History of Gateshead

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Gateshead was the head of the Celtic trackway, a natural route amid dense forests inhabited by the Brigante tribes who fought against the inroads of Emperor Hadrian. Beacon Lough, between Wrekenton and Windy Nook, was a Celtic signaling station for milit ary purposes, and was one of a line str etching the length of England. In ancient times people lived in huts made of twigs and branches along the banks of the river and developed strips of arable land, terraced on the slopes around Windmill Hills, above the Salt Meadows.

Up to the Nineteenth Century, the Beacon served the purpose of guiding the stage and mail coaches across the country from Chester le Street, and consisted of an iron basket of fire suspended from the arm of an old gibbet. Until modern transport demanded a better road, and a new one was laid through Low Fell, all traffic into Gateshead came down the dead straight run from Wrekenton to the Tyne Bridge.

The “straight run” was laid by Emperor Hadrian; the Ancient British routes up to the Beacon were sunken trackways winding up through the forests. The area around the Beacon held a Druid Temple, and, in common with all other Celtic communities, had a Ston e Circle, built for, and used in precisely the same way as Stonehenge.

The village of Gateshead developed slowly during the Middle Ages. There was a monastery at Gateshead in 653 (this is believed to be on the site of St. Mary’s Church) and parish churches existed there by 1080. In about 1164 Gateshead received a borough charter from Hugh du Puiset, Bishop of Durham.

By 1246 there was a weekly market and a fair in Gateshead. The early industries of the area were farming, fishing and milling. While all the mills of Gateshead have disappeared, the remains of one windmill still stand in Chase Park, Whickham.

Water was carried from water pants (public water fountain) situated in places such as Oakwellgate, and Pipewellgate.

The earliest major industry of the area was coal mining. Coal was first mined in Gateshead in 1344 and by the mid sixteenth century was, together with Whickham, the most productive coal field in the country.