Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Blyth Shipyard Closure 1966

The workmen of Blyth Shipyard were on annual leave on the 3rd August 1966 when the editor of the Blyth News was invited to go along to the yard to be briefed on a news item. With all the 1400 workforce away on their holidays what he was actually told was momentous. The shipyard was to close.

Of the 245,000 shares in the Blyth Dock and Shipbuilding Company 242,000 were owned by Moller Trust Ltd of Hong Kong. And the formal redundancy notices the men received soon after, while on annual leave, were postmarked Hong Kong.

Shipyards in 1950s
The loss of heavy industry at that time, which also included some of the town’s coal mines, has often been cited as the start of a demise in Blyth’s fortunes. But were the closures inevitable or was this the product of a foreign management indifferent to the plight of the town?

Eddie Milne was the town’s MP from 1960 to 1974. He spoke on the subject at a House of Commons debate on the 20th Oct 1966 with the Labour Secretary of State for the Board of Trade, Roy Mason:

“The first Ark Royal was built at Blyth, but it is with the present that we are mainly concerned tonight. In the first week in August of this year, the yard was on annual holiday and the editor of the local paper, the Blyth News, on 3rd August, was telephoned and asked to go along to the yard for what was described as an item of news. A receiver had moved in that morning and taken over the running of the yard. Needless to say the town was stunned. Workers on holiday received the news from newspaper reports, and many returned from their holidays to receive the news in envelopes marked Hong Kong.
There is not the time to describe the feeling of desolation that is experienced at a time like this. As anybody in the House will appreciate, it is a matter of great sadness to watch a great industry die. The method of announcing the closure was criminal. No other word could fit the act. Men who had given a lifetime of service to the Blyth Company, in good times and bad, were entitled to treatment better than this.”

Milne accepted that the shipyard was “on a razor’s edge for years” financially. A fleet of ships had recently had their value written down by half and Lloyds Bank had recently loaned the company £539,000. But he asked that the interests of this company be examined by the Board of Trade. The creditors to the Blyth Dock and Shipbuilding Company, he said, were actually companies owned by Moller Ltd. A stormy creditors meeting in September had been chaired by Mr Tucker who had several financial interests in Moller companies. He had savagely criticized the management and workforce despite having only visited the yard on one occasion.

Milne also spoke of the quality of innovative work the yard was producing, diversifying into industrialised house building, factory structures and bridges. The Government had been stressing the further need for shipping to be built. There were mechanisms available to support the industry, for example the new Local Employment Act. He was stating that he thought the Secretary of State should intervene.

Roy Mason replied:

“I assure hon. Members, and my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth in particular, that the Government are not indifferent to the situation created by the closure of the shipyard in Blyth. We appreciate the worry and distress this closure has brought to those employed in the yard and to their families and the importance of ensuring that there should be alternative employment for those put out of work by the closure.
However, I cannot accept the simple proposition that the shipyard should be kept open at all costs. The company appears to have failed because, like many other firms in the industry, it had to take orders at fixed prices at a time when costs, including the cost of labour, were rising. Ships constructed have proved to be unprofitable and the yard had for some time been operating at a loss.
The experience of this yard is not unique in the industry. It was this and similar problems which led us to set up the Geddes Committee.
But things are not as black as this might suggest. The great shipbuilding concentration on the Tyne is not too far away, and skilled shipbuilding labour is scarce there. Alternative employment should be available on the Tyne for many of the Blyth shipbuilding workers. Indeed, of the 470 employees of the Blyth shipyard who have so far been declared redundant, over 80 per cent. have already found alternative employment, and many of them on the Tyne.”

The site is today known as Wimbourne Quay. Shipbuilding had begun on this site in 1811 and various firms owned the yard down the decades. It became the Blyth Shipbuilding and Dock Company Ltd on 2nd March 1883. By 1900 it had taken over the Blyth Dry Dock Company and was able to carry out work on the largest of shipping, including the Ark Royal in 1914. In 1947 the yard was purchased by Mollers (Hong Kong) Ltd. It had four berths and five dry docks.


An eyewitness to the final days of the yard has written about his experiences on bedlington.co.uk website. It is quite a humorous and personal piece. It is worth reading in full. He goes under the handle of Eggy1948. He started the shipyard at age 16 and finished in May 1966 at the same age. He wasn’t hopeful for the yard’s future. There was obviously a feeling among the men that all was not well. He writes:

“No wonder the Japanese could build ships cheaper than us. They did not have to paint the whole town whatever colour the latest ship was being done in. Almost every house in Blyth had a door/shed the same colour as the latest ship… The Japanese blacksmiths did not have to make wrought iron gates for the foreman’s driveways or basketball hoops and fittings for every gable end in Blyth… All charged to the cost of the ship.”

Professor Norman McCord reflected on the findings of the 1992 Royal Commission in the book the “Northern Counties from AD 1000” when he wrote:

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, British shipyards had built 55 per cent of the world’s new tonnage; in 1960 the figure was only 15 per cent and continued to drop. Northern yards did not even hold their share of the shrunken British total, despite some success stories… Shipbuilding expansion overseas would in any event have posed problems for British yards; the catastrophic scale of decline reflected failures by both management and labour.”

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Blyth Quayside's Heritage



Plessey Wagonway

Plessey Road now occupies the course of an old wagonway which brought coals six miles from inland collieries to the quay. The collieries at Plessey were opened in 1663 to take advantage of a rich seam of coal that outcrops at this location. The pits were shallow as the technology was not yet developed to ventilate and pump water from deep and extensive mines. There was eventually eighteen of these shallow pits in the area. The horse-drawn wooden wagonway was opened in 1709 and closed in 1813 when the pits had been exhausted. The course of the wagonway influenced the irregular development of streets in Blyth as the 19th century progressed.

Market Street

The Ordnance Survey mapping from the late 1850 shows what is now called Plessey Road to be Market Street. Writing in 1862 John Wallace states: "The town in 1800 was chiefly on the south side of the Wagon Hill, now Market Street." By the time of the second edition Ordnance Survey (c1897) mapping the market had been established at its present site on the developing area around Waterloo Street.

Breweries (site of)

From the late 17th and early 18th centuries breweries have been in existence at these sites. They supplied drink to the local population and ship's crews using the harbour. A lease from 1725 shows the brewing to be a small-scale enterprise. However later in the century a new brewery was built and a lease of 1798 mentions twenty-three public houses tied to the brewery for the purchase of beer, twelve of them in Blyth. Wartime restrictions forced the brewery's closure in 1916 and the building was partly demolished. Often leases on the Ridley properties in Blyth contained a clause which stated that if a house became licensed as a public house the beer had to be purchased from Ridley's brewery. Of course, Ridley Street in the heart of the quayside are is named after this family who are now peers of the realm with a seat at nearby Blagdon Hall. The present Lord Ridley is an influential author and newspaper columnist.



Willie Carr's Forge (site of)

Reputedly the strongest man in England during the latter 18th and early 19th centuries, Willie's feats of strength are the stuff of legend, even today. He was a blacksmith and the sites and monument records list this place as the site of his workshop, although with little documentary evidence to support the claim. However, the 1st edition OS mapping from the 1850s does show a blacksmiths workshop to be in existence here.

Dun Cow Inn (site of)

This was the site of a public house which was shown to be in existence on a map from as far back as 1813. It was still there on the mapping of 1969, although photos show it to be a modernish building. It must have been rebuilt at some stage. It was in the early and mid 19th century known as the Brown Cow. In the 1827 trade directory John Northover is the proprietor and in 1854 Mary Moffat. Wallace in his "History of Blyth" (1862) mentions that the Black Bull, on nearby Sussex Street was "the great house of retort for Lynn captains". Lynn, a seaport, on the Norfolk coast was the major trading-partner destination with the port of Blyth.

Rope Walks (site of)

These were low buildings 400 yards long and six yards wide where ropes for shipping was made. They were known as rope walks from the walking to-and-fro of the workers in twisting the fibres together in making the rope. They were sighted on what is now Park View and Ridley Avenue. The earliest recording is from 1762. The buildings were both still in existence on the 1897 OS mapping although by then marked as disused.



Rocket Brigade House

It was built in the latter part of the 19th century. It was one of many built around the coast at this time, but this is now a rare, fairly-intact survival. It ceased to function in 1959. It was built by the Volunteer Life Brigade. The lower floor was a storage space for a cart, rockets and various other items of equipment needed. The upper floor acted as a look out and facilities for the volunteers. There was originally an exterior stone stair to the first floor. The function was to save lives from shipwrecks close to shore by means of rocket apparatus and breeches buoy.







Custom House

Custom Officers, who collect taxes on goods entering and leaving the port, have been in place at Blyth since at least 1673. The records of custom officers date back to 1723, a time when smuggling was rife and much documented in some of the later histories, but they were not necessarily working out of a permanent building. This neo-classical building dates from 1890, although it is now a care home with seven beds. It replaced a custom house only a few steps away on what is now the offices of Blyth Workspace. This was built in the late 18th century according to the sites and monuments database. A trade directory of 1827 gives this description: "The Custom House at this place is under the control of the Establishment at Newcastle, and is superintended by the following officers, viz. Mr. Wm. Coppin, principal coast officer ; Mr. Michael Martin, tide surveyor and two boatmen. Upwards of 1,000 vessels are cleared annually at this port, or creek, and about 14 keels, and two steam boats are constantly employed in the river."



Chandler's Warehouse

A building from the turn of the century it was "designed to impress" and is of some importance due to the preserved shop frontage. Ship's chandlers sold all manner of supplies to shipping and were an important part of the working life of a port. An 1855 directory lists three different proprietors of chandlers in the quayside area.


Pilot's Watch House (site of)

A maritime pilot is a mariner who manoeuvres shipping through dangerous stretches of water. In this case the undeveloped river entrance. 1855 Directory: "The Pilot Office is situated at the Ferry Boat Landing, Robert Oliver, master. Ten persons are listed as pilots in this directory. Pilots are frequently mentioned in the records from 18th century onwards. There are also many old graves in the local churchyard with monuments listing the occupants as pilots.

High Lighthouse

The lighthouse was built in 1788. When it was first constructed the shoreline was only a few yards away from the lighthouse.  It served as a navigation aid. Ships lined up the lighthouse with a beacon, later the Low Light, a few yards closer to the river, which gave them a course to enter the river channel. The lighthouse was heightened as necessary as the harbour developed in 1888 and again in 1900. It was finally deactivated in 1985.



Salt Pans

Salt manufacture, from evaporating sea water in large pans, was the first and largest industry in Blyth from medieval times. The industry became heavily taxed during the 18th and early 19th century and went into sharp decline. There had been eight salt pans at various places along both the North and South banks of the river. By 1876 the industry was extinct. The early pans were made of lead and quite small (2 feet diameter and 3 inched deep). The size eventually grew with lead being replaced by iron. Four tons of iron were recovered from a pan broken up in 1744. This particular salt manufactory was still in existence on the OS mapping of the 1850s among the now busy and bustling quayside.

Bath Terrace

The middle section of this terrace is from the late 18th century. Number 11 was converted into a bath house in the 19th century and still contains the porch with the lettering "BATHS". Clare Hickman on buildingconservation.com writes:"In 18th-century Britain the health craze of the day resulted in the creation of plunge pools and cold baths in houses and gardens across the land. These containers filled with cold water could be located within the main house or within a purpose-built structure set in the landscape, such as a grotto." These grand houses, in brick, were home to some of the most prominent of Blyth residents including many shipowners and John Carr owner of Cowpen Colliery and many other pits.



Wapping

A street name on the 19th century mapping. A first though may be that this was named from the place of a port of a trading partner of Blyth, but historians believe it is a shortened version of "wapentake" - a danish meeting place - and this site could be an ancient settlement.

St Cuthberts Church Hall

Built in 1925 on the site of a Church of England chapel-of-ease to the main parish church at Earsdon, several miles to the South. This was built in 1751 by the landowners, the Ridley family, to serve the ever increasing population. Nothing remains of this old church except the keystone that is visible with the date 1751 was from the entrance to the original church. "A chalice, first used in the old church in 1754, is still on exhibition in the new church", according to St Cuthbert's website.



Shipbuilding Yard

A yard was shown at this site on the early 19th century mapping. It was on of several shipbuilding sites on the Blyth. Shipbuilding began on the river in the mid 18th century and continued until 1966 on both a large and small scale. This was a relatively small yard. The main site was just slightly upstream past the River Cafe.

St Cuthbert's Churchyard

The burial place of many prominent Blyth residents and home to some ornate and listed grave stones. Unfortunately there is much weathering on many of the stones. Look out for "William Watts of South Blyth Pilot taken to the Mercy of God being drowned (with three other Pilots) while employed in the duty of his Calling on the 14th day of January 1805 he left a widow & five children to bewail his loss Weep for yourselves, for me lament no more I'm safely landed on a peaceful shore My Home's in Him whose word proclaimeth this - I am the Way to everlasting Bliss". There were many tragedies on 14th January in the first two decades of 19th century and it became known as Blyth's unluckiest day, with boats being kept on shore. for a long time afterwards.

Former Police Station

The building of 1896, on Bridge Street, by county architect John Cresswell, recently came to the end of its life as a police station. Described by Pevsner, in his monumental "Buildings of England" series in the 1950s, as probably the best building in Blyth. It is in red brick, Italianate Gothic style with lots of carved detail and marble columns. It incorporates a magistrates’ court and Sergeant's flat which were decommissioned some time ago.



Harbour Commissioner's Offices

This was built in 1913. The boardroom is decorated with wood panelling and Dutch tiles from the SS Walmer Castle which was broken up at Blyth in 1932. The Harbour Commission had come into existence in 1882. The previous Harbour and Dock Company were not able to raise the necessary funding to expand and develop the port, which was much needed to cope with the increasing trade. The Harbour Commission as a public body had access to a wider range of public capital and set about a programme of developing the port to what it is today.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Captain William Smith of Blyth

Happening right now is a project, based on Blyth’s quayside, to restore a tall ship. This will be adopted as Blyth’s very own vessel. The venture aims to provide skills and a confidence-boosting initiative to young people who would probably otherwise be unemployed and without any training opportunities. It is using Blyth’s heritage to move into the future by recreating the exploits of one of Blyth’s former pioneers, Capt William Smith, by sailing to Antarctica.

You will have no doubt read much about the project, the recent Royal visit and may even have welcomed the boat to her new home at Blyth Port. If not this video captured the event:





John Wallace in his "History of Blyth", which was written within living memory of Capt William Smith in 1862, gives a good account of this adventure. He also gives an even more exciting account of the fate of Smith's Daughter and son-in-law at the hands of African natives. This is it:

"Mr. William Smith had his name brought prominently before the public in 1820, by some naval officers on the coasts of South America reporting home that an Antarctic continent, or long series of Islands, of whose existence an ancient rumour is reported, had been discovered by Captain William Smith, of the brig, William, of Blyth.

It had always been the custom for our trading vessels to keep as near as possible to Cape Horn, in passing into the Pacific. Mr. Smith, in a voyage from Monte Video to Valparaiso, rounded the Horn in a high southern latitude, and fell in with a line of coast, which he followed for two or three hundred miles, and which he named New South Shetland; he landed and took possession of it in the name of His Britannic Majesty. The extent of this group is from 54 to 65 west longitude, and from 61 to 64 south latitude. It consists of numerous islands without a vestige of vegetation, except a species of moss, and in a few solitary spots something resembling grass. The interior is mountainous, and covered with eternal snow. A species of coal was found which burnt well. He passed large bays, which abounded in spermaceti whales ; seals were extremely plentiful, and shrimps and penguins were numerous beyond description. The large islands are five in number. Some of the harbours are very good ; vessels in them being land-locked. After landing at Valparaiso, he made his discovery known to the British naval authorities there, and a party of naval officers accompanied him in his vessel to verify and certify to his discovery, and New South Shetland has since appeared on the maps of the world.

Mr. Smith was master of the Lady Ridley of Blyth, in 1801; he continued in her for some years, and in 1815 became part owner of the William; in this vessel he proceeded to South America. The Spanish possessions in South America had just thrown off the yoke of the mother country, and the ports of those extensive countries were opened to British ships and commerce. Smith engaged in this trade, and it was in one of his voyages into the Pacific that he made this discovery. No profit arose to him from his discovery, and after spending some years in trading to the ports of South America, he returned to Blyth a poorer man than when he left it. He afterwards became a North Sea pilot, and resided in London.

I cannot conclude this account of Smith without noticing the strange circumstances under which a daughter of his met her death. She was the wife of Mr. Christopher Short. Having no family, Mrs. S. went to sea with her husband for many years, and had thus visited most parts of the world. Short was master of the Mary Florence, and was taking a cargo of coals to Aden; they had nearly reached their port, when the ship grounded two miles south of Graurdifu, on the African side of the entrance to the Red Sea. The chief officer's account of the affair is as follows : —

We remained by the wreck three days, during which time the natives appeared friendly ; Capt. Short, fearing the ship might go to pieces, sent me on shore to receive his wife; after Mrs. S. came on shore, I left her with the second officer, the steward, and three seamen, and went on board and had some conversation with Capt. S. I returned on shore with one of the chronometers ; in about half an hour I tried again to go on board, but the natives cut the line, and let me into the surf. I was making all haste towards the beach, when I met Mrs. S. wading up to the knees in the water, crying, and telling me that the natives had taken the rings off her fingers, and had chased her into the sea. I then swam out to wards the wreck, and hailed for them to send a boat, which they did, but without any one in her and without oars, however, we put Mrs. S. into her, and tried to pull off with the loose thwarts and the keel planks. After getting pretty well through the surf, the boat unfortunately swamped; I then got hold of Mrs. S. and tried to swim to land with her, but a heavy sea parted us; as soon as I could I turned round to see what had become of her, but it now being dark I saw nothing more of her; I then did my utmost to reach the shore, which I was enabled to do, thank God. I now found that the steward and one seaman were all that were saved, Mrs. S. and the others having met a watery grave.

On the day after this Mr. Short left the wreck in the long boat with that portion of the crew that had remained on board, without seeking any intercourse with those on shore, and, of course, ignorant of what had become of Mrs. S. and the people that were with her. He directed his course to Aden, where the chief officer joined him a month afterwards, and told him of the fate of his wife. Christopher Short was a native of Blyth, and belonged to a branch of the family of the Shorts of the Link-end. After the above mishap he gave up the sea, and became an examiner in the Local Marine Board at Newcastle."

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The River Blyth Connections: Branches and Sources

The River Blyth Connections: Branches and Sources



[This information below, and much more, is available on the interactive map by clicking on the points of interest marked by icons. This post is probably best viewed on a laptop etc rather than a mobile device, but it will still work. Or, expand the map and view it as a stand-alone item.]

Apart from the River Blyth and its tributary the River Pont, the source of which lies further West from the estuary than the source of the River Blyth itself, there are twenty-six named burns and sikes which feed into the River Blyth. This is about the interesting sites and settlements along the valleys that share a common connection and heritage.

The River Blyth is about 32km (19.9m) in a direct line from source to mouth. It is 44.9km (27.9m) travelling along the river.

The River Pont is 37km (23m) in a direct line. It is 32.7km (20.32m) from source to confluence approx.

Second Bridge over the River Blyth looking towards the source


It is a smaller cousin of its neighbour the River Tyne which is approximately 107km (66.5m) from the source of the North Tyne near Keilder to the mouth. The River Blyth rises near Kirkheaton at about 200 metres (656ft) above sea level, not much less than the source of the Tyne as it happens.

The Port of Blyth is an artificial harbour which was once fordable near the mouth of the river, similar to the way the River Wansbeck continues to be.

[Video explaining rising of a river... Tees]




Capheaton
How Burn rises at Sir Edward's Lake which is part of the Capheaton Hall estate. Capheaton Hall, built by Trollope, according to Pevsner, was "the first unfortified substantial house to be built in Northumberland" after the violent and turbulent middle ages and Civil War period. The Swinburnes had been in possession of the estate since the late 13th century. They backed Charles I during the Civil War and ended up being exiled when the King was beheaded. They returned during the reign of Charles II and built the hall in 1688. The Swinburnes were staunch Catholics, but luckily for them their lands were not sequestered during the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. The leading Swinburne was on his death bed attended by his sons who played no part in the rebellion. The Earl of Derwentwater was a cousin of the Swinburnes who led the rebellion. He paid with his life, and land, part of which were what we now know as Blyth Town. By 1763 Capheaton was inherited by Sir Edward Swinburne who created the lake and carried out substantial improvements to the house. Still owned by descendants today it is now a hotel and wedding venue.

Sir Edward Lake Capheaton




Devil's Causeway
A roman road which ran across this exact spot passing by Great Whittington and Hartburn on its course from the military road to Scotland. Earthworks are visible at Hartburn.

Buddhist Monastery
Between the How Burn and Blyth at Harnham is the Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery, opened in 1981, a "monastic residence for about eight sangha members and adjacent lay retreat". www.ratanagiri.org.uk

Shortflatt Tower
Now a luxury wedding venue it is on a lovely walking route near Bolam Lake and Shaftoe Craggs. A large pele tower, licence to crenellate was granted to Robert de Reymes in 1305. www.northoftyne.co.uk/shaftoewalk


Belsay Castle and Hall
Between the Coal Burn and Ogle Burn it is one of the major historical properties and attractions in the area and is managed by English Heritage. There is much in the way of archaeology and structures of  note including Bantam Folly within the estate. This is an ornamental farm building.


Middle Newham Deserted Medieval Village
One of many DMV sites in the area. Earthworks near Middle Newham Farm (There are also East and West Newham farms) indicates a medieval settlement on both sides of the road with remains of at least eight properties. The evidence of medieval farming also still exists in the form of ridge and furrow.


Matfen
One of the prettiest, unspoilt, villages in the whole world, populated by only a few hundred people. It has a picturesque pub and church and now also boasts an outdoor adventure centre. The township came into the possession of the Blackett family at the turn of the 17th century. They were rich merchants of Newcastle, a street acknowledges their influence even today in the city. They built Matfen Hall on the site of an earlier Jacobean house, the residence of the previous landholders the Douglas family, between 1832-5. They then constructed high-quality housing in a self-contained community as an estate village for their workers. The Blackett arms adorn one building in the village with the motto "nous travaillerons en esperance (we will labour in hope). The residents purchased the old red telephone box when it was no longer needed, carried out renovation and turned it into a tourist information hub.

Matfen



Ouston Airfield
Opened as RAF Ouston in 1941. It was first home to Polish Fighter Squadron No 317 who were equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. They sent a Junkers JU88 into the North Sea on the 2nd June of that year, their first kill. After the war it was used as a training facility. During the Cold War, to be made more operationally ready, a runway was extended to 6,000ft. In 1967 Ouston acted as the regional airport for a period of five months when the runway at Newcastle was being renovated and extended. It was for a time during the early 1960s used as a motor racing circuit with both Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart attending meetings here. The airfield fell into disuse when the British Army Albermarle Barracks was sited here in the 1970s.


Cheesburn Grange
It is now a contemporary art, design and culture centre in a grand country house and estate built by John Dobson in 1813 for owner Ralph Liddell. The present owners are descendants. A grange was an outlying farm of a monastic institution, in this case it was granted to Hexham Priory. It was one of two granges belonging to Hexham Priory on this stretch of river. It was disposed of in the 16th centuries on the dissolution of the monasteries. (See Milbourne Grange)


Stamfordham
One of the larger villages in the valley it has an association with the Swinburne family as landholders dating back to 1399. A pretty village with an archaic wide village green it is a popular drop in for travellers and tourists especially the Swinburne Arms pub. The Village Lock up, in a prominent place, is an unusual and rare curiosity which dates to the early 19th century. The original chains are still in place on the walls. It was a place for prisoners to be held before a JP could be summoned to deal with the indicted, mostly drunks. It is believed there was an earlier building on the same site.

Stamfordham Lock Up



East Matfen Deserted Medieval Village
Remains of a village and field system can be seen as earthworks, especially from aerial photography. It had a large village green with houses facing onto this. In the 17th century the landholder moved the inhabitants to other nearby settlements and turned this area into parkland.


Dissington Old Hall beside Medburn Village
Pevsner wrote: "A walled garden of the early 17th century is all that remains of the original manor house. In the garden two broken 17th century statues". The current Dissington Hall is now an enterprise hub and conference centre, privately owned from 1968. The house was commissioned by mine owner, from Chirton, North Shields, Edward Collingwood and was completed in 1797.


Beacon near Cadgers Burn
The cairn on Beacon Hill may have been the site of a beacon or large fire used for sending signals throughout the country. There are several such probable beacons listed in this area. Often they were placed on the top of a tall building. A chain of them was lit to warn residents of incoming raiders during the turbulent period of the 14th - 16th centuries.


Kirkley Hall
Is a 17th century country mansion which came into the possession of the Ogle family during this century. In 1946 it was acquired by Northumberland County Council and became an agricultural college. It now is also home to a small zoo. In 1788 the Rev Newton Ogle erected an obelisk commemorating the accession of William and Mary in 1689.

Kirkley Obelisk



Ponteland
Lies on one of the main highways between Newcastle and Scotland. The Blackbird Inn was the manor house of the Errington family and includes a former pele tower. A truce between England and Scotland is rumoured to have been negotiated here in 1244. It was said to have been destroyed by Douglas in 1388 while being pursued north by Harry Hotspur prior to the Battle of Otterburn. The river bank has now been turned into a picturesque park and walk.

Ponteland Park



Ogle Castle
The Ogles were a knightly and influential family in this area since prior to the Conquest in 1066. There are considerable remains and earthworks of their former moated castle and village, now a farm site, which in 1632 comprised 16 houses. They were given a licence to crenellate in 1341.


Stannington
Another major village which was a crossing point on a main route between Newcastle and Scotland. A picturesque village it had a church here by 1190. The present church dates from 1871. Two former hospitals were built just to the North of Stannington.

Stannington Children's Sanitorium
The first purpose-built children's tuberculosis sanatorium in the UK. The hospital open in 1907.

Site of St Mary's Mental Health Lunatic Asylum

Whitehouse Farm
This opened as a visitor centre in 1997. Later a zoo licence was obtained.

Tranwell Airfield
Known as RAF Morpeth during WWII. It was a training site. Some buildings and archaeology still remain but it is now used as a site for a Sunday car boot sale and point-to-point racing.


Plessey Woods Country Park
The confluence of the Pegwhistle Burn and the River Blyth, a former quarry with a house built into the quarry face and coal mining area has now been turned into a country park managed by the local authority. An art trail has recently been installed here.

Pegwhistle Burn Confluence


Hartford Hall
was built in 1807 for mine owner and political writer William Burdon.

Humford Woods
The site of the confluence of the Horton Burn and the River Blyth is the site for a park and picnic area. It once was a working mill site and settlement and even had an outdoor swimming pool at one stage.


Blagdon Hall
The home of the Ridley family, peers of the realm since 1900. The Ridleys purchased the, estate and Blyth estate, in 1723 and were entrepreneurial in the development of these lands.