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Tyne and Wear HER(17590): Walker, Willington Waggonway - Details

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Newcastle and N Tyneside

Walker, Willington Waggonway





Post Medieval


Physical Evidence

Seven evaluation trenches were excavated in 2013 at Neptune Yard due to the proximity of Segedunum Roman Fort and its vicus. No Roman remains were found, but in one trench next to Benton Way a sandstone wall, 0.56m high and 0.63m wide, was recorded. Further excavation around the wall unexpectedly revealed a number of substantial timbers arranged in parallel formation - sleepers of an in-situ waggonway track. In the end, two lines were discovered - a main way and a siding, extending over 33.3m on a north-west to south-east alignment. The waggonway was in an excellent state of preservation. The rails and sleepers of two lines survived with a revetment between them, and a cobbled track lay within the siding. It was decided that a representative sample of the track and associated features should be lifted, conserved and eventually displayed at The Stephenson Railway Museum at North Shields. Between 4th and 13th September 2013 an 8m length of the two tracks, including rails, sleepers, metalling and timber revetment was dismantled by the archaeologists and moved to a storage facility at Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums. A number of timbers beyond the identified eight metre section were also retained as replacements for some of the less well-preserved timbers in the sample section, and a length of the main way to the north was also dismantled and stored at the same facility for The National Railway Museum at York. Following the removal of a large proportion of the best-preserved waggonway timbers, further monitoring work took place between 17th September to 1st October during the initial phase of rendering the site suitable for development by excavating to compact clay levels, revealing more of a stone drain or ‘cundy’ feature on the north-east side of the main way and exposing a long leat, stone-walled and timber-capped, running underneath the south-western (former Carville) boundary wall and extending downslope into the wash pond area. The remaining features of the waggonway complex were removed by machine during final groundworks on 8th October 2013, during which process it was observed that only part of the cobbled sleeper-bed forming the base of the wash pond and a small length of the foundations of the brick and stone drain running into the north (Benton Way) side of the site were left in situ. Further monitoring was carried out in April and May 2014 (completed May 21st) on the lower part of the site, however, between the Benton Way boundary and the first of the now-infilled dry docks, but produced no additional finds of significance. Features recorded: The sandstone wall was initially thought to be associated with the embankment of the Gosforth & Kenton Waggon Way of circa 1808, which is shown on the Ordnance Survey plan of the 1850s. The wall was later found to be a Carville Hall boundary wall. The northern end of the wall sat upon a wide ditch or west side of a cutting. The ditch was concave in section with a flatish base. It could be traced for a length of some 12m. It may have been a wayleave ditch on the western flank of the main line, infilled when the siding was built. Or it may have been a drainage or water supply conduit. Close to the south end of the wall a floor of re-used firebricks of early C20 date was found. The stamped bricks were made at Newburn Brickworks. This is odd because this is the site of Tyne Brick Works in the late C19. For most of its length the Carville boundary wall sat on wooden foundations provided by the features of the pre-existing waggonway, notably a wooden-capped leet which was 17.5m long. The well-preserved main way had a wooden track with extensive survival of sleepers and rails. All fixings from rail to rail and rail to sleeper were with wooden pegs in square or sub-circular peg holes. The rails ranged in length from 0.5m to 4.92m. They were generally 0.12m wide and 0.16m deep. The sleepers extended either side of the rails by between 0.07m and 0.4




The Archaeological Practice Ltd, Jan 2018, The Willington Waggonway Excavation; Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, 2018, The Wooden Rails That Blazed a Trail; Dominique Bell (ed), 2018, Setting the Standard - Research reports on the Willington Waggonway of 1785, the earliest standard gauge railway yet discovered

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