Armstrong Bridge

Armstrong Bridge was designed by William Armstrong and built at his Elswick Works on the Tyne, it has a span of 168 metres (552 feet).  The Bridge took two years to build and was opened in 1876 at a cost of £30,000. When it was finished Armstrong gave it to the people of Newcastle along with the Park, it was used by pedestrians, horses and later on cars.

The bridge affords magnificent views of Jesmond Dene which was another of the great mans lasting legacies. It is said that Lady Armstrong took pity on horses toiling up Benton Bank, pulling carts laden with coal or market produce and suggested a high level bridge to her husband. A bridge was built at the Elswick Works, opened in 1878 and later presented to the borough.

Motor traffic was stopped in 1963 and after pedestrianisation a market was established. A delightful arts and craft market, held here regularly on Sunday mornings, continues to this day.


Armstrong Bridge
Armstrong Bridge

Middle Engine Waggonway

This is the site of the Middle Engine, which was one of the engines used on the Seaton Burn Waggonway. This stationary steam engine hauled the coal trucks up and down the lines between the High Winding Engine located at Hillheads, Killingworth and the third or Low Engine near the River Tyne at Northumberland Dock in North Shields. The natural fall of the land from the High Engine down the the Low Engine saved locomotive power on the downward journeys of the coal waggons.

Middle Engine Lane was linked to the Blyth & Tyne Line, the Cramlington, Seaton Burn and Seghill waggonways. These routes were built by individual coal companies and were only shared following the establishment of the National Coal Board in 1947. The track at the nearby Stephenson Railway Museum is on the original line of the Seaton Burn Waggonway. This track was also the original test track for the Tyne and Wear Metro.

The waggonways are important corridors for wildlife and are home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and insects. Plant life is also abundant, with many species found synonymous to the waggonways due to the rich mineral content of the soil

Tall hawthorn hedges interspersed with oak, willow and dog rose, line the pathways, providing good habitat for feeding and nestling birds such as dunnock, song thrush, sparrows, blue tit and great tit. Rosebay willow herb, a plant which rapidly colonises bare or waste ground and is often found on railway embankments, can also be seen along the path.

Leading up to Silverfox Way there are mixed woodland plantations of benefit to numerous bird species and small mammals. In springtime look out for cowslips along the edges of the path. Ditches also run along the waggonway with numerous small wetland areas filled with aquatic plants such as soft rush, reedmace, lesser spearwort and marsh marigold. These are important areas for breeding amphibians, as well as damselflies and dragonflies.

Sarah Charlton Lament of a Lead Worker

Sarah Charlton’s Lament

My name’s Sarah Charlton and I live by the burn
I work at the leadworks and for one thing I yearn
To have money enough to leave that white hell
If my man were in work I’d bid it farewell

The dust in those works is a site to behold
They say those who work there they never get old
And my lungs are being poisoned, that I do know
As the white lead flies and drifts like the snow

I go home at two to look after my bairns
They have a poor life with the money that I earn
But one thing I make sure of, they always get fed
For them I’ll live and I’ll die breathing in lead

My husband’s a kind hearted gentle man
But he goes on the drink whenever he can
I know I should scold him. I know that I should
But I like drink mesel’. It mixes well with my blood

Last night in the mirror saw blue lines on my gums
I’ve been waiting for this. I knew it would come
The lead lies in my body. Its canker won’t stop
Till my fingers won’t move and my wrists they do drop

Now you may think this is a sad tale that I tell
But I tell you there’s more like me living this hell
One day I do hope they give guarantee
That no one should suffer the life given to me

Northumberland Lead Works Ouseburn Farm
Northumberland Lead Works Ouseburn Farm

Stephenson’s Rocket

Stephenson's Rocket - Jesmond's Subway Mosaics
Stephenson’s Rocket – Jesmond’s Subway Mosaics

Is it Stephenson’s Rocket (1829) or ‘Locomotion No1 (1825)? The Rocket now resides at the Science Museum in London, but was built at the Forth Street Works, still standing behind Central Station in Newcastle,, Robert Stephenson’s Rocket marks one of the key advances in rail technology by one of the premier engineers of his age.

Armstrong Blue Plaque – High Bridge

William George Armstrong’s water-powered rotary engine was built here at Henry Watson’s works, 1838. Inventor, engineer, scientist and businessman, Armstrong employed 25,000 people at his Elswick works.

Armstrong Plaque - High Bridge
Armstrong Plaque – High Bridge

Cattle Run – Armstrong Park

Cattle Run Information Panel
Cattle Run Information Panel

In 1870 fewer than 400 people lived in Heaton, in just 76 houses, it was a small village surrounded by open country side growing crops and herding cattle was the way of life before the village began to expand in the 1880s for centuries cattle had been drive down to pasture by the River Ouseburn from the fields above the valley. The cutting below follows the line of the old cattle which cut through Lord Armstrong’s estate.

The path you are on was the main carriage way through the woods to Jesmond Dene.  When William Armstrong was given this land he had a deeper path dug, so that the cattle could follow the old track and be kept away from visitors and their carriages.

William Armstrong was an inventor, engineer and industrialist.  His factories built bridges, cranes, guns and warships on the Tyne.

He was a dab hand at using construction materials from his own engineering projects and he often used these on his country estates.

As you look down the cattle run, notice how it is lined with sandstone blocks like those used on Victorian Railway Bridges.

Armstrong’s Waterfall – Jesmond Dene

Jesmond Waterfall Information Panel
Jesmond Waterfall Information Panel

Lord Armstrong created many water features throughout Jesmond Dene as part of his landscaping, features which we can enjoy to this day…. He added new ponds and built rapids, weirs and waterfalls to bring movement to the river.

His biggest project was the creation of this waterfall and the deep gorge you can see downstream. Explosives were used to blast out rock and the stone was used to build up the sides of the waterfall.

There is a sluice gate behind it which could open and close to change the flow of water.

Armstrong aimed to sculpt the river, creating dramatic features that looked natural. However if you look closely at the stone below the mill you might spot the joins where the rocks were cemented together.

After heavy rains torrents of water rush down the falls filling the valley with sound.

Tucked away near the waterfall Armstrong made a grotto from an old quarry. The grotto was designed to give the visitor an experience of underground mystery.

Armstrong Works

“Their size, their completeness, their tremendous productive energy, their variety of blast furnaces, foundaries, machine shops and chemical laboratories, teeming with human life, reverberating with the shriek of steam, the clang of hammers, and the whirr of machinery, overhung by a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, presents a picture of concentrated economic activity which overwhelms and astonishes the average observer.”
(R.W. Johnson, The Making of the Tyne,1895)

Armstrong’s huge industrial complex began with the construction of four buildings at the western end of the site. The main machine shop with its boiler house and the smiths’ shop were built north of the railway line which dissected the site, whilst the erecting shop and the Company offices were situated in the South. The design of the machine shop, using solid masonry, brick arches, cast iron columns, girders and beams gave an almost ecclesiastical appearance to this main building.

Whilst the rest of the original buildings and many of the later ones were of a more functional appearance, the survival of the nearby arched arcade reflects the architecture of the earliest buildings of this site. The surviving structure formed part of the projectile shop within the works, and the range of arches contained chutes and machinery which allowed materials to be passed from one level to another.”

Armstrong Works
Armstrong Works

Ships for the World

The name Elswick became synonymous with naval technology and shipbuilding. the opening of Elswock Shipyard, which stood on this site, was the culmination of the creation of an industrial empire. Armstrong entered into shipbuilding by cooperating with C.W. Mitchell’s yard at Walker in the construction of a gunboat for the Admiralty in 1868. This followed in 1882 by the amalgamation of the two firms as Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell & Co and two years later by the opening of the Elswick yard.

The Walker yard was left to concentrate on the building of merchant ships, whilst at Elswick warships were built and armed. The awesome output of fighting ships which took place in the following thirty years produced some of the most prestigious and terrifying ships of war the world has ever seen. Beginning with two cruisers the Panther and the Leopard – for the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and then the mighty British ironclad battleship, the Victoria, the yard produced a wealth of ships for the navies of the world.

Of the many countries which came to Elswick for its ships, perhaps the most significant was Japan. In the years from 1895 to 1905 virtually the whole Japanese navy, including the cruiser Asama, was built on the Tyne. The great naval battles of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/5 were fought with huge numbers of Tyneside ships and Elswick guns.

A close bond developed between the North East and Japan. When two of Japan’s finest Elswick-built ships, the Hatsuse and the Yashima, were tragically lost in 1904, the whole of Tyneside mourned. Following Japan’s naval victories in this war, their successful and highly respected admiral Togo visited Elswick to see for himself where his powerful navy had been produced.

In its three decades of existence, the Elswick Yard produced a total of 84 warships.

Ships for the World
Ships for the World

Lord Armstrong

William George Armstrong, son of Alderman William Armstrong, corn merchant, was born on November 26th, 1810 at 9. Pleasant Row, Shieldfield, Newcastle. Although trained for the legal profession and practising as a solicitor until the age of 37, his real interest lay in machinery and engineering.

As a young man he visited Watson’s Engineering Works in High Bridge daily and developed his ideas on hydraulics and the generation of electricity. His ideas gained the backing of a number of monied and influential businessmen who in 1845 launched Armstrong into his engineering career. Inside two years he had successfully demonstrated his invention of the hydraulic crane, left his solicitors office, founded a new company to manufacture machinery and bought five and a half acres of land as a site for his works here at Elswick.

The development of Armstrong’s work from making buildings to making hydraulic machinery, to a 230 acre site (four times larger than the modern Business Park) with a workforce of over 20,000 was the pre-eminent industrial achievement of Victorian Tyneside. Armstrong’s own status and influence grew in parallel. Following his invention of the Armstrong gun, he was made engineer to the War Department.

As Sir William, he guided his company into its greatest period of expansion and prosperity, but gradually as he approached his seventieth year, he withdrew from active participation in business, and concentrated on the construction of his country retreat “Cragside” near Rothbury in Northumberland. The house was designed by Richard Norman Shaw a leading architect of the day and set in a huge landscaped estate of trees, bushes, plants, lakes, diverted streams and waterfalls.

Raised to the peerage in 1887, Lord Armstrong, with his wife Margaret, spent his final years at Cragside in well-earned tranquility. He died in 1900 after a life of outstanding achievement.

Lord Armstrong
Lord Armstrong

Armstrong Gun

“The Armstrong Gun, the Armstrong Gun,
What a wonderful thing is the Armstrong Gun,
Sir William’s invention astonisht them all,
Wi’ a bolt for a shot instead of a ball.

Nae spungin’ or rammin’ or servin’ the vent,
Such things are no needed to serve its intent,
In a neat little chamber breech end of the bore,
Place the powder and shot and away let it roar.”
(From a poem by an Elswick employee of the 1850s)

William Armstrong’s interest in the production of armaments sprang from an incident in the Crimean War in 1855, when British field guns weighing over two tons each had to be slowly pulled by hand up the steep Heights of Inkermanamid a huge loss of life.

Many of the features of the field gun which Armstrong developed after this event had been considered previously, but it was the thoroughness and ingenuity of the man which brought them together to produce a lightweight, accurage field gun which revolutionalised the manufacture of armaments and the way in which wars were fought.

Newcastle Business Park

The refurbished structure upon which you are standing was once part of the projectile shop at the Armstrong Works Elswick. It forms the centrepiece of the best business park development in the north east of England, a joint venture between Drybart Development (Tyne & Wear) Limited and Tyne and Wear Development Corporation.

In the middle of the nineteenth century the view west for this spot, just two miles from the centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne would have been sheep grazed pastures. By 1860 William Armstrong, a local solicitor, inventor and manufacturer, had transformed the area into one of Britain’s most important industrial sites.

In 1867 Armstrong decided to build warships as well as making equipment for vessels built by others, He entered into agreements with Charles Mitchell’s ship building yard down the river Tyne at Walker and in 1884 a ship yard in the name of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Mitchell and Co. Ltd

The connection with Walker Naval Yard is celebrated by the Armstrong coat of arms and Neptune’s head which appear on the reverse of this plaque. They were recovered from the Walker Naval Yard when it closed in 1985.

In 1981 Vickers Armstrong finally left the site. Subsequently a derelict mile-long riverside frontage was reclaimed to a 25 hectare complex of low density, high specification offices amongst extensive landscaping,

Names of roads and buildings on the site echo its history. The main thoroughfare on the Newcastle Business Park is known as William Armstrong Drive. All the remaining road, and the majority of the buildings were named after vessels launched from the site from 1885 until shipbuilding ceased here in 1981.

Armstrong Works

In the middle of the nineteenth century the view west for this spot, just two miles from the centre of Newcastle Upon Tyne would have been sheep grazed pastures. By 1860 William Armstrong, a local solicitor, inventor and manufacturer, had transformed the area into one of Britain’s most important industrial sites.

Etched Glass – John Hutton

Stephensons Rocket
Stephensons Rocket

Worth a look are the glass etchings near the main entrance to Newcastle Civic Centre. John Hutton from New Zealand did etching for the Civic Centre, also did a lot of work on Coventry Cathedral, at the Civic Centre his etchings include; Swans lightbulb, Parsons Turbine, Stephensons Rocket, unfortunately the Armstrong window was damaged and has yet to be replaced. Show the main four engineers for the region.

John Hutton (artist) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Hutton (artist) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the Civic Centre of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, he created a glass screen representing some of the great inventions of the city and also figures from local mythology with his…