in 1860, during the construction of Tyne Dock. In 1887 a worked flint was found at Jarrow, by the son of the secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, and in a fine flint axe was found “in the town of Jarrow” in 1886. (HER 830-1). Finds and structures from later periods include an oil lamp, coins and various other Roman artefacts (HER 983-992), which led early antiquaries to postulate the existence of a Roman fort at Jarrow (HER 993). The most important archaeological remains surviving at Jarrow are associated with the early medieval, or Anglo-Saxon period. The monastery of St. Paul (HER 994) was founded as a twin monastery for St Peters, Monkwearmouth on the banks of the river Don by a Northumbrian noble called Benedict Biscop in 681 A.D. The dedication stone for the church is the oldest in the country, dating the building to the 23rd April of the year 681 A.D. although there are two older churches in the North East of England, including that at Monkwearmouth. Biscop's Saxon monastery at Jarrow was a great centre of English learning and is internationally known as the home of the Venerable Bede, (673-735 A.D), author of the `Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum' (`The History of the English Church and People'), the main source for the history of Anglo-Saxon England. Having repelled earlier raids, the monastery was abandoned after raids by the Vikings in 874-5, but revived in the late 11th century when it became a cell of Durham. This priory (HER 1230) survived until the dissolution in 1536. Many Anglo-Saxon stone fragments have been found at Jarrow, mainly associated with the monastery (HER 994-1000, 1201-1226), as well as a cemetery (HER 1227). The first documentary references to Jarrow (Gyrvum) medieval village date from the late 11th century in a document by Bishop Walcher. It was, however, quite a small settlement at this time - in 1345/6 there were 8 named tenants, one being the Master of the cell of Jarrow, paying rent for 9 tofts and 1 cottage. When Hutchinson visited it in 1782 he noted only "two or three mean cottages". The actual site of the village to which the documentary references apply is unknown, but it may have been north of Jarrow Hall (HER 1233) or along the road west of the hall, or alternatively, on the site of the 18th-19th century village (HER 1235) east of the priory. 19th century plans show houses arranged around the south, east and north sides of the rough grassed area between the church and the Don (to the east), with another row along the edge of the road north from the bridge, but no signs of an early village were found there when it was excavated. The 18th and 19th centuries saw Jarrow develop into a major industrial centre, with saltpans in operation between Jarrow Slake and South Shields throughout the 19th century, glass and chemical works (HER 2267, 2277 and 2279), and coal mining, notably at Jarrow Colliery (HER 2258) between 1803-1851. Wagonways and railways associated particularly with the coal trade were built in abundance, eventually converging on Tyne Dock (HER 2556), built for the North Eastern Railway and opened in 1859. The Tyne dock lock gates and quay walls survive, but a range of other features, including various stone- and brick-built structures, cranes and coal drops have been lost. Shipbuilding yards at Jarrow included Palmers shipbuilding and iron works (HER 2534), operational between 1860 and 1933. The late 19th century also saw the development of housing for the huge number of industrial workers, and of an associated transport infrastructure - both the rail and tram networks became well-established. Public buildings associated with urban development included churches and chapels of various denominations, as well as a service infrastructure.  


Evidence for prehistoric human activity in Jesmond is provided by finds of flint artefacts (HER 1409) and bronze age cist burials found in the garden of Crag Hall in 1844 (HER 147) and at Villa Reale in 1828 (HER 148). The first documentary reference to the village of Jesmond dates from the late 12th century and refers to Jesmond as a member of the barony of Ellingham. The shape of the village cannot be deduced from historic maps, but it is assumed that the site of the original village was south of St. Mary’s Chapel, and aligned along the Grove, where two stretches of stone wall survive on the south side. St. Mary’s Chapel in Jesmond Dene is first recorded in 1272 and was a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, until dissolved in 1548.

Up to the end of the 18th century, however, a part of the ruins was known as the Hospital, having been the hospice of the pilgrims. Lord Armstrong gave the ruins to the City in 1883. The nearby St. Marys Well was once thought to be medieval in origin, but has recently been shown to be relatively modern. Jesmond Manor House (HER 1871) was rebuilt by William Coulson in 1720 on the site of Nicholas Grenville's 12th century house and lay just north of where the present Manor House Road joins Grosvenor Road until demolished in 1929. Another early residence, the 17th century Stote's Hall (HER 1407), lay on the east side of Jesmond Dene Road, and was rebuilt in the early 17th century, but demolished in the mid-20th century. Medieval documents record the existence of a mill at Jesmond in 1272 (HER 1403). This was almost certainly on the Ouseburn and may have occupied the site of one of the later mills on that stream. Later mills include Jesmond Old Mill (HER 1402), a water corn mill in existence by 1739, Jesmond Vale Mill, originally a flint mill (and site of the first standing engine made by George Stephenson after he commenced business for himself), but converted to grind flour in the 1880s, and Busy Cottage Corn Mill (HER 4137), on the site now occupied by Millfield House, a corn mill with a forge, converted from former ironworks buildings (see HER 5680) by 1855.

Although coalmining was carried out there – records show that Jesmond Colliery was open by 1727 - Jesmond developed in the industrial age primarily as a residential, rather than industrial district. This status was consolidated by the opening of the Armstrong and Heaton Parks (HER 5005), established in the mid-19th century up to 1894, which straddle the Ouseburn and occupy around 18 hectares (see also HER 5686-5726 and 5734-5760). Also at this time Jesmond acquired a railway station (HER 1939), built in 1864, as well as improved road connections, including the Armstrong Bridge, opened in 1878 (HER 4332). Jesmond Dene House was used as a Home Guard HQ during WW2 and various modified tunnels and a pillbox survives there (HER 1953-4).