Northumberland Yesterday and To-day
Jean F. Terry
Part 2 out of 4
whether he had actually joined the plotters, his well-known friendship
with the exiled Prince making it almost certain that he would be an
important figure in any movement on their behalf. For the next few weeks
the young Earl found himself obliged to remain in hiding, finding safety
in the cottages of his tenants, and in the houses of friends and
neighbours. Finally, though his good sense warned him that he was
embarking on an almost hopeless enterprise, he decided to throw in his
lot with the Jacobites.
Tradition has it that his decision was brought about by the taunts of
his Countess, who, like the rest of the Jacobite ladies, was more
enthusiastic than the men. Throwing down her fan, she scornfully offered
that to her husband as a weapon, and demanded his sword in exchange. The
immediate result was seen on that October morning when Derwentwater and
his little band of followers rode over the bridge at Corbridge with
drawn swords, on their way to Beaufront, which was their first
rendezvous; and from there proceeded to Greenrigg, near the great Wall,
which had been appointed as a general meeting-place.
There they were joined by Mr. Forster, of Bamburgh, with his contingent,
and a few from the surrounding district. Rothbury next saw the little
army, which was joined on Felton Bridge by seventy Scots; and thereafter
Warkworth, Alnwick, and Morpeth heard James Stuart proclaimed King under
the title of James III.
Newcastle was to have been their next objective, but, hearing that the
city had closed its gates, and intended to hold out for King George, the
Jacobite force, after some indecision, returned northward to Rothbury,
where they were joined by a large company of Scottish Jacobites under
Lord Kenmure. Northward again they marched to Kelso, where more than a
thousand Scots joined forces with them.
The little army numbered now almost 2,000, and a council was held to
determine what their next step should be. On its being resolved to enter
England, some hundreds of the Highlanders returned home, leaving an army
of about 1,500 to march southwards to Lancashire. On their way they put
to flight at Penrith a motley force which was raised to oppose them;
and, elated with a first success, moved forward to Preston, grievously
disappointed on the way at the failure of the people of Lancashire to
rise with them, for they had been given to understand that thousands in
that county were only awaiting an opportunity to declare for "King
At Preston they barricaded the principal streets, and repulsed General
Willis; but the arrival of General Carpenter from Newcastle changed the
face of affairs. Young Derwentwater had fought valiantly and worked
arduously at the barricades, but Forster--whose appointment as General
had been made in the hope of attracting other Protestant gentry to the
Jacobite cause--offered to submit to General Carpenter under certain
conditions. Carpenter's reply was a demand for unconditional surrender,
and the hopeless little tragi-comedy was played out. The last scene took
place on Tower Hill three months later, when the gallant young Earl,
then only twenty-six years old, laid down the life which, after all, had
been spent in the service of others, with no selfish purpose in view,
and which was offered him, together with wealth and freedom, if he would
forsake his faith and throw aside his allegiance to the house of Stuart.
Refusing to purchase life at such a price, he was condemned, and
executed on Tower Hill on February 24th, 1716.
His brother Charles, who had been by his side throughout the rising,
had the good fortune to escape from Newgate Prison, and passed most of
his life abroad. Thirty years later, on his return to take up arms on
behalf of James' son Charles--"bonnie Prince Charlie"--when he also drew
the sword in an attempt to regain the throne of his fathers, Radcliffe
was captured and beheaded. (For account of a monument to the memory of
these two brothers see in previous chapter paragraph relating to Haydon
The story of General Forster's escape from Newgate is told by Sir Walter
Besant, as all readers of his novel, "Dorothy Forster" know, though the
author has taken those minor liberties with unimportant facts which are
by common consent allowable in fiction.
James Radcliffe's friends were allowed to have his body, though they
were forbidden to carry it home for burial; for such were the love and
esteem borne for the young Earl in the hearts of all his North-country
friends and dependents, that the authorities feared a disturbance of the
peace should his body be brought amongst them while their rage and grief
were still at their height. Notwithstanding the prohibition, however,
the body was brought secretly to Dilston, and buried in the vault of the
chapel, which, with the ruined tower, are all that remain of the home of
the Radcliffes. Standing amidst luxuriant foliage, and overlooking a
romantic dell, the ruins of tower and chapel remain as they fell into
decay on the death of their luckless owners. The confiscated estates
were bestowed on Greenwich Hospital, whose agents administer them still,
with the exception of certain portions purchased from time to time by
various landowners. No other family took the place of the Radcliffes in
the deserted halls; but tradition holds that the unfortunate Earl and
his sorrowful lady still revisit their ancient home. The Earl's body is
now at Thorndon, in Essex. Below is Surtees' beautiful ballad, "Lord
LORD DERWENTWATER'S FAREWELL
"Farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall,
My father's ancient seat;
A stranger now must call thee his,
Which gars my heart to greet.
Farewell each kindly well-known face
My heart has held so dear;
My tenants now must leave their lord
Or hold their lives in fear.
No more along the banks of Tyne
I'll rove in autumn grey;
No more I'll hear, at early dawn,
The lav'rocks wake the day;
Then fare thee well, brave Witherington,
And Forster ever true;
Dear Shaftsbury and Errington,
Receive my last adieu.
And fare thee well, George Collingwood,
Since fate has put us down;
If thou and I have lost our lives,
Our king has lost his crown.
Farewell, farewell, my lady dear,
Ill, ill thou counsell'dst me;
I never more may see the babe
That smiles upon thy knee.
And fare thee well, my bonny gray steed,
That carried me aye so free;
I wish I had been asleep in my bed
The last time I mounted thee;
The warning bell now bids me cease,
My trouble's nearly o'er;
Yon sun that rises from the sea
Shall rise on me no more.
Albeit that here in London Town
It is my fate to die;
O carry me to Northumberland,
In my father's grave to lie.
There chant my solemn requiem
In Hexham's holy towers;
And let six maids of fair Tynedale
Scatter my grave with flowers.
And when the head that wears the crown
Shall be laid low like mine;
Some honest hearts may then lament
For Radcliffe's fallen line.
Farewell to pleasant Dilston Hall,
My father's ancient seat;
A stranger now must call thee his,
Which gars my heart to greet."
Near to Corbridge the waters of the Tyne lave the ancient piers of the
old Roman bridge which led to Corstopitum, the most considerable of the
Roman stations in this region. The recent careful excavations have laid
bare the evidence of what must have been a most imposing city, and many
treasures of pottery, coins and ancient jewellery and ornaments,
together with large quantities of the bones of animals, some of them
identical with the wild cattle of Chillingham, have been brought to
light. The famous silver dish known as the Corbridge Lanx, which was
found at the riverside by a little girl in 1734, had evidently been
washed down from Corstopitum. It is now preserved at Alnwick Castle.
The antiquity of Corbridge is thus superior to that of Hexham, as far as
may be known; but on the other hand, while Hexham in Saxon times grew to
power, Corbridge declined. Yet, in its time, it was more than the home
of a famous Abbey; it was a royal city, albeit the date of its elevation
to royal rank coincided with the decline of the kingdom of which it was
the final capital. When the fierce and ruthless internal quarrels, which
rent Northumbria after Edbert's glorious reign, had weakened it so that
it fell a prey to the gradual encroachments of its northern neighbours,
the once royal city of Bamburgh was left in the hands of a noble Saxon
family, and the court was removed to Corbridge, which remained the abode
of the kings of Northumbria until Northumbria possessed royal rank no
longer. The tale of the two hundred years during which Corbridge was the
capital city is a tale of red slaughter and ruin, murder and bitter
feud, not against outside foes, but between one family and another,
noble against king, king against relatives of other noble houses,
amongst which might possibly be found the thegn to succeed him, or to
murder him in order to bring about his own more speedy elevation to a
So much was this the case, that Charles the Great, at whose court the
learned Northumbrian, Alcuin, was secretary, said that the Northumbrians
were worse than the invading heathen Danes, who, by this time, had begun
their ravages in the land. Amongst the rulers of Northumbria in those
days, the name of Alfwald the Just, who was called "the Friend of God,"
shines out with enduring light across the stormy darkness of that
terrible period; yet even his just and merciful rule and noble life
could not save him from the hand of the assassin. He was buried with
much mourning and great pomp in the Abbey at Hexham; and during the
recent excavations the fact of a Saxon interment was verified as having
taken place beneath the beautiful tomb which tradition has always held
to be that of King Alfwald the Just. This fact also helped to
demonstrate the extent of the original Abbey.
There was a monastery at Corbridge in the year 771, which is supposed to
have been founded by St. Wilfrid. Of the four churches which were
erected in later times, only one survives--the parish church of St.
Andrew, which occupies the site of the early monastery. In this ancient
church may be seen part of the original Saxon work, and many stones of
Roman workmanship are built up in the structure.
Like most other old churches in the north, it suffered severely at the
hands of the Scots, and, as at Hexham Abbey, traces of fire may be seen
on some of the stones.
King David of Scotland, on his invasion of England in 1138, which was to
end at the "Battle of the Standard," at Northallerton, encamped at
Corbridge for a time, and terrible cruelties were committed in the
district by his followers. In the next century, King John turned the
little town upside down in his efforts to find treasure which he was
convinced must be concealed somewhere in the houses; but his search was
fruitless. In the days of the three Edwards, during the long wars with
Scotland, Corbridge suffered terribly, being fired again and again; on
one occasion, in 1296, the destruction included the burning of the
school with some two hundred hapless boys within its walls. [Footnote
4: _See_ Bates, p. 149.]
Those heroes of our childhood's days, William Wallace and Robert Bruce,
were far from guiltless in these cruelties, though in justice to them
personally, the wild and lawless character of the men who formed their
undisciplined hosts must be remembered; and we know that Wallace tried
to save the holy vessels in Hexham Abbey, but, as soon as his back was
turned, they were swept away in the very presence of the officiating
During these terrible years most of Northumberland was a desolate waste;
and divine service had almost ceased to be performed between Newcastle
and Carlisle, even Hexham being deserted for a time. After the battle of
Bannockburn, matters were worse, if possible, and all the north lay in
fear of the Scots, but from time to time spasmodic efforts at
retaliation were made by the boldest of the Northumbrian landowners. In
the reign of Edward III., however, many of these great landowners
thwarted the King's designs by making a traitorous peace with their
David II. of Scotland encamped at Corbridge for a time during his second
attempt to invade England but this expedition ended in his defeat and
capture at Neville's Cross. Thereafter the north had rest for some
years, and Corbridge seems to have been left in peace. The Wars of the
Roses passed it by; and the Civil Wars in Stuart days also, except for
an unimportant skirmish; and the only part Corbridge saw of the Jacobite
rising of "The Fifteen" was the little cavalcade from Dilston which
clattered over the old bridge on its way to Beaufront. That bridge is
the same which we cross to-day; the date of its erection, 1674, may be
seen on one of its stones, and it was the only one on the Tyne which
withstood the great flood of 1771, when even the old Tyne Bridge at
Newcastle was swept away.
Quite close to the church there is an old pele-tower, which is in an
excellent state of preservation, little of it having disappeared except
the various floors. The vicars of Corbridge must have been often
thankful for such a refuge at hand, where they could bid defiance to
marauding bands, whether of Scottish or English nationality. In the
Register of the parish church may be seen a most interesting entry,
showing the Earl of Derwentwater's signature as churchwarden.
At a little distance from Corbridge, to the northward, is the fortified
manor-house of Aydon Castle, standing embowered in trees where the Cor
burn runs through a little rocky ravine, down whose steep sides Sir
Robert Clavering threw most of a marauding band of Scotsmen who had
attacked the grange; the place known as "Jock's Leap" obtained its name
from one of the Scots who escaped the fate of his comrades by his leap
for life across the ravine. The Castle, or hall, as it is variously
called, has not suffered such destruction as might have been expected,
seeing that it dates from the thirteenth century; but the thickness of
its walls, and the arrow-slits and narrow windows are obvious proof of
the necessity for defence which existed when it was first erected in the
days of Edward I. Many features of great interest, notably the ancient
fireplaces, remain in the interior of the building.
Returning down the Cor burn to the Tyne, our way lies eastward by the
side of the river, which here, after splashing and sparkling over the
shallows below Corbridge, narrows again to a deeper stream of swifter
current, and flows between green meadows and leafy woods, fern-clad
steeps and level haughs, all the way down to Ryton, where the
picturesque aspect of the river ceases, and it becomes an industrial
waterway. On this reach of the river are several places of considerable
Riding Mill, a pretty village in a well-wooded hollow, enclosed by steep
hills which rise ever higher and higher to the moors by Minsteracres and
Blanchland, stands where Watling Street, or Dere Street, leading down
the long slope of the country from Whittonstall, on reaching the Tyne
turned westward to Corstopitum. Further down the stream is Stocksfield,
where the aged King Edward I. halted on his last journey into Scotland,
on that expedition which was to have executed a summary vengeance upon
the Scots; he journeyed forward by slow stages, but was taken ill at
Newbrough, where he stayed for some time, before continuing his journey
by Blenkinsopp, Thirlwall, and Lanercost to Carlisle.
On the opposite side of the stream from Stocksfield is the lovely
village of Bywell, a "haunt of ancient peace," "sleeping soft on the
banks of the murmuring Tyne." This little peaceful spot was at one time
a very busy centre of life and industry on a small scale; in the Middle
Ages the inhabitants drove a thriving trade in all the necessities for a
people who spent a great part of their lives upon horseback, especially
in the making of the ironwork required--"bits, stirrups, buckles, and
the like, wherein they are very expert and cunning." The Nevilles, lords
of Raby and earls of Westmoreland, held Bywell at this time; before that
it was in the hands of the Balliols, of Scottish fame, who, like the
Bruces, were Norman knights high in favour with their kings, Norman and
Plantagenet, though they afterwards became their most determined foes.
Long before the advent of the Normans, a church was built here by St.
Wilfrid, and in it--St. Andrew's or the "White" Church--Egbert, twelfth
bishop of Lindisfarne, was consecrated by Archbishop Eanbald in the year
803. More than a thousand years afterwards, in 1896, an Ordination
service was again held at Bywell, in St. Peter's church, when five
deacons were ordained by Bishop Jacob. And in times yet more remote
than Wilfrid's age, Roman legionaries crossed the Tyne at this point
over a bridge of their own construction, of which the piers might be
seen until our own day. Bywell, too, had its "find" of Roman silver; in
1760 a silver cup was found in the Tyne, bearing the inscription
"Desidere vivas" around the neck of the vessel.
When the Nevilles were lords of the manor of Bywell, they began to build
a castle here, which, however, was left unfinished; the ancient tower
still standing, with its picturesque draping of ivy, was the gate-house
of the intended fortress. On the rebellion of the northern earls in
1569, Westmoreland's forfeited lands passed to the crown, so that Bywell
was held by Queen Elizabeth for a year or two, until she sold the estate
to a branch of the Fenwick family.
Bywell is unique in Northumberland in possessing two churches side by
side yet in different parishes. The town of Bywell, we are told by the
same authority before quoted, lay in a long line by the north bank of
the Tyne, and was "divided into two separate parishes" even then, so
that there ought to be traces of former buildings westward from the
present village. In connection with the two churches which adjoin each
other so closely, tradition tells the well-known story of the two
quarrelsome sisters who could not agree on the building of a church and
therefore each built one. One might have imagined, with some show of
reason, that there being two parishes, the two churches were placed
there in sheltering proximity to the castle, were it not for the fact
that the churches were in existence long before the stronghold of the
Nevilles was contemplated.
St. Andrew's, called the "White" church from the fact of its being
served in later days by the White friars, is the more ancient of the
two. As we have seen, a church erected by St. Wilfrid stood on this
site, and a goodly portion of the Saxon work remains in the tower. The
hagioscope, or "squint" in this church, and the "leper" window in St.
Peter's are interesting relics of the Middle Ages.
St. Peter's, or the "Black" church which once belonged to the
Benedictines or Black friars, is of much later date than its neighbour,
though still an ancient building, being supposed to date from the
eleventh century. Its most interesting possessions are two very old
bells, bearing Latin inscriptions, one announcing "I proclaim the hour
for people rising, and call to those still lying down," and the other
reading "Thou art Peter."
Bywell suffered greatly in the flood of 1771, when the bridge was swept
away, many houses destroyed, several people drowned, and both churches
It is not surprising that this tranquil little village--"the retreat of
the old doomed divinities of wood and fountain, banished from their
native haunts," to quote Mr. Tomlinson's happy phrase--has always been
beloved of artists, many of whom have transferred to their canvasses the
beauties of its mingled scenery of graceful woods and sparkling waters,
ancient fortress, peaceful meadows, and gray old towers. Many noteworthy
and fine old trees are to be found in and around this artists' haunt.
On the opposite side of the river, Bywell's younger sister, Stocksfield,
grows apace, reaching out towards the lulls and along the eastward
lanes, though not as yet in such measure as to cover the hillsides with
any semblance of a town, being still almost hidden amongst the profusion
of trees that clothe most of the district in their leafy greenery. On
the north bank of the stream the village of Ovingham now rises into
view, its name telling us plainly that there was a settlement here in
Saxon times "the home of the sons of Offa"; and the slope above the
river is fittingly crowned by the ancient church of St. Mary, whose
tower, with its curiously irregular windows, is the work of the Saxon
builders of the original church. The rest of the building, except some
Saxon work at the west end of the nave, dates from early Norman days.
Here is the burial place of the famous brothers John and Thomas Bewick,
who were born at Cherryburn House, just across the river. In this
delightful spot the boy Thomas Bewick grew up, absorbing unconsciously
the natural beauties that are to be found here by the Tyne and in the
little ravine through which the Cherry Burn flows, which beauties he so
lovingly reproduced on his engraving blocks later in life.
At the fords of Ovingham, Eltringham, and Bywell, the Scots under
General Leslie crossed the Tyne in 1644, and made their way into Durham,
leaving six regiments to watch Newcastle.
The picturesque ruins of Prudhoe Castle, whose lofty towers dominate the
valley for some distance up and down the stream, stand on a commanding
rocky ridge above the Tyne. The lands of Prudhoe were given, soon after
the Norman Conquest, to one of Duke William's immediate followers,
Robert de Umfraville; and it was Odinel de Umfraville who built the
present castle in the twelfth century. Its strength was soon put to the
test, for a few years after it was built William the Lion of Scotland
found that the place baffled all his attempts to capture it. In his
anger he determined to reduce the fortress of Odinel, who had spent much
time at the Scottish court in his youth, the Kings of Scotland being at
that time lords of Tynedale. The attempt ended in total failure, the
greatest harm the Scots did on that occasion being to destroy the
cornfields and strip the bark from the apple trees near the Castle;
while, a day or two afterwards, Odinel de Umfraville, with Glanvile and
Balliol, captured the Scottish monarch himself at Alnwick.
Another Umfraville, Richard, quarrelled with his neighbour of Nafferton,
on the opposite side of the river, for having begun to erect a fortress
much too near Umfraville's own. He sent a petition to the King on the
subject and King John commanded Philip de Ulecote's building operations
to cease. The unfinished castle, known as Nafferton Tower, remains to
this day as Philip's masons left it so many centuries ago.
Sir Ingram de Umfraville was by the side of Edward II. at Bannockburn,
when, before the battle, Bruce ordered his men to kneel in prayer.
Edward looked on the kneeling host, and turning to Umfraville, exclaimed
"See! Yon men kneel to ask mercy." "You say truth, sire," answered the
knight of Prudhoe; "they ask mercy--but not of you."
The last Umfraville, who died in 1381, left a widow, the Countess Maud,
who married a Percy of Alnwick, and so the castle passed into the hands
of that family, in whose possession it still remains.
When Odinel de Umfraville was building the keep of his castle, every one
in the neighbourhood was pressed into the service, and all lent their
aid except the men of Wylam. Wylam had been given to the church of St.
Oswyn at Tynemouth, and, as was customary, was freed by charter from the
duty of castle building, or any other feudal service excepting such as
were rendered to the Prior of Tynemouth as occasion arose. So, in spite
of the angry surprise of the lord of Prudhoe, the Wylam men quietly held
to their charter, and not all Odinel's threats or persuasions moved them
The Stanley Burn, which enters the Tyne close to Wylam railway station,
divides this part of the county of Durham from Northumberland, so that
from Wylam to the sea the south side of the Tyne is in the county of
Durham. The most noteworthy object at Wylam, or, to be precise, a little
way along the old post-road, leading to Newcastle from Hexham, is the
red-tiled cottage in which George Stephenson was born in 1781. It stands
on the north bank of the Tyne, where it can be distinctly seen from
passing trains. Its neighbour cottage has been repaired and re-roofed,
but Stephenson's cottage remains unaltered.
Mr. Blackett, who owned Wylam Colliery at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, took the keenest interest in the question of
locomotives, and had tried more than one on his estate before George
Stephenson brought them to the point of practical use. At Newburn, just
four miles down the Tyne, George Stephenson passed many years of his
youth; here he learned to read and write, when he was old enough to earn
a man's wage and could afford the few pence necessary; and here, in the
parish church, may be seen, with an interval of twenty years between
them, the entries of his two marriages.
Newburn is important nowadays for its steel works, within whose
workshops is incorporated an old building formerly known as Newburn
Hall; but in days long past its importance arose from its being on the
ford of the Tyne nearest to Newcastle. This ford was frequently made use
of, notably by the Scots in the reign of Charles I. Their chief camping
ground is pointed out to us by the name of Scotswood, which also
describes what Scotswood was like in those days--a great contrast to its
present appearance, when the lines of brick and mortar stretching out
uninterruptedly from Newcastle make it practically one with that town.
In 1640, the Scottish army, under General Leslie, faced the Royalist
troops, under Lord Conway, on the south side of the river. The Scots
mounted their rude cannon on Newburn Church tower, and the English
raised earthworks along the bank of the river, which was here fordable
in two places. The two armies calmly watered their horses on opposite
banks of the stream all the next morning, but a shot at a Scottish
officer from the English ranks precipitated the battle; and the Scottish
army, having made a breach in both earthworks with their artillery,
waded across the fords and drove the Royalist troops up the bank, after
one spasmodic rally, which, however, failed to check the Scottish
advance. The way was now open for the Scottish army to continue down the
south bank of the Tyne and attack Newcastle from Gateshead. It had been
Lord Conway's task to prevent this, but owing to his incapacity or want
of whole-hearted enthusiasm for his cause, he failed entirely.
Not until 1644, however, was a Scottish attack on Newcastle actually
made, for on this occasion Leslie, as we have already seen, led his men
across the fords higher up the river and marched southwards. The
earthworks thrown up by Conway's troops may still be seen on Stella
It is supposed that the Romans had a fort here, commanding the passage
of the river; indeed it would have been strange had this not been the
case, for the Romans were not the people to disregard any point of
strategical importance, especially one so near their stations of Pons
Aelii and Condercum. Many stones of Roman workmanship have been used in
the building of the Newburn church.
From this point to its mouth, nearly fifteen miles away, both banks of
the Tyne present an unbroken scene of industry. Between the steel works
of Newburn and the iron and chemical works, the brick and tile works of
Blaydon and past the famous yards of Elswick, down to the wharves and
shipyards of North and South Shields, the Tyne rolls its swift dark
waters through a scene of stirring activity; the air is dusky with soot
and smoke, and reverberant with the clang of hammers and the pulsing
beat of machinery. Some old and world-famed works have been closed or
removed, like Hawks' and Stephenson's, but others, many others, have
opened; and the map of the positions of Tyne industries, published under
the auspices of the Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce, is a
record of resolute toil and brilliant achievement in the many aspects of
industrial life represented on the river.
And, apart from the mere prosperity and commercial supremacy of the
district, there is another cause for pride in the many notable
inventions which hail from Tyneside; from the locomotive and the
"Geordie" lamp of Stephenson, the hydraulic machinery and the big guns
of Armstrong, to the wonderful turbine engines of Parsons; the invention
of water-ballast, too, belongs to the Tyne, for it was the idea of a
Gateshead man, and first used at Jarrow.
And, in connection with ships and seafarers, though not in any
commercial sense, we may proudly recall the fact that the first Lifeboat
was launched on the Tyne and named after the river; and the first
Volunteer Life Brigade was formed at Tynemouth. The Worth Eastern
Railway is carried across the Tyne by the Scotswood Bridge; and it was
on this part of the river that the boat-races, for which the Tyne was
once famous, were rowed. At Newcastle, the river is bridged by four huge
structures--The Redheugh Bridge, the new King Edward VII. bridge, the
High Level, and Swing Bridges,--all connecting Newcastle with the sister
town of Gateshead. An interesting sight it is to see the Swing Bridge
gradually turning on its central pivot, until it lies in a straight line
up and down the stream, allowing some huge liner to pass, or some new
battleship, fresh from Elswick, to sail down the river, on its way to
make its trial trip over the "measured mile" in the open sea at the
mouth of the river, and thereafter to take its place among the armaments
of the nations.
The High Level Bridge allows ships of any height to pass under its lofty
and graceful arches, which look so light, but are yet so strong. This
splendid bridge is an enduring monument of Robert Stephenson, whose work
it was; and the story of its erection, at the cost of nearly half a
million of money, makes most interesting reading. It took nearly two and
a half years to build, and was opened for traffic in 1849--little more
than three years after the first pile was driven in. A few months later,
in 1850, the newly built Central Station, with its imposing portico, was
opened by Queen Victoria.
Passing down the Tyne from Newcastle, which requires separate notice,
and Walker, with its reminiscences of "Walker Pit's deun weel for me,"
we arrive at Wallsend, which in twenty-five years has grown from a
colliery village with a population of 4,000 to a town of 23,000
inhabitants. Here are great shipbuilding and repairing yards, chemical
works and cement works; here, too, are Parsons' Steam Turbine Works,
where was designed and built the little "Turbinia," on which tiny vessel
the early experiments were made with the new engines; and here are the
famous mines which have made "Best Wallsend" a synonym for best
household coal all over the land. These mines, after having been closed
for many years, were reopened at the beginning of the century, and now
turn out upwards of one thousand tons of coal per day.
The church of St. Peter, at Wallsend, is little more than a hundred
years old; the old Church of Holy Cross, now long disused, was built
towards the end of the twelfth century. But Wallsend itself, as all the
world knows, is of much greater antiquity, for was it not, as its name
proclaims, situated at the end of the Great Wall? Its name then,
however, was not Wallsend but Segedunum.
Willington Quay, further down the river, was, for a time, the home of
George Stephenson, and here his son, Robert, was born. At Howdon, which
used to be known as Howdon Pans, from the salt-pans there, the painter
John Martin and his brothers once worked when boys, being employed in
some rope-works. Here, too, the Henzells, a family of refugees who
settled in the district in the days of Elizabeth, founded some glass
works, for which industry the Tyne has been famous from that day to
[Illustration: THE RIVER TYNE AT NEWCASTLE (showing Swing Bridge open).]
Before the railway on the south side of the river was laid down,
passengers who wished to reach Jarrow had to alight at Howdon and cross
the river; and a racy dialect song--"Howdon for Jarrow" with its refrain
of "Howdon for Jarra--ma hinnies, loup oot"--commemorates the fact.
Willington Quay and Howdon carry on the line of shipbuilding yards to
Northumberland Dock and the staithes of the Tyne Commissioners, where
the waggon ways from various collieries bring the coal to the water's
edge. Tyne Dock, just opposite, and the Albert Edward Dock near North.
Shields, provide abundance of shipping accommodation, besides what is
afforded by the river itself; and now the river flows between the steep
banks of North and South Shields. As the names declare, these two
growing and prosperous towns once consisted of a few fishermen's huts,
or "shielings"; but that was long ago, when the north shore of the Tyne
was owned by the Prior of Tynemouth, and the southern shore by the
Bishop of Durham, and the citizens of Newcastle complained to King
Edward I. that these two ecclesiastics had raised towns, "where no town
ought to be," and that "fishermen sold fish there which ought to be sold
at Newcastle, to the great injury of the whole borough, and in detriment
to the tolls of our Lord the King." These quarrels between Newcastle and
the other settlements on the Tyne continued with varying results, until
in the days of Cromwell, Ralph Gardiner of Chirton, a little village
close to North Shields, took up the cudgels for the growing towns; and
by dint of great perseverance, and in spite of much persecution and
ill-will, succeeded in getting most of the unjust privileges of their
stronger neighbour abolished.
There were salt-pans, too, on both sides of the mouth of the Tyne, which
were worked in connection with the monasteries from very early days; and
Daniel Defoe, when he visited the north in 1726, declared that he could
see from the top of the Cheviot "the smoke of the salt-pans at Sheals,
at the mouth of the Tyne, which was about forty miles south of this."
North Shields clings haphazard to the steep bank of the Tyne, and
spreads away up and beyond it, reaching out towards Wallsend on the
river shore and Tynemouth along by the sea, the older parts by the
river looking black and grimy to the last degree; but there is a silver
lining to this very black cloud--not visible, it is true, but distinctly
audible--in the great shipbuilding and repairing works known as Smith's
Dock, one of the largest concerns of the kind in Great Britain, where so
many hundreds of men earn their daily bread; and in the fishing
industry, which was the foundation of the town's prosperity, and bids
fair to be so for many years to come, as it is increasing year by year.
The Fish Quay at North Shields is a sight worth seeing; and, in the
herring season, it is increasingly frequented by Continental buyers.
The fortunes of South Shields and Jarrow, though these towns are not in
Northumberland, are yet so bound up with the story of the Tyne that no
one would ever think of that river without them. Especially is this the
case with Jarrow, which "Palmer's" has raised from a small colliery
village to a large and flourishing town. In those famous yards,
everything that is necessary for the building of the largest ironclad,
from the first smelting of the ore until the last rivet is in place, can
be done. All Northumbria--Northumbria in the ancient and widest sense
of the word--owes a debt of gratitude to Jarrow, for was it not the home
of Bede? The monk of Jarrow, who spent all his long life in the same
monastery by the Don, coming to it when he was a child of ten, made that
spot of Northumbrian ground famed to the farthest limits of the
civilized Europe of his day; and scholars from all over the Continent
came to learn at the feet of the Northumbrian teacher. Beloved and
revered by all, and in harness to the last hour of his busy life, he
died in the year 735, just one hundred years after the coming of Aidan
to Lindisfarne. "First among English scholars, first among English
theologians, first among English historians, it is in the monk of
Jarrow that English literature strikes its roots."--_J.R. Green_.
The Jarrow of to-day, and all its neighbours of industrial Tyneside,
possess no beauty of aspect such as the towns that are more fortunately
situated on the upper reaches of the river; they are muffled in clouds
of smoke and soot, and darkened by the necessities of their toil in
grimy ores and the ever-present coal. But no one who has ever looked on
these smoky reaches of the Tyne with a seeing eye, or steamed down the
river on a day either of gloom or sunshine, can refuse to acknowledge
that it has a certain grandeur, a stern beauty of its own, that can stir
the heart and the imagination more deeply than any mere prettiness.
From the numberless hives of activity on both sides of the river clouds
of smoke roll heavily upward, and jets of steam from panting machinery
leap up in momentary whiteness on the dark background; the white wings
of flocks of wheeling gulls flash in the occasional sunshine which
lights up the scene, and between the clouds there are glimpses of blue
sky. Towards sunset, the evening mists drape the darkening banks and
crowded shipping in a soft robe of gray, which, together with the
glowing sky behind, produces most wonderful Turneresque effects; and the
fall of night on the river only changes the aspect without diminishing
the interest of the scene. The blaze from a myriad workshops and forges
glows against the darkness, the lamps twinkle overhead on the steep
banks, and the lights from wharf and steamer are reflected in a thousand
shimmering lines on the dark water, which flows on soundlessly, like the
river of a dream.
On a day of wind and sun all these beauties are intensified a
thousandfold; the smoke is blown hither and thither in flying clouds,
the current seems to rush more swiftly, and a sense of vigorous life
permeates the whole scene, giving to the beholder a feeling of keen
exhilaration, as of new life rushing through his veins. Especially is
this the case on reaching the mouth of the river and meeting the dancing
waters of the open harbour, where the twin piers of South Shields and
Tynemouth reach out sheltering arms. Within the wide bay they enclose,
the storm-driven vessel may always find comparatively smooth water, how
wildly soever the waves may rage and roar outside.
It is difficult to believe that so lately as the years 1858-60, the
"bar" at the mouth of the Tyne was an insuperable obstacle to all but
vessels of very moderate draught; and that ships might lie for days, and
sometimes weeks, after being loaded, before there came a tide high
enough to carry them out to sea. The river was full of sand-banks, and
little islands stood here and there--one in mid-stream, where the
ironclads are now launched at Elswick. Three or four vessels might be
seen at once bumping and grounding on the "bar" unable to make their way
over. Well might the old song say--
"The ships are all at the bar,
They canna get up to Newcastle!"
An old map of the Tyne shows a number of sand-banks down the lower
reaches of the river, with ships aground on each, of them.
But the River Tyne Commissioners have changed all that, and their
implement of warfare has been the hideous but necessary dredger. No
longer need vessels of heavy tonnage desert the Tyne for the Wear, as
they were perforce driven to do during the first half of the nineteenth
century, for the Wearsiders had set about deepening and widening their
river long before the Tynesiders did the same by theirs. Considerable
and continuous pressure had to be brought to bear on the civic
authorities at Newcastle before they finally took action; but having
once done so, the future of the Tyne was assured. Now it ranks second
only to the Thames in the actual number of vessels entering and leaving,
and owns only the Mersey its superior in the matter of tonnage.
"Her dusky hair in many a tangle clings
About her, and her looks, though stern and cold,
Grow tender with the dreams of by-gone days."
The outward signs of "by-gone days," in the Newcastle of to-day, with
the one notable exception of the Castle, must be diligently sought out
amongst the overwhelming mass of what is often called "rampant
modernity," of which the town to-day chiefly consists. The modernity,
however, is not all bad, as this favourite phrase would imply; much of
it is doubtless regrettable and a very little of it perhaps inevitable;
but no one will deny either the modernity or the beauty of Grey Street,
one of the finest streets in any English town; or the fine appearance of
Grainger Street, Blackett Street, Eldon Square, or any other of the
stately thoroughfares with which Grainger and Dobson enriched the town
within the last eighty years--no one, that is, who has learned to "lift
his eyes to the sky-line in passing along a thoroughfare" instead of
keeping them firmly fixed at the level of shop windows.
The grim old building which, when it was new, gave its name to the town,
is one for which no search needs to be made; its blackened and time worn
walls are seen from the train windows by every traveller who enters the
city from the south. So near is it to the railway, that in the
ultra-utilitarian days of sixty or seventy years ago, it narrowly
escaped the ignoble fate of being used as a signal-cabin. It was
rescued, however, by the Society of Antiquaries, and carefully preserved
by them--more fortunate in this respect than the castle of Berwick, for
the platform of Berwick railway station actually stands on the spot once
occupied by the Great Hall of the Castle.
The site of the New Castle, on a part of the river bank which slopes
steeply down to the Tyne, had been occupied centuries before by a Roman
fort, constructed by order of the Emperor Hadrian, who visited Britain
A.D. 120. He also constructed a bridge over the Tyne at this spot, fort
and bridge receiving the name of Pons Aelii, after the Emperor (Publius
AElius Hadrianus). This became the second station on the Great Wall
erected by Hadrian's orders along the line of forts which Agricola had
raised forty years before. This station shared the fate of others on the
abandonment of Britain by its powerful conquerors, who had now for more
than two hundred years been its no less powerful friends and protectors.
Pons Aelii fell into ruins; but so advantageous a site could not long be
overlooked, and we read of a Saxon settlement there, apparently that of
a religious community, from which fact it was known as Monkchester. All
the records of this period seem to have perished, for we hear nothing of
the settlement during the Danish invasions; but a Saxon town of some
kind was evidently in existence at the time of the Conquest, though in
1073 three monks from the south who came to York, and, obtaining a guide
to "Muneche-cester," sought for some religious house in that settlement,
could find none, and were prevailed upon by the first Norman Bishop of
Durham, Walcher, to stay at Jarrow. The years from 1069 to 1080 were
evil years for Northumberland, for at the first-named date the Conqueror
devastated the North, and left neither village nor farm unscathed; and,
as the desolated land was beginning to recover again, Odo of Bayeux and
Robert of Normandy relentlessly laid it waste once more, partly in
revenge for the murder of Bishop Walcher at Gateshead, and partly to
punish Malcolm of Scotland for his invasion of Norman territory.
It was on his return from this expedition, which had penetrated as far
north as Falkirk, that Robert, by his father's orders, raised a
stronghold on the Tyne on the site of the old Roman fort, in the year
1080. His brother, William Rufus, erected a much stronger and better
one, the Keep of which, re-built by Henry II., stands to-day dark and
grim, looking out over river and town, as it has stood since the Red
King ruled the land, and, like his father, the Conqueror, found it
desirable to have a stronghold at this northern point of his turbulent
realm, around which a town might grow up in safety.
The roof and battlements of the Keep are modern, but the rest of it--the
walls, 12 to 18 feet thick; the dismal dungeon, or guard chamber, with
iron rings and fetters still fastened to the walls and central pillar;
the beautiful little chapel, with its finely-ornamented arches; the
little chambers in the thickness of the walls; the well, 94 feet deep,
sunk through the solid masonry into the rock beneath; the arrow slits in
the walls; the stones in the roof scored with frequent bolts from the
besiegers' crossbows, one of which bolts is firmly embedded in the wall
opposite one of the narrow windows; the ancient weapons and armour--all
these breathe of the days when the Red King's castle took its part in
the doings of our hardy ancestors in those stormy times in which they
lived and fought.
The last time the old Keep was called upon to act as fortress and refuge
in time of war was in Stuart days, after the ten weeks siege of
Newcastle by the Scottish General Leslie, Earl of Leven, in 1644, when
brave "Governor Marley" and his friends held out in the castle for a few
days longer, after the town was taken. In memory of this stout defence
and long resistance King Charles gave to the town its motto--_Fortiter
defendit triumphans_, which Bates gives as having originally been
_Fortiter defendendo triumphat_--"She glories in her brave defence."
Two of the original fireplaces still remain in the Castle, and there are
besides many objects of great interest which have been bestowed there
from time to time for safe keeping; and many more are to be seen at the
Black Gate, formerly the chief entrance to the Castle Hall and its
surroundings. The Great Hall of the Castle, in which John Baliol did
homage to Edward I. for the crown of Scotland, stood on the spot now
covered by the Moot Hall. The Black Gate, the lower part of which is the
oldest part of the building, which has many times been altered and
repaired, is now used as a museum. There were nearly a dozen rooms in
it, and not so many years ago the Corporation of Newcastle let these out
in tenements, until this building also was rescued from degradation by
the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, who took down most of the dividing
walls, and converted it into a museum. Here may be seen stored many
sculptured stones, altars, and statues, which have been brought from the
various Roman stations in the north.
Around the walls of one room are to be seen facsimiles of the famous
Bayeux tapestry; there is also a model of the Castle as originally
built, and there are many more exhibits and loans of the very greatest
Of the walls of Newcastle only fragments remain, the most considerable
portion being found between Westgate Road and St. Andrew's Churchyard;
here are also remains of several of the watch-towers that stood at
intervals around the walls--the Heber Tower, the Mordaunt or Morden
Tower, and the Ever Tower. Between the two first named towers may be
seen a little doorway, walled up, once used by the Friars, who obtained
from Edward II. permission to make the doorway in order that they might
the more easily reach their gardens and orchards outside; but they had
to be ready to build it up at a moment's notice on the approach of an
enemy. One of the towers--the Carliol or Weaver's Tower--was pulled down
to make room for the Central Free Library, opened in 1881. Many little
fragments of the Castle wall are to be seen near the High Level Bridge,
incorporated in other walls, as far as the South Postern of the Castle,
which is said to be the only remaining Norman postern in England and is
the oldest remaining part of the Castle.
The old streets of Newcastle are fast disappearing to make room for the
ever-increasing needs of commerce; at the moment of writing it is being
proposed to pull down more of the historic street called the Side, to
make room for new printing offices. At the head of this curious old
street, which curves downward from the Cathedral to the river, stood the
birthplace of Cuthbert Collingwood, who was to become Admiral Lord
Collingwood, and second in fame only to Nelson himself. Both this house
and the one where Thomas Bewick had his workshop, near the Cathedral,
have gone to make room for new buildings.
At the foot of this street, where it curves to the river front, is the
Sandhill, facing the Swing Bridge. Here are several old houses
remaining, with many-windowed fronts, looking out on the river. One of
these was the house of Aubone Surtees, the banker, whose daughter
Bessie, in 1772, stole out of one of those little windows, and gave
herself into the keeping of young Jack Scott, who was waiting for her
below. The adventurous youth became Lord Chancellor of England, and is
best known as Lord Eldon; his brother William became Lord Stowell, and
was for many years Judge of the High Court of Admiralty.
Opposite the old houses of the Sandhill, close to the river bank, is the
old Guildhall, greatly altered in appearance from the time when John
Wesley preached from its steps to the keelmen and fishermen of the town.
It was here that a sturdy fishwife put her arms round him, when some
boisterous spirits in the crowd threatened him with ill-usage, and,
shaking her fist in their faces, swore to "floor them" if they touched
her "canny man."
This spot, where the Swing Bridge unites the lower banks of the stream,
seems always to have been the most convenient point for crossing the
river, for the present bridge is the fifth that has spanned the Tyne at
this point: Hadrian's bridge, Pons Aelii; a mediaeval bridge destroyed
by fire in 1248; the Old Tyne Bridge, swept away in the flood of 1771;
the successor of this, which was found too low to allow of the passage
of such large vessels as were able to sail up the Tyne after the
deepening of the river bed; and the present Swing Bridge, which is
worked by hydraulic machinery, the invention of Lord Armstrong. We do
not know how long Hadrian's bridge lasted, but William the Conqueror,
when returning from his expedition into Scotland in 1071, was obliged to
camp for a time at "Monec-cestre," as the Tyne was in flood, and there
was no bridge.
Some ancient houses are to be found in Low Friar Street, one of which,
with winged heads and dolphins carved on it, is said to be the oldest
house in Newcastle. Turning up an opening on the west side of this
street, all that is left of the ancient Blackfriars' Monastery may be
seen; some of its rooms are used as the meeting places of various Trade
Guilds, and the rest form low tenement houses, in the walls of which are
many Gothic archways and ancient window-openings built up. Over the door
of the Smith's Hall is a carving of three hammers, and the
"By hammer and hand
All artes do stand."
This Hall was formerly the Great Hall of the monastery; and here Edward
Baliol did homage to Edward III. for his crown of Scotland. Nun Street,
leading out of Grainger Street, reminds us of the days when the Nunnery
of St. Bartholomew stood in this part of the town, and the Nun's Moor
was part of the grounds belonging to the establishment. In High Friar
Street, which was not then the dilapidated lane it now appears, Richard
Grainger was born.
Another part of the town which has fallen from its former high estate is
the Close, which lies along the river front, westward from the Sandhill.
Here, at one time, lived many of the principal inhabitants of
Newcastle--Sir John Marley, Sir William Blackett, Sir Ralph Millbank,
and others equally important; and here, too, was the former Mansion
House of the city, where the Mayors resided, and where they could
receive distinguished visitors to the town. Amongst those who have been
entertained there were the Duke of Wellington and the first King of the
Belgians. But in 1836 the Corporation of Newcastle sold the house, with
the furniture, books, pictures, plate, and everything else it contained.
Eastward from the Sandhill is Sandgate, immortalised in the "Newcastle
Anthem"--The Keel Row. Its present appearance is very different from the
green slope and sandy shore of former days; the keelmen, too, have
vanished, and their place in the commercial economy of the Tyne is taken
by waggon-ways and coal-shoots. The old narrow alleys of the town,
called "chares," are fast disappearing; the best known is Pudding Chare,
leading from Bigg Market to Westgate Road. Many and various are the
explanations that have been offered to account for its curious name, but
the true one does not seem yet to have appeared.
Pilgrim Street owes its name to the fact that it was the route of the
pilgrims who came in great numbers to visit the little chapel or shrine
of Our Lady of Jesmond, and St. Mary's Well. In Pilgrim Street was the
gateway of a stately mansion, surrounded by beautiful gardens, called
Anderson Place, from a Mr. Anderson who bought it from Sir Thomas
Blackett in 1783. It had been built by another Mr. Anderson in the reign
of Queen Elizabeth, on the site where once stood the monastery of the
Grey Friars; he, however, had named his mansion "The Newe House." In
this house Charles I. lived when a prisoner in Newcastle. Anderson Place
no longer exists, but the Newcastle of to-day has a constant reminder of
its last owners, for Major George Anderson, son of the Mr. Anderson who
purchased it in 1783, gave to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas the great
bell--known on that account as "The Major"--whose deep reverberant
"boom" can be heard for a distance of ten miles. The bell was re-cast in
1891, and in 1892 a new peal of bells was consecrated by Canon Gough.
Westgate Road is another interesting street; the old West Gate stood
near the site of the present Tyne Theatre, and from this point onward
the street follows, almost exactly, the line of the Roman Wall.
Some noteworthy houses in Newcastle are--No. 17, Eldon Place, where
George and Robert Stephenson lived in the years 1824-25; No. 4, St.
Thomas' Crescent, where the celebrated artist, Wm. Bell Scott lived when
he was headmaster of the School of Art, and to whom Swinburne wrote a
fine memorial poem; the Academy of Arts, in Blackett Street, built for
the exhibition of pictures by those well-known painters T.M. Richardson
and H.T. Parker, and for a short period the home of the Pen and Palette
Club, which, both here and in its new home at Higham Place, has
entertained many people distinguished in letters, art, and travel who
have visited the town of late years; and No. 9, Pleasant Row, the
birthplace of Lord Armstrong, which has only recently been destroyed to
make way for the N.E.R. Company's new ferro-concrete Goods Station in
New Bridge Street.
The list of important buildings in Newcastle, exclusive of the churches,
is a long one; one of the most prominent is the Library of the Literary
and Philosophical Society, familiarly known as the "Lit. and Phil.,"
which stands at the lower end of Westgate Road, a little way back from
the roadway. It is built on the site of the town house of the Earls of
Westmoreland; and its fine Lecture Theatre was a gift to the Society
from Lord Armstrong. It is the centre of the intellectual life of the
city as a whole, apart from the work of the justly famed Armstrong
College, a teaching institute of University rank. This was formerly
known as the Durham College of Science, and, with the Durham College of
Medicine, forms part of the University of Durham.
Other seats of learning in the town are the Rutherford College, in Bath
Lane, and the Royal Grammar School, which dates from the reign of Henry
VIII. It was reconstituted by Queen Elizabeth, and has had many changes
of abode. At one time it occupied the buildings of the Convent of St.
Mary, which covered the space where Stephenson's monument now stands.
While the Grammar School was located there, the boys Cuthbert
Collingwood, William Scott, and John Scott, who afterwards became so
famous, attended it; and other distinguished scholars were John Horsley,
author of _Britannia Romana_, and John Brand and Henry Bourne, the
historians of Newcastle. The school is now situated in Eskdale Terrace
and its splendid playing fields stretch across to the North Road.
One of the most interesting buildings in Newcastle is the Hancock Museum
of Natural History, at Barras Bridge. It contains a matchless collection
of birds, and some unique specimens of extinct species; also the
original drawings of Bewick's _British Birds_, and other works of his.
The famous Newcastle naturalist, John Hancock, presented his wonderful
collection, prepared by himself, to the museum. Here, too, is a complete
set of fossils from the coal measures, including some fine specimens of
Sigillaria. These are only a few of the treasures contained in the
museum, which was built chiefly through the generosity of the late Lord
and Lady Armstrong, Colonel John Joicey of Newton Hall, Stocksfield, and
Mr. Edward Joicey of Whinney House.
The new Victoria Infirmary, on the Leazes, is a magnificent building,
and was opened by King Edward VII. in 1906. It was erected by public
subscription, and when L100,000 had been subscribed, the late Mr. John
Hall generously offered a like sum on condition that the building should
be erected either on the Leazes or the Town Moor. Arrangements were made
to do so, and another L100,000 given by the present Lord and Lady
But fine as all these buildings are, the pride of Newcastle is one much
older than any of them--the Cathedral church of St. Nicholas, with its
exquisitely beautiful lantern steeple. This wonderful lantern was the
work of Robert de Rhodes, who lived in the fifteenth century. The arms
of this early benefactor of the church may yet be seen on the ancient
font. The present church was finished in the year 1350, says Dr. Bruce;
but there was a former one on this site to which the crypt is supposed
to belong. It has undergone many alterations at different times, and has
sheltered within its walls many and various great personages.
In 1451, a treaty between England and Scotland was ratified in the
vestry. In the reign of Henry VII., his daughter, Princess Margaret,
attended mass here, with all her retinue, when she stayed in the town on
her way to Scotland to be married to the gallant young king James IV.
She was entertained at the house of the Austin Friars, which stood where
now stands the Holy Jesus Hospital at the Manors, near to the Sallyport
Tower. When James I. became king of England, he attended service here,
as he passed through Newcastle on his way to his southern capital. In
the reign of his ill-fated son, Charles I., Newcastle was occupied by
the Scots, under General Leslie, for a year after the battle of Newburn in
1640; and again in 1644 was besieged by them for ten weeks. On this
occasion the town nearly lost its chief ornament and pride--the lantern
of the church; for "There is a traditional story," says Bourne, "of this
building I am now treating of, which may not be improper to be here
taken notice of. In the time of the Civil Wars, when the Scots had
besieged the town for several weeks, and were still as far as at first
from taking it, the General sent a messenger to the Mayor of the town,
and demanded the keys and the delivery up of the town, or he would
immediately demolish the steeple of St. Nicholas.
"The Mayor and Aldermen, upon hearing this, immediately ordered a
certain number of the chiefest Scottish prisoners to be carried up to
the top of the old tower, the place below the lantern, and there
confined. After this, they returned the General an answer to this
purpose, that they would upon no terms deliver up the town, but would to
the last moment defend it; that the steeple of St. Nicholas was indeed a
beautiful and magnificent piece of architecture, and one of the great
ornaments of the town, but yet should be blown to atoms before ransomed
at such a rate; that, however, if it was to fall it should not fall
alone; that at the same moment he destroyed the beautiful structure he
should bathe his hands in the blood of his countrymen, who were placed
there on purpose, either to preserve it from ruin or to die along with
it. This message had the desired effect. The men were kept prisoners
during the whole time of the siege, and not so much as one gun was fired
In 1646, when Charles I. was a prisoner in Newcastle for nearly a year
(from May, 1646, to February 3rd, 1647), this was the church he
attended; and we may picture him listening perforce to the
"admonishing" of the stern Covenanters. In this connection occurs the
oft-told story of his ready wit, when one of the preachers wound up his
discourse by giving out the metrical version of the fifty-second Psalm,
with an obvious allusion to his royal hearer:--
"Why dost thou, tyrant, boast abroad,
Thy wicked works to praise?"
Charles quickly stood up and asked for the fifty-sixth Psalm instead:--
"Have mercy, Lord, on me, I pray,
For man would me devour."
The good folk of Newcastle with willing voice rendered the latter Psalm,
doubtless to the discomfiture of the preacher.
Gray, who published his _Chorographia_, or Survey of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, just three years after this, describes St.
Nicholas' as having "a stately, high, stone steeple, with many pinakles,
a stately stone lantherne, standing upon foure stone arches, builded by
Robert de Rhodes.... It lifteth up a head of Majesty, as high above the
rest as the Cypresse Tree above the low Shrubs."
The church underwent a terrible despoliation at the hands of the Scots
in 1644; but more terrible still were the injuries it received, a little
more than a century later, from those who ought to have been its
friends. In the years 1784-7 there were many alterations made in the
building, during which almost all the old memorials and monuments
perished, or were removed; those which were not claimed by the living
representatives of the persons commemorated being ruthlessly sold, or
destroyed; and the brasses were disposed of as old metal. The modern
alterations and restorations have been more happy in their effect, and
one of the notable additions to the church is the beautiful carved oak
screen in the chancel, the work of Mr. Ralph Hedley.
There are many beautiful memorial windows in the church, and many
memorials in other forms to the various eminent North-country folk who
have been connected with Newcastle and its chief place of worship. The
Collingwood cenotaph is the most interesting of all; the brave Admiral's
body, as is well known, lies beside that of his friend and commander,
Nelson, in St. Paul's Cathedral, but this memorial of him is fittingly
placed in the Cathedral of his native town, within whose walls he
worshipped as a boy. There are two monuments by Flaxman--one of the Rev.
Hugh Moises, the famous master of the Grammar School when Collingwood
was a boy; and the other of Sir Matthew White Ridley, who died in 1813.
Of the newer monuments, those of Dr. Bruce, of Roman Wall fame, and of
the beloved and lamented Bishop Lloyd, are particularly fine.
Near the east end of the church, which was raised to the rank of a
Cathedral in 1881, is hung a large painting by Tintoretto, "Christ
washing the feet of the Disciples"; this was presented to the church by
Sir Matthew White Ridley in 1818. There are many more things of interest
in the Cathedral, but mention must be made of a wonderful MS. Bible,
incomplete, it is true, but beautifully written and illuminated by the
monks of Hexham, and other manuscript treasures carefully kept in the
care of the authorities.
The oldest church in the town is St. Andrew's, supposed to have been
built by King David of Scotland at the time when that monarch was Lord
of Tynedale, in the reign of King Stephen. It suffered greatly in the
struggle with the Scots, whose cannon, planted on the Leazes, did it
great damage, and some of the fiercest fighting, at the final capture
of the town, took place close by, where a breach was made in the walls.
In such a battered condition was it left that the parish Registers tell
us that no baptism nor "sarmon" took place within its walls for a year
(1645). But a marriage took place, the persons wedded being Scots, who,
we learn from the same authority, "would pay nothing to the Church."
In the church is buried Sir Adam de Athol, Lord of Jesmond, and Mary,
his wife. It is supposed that this Sir Adam gave the Town Moor to the
people of Newcastle, though this has been disputed. A fine picture of
the "Last Supper," by Giordano, presented by Major Anderson in 1804,
hangs in the church.
St. John's Church ranks next to St. Andrew's in point of age; there are
fragments of Norman work in the building, and it is known to have been
standing in 1297. To-day the venerable pile, with its age worn stones,
stands out in sharper contrast to its environment than does any other
building in the town, surrounded as it is by modern shops and offices.
The memories it evokes, and the past for which it stands, are such as
the citizens of Newcastle will not willingly let die; and when, a few
years ago, a proposal was made for its removal, the proposition aroused
such a storm of popular feeling against it that it was incontinently
All Saints' Church was built in 1789, on the site of an older building
which was in existence in 1296, and which became very unsafe. Here is
kept one of the most interesting monuments in the city--the monumental
brass which once covered the tomb of Roger Thornton, a wealthy merchant
of Newcastle, and a great benefactor to all the churches. He died in
1429. He gave to St. Nicholas' Church its great east window; but, on its
needing repair in 1860, it was removed entirely, and the present one,
in memory of Dr. Ions, inserted; and the only fragment left of
Thornton's window is a small circular piece inset in a plain glass
window in the Cathedral. He gave much money to Hexham Abbey also.
Besides the famous men already mentioned in connection with the town,
Newcastle possesses other well-known names not a few. In the Middle
Ages, Duns Scotus, the man whose skill in argument earned for him the
title of "Doctor Subtilis," owned Northumberland as his home, and
received his education in the monastery of the Grey Friars, which stood
near the head of the present Grey Street. He returned to this monastery
after some years of study at Oxford; in 1304 he was teaching divinity in
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London in the reign of Edward VI., whose
Northumbrian birthplace at Willimoteswick has already been noted,
received his early education at the Grammar School in Newcastle, and on
going to Cambridge was a student at Pembroke. We are told he was the
ablest man among the Reformers for piety, learning and judgment. As is
well known, he died at the stake in 1555.
William and Elizabeth Elstob, who lived in Newcastle at the end of the
seventeenth century, were learned Saxon scholars, but were so greatly in
advance of the education of their times that they met with little
encouragement or sympathy in their labours.
Charles Avison, the musician and composer, was organist of St. John's in
1736, and afterwards of St. Nicholas'.
It was he to whom Browning referred in the lines--
"On the list
Of worthies, who by help of pipe or wire,
Expressed in sound rough rage or soft desire,
Thou, whilom of Newcastle, organist."
These lines have been carved on his tombstone in St. Andrew's
churchyard. He is best known as the composer of the anthem "Sound the
Mark Akenside, the poet, was born in Butcher Bank, now called after him
Akenside Hill. His chief work "The Pleasures of Imagination," is not
often read now, but it enjoyed a considerable reputation in an age when
a stilted and formal style was looked upon as a true excellence in
Charles Hutton, the mathematician, was born in Newcastle in 1737. He
began life as a pitman; but, receiving an injury to his arm, he turned
his attention to books, and taught in his native town for some years,
becoming later Professor of Mathematics in the Royal Military Academy at
John Brand, the antiquary and historian of Newcastle, was born at
Washington, County Durham, but came to Newcastle as a child. After
attending the Grammar School, he went to Oxford, by the aid of his
master, the Rev. Hugh Moises. He was afterwards curate at the church of
Robert Morrison, the celebrated Chinese scholar, was born near Morpeth,
but his parents came to Newcastle when the boy was three years of age.
He died in China in 1834.
Thomas Miles Richardson, the well-known artist, was born in Newcastle in
1784, and was at first a cabinetmaker, then master of St. Andrew's Free
School, but finally gave up all other work to devote himself to his art.
Robert Stephenson went to school at Percy Street Academy, which for long
has ceased to exist. There he was taught by Mr. Bruce, and had for one
of his fellow-pupils the master's son, John Collingwood Bruce, who
afterwards became so famous a teacher and antiquary.
Newcastle is not, as most southerners imagine, a dark and gloomy town of
unrelieved bricks and mortar, for, besides possessing many wide and
handsome streets, it has also several pretty parks, the most noteworthy
being the beautiful Jesmond Dene, one of the late Lord Armstrong's
magnificent gifts to his native town. The Dene, together with the
Armstrong Park near it, lies on the course of the Ouseburn, which is
here a bright and sparkling stream, very different from the appearance
it presents by the time it empties its murky waters into the Tyne.
Besides these there are Heaton Park, the Leazes Park, with its lakes and
boats, Brandling Park, and others smaller than these; and last, but most
important of all, the Town Moor, a fine breezy space to the north of the
town, of more than 900 acres in extent.
Of statues and monuments Newcastle possesses some half-dozen, the finest
being "Grey's Monument"--a household word in the town and familiarly
known as "The Monument." It was erected at the junction of Grey Street
and Grainger Street in memory of Earl Grey of Howick, who was Prime
Minister at the passing of the Reform Bill. The figure of the Earl, by
Bailey, stands at the top of a lofty column, the height being 135 feet
to the top of the figure. There is a stairway within the column, by
which it can be ascended, and a magnificent view enjoyed from the top.
In an open space near the Central Station, between the _Chronicle_
Office and the Lit. and Phil., there is a fine statue of George
Stephenson, by the Northumbrian sculptor, Lough. It is a full length
representation of the great engineer, in bronze, with the figures of
four workmen, representing the chief industries of Tyneside, around the
pedestal--a miner, a smith, a navvy, and an engineer. At the head of
Northumberland Street, on the open space of the Haymarket, stands a
beautiful winged Victory on a tall column, crowning "Northumbria"
typified as a female figure at the foot of the column. This graceful and
striking memorial is the work of T. Eyre Macklin, and is in memory of
the officers and men of the North who fell in the Boer War of 1899-1902.
Two other noteworthy statues in the town are those of Lord Armstrong,
near the entrance to the Natural History Museum at Barras Bridge, and of
Joseph Cowen, in Westgate Road.
THE KEEL ROW
As I came thro' Sandgate,
Thro' Sandgate, thro' Sandgate,
As I came thro' Sandgate,
I heard a lassie sing
"O weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row,
Weel may the keel row
That my laddie's in
"O who is like my Johnnie,
Sae leish, sae blithe, sae bonnie;
He's foremost 'mang the mony
Keel lads o' coaly Tyne
He'll set and row sae tightly,
And in the dance sae sprightly
He'll cut and shuffle lightly,
'Tis true, were he not mine!
[Footnote 5: Leish = lithe, nimble.]
"He has nae mair o' learnin'
Than tells his weekly earnin',
Yet, right frae wrang discernin',
Tho' brave, nae bruiser he!
Tho' he no worth a plack is,
His ain coat on his back is;
And nane can say that black is
The white o' Johnnie's e'e
[Footnote 6: Plack = a small copper coin, worth about one-third of a
He wears a blue bonnet,
Blue bonnet, blue bonnet,
He wears a blue bonnet,
And a dimple in his chin
O weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row,
Weel may the keel row
That my laddie's in."
ELSWICK AND ITS FOUNDER.
Sailed from the North of old
The strong sons of Odin;
Sailed in the Serpent ships,
"By hammer and hand"
* * * * *
Still in the North-country
Men keep their sea-cunning;
Still true the legend,
"By hammer and hand"
Elswick builds war-ships.
For a mile and a quarter, along the north bank of the Tyne, stretch the
world-famed Elswick Works, which have grown to their present gigantic
proportions from the small beginnings of five and a half acres in 1847.
In that year two fields were purchased as a site for the new works about
to be started to make the hydraulic machinery which had been invented by
In this undertaking he was backed by the wealth of several prominent
Newcastle citizens, who believed in the future of the new
inventions--Messrs. Addison Potter, George Cruddas, Armourer Donkin, and
Richard Lambert. At that time Elswick was a pretty country village some
distance outside of Newcastle, and the walk along the riverside between
the two places was a favourite one with the people of the town. In
midstream there was an island, where stood a little inn called the
"Countess of Coventry"; and on the island various sports were often
held, including horse-racing.
The price of the land for the new shops, which were soon built on the
green slopes above the Tyne, was paid to Mr. Hodgson Hind and Mr.
Richard Grainger; the latter of whom had intended, could he have carried
out his plans for the rebuilding of Newcastle, not to stop until he made
Elswick Hall the centre of the town.
Until the new shops were ready to begin work, some of Mr. Armstrong's
hydraulic cranes were made by Mr. Watson at his works in the High
All the summer of 1847, the building went briskly on; and in the autumn
work was started. At first Mr. Armstrong had an office in Hood Street,
as he was superintending his machinery construction in High Bridge, as
well as the building operations at Elswick. On some of the early
notepaper of the firm there is, as the heading, a picture of Elswick as
it was then, showing the first shops, the little square building in
which were the offices, the green banks sloping down to the waterside,
and the island in the middle of the shallow stream, while the chimneys
and smoke of Newcastle are indicated in the remote background. Along the
riverside was the public footpath.
The first work done in the new shops was the making of Crane No. 6; and
amongst other early orders was one from the _Newcastle Chronicle_, for
hydraulic machinery to drive the printing press. The new machinery
rapidly grew in favour; and orders from mines, docks and railways poured
in to the Elswick firm, which soon extended its works.
In 1854, when the Crimean War broke out, Mr. Armstrong was requested to
devise some submarine mines which would clear the harbour of Sebastopol
of the Russian war-ships which had been sent there. He did so, but the
machinery was never used.
At the same time, in his leisure moments, he turned his attention to the
question of artillery. The guns in use at that time were very little
better than those which had been used during the Napoleonic wars; and
Mr. Armstrong devised a new one, which was made at his workshops. It was
a 3-pounder, complete with gun-carriage and mountings, and is still to
be seen at Elswick.
With the usual reluctance of Government departments to consider anything
new, the War Office of the day was slow to believe in the superiority of
the new field-piece; but when every fresh trial proved that superiority
to be beyond doubt, the gun was adopted. And then Mr. Armstrong showed
the large-minded generosity which was so marked a feature of his
character. Holding in his hand--as every man must, who possesses the
secret of a new and superior engine of destruction--the fate of nations,
to be decided at his will, and with the knowledge that other powers were
willing and eager to buy with any sum the skill of such an inventor, Mr.
Armstrong presented to the British Government, as a free gift, the
patents of his artillery; and he entered the Government service for a
time, as Engineer to the War Department, in order to give them the
benefit of his skill and special knowledge.
A knighthood was bestowed upon him, and he took up his new duties as Sir
William Armstrong. An Ordnance department was opened at Elswick, and the
Government promised a continuance of orders above those that the Arsenal
at Woolwich was able to fulfil. All went well for a time, but after some
years the connection between the Government and Elswick ceased; the
Ordnance and Engineering works were then amalgamated into one concern,
and Mr. George Rendel and Captain Noble--now Sir Andrew Noble, and one
of the greatest living authorities on explosives--were placed in charge
of the former.
Released from the agreement to make no guns except for the British
Government, Elswick was open to receive other orders, which now began to
roll in from all the world. Elswick prospered greatly, until suddenly
there came a check, in the shape of a strike for a nine hours day, in
1871. After the strike had lasted for four and a half months, work was
resumed; but the old genial relationship between masters and men had
received a rude strain, and was never the same as before.
Shipbuilding had been taken up a year or two before this, but the
earliest vessels were built to their order in Mr. Mitchell's yard at
Walker. The first one was a small gunboat, the "Staunch," built for the
Admiralty. In later years the Walker ship-yard was united to the Elswick
enterprises, and a ship-yard at the latter place was also opened.
Meantime, Captain Noble had been experimenting further in artillery, and
in 1877 another and better type of gun was produced. It was adopted by
the Government, and all guns since then have been modifications, more or
less, of this type. In 1876 the famous hundred-ton gun for Italy was
made, and was taken on board the "Europa" to be carried to her
destination; this vessel being the first to pass the newly-finished
Swing Bridge, another outcome of the inventive genius of the head of the
Elswick firm. The gun, which was the largest in the world at that time,
was lowered into the "Europa" by the largest pair of "sheer-legs" in
existence, and was lifted out again at Spezzia by the largest hydraulic
crane of that day, and all these were the work of the Elswick firm.
Soon after this the firm became Sir W.G. Armstrong, Mitchell, and Co.;
and in consequence of the continued increase of business, it became
necessary to open Steel Works also. This is one of the most notable
features of the Elswick works; the wonders of ancient magicians pale
into insignificance before the marvels of this department, and no
Eastern Genius could accomplish such seemingly impossible feats with
greater ease than do the workmen of Elswick.
The works continued to grow still further, and soon Elswick was building
cruisers for China, for Italy (where works at Pozzuoli--the ancient
Puteoli--were opened), for Russia, Chili, and Japan. Tynesiders took a
special interest in the progress of the Japanese wars, for so many of
that country's battleships had their birth on the banks of the river at
Elswick, and Japanese sailors became a familiar sight in Newcastle
streets. Groups of strange faces from alien lands are periodically seen
in our midst, and met with again and again for some time; then one day
there is a launch at Elswick, and shortly afterwards all the strange
faces disappear. They have gathered together from their various quarters
in the town, and manning their new cruiser, have sailed away to their
own land, and Newcastle streets know them no more; but, later,
Tynesiders read in their newspapers of the deeds done on the vessels
which they have sent forth to the world.
The ice-breaker "Ermack" is one of the firm's most notable achievements,
the vessel having been built and designed in their Walker yard, to the
order of the Czar of Russia, in 1898, for the purpose of breaking up
ice-floes in the northern seas, and more especially for keeping open a
route across the great lakes of Siberia.
The Elswick firm became Armstrong, Whitworth and Co., Ltd., in 1897,
which was also the year of another great strike; and two years later, a
disastrous fire burned down three of their shops, throwing two thousand
men temporarily out of employment. Still the works continued to grow,
and business to increase, until, instead of the five and a half acres
originally purchased, the Company's works, in 1900, covered two hundred
and thirty acres, and the number of men on the pay-roll was over
25,000--that is, sufficient with their families to people a town three
times the size of Hexham. And the scope and extent of these works are
extending, and yet extending; and now Elswick and Scotswood form an
uninterrupted line of closely-packed dwellings, which stretch without a
break from Newcastle, and make a background for the immense works on the
river shore; and one would look in vain for any signs of the pretty
country lanes and village of sixty years ago.
The founder of this great enterprise, in the early days of the Company,
built for his workpeople schools, library, and reading rooms, as well as
dwellings, and met them personally at their social gatherings and
entertainments--generally provided by himself; but the increasing size
of the concern, the excellence and capability, amounting to genius, of
the various heads of departments chosen by him, and his own increasing
years and failing health, led to his gradual withdrawal from personal
attendance at Elswick. The last time he appeared there officially was
when the King of Siam visited the works in 1897.
One who knew him well has written of him, "His mind was at the same time
original and strictly practical; he noticed with a penetrating
observation, and drew conclusions with intuitive genius. Abstract
speculation had no charm for him; he never cherished wild dreams or
extravagant ideas. But if his conception was thus wisely restricted, his
execution of an idea was unrivalled in its thoroughness. Whether he was
founding an industrial establishment, or building a house, or making a
road, the hand of the man is quite unmistakable. There is the same solid
basis, the same enduring superstructure. Every stone that is laid at
Cragside or Bamburgh seems to be stamped as it were with the impression
of his great personality, and the thoroughness of his work." All his
life long, the thoroughness with which he was able to concentrate his
mind on the one subject which occupied it at the time, was a marked
feature of Lord Armstrong's character.
In the early period of his career, while he was still in a solicitor's
office, and when the study of hydraulics was absorbing all his leisure
hours, he was quizzically said to have "water on the brain." Electrical
problems also engaged his attention, and in 1844 he lectured at the Lit.
and Phil. rooms on his hydro-electric machine, on which occasion the
lecture room was so tightly packed that he had to get in through the
window. In the following year he explained to the same society his
hydraulic experiments and achievements; in 1846 he was elected a Fellow
of the Royal Society; and the next summer, 1847, saw the Elswick Works
It is difficult to realize the fact, brought home to us on looking at
dates like these, that Lord Armstrong and Robert Stephenson were
contemporaries, and that both great engineers were engaged at the same
time on the works which were to bring them lasting fame. The life and
work of Robert Stephenson seem so remote, so much a part of bygone
history, that it strikes the mind with an unexpected shock to realise
that here is a life which began about the same time, yet has lasted
until quite recent years; for Lord Armstrong's long and successful
career only closed with the closing days of the nineteenth century.
In the later years of his life he was greatly interested in repairing
and partly re-building the historic castle of Bamburgh, which Mr.
Freeman calls "the cradle of our race," and which Lord Armstrong
purchased from Lord Crewe's Trustees. Of his personal character, the
writer above quoted says, "Apart from his intellectual gifts, Lord
Armstrong's character was that of a great man. His unaffected modesty
was as attractive as his broad-minded charity. In business transactions,
he was the soul of integrity and honour, while in private life his mind
was far too large to regard accumulated wealth with any excessive
affection. He both spent his money freely and gave it away freely. His
benefactions to Newcastle were princely, and his public munificence was
fit to rank with that of any philanthropist of his time."
Princely, indeed, were his gifts to his native town, as the list of them
will show; they embraced either large contributions to, or the entire
gift of, Jesmond Dene, the Armstrong Park, the Lecture Theatre of the
Literary and Philosophical Society, St. Cuthbert's Church, the
Cathedral, St. Stephen's Church, the Infirmary, the Deaf and Dumb
Institution, the Children's Hospital, the Elswick Schools, Elswick
Mechanics' Institute, the Convalescent Home at Whitley Bay, the Hancock
Museum--to which he and Lady Armstrong contributed a valuable collection
of shells, and L11,500 in money--the Armstrong Bridge, the Armstrong
College, and the Bishopric Endowment Fund.
From the crowded, bustling scenes of Tyneside to the solitude of the
Cheviot Hills is a "far cry," even farther mentally than in actual tale
of miles. Yet the two are linked by the same stream, which begins life
as a brawling Cheviot burn, having for its fellows the head waters of
the Rede, the Coquet, and the Till, with the scores of little dancing
rills that feed them.
Nowhere in this land of swelling hills and grassy fields can one get out
of either sight or sound of running water. Every little dip in the hills
has its watercourse, every vale its broader stream, and the pleasant
sound of their murmurings and sweet babbling fills in the background of
every remembrance of days spent upon the green slopes of the Cheviots.
You may hear in their tones, if you listen, the shrill chatter and
laughter of children, soft cooing voices, and the deeper notes of
manhood, and might fancy, did not your sight contradict the fact, that
you were close to a goodly company, whose words met your ear, but whose
magic language you could not understand.
One little burn of my acquaintance, which runs through field and dell to
join the Till, I have hearkened to again and again for hours, unable to
break away from the spell of its ever-varying, yet constant music--a
sort of wilder, sweeter version of Mendelssohn's Duetto, with the voices
of Knight and Lady alternating and intermingling amidst a rippling
current of clear bell-like undertones.
Down from Cheviot itself, the lovely little Colledge Water splashes its
way, issuing from the wild ravine called the Henhole, where the cliffs
on each side of the rocky gorge rise in some places to a height of more
than two hundred feet. Concerning this ravine, there is a legend that a
party of hunters, long ages ago, were deer-stalking in Cheviot Forest,
when on reaching the Henhole their ears were greeted by the most
ravishing music they had ever heard. Allured by the enchanting sounds,
they followed the music into the ravine, where they disappeared, and
were never again seen.
The range of the Cheviot Hills stretches for about twenty-two miles
along the north-west border of Northumberland; and as the width of the
range is, roughly speaking, twenty-one miles, we have a tract of over
three hundred square miles of rolling, grassy, and heath-clad hills, of
which about one-third is over the Scottish border in Roxburghshire. The
giants of the range, The Cheviot (2,676 feet high), Cairn Hill (2,545
feet), and the striking cone of Hedgehope (2,348 feet), are all near to
each other on Northumbrian soil, a few miles south-west of Wooler, which
is a most convenient starting place for a visit to any part of the
Cheviots, as the Alnwick and Cornhill Railway brings within easy reach
the heights which lie still farther north.
The quiet little market town lies pleasantly among green meadows almost
at the foot of the Cheviots; its low substantial stone houses, with few
gardens in front, give the place a somewhat monotonous appearance, but
the newer streets try to make amends by blossoming out into brilliant
flower-plots in summer-time. Still, one would not quarrel with the older
buildings; solid and unpretentious, they must look much the same as in
the days of Border turmoil, when the first requisite in house or town
was strength, not beauty.
Near to Wooler are many interesting places; within the limits of quite a
short stroll one may visit the Pin Well, a wishing well of which there
are so many examples to be found wherever one may travel; the King's
Chair, a porphyry crag on the hill above the Pin Well; Maiden Castle,
or, less euphoniously, Kettles Camp, an ancient British encampment on
the same hill, the Kettles being pot-like cavities in the ravines
surrounding it; and the Cup and Saucer Camp, just half a mile distant
from Wooler. The Golf Course is now laid out on these same heights.
To reach the Cheviots from Wooler, the most usual way is by the
beautiful glen in which lies Langleeford. The bright streamlet known as
the Wooler Water runs through it from Cheviot on its way to the town
from which it has taken its present name; formerly it was known as
Caldgate Burn. It was at Langleeford that Sir Walter Scott stayed, as a
youth, in 1791, with his uncle, after they had vainly attempted to find
accommodation in Wooler. Here they rode, fished, shot, walked, and drank
the goat's whey for which the district was famous in those days and for
Cheviot itself, or "The Muckle Cheviot," is a huge cumbrous-looking
mass, with rounded sides and flat top, boggy and treacherous, where,
nevertheless, many wild berries brighten the marshy flats in their
season. The name "Cheviot" is said to mean "Snowy Ridge" and well does
this highest summit of the range merit the name, for on its marshy top
and in the rocky chasms of Henhole and Bazzle, the winter's snow often
lies until far into the summer. Down through the weird and fairy-haunted
cleft of Henhole, as we have seen, the little brown stream of Colledge
Water splashes its way, breaking into golden foam between mossy banks as
it reaches the outlet, and turns northward to join the Till.
This little burn is one of the prettiest of mountain streams; and in the
district surrounding it are perhaps more points of interest than any
other stream of such inconsiderable dimensions can show, saving only its
neighbour, the Till. The whole of the surrounding country, wild, lonely,
and romantic, teems with memories and reminders of the past. Sir Walter
Scott, while on the visit already referred to, found an additional
pleasure in the presence of so many relics of ancient days in the
neighbourhood. "Each hill," he wrote to a friend, "is crowned with a
tower, or camp, or cairn, and in no situation can you be near more
fields of battle."
Indeed, the whole district of the Cheviots, and the lower lines of
swelling hills into which the land subsides as it nears the sea, is
crowded with the memorials of an earlier race; from every hill-top and
rocky height they speak with tantalising half-revelations of that race
which the Romans found here when their galleys brought them to the land
which was to them Ultima Thule. No convincing explanation has yet been
found of the concentric circular markings, with radiating grooves from
the cup-shaped hollow in the middle, which are scored on the rocks
wherever traces of an ancient camp are found; and the numbers of these
traces are proof that this district was once a very thickly populated
part of Britain.
And when Angle and Saxon were driving the early inhabitants before them,
westward and southward, these hills and valleys still sheltered a
considerable population; and Bede tells us of a royal residence not far
away, at the foot of the well known Yeavering Bell, one of the more
important hills of the range. It rises to a height of more than 1,100
feet, and then abruptly ends in a wide, almost level top, grass-grown
and boulder-strewn, and crowned near the centre with a roughly-piled
cairn. The ancient name of Yeavering Bell, as given by Bede in his
account of the labours of St. Paulinus, was Ad-gefrin.
To recall the days when King Edwin and his queen, Ethelburga, came here
from the royal city of Bamburgh, we must go back to a time nearly forty
years after the Bernician chieftain, Ida, established himself in that
rocky fortress, from whence he ruled a district roughly corresponding to
the present counties of Durham and Northumberland, and known as
Bernicia. One of Ida's successors, Ethelric, overcame the tribe of
Angles then established in the neighbouring district of Deira--the
Yorkshire of to-day. His successor, Ethelfrith, ruled over the united
district, and married the daughter of Ella, the vanquished chieftain.
Her brother, Edwin, he drove into exile, and the young prince found
refuge at the court of Redwald of East Anglia, where he remained for
Redwald's friendship, however, does not seem to have been above
suspicion, for we find that Ethelfrith's bribe had on one occasion
nearly induced him to give up his guest, whose life, however, was saved
by Redwald's wife who turned her husband from his purpose. In his exile
the thoughts of the young prince often turned towards his own land; and,
once, as he sat brooding over his misfortunes, he saw in a vision one
who came and spoke comforting words to him, saying that he should yet be
king and that his reign should be long and glorious. "And if one should
come to thee and repeat this sign," said the stranger, laying his right
hand on Edwin's head "wouldst thou hearken to his rede?" Edwin gave his
word, and the vision fled. Some little time after this, Ethelfrith of
Northumbria, as the united districts were now called, fell in battle
against Redwald, and Edwin, returning northward, became ruler of
Northumbria, the sons of Ethelfrith fleeing in their turn before the new
king. Edwin wedded, as his second wife, Ethelburga, daughter of that
king of Kent in whose days Augustine came to England; and being a
Christian princess, she brought with her a priest to her new home in the
north. The priest's name was Paulinus; and one day he went to the King
and, placing his right hand on Edwin's head, asked if he knew that sign.
Edwin remembered, and redeemed his promise. He hearkened to the teaching
of the earnest monk, with the result that before long he and his court
were baptised by Paulinus, Edwin's little daughter, it is said, being
the first to receive the sacred rite.
This was at York; and when the king and queen went to the royal city of
Bamburgh, or to their country dwelling at the foot of the Cheviots,
Paulinus accompanied them; and wherever he went, he laboured to teach
the North-country Angles and Saxons the gospel of Christ. This country
dwelling, to which came Paulinus and his royal friends, was Ad-gefrin,
or Yeavering; and though it is extremely unlikely that any traces of it
could remain until our day, yet tradition points out a fragment of an
old building still standing there, as a remnant of the royal residence.
In the region of Kirknewton, a pretty little village to the north-west
of Yeavering, where Colledge Water joins the Glen, which gives its name
to the romantic district of Glendale, Paulinus baptised many hundreds of
Edwin's people; and the name of Pallinsburn--which is now confined to a
house at some little distance from the burn--enshrines the memory of
yet another scene of the labours of the indefatigable monk.
If we stand on the wind-swept top of Yeavering Bell, we are surrounded
by the evidences of still more remote days, for the whole of the summit
was once a fortified camp of the ancient Britons. A roughly-piled, but
massive wall, now almost all broken down, surrounded it, and within its
grass-grown oval are two additional walls, at the east and the west ends
of the enclosure, and many hut-circles, evidences of the rude dwellings
of our remote ancestors. Excavations here many years ago brought to
light a jasper ball, some fragments of a coarse kind of pottery, and
some oaken armlets. Evidently the enclosure on the summit was intended
to be a last resort in time of danger, for traces of many huts are to be
found outside its encircling wall, which is surrounded by a ditch and a
low rampart of earth. At the east end, where the porphyry crag juts out
from the hilltop to a height of about twenty feet, full advantage has
been taken of this naturally strong position.
Now, instead of advancing foes, the spreading heather climbs steadily up
the sloping sides of this ancient stronghold, and invades the central
enclosure at its will; a few hardy sheep that have wandered up here from
the richer pastures below, and now and again a stray tourist, anxious to
make acquaintance at first hand with one of the more famous of the
Cheviot heights, and more than satisfied with the glorious view spread
out before him, are all that disturb the brooding peace of its grassy
solitudes. Up here the wind blows keenly around us with an exhilarating
freshness in its breath, and we think regretfully of coats left behind
at the shepherd's hospitable dwelling, which, with the rest of the
cottages clustering round the old farm house, lies sunning itself in the
warm glow of the September afternoon, in the green fields at the foot
of the sheltering hills.
Looking southward now, up the stream, there is stretching away to the
left the long ridge of Newton Tor, and away behind it Great Hetha and
Little Hetha; while half-way down the vale the Colledge Water tumbles
over the rocks at Hethpoole Linn (or Heathpool, as the modern rendering
has it), breaking into amber spray deep down beneath overhanging trees
and boulders and golden bracken.
This brings our thoughts to days comparatively modern, for when Admiral
Collingwood was raised to the peerage of Great Britain, it was by the
title of "Baron Collingwood of Caldburn and Hethpoole, in the county of
Northumberland." The brave Admiral was fond of planting an oak tree
whenever he found an opportunity, to secure the continuance of those
wooden walls which in his hands, and in those of his life-long friend,
Nelson, had proved such a sure defence to his country. In a letter dated
March, 1806, he wrote to his wife, "I wish some parts of Hethpoole could
be selected for plantations of larch, oak, and beech, where the ground
could best be spared. Even the sides of a bleak hill would grow larch
and fir." In another letter some months later he told her what
"agreeable news" it was to hear that she was taking care of his oaks,
and planting some at Hethpoole; and saying that if he ever returned he
would plant a good deal there; adding, however, that he feared before
that could take place both he and Lady Collingwood might themselves be
planted in the churchyard beneath some old yew tree.
Hethpoole presents us with a link not only with history, but with
romance as well. An ivied ruin near at hand, with walls of enormous
strength, is said to be the remains of the castle where the final
tragedy in "The Hermit of Warkworth" took place. Here, it is said, the
distracted lover came upon his lady and his brother, who had at that
moment effected her escape, and not recognising the youth, rushed upon
the pair with drawn sword, only to discover too late his terrible
mistake, and lose both brother and bride--for the lady received a mortal
wound in trying to save her rescuer.
Turning our eyes now northward across the Glen from Yeavering Bell, we
are looking towards Coupland Castle, and the fact that it was built so
late as the reign of James I. bears eloquent testimony to the insecurity
of life and property on the Borders even at that period. The barony
either gave its name to, or took its name from, a well-known
Northumbrian family, of which one of the most prominent members was that
Sir John de Coupland who succeeded in capturing David of Scotland at the
battle of Neville's Cross--not, however, before he had lost some of his
teeth by a blow from the mailed fist of that doughty monarch!
Beyond Coupland Castle we look across Milfield Plain lying in the angle
formed by the meeting of the Glen with the deep and sullen Till, whose
slow windings can be traced as it gleams at intervals between the
undulations of the lower hills through which it flows northwestward to
the Tweed. Though a brisk and sparkling stream in certain parts of its
course, the general characteristics of the Till are well borne out by
Tweed says to Till
"What gars ye rin sae still?"
Till says to Tweed
"Though ye rin wi' speed
And I rin slaw;
Where ye droon ae man
I droon twa."
There is yet more of historical and traditional interest to note in this
view from the top of Yeavering Bell, which, as I saw it last, lay warm
in the glow of a September afternoon. Nennius is our authority for
stating that on Milfield Plain took place one of the great conflicts in
which King Arthur
"Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame
The heathen hordes, and made a realm, and reigned"
And, as we gazed, the level spaces seemed peopled once more with
charging knights, flashing sword and swinging battle-axe, and the
intervening centuries dropped away, and Arthur's call to battle for "our
fair father Christ," seemed curiously befitting that romantic scene.
But, as the shadows lengthened, and the streams took on a golden glow in
the rays of the September sun, then slowly setting, "the tumult and the
shouting of the captains" died away, and the figure of an earnest monk
seemed to stand by the riverside, with prince and serf, peasant and
warrior for his audience, and the cold bright waters of the Glen
dripping from his hand, as he enrolled one after another into the ranks
of an army mightier than the hosts of Arthur or Edwin.
Milfield again emerges into notice out of the obscurity of those dark
ages, in the days of the Bernician kings who succeeded Edwin; for Bede
tells us that "This town (Ad-gefrin) under the following kings, was
abandoned, and another was built instead of it at a place called
Melmin," now Milfield. Nothing, however, remains here of the buildings
which once sheltered the royal Saxons and their court. In later days,
Milfield has a melancholy interest attaching to it from its connection
with the battle of Flodden; for, on the heights above, King James fixed
his camp, in the hope that Surrey would lead his troops across the plain
below. Of the other considerable heights of the Cheviot range, Carter
Fell and Peel Fell are the best known; they both lie right on the border
line of England and Scotland, between the North Tyne and the Rede Water.
As we have already seen, the men of Tynedale and Redesdale bore a
reputation for lawlessness in the time of the Border "Moss-trooping"
days, and until nearly the end of the eighteenth century the tradesmen
and guilds of Newcastle would take no apprentice who hailed from either
of these dales. The tracks and passes between the hills, once alive with
frequent foray and wild pursuit, are now silent and solitary but for the
occasional passing of a shepherd or farmer, and the flocks of sheep
grazing as they move slowly up the hillsides. A quaint survival of the
remembrances of those days was unexpectedly brought before me one day. A
child presented me with a bunch of cotton-grass, gathered on the moors
not far from the Roman-Wall. I asked if she knew what they were that she
had brought. "Moss-troopers," she replied.
Many of the Cheviot heights bear most suggestive and interesting names,
such as Cushat  Law, Kelpie  Strand, Earl's Seat, Stot  Crags,
Deer Play, Wether Lair, Bloodybushedge, Monkside, etc., etc.
[Footnote 7: Cushat = a wood-pigeon.]
[Footnote 8: Kelpie = a water-witch.]
[Footnote 9: Stot = a bullock.]
In these lonely wilds, which occupy all the northwest of the county, one
may travel all day and meet with no living thing save the birds of the
air, and a few shy, wild creatures of the moorlands; curve after curve,
the rounded hills stretch away into the distance, grass-grown or
heatherclad, with occasional peat-mosses; above is the "grey gleaming
sky," and, all around, a stillness as of vast untrodden wastes, and a
sense of solitude out of all proportion to the actual extent of this
lonely region. The fascination of it, however, admits of no denial, even
on the part of those newly making its acquaintance; while those who in
childhood or youth roam over its wild fells, and feel the spell of its
brooding mystery, retain in their hearts for all time an unfading
remembrance of its magic charm.
My sire is the stooping Cheviot mist,
My mother the heath in her purple train;
And every flower on her gown I've kissed
Over and over and over again.
The secret ways of the hills are mine,
I know where the wandering moor-fowl nest;
And up where the wet grey glidders shine
I know where the roving foxes rest.
[Footnote 10: Glidders = Patches of loose stones on the hillside.]
I know what the wind is wailing for
As it searches hollow and hag and peak;
And, riding restless on Newton Tor,
I know what the questing shadows seek.
I know the tale that the brown bees tell,
And they tell it to me with a raider's pride,
As, drunk with the cups of Yeavering Bell,
They stagger home from the English side.
I know the secrets of haugh and hill;
But sacred and safe they rest with me,
Till I hide them deep in the heart of Till,
To be taken to Tweed and the open sea.
--_Will. H. Ogilvie_.
BY PERMISSION OF MESSRS. W. AND R. CHAMBERS
THE ROMAN WALL.
"Take these flowers, which, purple waving,
On the ruined rampart grew,
Where, the sons of Freedom braving,
Rome's imperial standard flew.
Warriors from the breach of danger
Pluck no longer laurels there;
They but yield the passing stranger
Wild-flower wreaths for Beauty's hair."
--_Sir Walter Scott._
(Lines written for a young lady's album.)
Of all the abundance of treasure which Northumberland possesses, from a
historical point of view--of all its wealth of interesting relics of
bygone days--ancient abbey, grim fortress, menhir and monolith, camp and
tumulus--none grips the imagination as does the sight of that unswerving
line which pursues its way over hill and hollow, from the eastern to the
western shores of the north-land, visible emblem, after more than a
thousand years, of the far-flung arm of Imperial Rome.
From Wallsend on the Tyne to Bowness on the Solway Firth it strode
triumphantly across the land; even now in its decay it remains a
splendid monument to that mighty nation's genius for having and holding
the uttermost parts of the earth that came within their ken. As was
inevitable, after the lapse of nearly eighteen centuries the great work
is everywhere in a ruinous condition, and in many places, especially at
its eastern end, has disappeared altogether; but not only can its course
be traced by various evidences, but it was actually standing within
comparatively recent years. As lately as the year 1800--lately, that is,
compared with the date of its building--its existence at Byker was
referred to in a magazine of the period. Now nothing is to be seen of it
excepting a few stones here and there, for many miles from Wallsend; but
the highroad westward from Newcastle, by Westgate Road, as is well
known, follows the course of the Wall for nearly twenty miles. But
farther west we may walk along the uneven, broken surface of the mighty
rampart, or climb down into the broad and deep fosse which lies closely
against it along its northern side, without troubling ourselves with the
arguments and uncertainties of antiquaries, who have by no means decided
on what was the original function of the Wall, who was its real builder,
why and when the earthen walls and fosse which accompany it on the south
were wrought, and many other smaller controversial points, which afford
endless matter for speculation and discussion.
Early references to the Wall show that our forefathers knew it as the
Picts' Wall; it is now generally referred to as the Wall of Hadrian, the
general concensus of opinion yielding to that indefatigable ruler the
credit of having wrought the mighty work. Whether built originally as a
frontier line of defence or not, opinions are not agreed; but it is very
certain that the Wall afforded the only secure foothold in the North to
the Romans for well-nigh two centuries of hostility from the restless
Brigantes to the southward, and the Picts and Scots to the north; and
for another century or so after their southern neighbours had become
friendly and peaceful, it still remained a substantial bulwark against
the northern barbarians.
Throughout the whole of its length it steadily holds the line of the
highest ridges in its course, climbing up slopes and dipping down into
the intervening hollows with the least possible deviation from its
onward course. The most interesting, because most complete, portion of
the Wall, is that in the neighbourhood of the three loughs--Broomlee,
Greenlee, and Crag Loughs, which, with Grindon Lough to the south of the
Wall, boast the name of the Northumberland Lakes. On this portion of the
wall is situated the large Roman station of Borcovicus, from which we
have gained a great deal of our information as to what the life of the
garrisons on this lonely outpost of Empire was like.
The station is situated on hilly ground, which slopes gently to the
south, and is nearly five acres in extent. On entering the eastern
gateway one cannot but experience a sudden thrill on seeing the deep
grooves worn in the stone by the passing and repassing of Roman cart and
chariot wheels. That mute witness of the daily traffic of the soldiery
in those long-past centuries speaks with a most intimate note to us who
eighteen hundred years afterwards come to look upon the place of their
habitation. The station itself is of the usual shape of the Roman towns
on the course of the Wall--oblong, with rounded corners. The greatest
length lies east and west, in a line with the Wall; and two broad
streets crossing each other at right angles lead from the north to the
south, and from the east to the western gateways. Each of the four was
originally a double gateway; but in every case one half of it has been
closed up, no doubt when the garrison was declining in numbers, and the
attacks of the enemy were increasing in severity.
[Illustration: NORTH GATEWAY, HOUSESTEADS AND ROMAN WALL.]
Back to Full Books