Once the heart of the industrial revolution in Gateshead, Blaydon Burn is a wonderful example of what happens when industry moves away never to return. Over a mile long and covering 50 hectares of woodland, grassland and wetland, Blaydon Burn is a treasure trove of industrial archaeology and wildlife. To download a leaflet detailing a moderate two and a quarter mile circular walk taking in the best of Blaydon Burn's rich archaeological heritage and abundant wildlife, please click here.
Industrial activity on Blaydon Burn at first centred on corn milling and coal mining. During the medieval period corn mills were numerous and gave the manor a guaranteed rent. Depending on which side of the burn the mill was situated it was either in the Manor of Stella or Winlaton. Mill tenancies changed regularly as the miller moved from mill to mill and the mills tended to be known by the name of the miller – so records usually show several names for each mill. In the eighteenth century there were 8 mills along this valley and the millers had a local agreement for taking water from the stream - working in turn – so there was water for all to turn the wheel.
Crowley’s Iron works at Winlaton shipped their goods out from the quay at the mouth of the Burn. During the nineteenth century industrial development expanded rapidly to include a number of industries relating to coal. The supply of cheap local fuel and good transport links led to the development of coke works, steelworks, iron foundries and Joseph Cowen’s brickworks.
By the 1950s advances in technology, declining raw materials and cheaper competitors saw the closure of the many industries in Blaydon Burn. In the 1970s and 1980s reclamation schemes were carried out to treat and ‘make safe’ the most derelict area of the Burn. The Ottovale Coke works were reclaimed, Cowen’s Lower Yard was cleared, the Blaydon Burn Waggonway was taken up and the Burn was left to return to nature. The natural woodland began to reclaim the valley, hiding the relics of its industrial past.
BLAYDON BURN CHRONOLOGY
1625/49 The reign of Charles I
1632 Map showing 3 water corn mills on Blaydon Burn
c1700 Winlaton & Stella coal mines at their peak – early timber waggonway to Horsecrofts – 8 mills on Blaydon Burn
1776 Gateshead to Hexham turnpike constructed
1778 Bridge built over Blaydon Burn
1800 Joseph Cowen snr. Born at Greenside
1825 Cowen starts making bricks at Blaydon Burn High Yard
1829 Joseph Cowen jnr. Born at Winlaton
1834 Blaydon to Hexham railway opens
1837 Queen Victoria ascends throne
1838 Cowens Low yard opens
1840 Waggonway opens from High yard to Blaydon
1850 Joseph Cowen buys Stella Hall
1850’s Mary & Bessie pits open
1853 Cowen supplies gas to Blaydon
1858 Blaydon Co-op opens
1862 Geordie Ridley writes his famous song ‘Blaydon Races’
1872 Joseph Cowen Snr. Knighted
1873 Sir Joseph Cowen dies
1900 Joseph Cowen dies and Priestmans Collieries take over the Cowen works
1902 Ottovale opens
1936 New road bridge built over Blaydon Burn
1947 Mines nationalised
1953 Mary pit closes
1956 Bessie pit closes
1959 Ottovale closes
1975 Blaydon Low Yard closes