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Tyne and Wear HER(4082): Benwell Waggonways - Details

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Benwell Waggonways






Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

A Wagonway, marked as Old on the 1st edition OS mapping, so was out of use by 1858. Tomlinson records that the first self-acting plane (used gravity as motive power) in the North of England began working at Benwell in 1798. The waggons descended from the colliery to the staith, a distance of 864 yards, when lowered with a plummet weighing 16.5 cwts, it hauled up the empty waggons. The High Main Seam outcropped in Benwell on the slope towards the River Tyne allowing easy winning and transport of the valuable house coal. By the 1620s, the manor contained one of the greatest collieries in the coalfield. Shallow pits near the river were nearly all worked out by the 1630s and exploitation of the High Main coal moved upslope and required deeper pits. The colliery was wet and in the 1670s was drowned. Introducing newly developed pumping engines to dewater the mines, Montague and Baker re-opened the colliery in the 1700s. A waggonway serving the colliery is mentioned in 1708, but flooding seems to have soon closed it again (Turnbull 2009, 117-119). In 1762, William Brown of Throckley, probably the most successful mining engineer of his day, constructed a powerful pumping engine for Benwell allowing the colliery to re-open. The Beaumont Pit was sunk in the mid 1760s and opened in 1768, working the deep Beaumont Seam. Surface arrangements at the mine are shown on maps of 1811 and 1826 (Turnbull 2009, 119). An inclined plane ran south towards the River Tyne from Charlotte Pit. A branch line to Aubone Pit ran to the east (route 96) with a longer western branch to Delaval Pit beyond Beaumont Pit. Lines to staiths curved down to the riverside a little way to the east of the incline. The 1826 map extends the view of the waggonway to the north, showing Edward Pit which was served by a line running up from Charlotte Pit across the West Road and through the site of the Roman Fort of Condercum. In 1844, Hair noted that at Benwell: 'The coals are conveyed by inclined planes from the pits to the staiths, where they are put into keels to be carried to the ships lying below Newcastle Bridge and at Shields. The first drop used for lowering the wagons down to the ships and keels was erected here in 1808' (Hair 1844, 27).




1st edition Ordnance Survey Map, 1864, 6 inch scale, Northumberland, 97; W.W. Tomlinson, 1914, The North Eastern Railway - Its Rise and Development, p 17; Alan Williams Archaeology, Waggonways North of the River Tyne: Tyne and Wear HER Enhancement Project; Hair, T.H. 1844 (republished 1987) A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham, 27; Bell 1847-1851: Maps of the Great Northern Coalfield, Northumberland; Turnbull, L. 2009 Coals from Newcastle: An Introduction to the Northumberland and Durham Coalfield, pp 117-119

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