17th Century Gateshead

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The population of Gateshead more than doubled during the hundred years between 1576-1676, however, there was a severe set-back during the 1640s caused by the Civil War, which seriously interfered with the coal trade, and with the actual mining of coal. The first Scottish invasion of 1640 resulted in an attack on Sir Thomas Liddell’s mines, when the Scots seized his coals, broke his colliery engines and destroyed the best part of his coal. During the siege of Newcastle in 1644, approximately 20 000 to 30 000 troops were rampaging about on the south bank of the Tyne, and cannons were set up on the Windmill Hills to bombard Newcastle. The siege had begun late in July 1644 with a battle on the Windmill Hills between the Scots army and the defenders of Newcastle.

In those days Gateshead had numerous witches and in the year 1649 three witches were arrested and tried in the house of a Mistress Watson for which she was paid three shillings and four pence.

From old parish registers it is written that stocks were used where offenders were tied and whipped in public. Nagging wives were tied into a ducking stool, a stool suspended from the end of a long piece of timber, pivoted on a high post, the stool was then swung around until she was suspended over the water and repeatedly “dooked”. (Today, Gateshead boys regard the first plunge into the swimming bath as their “caad dook”). If a person was found to be drunk he/she was stripped naked, placed inside a barrel, their head through a hole in the top and legs free to stand or walk. On the Tolbooth wall was an iron collar in which villains found their necks secured and their bodies the target of dead dogs, cats and refuse.

If Gateshead folk did not pay their rent, attend church, or curtsey to the Lord of the Manor, they were given any one of these punishments, for all their neighbours to see.

Toll gates were on the roads leading into the town. They were at Birtley Gates, at either end of Shipcote Terrace, and at the Salt Meadows and Benshan Bank.