Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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HISTORY OF THE TYNE.
THE river Tyne. (fn. 1) by records of the dates of the reigns of William the Conqueror, William Rufus, Henry I. and Henry II. was the established boundary between the county of Northumberland and the bishopric of Durham; and that, from Stanley Burn to Tynemouth, a moiety of the water thereof, on the south, belonged to St. Cuthbert and the see of Durham; that another moiety thereof, on the north, appertained to the county of Northumberland; and that the third and middle division was free and common: the whole to be measured at high tide. This division was probably made to prevent disputes respecting the fisheries on the river.
Henry II. granted or confirmed to the then bishop of Durham, that ships should be allowed to moor on the south side of the river. But by an agreement made in 1259, between the town of Newcastle and the prior and convent of Durham, it was stipulated that the tenants of the latter at South Shields should bake and brew for themselves only, and not for strangers. In a cause between King Edward I. the burgesses of Newcastle, and the prior of Tynemouth, in 1292, it was decided "that the port within the water of Tyne, from the sea to Hedwin Streams, is the free port of the king and his heir." In 1306, judgment was given in parliament, that the prior of Tynemouth, who had built a shore at North Shields within the flood-mark of this river, should remove it at his own cost.
In 1319, the conservatorship of the river was recognized to be in the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle; a grant made of that power by Edward II. being recalled on their representation. The bishop of Durham, in 1345, obtained a verdict against the king's commissioners, for trespasses done by them in intermeddling in the conservatorship of the south side of the Tyne. Edward III. and Richard II. confirmed to the bishop his moiety of the water of Tyne, with power to load and unload coals and merchandize without hindrance or molestation from the men of Newcastle. But in 1416, there was a dispute between the church of Durham and the men of Newcastle, concerning the holding of markets in South Shields, for fish, bread, and beer.
By an inquisition taken in 1447, the 25th Henry VI. the river Tyne and the soil thereof, from Sparrow Hawk in the sea to Hedwin Streams, belonged, under the crown, to the corporation of Newcastle, which also received a royal grant of the conservatorship of the river in 1454. On June 30, 1528, Arthur Plantagenet, Viceadmiral under Henry, Earl of Nottingham, Lord High Admiral, made an acknowledgment of admiral jurisdiction granted by King John, and confirmed by succeeding princes, to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle upon Tyne, on the view and inspection of their several grants and privileges.
In the year 1530, the conservatorship of the river Tyne was confirmed to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle, by an act of parliament prohibiting the shipping loading or unloading of any goods to be sold into or from any ship at any place within the limits of Sparhawk and Hedwin Streams, but only at the town aforesaid, and impowering the mayor, burgesses, and commonalty of that town, and their successors, to pluck down all wears, gores, and engines, that should be made in the river, to the great obstruction of the navigation thereof, between the places aforesaid.
In the year 1547, the soil of the river, from high water mark to the low, was settled upon the corporation of Newcastle; (fn. 2) and in 1553, a third part of the river Tyne, and of the bridge over it at Newcastle, was restored, by act of parliament, to Tunstal, bishop of Durham. Queen Elizabeth, in 1589, granted the reversion of the office of the high admiralty of the port and river of Tyne to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle, which was held by patent by Lord Howard, Lord High Admiral of England, who died January 26, 1618, but who assigned his authority in the port of Newcastle to the corporation thirteen years before his death. (fn. 3)
In 1603, a commission of conservatorship of the river Tyne was sent to the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle. By order of council in 1613, this jurisdiction was granted to the same corporation, jointly with the bishop of Durham and certain justices of the peace for the counties of Durham and Northumberland. But in 1616, the mayor, aldermen, and jury of the burgesses of Newcastle, exhibited a grievous complaint to the king and council, through the neglect or breach of trust of the commissioners. In consequence of this, the council, by an order dated February 14, 1616, appointed a new set of commissioners, consisting of the mayor for the time being, and 16 others, one of them an alderman, and the rest apparently burgesses of Newcastle. Thirteen new articles were added to the former nine, for the better conservation of the river Tyne, which was strictly enjoined them to provide for, under the pain of forfeiting all the liberties of the town of Newcastle into the hands of the king. How long the conservatorship remained in these commissioners does not distinctly appear; but from the circumstance of their being burgesses of the town, and the mayor for the time being placed at their head, the probability is that it soon fell into the hands of the corporation; for, in 1630, the prescriptive right of the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle to the conservatorship of the river was allowed in the court of King's Bench, and in the court of Exchequer the following year. In 1646, there were several orders of common council made for the preservation of the river Tyne.
In 1647, a petition was sent by the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle to the committee of the Admiralty, against loading ships at South Shields, where a ballast-wharf had been erected. The corporation, however, in 1653, permitted a ballast-shore to be erected between Black-Points and Jarrow-Pans. Previous to this, the dean and chapter of Durham attempted to build a ballast-shore upon Jarrow Slake, but were obstructed by the corporation of Newcastle. This occasioned several petitions to King Charles II. in council, by whom the town's right was ordered to be tried at the Exchequer-bar in Easter term, 1669. The jurors gave a verdict in favour of the corporation of Newcastle; but, on the petition of the defendants, the matter was, by the king in council, referred to the lord mayor and court of aldermen of the city of London, and the Trinity-house, who, in their report, October 27, 1670, said, "It appeared to us by what was offered and demonstrated by those of Newcastle, and by the testimony of divers able and ancient ship-masters, and other persons unconcerned, that the erecting a ballast-shoar, as is designed, at Jarrow Slike, would prove destructive to trade in general, dangerous both to shipping and men's lives, to the inhancinge of the price of sea coales, to the obstruction and choaking of the river Tyne, exceedingly mischievous to the bar of Tinmouth Haven, and manifestly to the decrease of trade, and damage of the town of Newcastle." Notwithstanding this decision, the right of the corporation of Newcastle to prevent the dean and chapter of Durham from erecting a quay or wharf at Westoe or Jarrow Slake, was again tried at the Exchequerbar about the year 1697. The mayor and burgesses obtained a verdict upon a decree, confirming to them the conservatorship of the river. There was also a perpetual injunction, which, on an appeal, was afterwards confirmed by the House of Lords.
Thus the corporation of Newcastle successfully established their claims to the conservatorship of the river, and consequently to the dues demanded of the ships trading to the port. In 1698, they obtained a verdict against Vinkeston, ship-master, who refused to pay the toll upon coals shipped in the harbour. In 1705, they petitioned against an intended act of parliament to make the river Wear navigable; and, in 1711, they opposed a scheme for rendering the Tyne navigable from Newburn to Hexham. In the mean time, something was done, though not much, to preserve the navigation of the river. In 1706, it was in agitation to remove "the Black Middens;" and, in 1723, it was stated that, during the preceding 20 years, £10,000 had been expended in and about the river. In 1762, a large stone, weighing upwards of 20 tons, called "the Grey Mare," was taken out of the river opposite the glass-houses below bridge, under the direction of Captain Errington, town's surveyor; and, on October 19, 1765, a new machine for cleaning the river was launched off the Quay.
About the year 1726, the Trinity-house of Newcastle petitioned the mayor and aldermen of that town, concerning several sands in the river Tyne; setting forth, that the channel was much straitened and choaked up; a circumstance occasioned, in their opinion, by the building of Willington Quay, and the custom of taking ballast out of ships into keels. They expressed, at the same time, their apprehensions that the great weight of ballast upon Jarrow Quay would bring it down, to the immense prejudice of the river. (fn. 4) Mr. Richard Liddell, some years afterwards, obtained a patent for machines for conveying ballast out of ships in the Tyne, and unloading them at sea. This caused great contention. On February 4, 1765, the owners and masters of ships in the coal-trade between London and Newcastle presented a petition to parliament, wherein it was stated that, from the existing mode of discharging ballast in the Tyne, the port of Shields might soon be entirely blocked up, and the coaltrade from thence totally destroyed: and on the 20th of the same month, the owners and masters of ships in the coal-trade of Whitby stated, in another petition to the house, that the winds, floods, and rains carried such quantities of ballast into the river, that it was apparently filling up; so that, without some speedy remedy, the price of coals must be enhanced, and a valuable nursery for seamen be destroyed. On the same day, the corporation of Newcastle, the Trinity-house, and the Hoastmen's Company of that town, presented counter petitions, affirming that the laying of ballast where the tide does not flow is the best way of disposing of it. Next day, these corporation petitions were supported by one from the chairman and commissioners of the river Wear and port and harbour of Sunderland, expressing strong fears of any plan of disposing of ballast in the sea. On the 26th February, the owners and masters of ships belonging to North and South Shields, in a petition, condemned the method of throwing ballast on quays, and prayed that the conservators of the Tyne, who had received several thousand pounds for clearing the river, be compelled to clean it forthwith. This petition was supported by others from the masters and owners of Sunderland coal-ships, and from those belonging to Yarmouth ships trading to Newcastle; and opposed by owners and masters of Newcastle and Sunderland ships. Witnesses on both sides were examined before a committee of the house. The utility of Mr. Liddell's machines, (fn. 5) and the necessity of cleaning the river, were considered. The latter was not denied by the corporation; and the report was, in all its leading parts, favourable to the cleansing of the river.
In 1788, the corporation of Newcastle petitioned against a bill for regulating the coal-trade, because, "if such a bill should pass into a law, the vend of coals would decrease, to the injury of other things of their dues, in consideration of which they incur a considerable expense in maintaining and supporting the harbour of Newcastle." The same plea was again urged in an action, in 1793, between the corporation and Mr. Leighton.
On June 5, 1633, a petition was presented to King Charles I. on his passage by water to Tynemouth, against "kayes and staiths," as nuisances to the river. A party of old stout keelmen, in a boat, accompanied the river jury, in 1771, to point out the injury the river sustained from the erection of staiths, and afterwards petitioned the corporation against them. In 1794, the keelmen did considerable damage to the staiths upon the river. During their subsequent strikes in 1819 and 1822, the numerous staiths that projected into the river were amongst the principal of their alleged grievances. Finding that force failed, the keelmen had recourse to law, and presented certain spouts and gears, with buoys and anchors, as nuisances, impeding the navigation of the river. After having their presentment three times ignored, the indictment was found in Northumberland. The defendants were William Russell and Cuthbert Ellison, Esqrs. and M. P.s; and the cause was tried at York on August 11, 1824, before Sir John Bayley and a special jury. Mr. Brougham shewed that the coalstaiths "were an annoyance, a detriment, and a hinderance to the free navigation of the river;" which was corroborated by Mr. John Bell, land-surveyor, and sixteen other persons, mostly pilots and mariners. Mr. Scarlett, in reply, argued that though the spouts were pro tanto an obstruction of the navigation, yet as they facilitated the loading of vessels, and thereby increased the commerce of the port, they could not be nuisances. The judge viewed the question in the same light, and the jury returned a verdict of Not guilty. A motion was made for a new trial. After long consideration, on May 26, 1827, Lord Tenterden wished the cause to be brought before another jury, which was opposed by Judges Bayley and Holroyd.
In 1800, the owners of ships in the coal-trade indicted the corporation for not repairing the river, without effect; yet that it is progressively deteriorating is generally admitted. Captain Phipps, who stood candidate for a seat in parliament for Newcastle in 1774, and who possessed the most consummate knowledge in maritime affairs, declared that he considered the Tyne capable of becoming one of the finest rivers in the world; but which ignorance, inattention, and avarice had converted into a "cursed horse-pond." In 1816, the corporation were so far roused to a sense of their duty, as to employ the late Mr. Rennie to make a survey of the river. The following are the most important particulars in the statement of that able engineer:—
Mr. Rennie commences his report by observing, that "there is, perhaps, no river in Great Britain on which it is more difficult to give a satisfactory opinion, as to the best mode of improving its navigation, than the river Tyne. In this river, not only is great depth wanted, but likewise great width to accommodate the immense numbers of ships which resort to it. These two qualities, however, are incompatible with each other. If the width of the river were to be contracted by a solid embankment, its depth would be increased; but then the space for the accommodation of shipping would be lessened; and as a less quantity of tide water would thereby be admitted, it would have less effect in keeping down the bar. But this is not all; for when ships are working into the harbour with an adverse wind and flowing tide, there would be less current to carry them across the bar; so that in gaining depth of water in the channel of. the river, care must be taken that the depth on the bar be not diminished. A solid embankment on the side of the river must therefore be avoided, or at least limited to a certain extent, and other means devised to effect the object. But to both there is a limitation; and therefore it becomes a nice point to settle with precision what depth can be obtained and maintained in the river Tyne, between its mouth and Newcastle Bridge, without contracting it to a degree that may prove materially injurious to the navigation."
From the correct surveys, soundings, and sections, taken by Mr. Giles, during four months in 1813, it appears that "the average rise of springs at North Shields was about 14 feet 3 inches, at Hebburn about 11 feet 10 inches, and at Newcastle about 11 feet 7 inches; thus making a difference of rise between North Shields and Hebburn Quay of about 2 feet 5 inches, and of Newcastle 2 feet 8 inches. The average neap tides, for about the same period, flowed at North Shields 8 feet 10½ inches, at Hebburn Quay 7 feet 9½ inches, and at Newcastle Quay 7 feet 2½ inches; thus making a difference of rise between North Shields and Hebburn Quay of about 1 foot 1 inch, and of Newcastle of about 1 foot 8 inches.—From the soundings, it appears that the whole quantity of water in the Tyne, between Shields Narrows and Newcastle Bridge, at the low water of the 31st May, 1813, was about 214,262,000 cubic feet, and that, at high water on the same day, it was about 940,883,000; thus leaving 726,621,000 cubic feet for the quantity of tide water thrown into the above district. The velocity of the current of the flowing tide, above Shields Narrows, is about 3 knots per hour at half-flood; but about half-ebb, the current is about 3¾ knots per hour. The width of the river is, however, so very various, that the rate of the current varies in almost every part of it, and is generally the greatest when Jarrow Slake is just covered, which is a little before half-flood. Vessels entering the harbour at this time frequently derive advantage from this great expanse; for if they enter with an adverse wind, the increase of current helps them over the bar, when they otherwise would not be able to enter the harbour at all. This slake is of great extent, covering upwards of 350 acres; and when the water is covering it, there is an increase of the velocity of the current of nearly one quarter of a mile per hour: an increase of material advantage to the shipping; and indeed it forms a considerable portion of the area of the river between Shields Narrows and Newcastle Bridge, the whole of which, including this slake, is about 1694 acres at high water."
Mr. Rennie observes that the numerous sand-banks, eddies, and abrupt projecting points in the river, obstruct the ingress and regress of the tide. He therefore proposed to contract the Tyne, as is done in the Clyde, "by building jetties from each shore, and moving the sand and gravel out of the intended channel by means of dredges, and depositing it in the spaces between the jetties, and when the channel was brought near to the depth it was expected the water would maintain. These jetties to be joined by walls of rubble stone, whereby the channel might be preserved of a regular depth. Without these junction walls, this could not be done, as the water would spread between the points of the jetties and throw up sand-banks, which would thus render the channel full of shoals. By the line of jetties laid down by me, the surface of the channel, supposing the tide to be confined within these points, will be reduced to about 896 acres; namely, 448 acres less than it now is at high water. Now, the question is, how shall this deficiency of tide-water, occasioned by the contraction, be supplied? Towards the supply of this deficiency, there are several sandbanks in the channel of the river, which are now dry at three-quarters ebb; and there are others which are nearly dry at half-ebb: of the former are those at Jarrow sands, amounting to about 21 acres; and of the latter are Cock Crow sand and several others, amounting to about 52 acres; making together about 73 acres, which will be reduced to a depth considerably under low water. In addition to this, I have to remark that the river throughout, I mean the contracted channel, will be very much deepened, and consequently the low water will be depressed in its surface, and a flood-tide will be much less obstructed: it will flow further up the Tyne, and rise higher than it now does. And as it will receive the tide water in the first quarter of flood, and will retain this water until the last quarter of ebb, it will produce a much greater effect in scouring the bar, in proportion to its quantity, than it now does. And, in addition to all these, it is proposed that the height of the jetties shall little exceed the height of half-flood, so that a principal part of the space embanked will still remain as a receptacle for tide water. According to this plan, therefore, the scouring effect of the tide will be materially increased, and consequently the depth of water over the bar will be increased to the depth, I apprehend, of at least two feet.
"The narrowing the river by means of jetties is the most economical mode I can devise, and best suited to the circumstances of the case for that part of the river which lies between Shields and Newcastle; but for the whole length of Shields, and most of Newcastle, I am of opinion the contraction should be made by regular wharf walls of masonry: and as the space gained will prove highly beneficial to the proprietors of property bordering on the river, I cannot for a moment doubt that they will be ready to make an allowance for the ground gained, if not to undertake the work at their own expense.
"In some parts of the river, the channel will require to be widened; such as at Whitehill Point, at Bill Point, at Hall and Co.'s lead smelting-works, at St. Anthony's village, at Felling Shore copperas-works, at Cinder Kilns, at Friar's Ballast Hills, and opposite the Northumberland Glass-houses, at the head of the Glass-house Reach. By the cutting of these projections, the tide water will meet with much less interruption in its flow, and the freshes of the river will meet with less interruption in going off, and spread more regularly over the channel, so as to scour away the sand-banks which now lie irregularly in the river, and thereby make and maintain a more uniform depth of water."
Mr. Rennie next proceeds to shew the propriety of lengthening or shortening the coal-staiths, to suit "the new intended channel of the river;" and to "make a kind of flat facing of rubble stone, to admit the tide passing over it" into Jarrow Slake, and to prevent the sand from being carried out upon the tide's ebbing. In considering the best means of improving the entrance into the harbour, he recommends only a partial removal of "the Middle Ground" and "In-Sand," so as "to render access easy, without admitting too much swell into the harbour. "The situation of a southern pier, he thinks, is "a matter of serious consideration;" for, if placed too near to the channel, it would obstruct the free entrance of the tide; and if too far off, it would not sufficiently check the cross current. The formation of dry or wet docks on the sides of the Tyne, he says, "may be done at a future period."Mr. Rennie estimates the total expense of these works at £519,320; but the wharfs and lands gained at North and South Shields would occasion a saving, he thinks, of £80,000, which would reduce his estimate to £439,320. (fn. 6)
Mr. Rennie concludes thus:—"The works I have proposed are, in many cases, of a nature that do not require to be immediately carried into execution; and indeed it would be injudicious to do them, if even they could. Where the channel of the river is to be materially changed, it should be done gradually; for if it were done otherwise, the sudden effect produced would greatly impede the navigation. The new proposed wharf walls in Shields may also stand over for some time to come, unless the proprietors of the property on the borders of the harbour think it advisable to commence upon them at an early period, which it would be their interest to do. The works that strike me as most material to be done first are those which tend to direct the river in a straight, or at least a uniform course, where it is most interrupted by sand-banks. The effect of such works will be sooner felt than in other places, where the channel is not so bad; and the pier on the Herd Sand is a material object. On this subject, however, I shall be more particular should my plan be determined to be carried into execution."
Estimates of the probable expense of the works proposed for the improvement of the navigation of the river Tyne and Shields harbour, from the above report, by John Rennie, Esq. F. R. S. civil engineer, made June 17, 1816.
Whatever may be thought of the practicability and utility of Mr. Rennie's plan, no one will deny the necessity of something effectual being done without delay. Persons well qualified to judge agree in the propriety of erecting a pier upon the Herd Sands, and the cutting off the projections mentioned in the above report; but instead of building walls and filling up the space behind, it has been recommended to erect jetties or wharfs upon piles, so as not to displace much tide water. Such a plan might probably be adopted with advantage at the Quay at Newcastle. It has also been proposed to excavate the haughs above bridge, so as to admit a vast additional quantity of tide water, which, at ebb, provided certain projections were removed, would effectually scour the channel of the river. The plan of building a low rubble wall across the entrance of Jarrow Slake is liable to considerable objections. Some insist that the river has been much injured by the refuse workings of the lead-mines, and rubbish of lime-kilns on the banks of the Tyne, being thrown into the stream. This should be enquired into.
The corporation, as conservators of the Tyne, appoint a River Jury, to whom the following oath is administered:—"You swear that you shall from time to time, as often as there shall be just cause, true presentment make of all nuisances done in this port of Newcastle upon Tyne, between Sparrow Hawk and Hedwin Streams, in the river of Tyne, and you shall do this at the admiralty, before the mayor, recorder, and aldermen of the said town, for the time being, and that without all respect of love or hatred to the persons so offending. So help you, God." This jury, which is mostly composed of persons under corporate influence, or of such as are totally incompetent for the office, has become a standing jest to the public. If they do make any representations, they are not attended to by the conservatory court.
On Ascension-day, every year, the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle survey the boundaries of the river Tyne. This annual festive expedition starts at the Mansionhouse Quay, and proceeds to or near the place in the sea called Sparhawk, and returns up the river to the utmost limits of the corporation at Hedwin Streams. They are accompanied by the brethren of the Trinity-house and the River Jury in their barges. When the chief magistrate is popular, the boats are numerous, and the scene beautiful and exhilirating. (fn. 7)
The Fisheries on the Tyne were, in ancient times, of great importance; and the salmon (which is the finest of the species) so plentiful, that apprentices covenanted to be fed with it only twice a week. On June 12, 1755, upwards of 2400 salmon were taken in the Tyne, and sold at 1d. and 1¼d. per pound; and again on June 20, 1758, upwards of 2000 were taken in the river. At the Fishery near the bar, 149 fine salmon were taken at one draught. One salmon, taken in the Tyne on May 29, 1760, weighed 54 pounds! On August 6, 1761, no less than 260 salmon were caught at one draught at Newburn; and in June, 1775, a still larger draught was taken near the Low Lights. The deterioration of the Fisheries is ascribed to the lock at Bywell and Winlaton mills, which prevent them from passing up the shallow streams in the breeding season; and also to the increased craft upon the river, and the deleterious mixtures that are carried into the stream from the lead-mines and various manufactories on the banks of the river. (fn. 8)