The granite mill stones that you see today are the legacy of an industry that dominated this site for almost 150 years. when it closed in 1933, the Gallowgate Lead Works occupied all the land from this point to almost the end of the town wall near the top of Darn Crook. It was a major feature of the area, and produced lead products for the paint and munitions industries.
Established in the late 18th century, the lead works was one of various commercial premises in the area. The 1863 ordnance survey shows timber yards and tanneries close by, together with a large slaughter house complex at the end of Dispensary Lane.
The white lead trade made pigments for the paint industry, and their production involved a process that changed very little since its introduction in the late 1780s. This was the Dutch Stack method of corroding sheets of lead by placing upon a bed of earthenware pots containing concentrated ascetic acid, one stack of pots and lead upon another. Insulated by leather or wood bark, the acid evaporated and turned the lead into a blue paste.
This paste was then dried in large ovens to create a dry white carbonate that could be ground into a fine powder for mixing with oil to form the finished pigment. The heavy granite mill stones found on the site when it was landscaped in 2006, were used in this process.
Another product of the lead works was lead shot. This was made by pouring molten lead through colanders and allowing the sieved lead to fall down a 200ft shaft where it cooled in water and formed the spherical lead shot used by artillery and shot guns. A description of the Gallowgate site, published in the Penny Magazine in August 1844 tells us that “when two tons weight of shot have thus fallen”. The site of this shaft is marked on the ground.
Lead shot is made from a mixture of lead and arsenic, and the Penny Magazine published a drawing of a man ladling the molten mixture from a furnace pit into the top of a colander or sieve. Other drawings illustrate the white lead process and a female worker separating finished lead shot.
The lead trade was an important industry in 19th century Newcastle. This site was owned by the Locke Blackett Company. Other sites of former white lead works were in the Ouseburn, Elswick and Walker Riverside.
The plan of the site dates from 1930, not long before the last works was closed, it shows the location of the Shot House at the south east corner of the site, near to the Mordon Tower.
Location: Western Walls, behind Stowell St, NCL