Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for GATESHEAD

GATESHEAD, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district in Durham. The town stands on the verge of the county, on a branch of Watling Street, on the river Tyne, and on the North Eastern railway, adjacent to Newcastle-on-Tyne. It is a borough distinct from Newcastle, has separate establishments, and is in a different county; but, in all other respects, it forms part of Newcastle, holding the same kind of relation to it which Southwark does to London. Its site begins on a low level along the Tyne, but rises immediately and rapidly to elevations of upwards of 150 feet; and the bed and banks of the Tyne, between the greater part of it and the greater part of Newcastle, form a trough flanked by acclivities which have been called, but improperly called, cliffs. Two bridges, the one on a low level for the old road, the other on a high level for a new road and the railway, connect it with Newcastle; and these will be described in our article on that town. The North Eastern railway gives it communication with all parts of the kingdom to the north and to the south; and railways east and west, both from itself and from Newcastle, give it communication with the coast and with the upper basin of the Tyne.

Both the origin and the name of Gateshead are obscure. It is thought to have been the Gabrosentum of the Romans, and the Gaetshefed of the Saxons; and it appears to be the place called Capiæ Caput by Bede; but it does not come distinctly into notice till the eleventh century. Some suppose it to have been called Gateshead, signifying "street-head, " from its being at the end of a branch of Watling Street; while others regard the name as a corruption of "goat's head, " which was the ancient British rendering of Gabrosentum, and is the meaning of Capræ Caput. Roman coins have been found here; but these may argue nothing further than the vicinity of the Roman settlements on the other side of the Tyne. A battle was fought in the neighbourhood, between William the Conqueror on the one side, and Edgar Atheling and Malcolm of Scotland on the other, in 1068-Walcher, bishop of Durham, a native of Lorraine, with a number of Norman and Flemish followers, was murdered in the church in 1080. He had been made bishop by the Conqueror; had been active and skilful in completing the subjugation of the natives; had incurred popular suspicion in consequence of the murder of a distinguished Saxon of the name of Lynlph; and, coming to hold a court in Gateshead, was asked to make explanation, when a cry was raised, "Short rede, good rede, slay ye the bishop, " the church was set on fire, and the bishop and his followers were slain as they attempted to escape. Gateshead, with its manor, belonged then and afterwards to the palatine-bishops of Durham; it was annexed, in the time of Edward VI., to Newcastle; it reverted, in the next reign, to the bishops; it was left by Bishop Barnes, for a term of 99 years, to Queen Elizabeth and her successors; it was consigned, in the following year, by the Queen, to Newcastle; and it afterwards passed to various possessors. A palace of the bishops was here in 1614; a house at the head of Oakwellgate has been popularly called King John's palace; a house between Oakwellgate and High-street was the residence of the loyal Sir John Cole; and Gateshead House, in the neighbourhood, was the seat of successively the Riddells and the Claverings. This last suffered much injury from the Scottish forces under Lesley, on account of the loyalty of Sir Thomas Riddell; and was almost wholly destroyed by a mob during a visit of the Duke of Cumberland, in 1746. A gateway which belonged to it still exists, but has been removed to a corner of Trinity chapel. Daniel Defoe is said to have resided in a house at Hill-gate, and to have there written his "Robinson Crusoe." Bewick, the wood engraver, lived and died in a house at West-street; and Dobson, the architect, who designed numerous great edifices in Newcastle, Morpeth, and other parts of Northumberland, was a native.

The town long consisted mainly of one principal street, called High-street and Bottle-bank, descending southward to the bridge, and two narrow streets, called Hillgate and Pipewell-gate, running parallel with the river. The name Bottle-bank was thought, by Brand, to be a corruption of Battle-bank, -referring to some ancient fight at it, of which no record exists; but is evidently derived from the Anglo-Saxon "botle, " and signifies simply "the village on the bank." The principal street, especially in the lower or Bottle-bank part of it, was part of the great highway between London and Edinburgh, down to 1826; but was so steep and narrow, and otherwise inconvenient, as to be difficult of passage at all seasons, and almost totally untraversable in winter-A circuitous road, round by St. Mary's church toward the end of the bridge, was opened in 1826; and this formed a great improvement. Extensive damage to houses was done by a fire in 1854; and this cleared the way for further improvement. The construction of the high railway bridge, and of the railway itself, led to other and much more valuable improvements. The town has now a second principal street, called West-street, descending throughout it to the north; and has also other new streets and thoroughfares of less extent. Yet, for the most part, it consists of small streets called chares, of lanes and alleys, some of which are blocked across one end; and it presents, on the whole, a very crowded, dingy, and disagreeable appearance. It has the advantages, however, of being much swept by natural drainage, and of lying considerably open to ventilation; and some of the higher parts of it command grand views along the Tyne. The principal public buildings are the town-hall, the mechanics' institute, the North-eastern railway's locomotive depôt, public baths and wash-houses, churches, chapels, schools, three lunatic asylums, and a workhouse. The old town-hall, in the market-place, was built in 1755; and the new town hall was built in 1869, and is in the Italian style. The mechanics' institute stands in West-street; was built in 1848; is a handsome edifice; and has a large library. The North-eastern railway's depôt is in Half-Moon lane, and employs upwards of 1, 000 workmen. The baths and wash-houses are near Oakwellgate, and were opened in 1855. St. Mary's church is a cruciform edifice, with a lofty tower; has parts which have been called Norman, but do not seem to be later than the middle of the 15th century; was partly rebuilt, partly restored, after a severe injury done to it by an explosion in 1854; and now presents an ungainly appearance, of little or no interest to artists. Trinity church, in High-street, was formerly called St. Edmund's; is pure early English, built by Bishop Farnham in 1248; belonged to the nuns of St. Bartholomew, in Newcastle; went into a state of ruin, and remained in that state till 1837; was then restored by Mr. Cuthbert Ellison; consists only of nave and end gallery; and contains some tablets of the Ellisons. St. Edmund's church belonged to an hospital, refounded, in 1611, by James I.; and was rebuilt in 1810. St. Cuthbert's church was built in 1848; St. James', in 1865. The Wesleyan chapel in High-street is in the Italian style, and was built in 1861. The Roman Catholic church was built in 1859; is in the early decorated English style; comprises nave, aisles, chancel, and transept; and has a north-western tower, designed to be surmounted by a spire rising to the height of about 200 feet. There are eight dissenting chapels, belonging to severally Presbyterians, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and New Connexion Methodists. The grammar-school, or Anchorage school, has £12 a year from endowment. The national school was built in 1842, at a cost of £1, 000. St. Edmund's or St. James' hospital superseded a monastery dating from the 7th century, and destroyed by the Danes; was built, in 1248, in connexion with Trinity chapel, then and afterwards called St. Edmund's chapel; was refounded, as already noticed, in 1611, by James I.; underwent change of constitution in 1810; has an endowed income of £526; and maintains thirteen poor brethren. The three lunatic asylums are at Gateshead Fell, Wrekington, and Bensham; and, in 1851, had 320 inmates.

The trade of the town is, in large measure, intermixed with that of Newcastle; but may be summarized as coal trade, shipping, ship-building, iron-working, brass-working, wire rope-making, locomotive engine-making, chain cable-making, and chemicals. Dodd describes the place as a "centre of work, noise, smoke, and dirt; iron-works, brass-works, chain cable works, glass works, bottle works, and chemical works lying on all sides" A notable feature also is the quarrying and exporting of grindstones from Gateshead Fell; and these, under the name of Newcastle grindstones, are sent to all parts of the world. The town has a head post office, ‡ a railway station, and three chief inns; is the seat of a county court and a polling-place; and publishes a weekly newspaper. It is a borough by prescription; was first chartered, in 1164, by Bishop Pudsey; is governed by a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors; and sends one member to parliament. The municipal and parliamentary limits are conterminate; and include all Gateshead parish, and part of Heworth township. Electors in 1868, 1, 172. Pop. in 1861, 33, 587. Houses, 4, 391.

The parish comprises 2, 915 acres of land, and 340 of water. Real property, £81, 826; of which £6, 580 are in mines, £425 in quarries, and £330 in railways. Pop. in 1851, 24, 805; in 1861, 32, 749. Houses, 4, 259. The increase of pop. arose from the establishment of various manufactories and of the Northeastern railway's work-shops. The surface measures 3 miles 3½ furlongs from N to S, 3 miles 1¼ furlong from E to W; attains its greatest altitude at 21/8 miles from the Tyne, and is there 535 feet high; descends thence to the Tyne, remains nearly tabular to the southern boundary, and declines considerably towards the E and the W.-St. Mary is a rectory, and Trinity, St. Edmund, St. Cuthbert, and St. James are benefices constituted in 1864-5, in the dio. of Durham. Value of St. M., £1, 050;* of each of the others, £300.* Patron of all, the Bishop of Durham. See also Gateshead-Fell.—The sub-district is identical with the parish.—The district comprehends also the sub-district of Heworth, conterminate with Heworth chapelry; the sub-district of Whickham, conterminate with Whickham parish; and the sub-district of Winlaton, containing the parishes of Winlaton and Ryton. Acres, 25, 943. Poor-rates in 1862, £14, 394. Pop. in 1851, 48, 081; in 1861, 59, 409. Houses, 8, 774. Marriages in 1860, 429: births, 2, 431, -of which 161 were illegitimate; deaths, 1, 217, -of which 556 were at ages under 5 years, and 19 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 3, 881; births, 21, 425; deaths, 13, 876. The places of worship, in 1851, were 16 of the Church of England, with 7, 587 sittings; 1 of the English Presbyterian Church, with 600 s.; 1 of the United Presbyterian church, with 350 s.; 5 of Independents, with 856 s.; 1 of Baptists, the s. not reported; 16 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 4, 073 s.; 10 of New Connexion Methodists, with 2, 806 s.; 12 of Primitive Methodists, with 1,804 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 350 s.; and 3 of Roman Catholics, with 875 s. The schools were 28 public day schools, with 3, 763 scholars; 62 private day schools, with 2, 740 s.; 56 Sunday schools, with 6, 216 s.; and 4 evening schools for adults, with 43 s.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Gateshead AP/CP       Gateshead SubD       Gateshead RegD/PLU       County Durham AncC
Place: Gateshead

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.