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Tyne and Wear HER(2107): Willington Quay, Newcastle Corporation Ballast Hill - Details

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N Tyneside

Willington Quay, Newcastle Corporation Ballast Hill

Willington Quay


Ballast Hill

Early Modern


Documentary Evidence

Enormous ballast hill, at least 100 feet high. The condensing flue from Howdon Lead Works (HER 2106) ran up its south face. This deposit was derived from dumping of ship's ballast prior to taking on coal. Much of it was used for land reclamation under the Tyne Improvement Act. The hill generated enough pressure to distort the adjoining quay wall, forcing it into the river. Many ships coming to the Tyne to load coal entered the river 'light' or 'in ballast'. This means that no cargo was being carried. In the absence of cargo, the ballast gives the vessel stability. Ships returning from London coal voyages often carried shingle or chalk as ballast. Sand and other materials were also used. Over the centuries, great hills of ballast grew along both banks of the Tyne. There were substantial ballast hills near Bill Point Walker, Willington Quay, Hebburn, Jarrow and North and South Shields. Ships were charged fees to unload their ballast. By the early 1820s this was about 20p per ton. To avoid the fee some masters resorted to the dangerous act of discharging ballast before entering harbour. One estimate suggests that some 20% of all imported ballast ended up in the river, risking the Tyne silting up.




<< HER 2107 >> 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, 1864, 6 inch scale, Northumberland, 98 G. Unsworth Hall, 1977. Willington Quay; Dick Keys and Ken Smith, 2005, Tall Ships on the Tyne, p 6

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