Hadrian’s Wall Walk 11 – Newcastle to Wallsend

On Bank Holiday Monday 30 May I caught the 0812 from Hexham to Newcastle. The signal box is Grade II and was built in 1896. When they re-signal the line please can I buy the ‘box? It would be wonderful in the garden! Hexham station dates to 1835, and this is an excuse to include Carmichael’s wonderful painting of it. The railway bridge is being replaced over the next six weeks – it will be chaos in Hexham while the bridge is shut.

DSC02050DSC02053 HexhamStationDSC02052

The train was busy as the Northumberland Show is on at Stocksfield. Before that I photoed Riding Mill station (we had wanted to buy this, but it has gone to a person with more money than us. He or she is doing a superb job of renovation).

DSC02054As usual we paused on the King Edward Bridge so I got a photo of the Tyne.


At Central station I met Ray (Railway films) and Pat (recently moved to Ponteland). The station dates to 1846 and the architect was John Dobson. He used John Wilson Carmichael to colour the illustrations he produced. The station has had a huge amount of money spent on it recently, but now parking is horrendous.

interior central station 002

I have just found a website for Wallquest which has all sorts of projects based on the Wall in the urban landscape of Newcastle. This notes that “The exact course of Hadrian’s Wall as it approaches its original eastern terminus in the Castle Garth/Sandhill area of Newcastle (the stretch to Wallsend was a slightly later extension) is unknown. The Roman fort under the Norman Castle has been partly excavated. An inscription dredged from the site of the swing bridge in 1903 records detachments of three Roman legions, but the exact location of the Roman bridge across the Tyne that gave Newcastle its Roman name (Pons Aelius) is not known for certain. In 1994 a Roman settlement and road were discovered at the Hilton Hotel site on the Gateshead side of the river which may point to the direction of the Roman bridge.” This plaque is on one of the buildings beside the station.


We walked down past the High Level Bridge to the Quayside. The High Level Bridge has a good page of the Network Rail website and one of the best of Carmichael’s paintings. To quote my dissertation on his work “In 1846 the Directors of the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company asked him to paint the High Level Bridge over the Tyne. This painting was done before the bridge was complete. A critic in the Gateshead Observer reported ‘the primary object being a picture of two bridges and there being no vacant site commanding a good view of the two structures, the artist has taken the liberty to pull down (in imagination) the house at the south eastern corner of Tyne Bridge and thus accomplish his design.’” Michael Vanns, Witness to change; a record of the Industrial Revolution. The Elton Collection at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum. (Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing, 2003) includes a picture of a hand-coloured lithograph produced by George Hawkins from Carmichael’s painting, and published by E. & J. Bruce, Newcastle in 1849. Addyman and Fawcett, The High Level Bridge and Newcastle Central Station; 150 years across the Tyne (Newcastle: North Eastern Railway Association, 1999) note that Carmichael produced it from the engineering drawings, and that only minor changes were made to the completed bridge. There are many other, more detailed, pictures of the bridge and its construction produced at the time, including views and reports in the Illustrated London News, but few match this Carmichael view.” There are some good photos (of this bridge and much else) on this blog.

high level bridge

I photoed the Swing Bridge – the fourth bridge on the site, the first being Hadrian’s (built c 120, lasted until 1248 when it was destroyed by fire). The medieval bridge was built in 1320 and lasted until the Great Flood of 1771. The next stone bridge was opened in 1781 and was replaced by the Swing Bridge in 1876. You can download an information leaflet from here. I visited the engine room on a Heritage Open Day several years ago, but I have never seen the bridge swing.


We walked past Bessie Surtees House – lovely C16/17 Jacobean architecture I visited this on an English Heritage members’ visit in 2012. Here are three interior photos from that visit. The website for the property is now here, and there is an interesting exhibition “Picturing England” on until the end of June.


I have also visited, in November 2014 with Ponteland Local History Society, the Guildhall, which is down beside the Tyne Bridge. It is another place well worth a visit – today I simply photoed the Kittiwakes. They have their own webpage.

DSC02066DSC02065The Tyne Bridge dates to 1928 – website. I love the (apocryphal) story that when they were building the bridge the costermongers of Newcastle went to see the City Council and said that their horses would never be able to get up a gradient that steep. I want to bring the trams back (this photo dates to the 1950s).

DSC02062tyne-bridge-construction-1024x637T tram over tyne bridge before 1950

We walked past the Sage (Lord Foster, 2004) – when we first came North our son harry sang with Quay Voices and we had some lovely concerts here. We have also enjoyed Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival – well worth going to.


The Court building was built by the Manchester firm of Napper Collerton in 1990. There is a pop up beach a little further along, and the Coop flour mill is now a hotel. I could find a new job at the Pitcher and Piano.


Why did I fail to photo the Gateshead Millennium Bridge – website. This website says when it tilts, so I must go and photo it before we leave. Did you know that this bridge cleans up its own litter – anything dropped on the deck automatically rolls into special traps at each end of the bridge each time it opens? It featured on a stamp in 2000. Across the river is the Baltic – once flour mill, now art gallery. Not my sort of art!


This is the Blacksmith’s Needle, members of the British Association of Blacksmith Artists 1996.

DSC02076DSC02077DSC02078I would like a boat trip on the river – website – do I go for a sightseeing cruise or a party cruise? I could go on the “School Out Party Cruise”, dusting down my old school uniform …  (Julie says NO). Their boats are named Coventina, Fortuna and Latis – we have walked past Coventina’s well, Fortuna and Latis both appear on stones at Birdoswald.


I did photo the Millennium Bridge, and I can’t find the details of this piece of art.


This is the end of the Ouseburn – a river with its own website, and a history website. The Victoria Tunnel is well worth a visit – it was built for the transport of coal under the city, later used as an air raid shelter and mushroom growing place.


When I walked this way in September 2008, on the first day I walked the Wall last time, the Spiller’s Flour Mill was still present. I commented it looked like the one by Cambridge station. Here it is in the 1930s, and there is a good website. Now it is waste land with old railway sidings, and a wonderful legal notice.

spillers mill

DSC02086DSC02085The path passes people at work – here is Bel Valves – website – “Excellence in Valve Engineering”.


St Peter’s Marina is rather upmarket, though St Katharine Dock it is not. I will buy a yacht and moor it here! Website.


The river is extremely quiet – we only saw one boat moving. The path runs beside the river. There is a little industry on the south side, but nothing here. Look at this gallery to see how it was and this very full website.


It should be noted that, like the last day’s walking, the Trail does not follow the route of the Wall. Instead we walk beside the river, until a place where the trail is closed. We diverted up hill and joined the old railway, the Riverside Loop, which is now the cycle trail. There is some excellent film of this on this dvd, and on this website.


It is a well-ridden path, though I fear maintenance must always be a problem and there is a lot of litter, but for much of the time you feel a long way from industry. Sadly, a lot of the time you are a long way from industry – there is some activity along the river (Ray tells me it is mainly work for the off-shore industry), but not a lot. Ray and Pat both spent much of their childhoods in this part of Newcastle, so the conversation was wide ranging. At one point we were even discussing how to ripen bananas!


One website asks “So why not come and join all of the happy customers at the Crockets Hotel, it has something for everyone!”



Just round the corner is a sign “Roman Baths” and we come to an excavation of the real baths at Wallsend. (You’ll see why I say “real” in a moment). These were first discovered last year – see the newspaper report here. They are now being prepared for display.


The next building is the replica Roman Baths built here at Segedunum several decades ago. I remember visiting when the kids were young and them being very excited we could go into real Roman baths. I was excited by the idea that you could hire them for parties … . Last time we visited I was disappointed as health and safety meant everything was roped off for safety. Now I see they are currently closed for “essential maintenance”.  This is the spur which took the Wall down to the Tyne and the quay.


The fort and museum has a website. It is well worth a visit, but today we simply entered the café and I had a small breakfast to finish my Walk. Ray took my photo, then I went down to the shop and purchased a couple of Wall mugs and an “I walked the Wall” tea shirt. I wore it home!


My plan now is to complete my Hadrian’s Wall Exploration blogs with visits to all the main forts. For some of these I already have a good collection of photos so I simply need to sort them out, others will need a visit. I am aware I only have another month left in Ponteland. I need to ensure I don’t stop walking (and don’t put on the weight I have lost. Having seen the number of farewell meals in the diary, that might be difficult!). Today had been a 6 mile walk – the whole Trail is 84 miles.


Across the road from the excavated fort is an area where it is marked out, and the final bit of Hadrian’s Wall. Apparently the width varies as it seems to have collapsed and been rebuilt on several occasions. They have also built a reconstruction beside it – you do get an idea of how impressive it must have been stretching all the way to Bowness (OK, stretching in stone to the River Irthing, then in turf to Bowness). The poles in front are meant to represent the sharpened branches that may well have provided an additional line of defence (although that sentence implies that the Wall was a defensive structure, and that is argued about). Bede, writing in the C8, describes the Wall as 12 feet high – the height of this replica.


We ought to mark another historic event. Ray had been to Wembley with Morpeth Town AFC who beat Hereford in the FA Vase Final last weekend. He ran me back to Hexham, which was great.


Later in the day we went out for a meal with Clare and Lyndon. “I walked the Wall” was a phrase I dropped into the conversation on several occasions. Having gone to bed, the clock struck midnight and I told my Beloved “I walked the Wall”. “That was yesterday’s achievement” she retorted.


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2 Responses to Hadrian’s Wall Walk 11 – Newcastle to Wallsend

  1. Ray Ion says:

    I thought I would give you a couple of weeks to recover before saying a final ”well done Peter”, on ”Walking the Wall”.
    Like I said as we were walking the last leg of your walk I intend to copy the written part of this blog and maybe sometime follow in your footsteps and Walk the Wall (do you know if they do T-shirts/ tee shirts or tea shirts stating…”I Talked the Wall”?).
    I am posting a link below, which contains all of the information that I couldn’t give at the time, about the cemetery on the banks of the Tyne close the the Ouseburn area:
    The webpage for the Ballast Hills Burial Ground is @ http://www.tynesidesilentcities.com/page_ballasthills_burialground.htm
    This webpage is part of the http://www.tynesidesilentcities.com/index.htm website.

    Looking forward to Saturday (RailwayFilms) and Wednesday (Carmichael).

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