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Tyne and Wear HER(5468): Howdon, whale processing site - Details

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N Tyneside

Howdon, whale processing site




Animal Product Site

Whaling Station

Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

Howdon was a centre of blubber boiling and whale bone processing. Ships from here hunted near Greeland. Souvenir whalebone arches and vertebrae from these voyages were set up in the area. Samuel Hieronymus Grimm [who made a living from accompanying the well-to-do on their travels and recorded his journeys in pen-and-ink drawings] drew a stile made of whale ribs at Howdon Pans in the eighteenth century. In December 1749 Captain Jonathan Blagdon advertised in the local newspapers asking for minimum subscriptions of £100 to finance the creation of a whaling company. In 1751 there were more advertisements calling for subscriptions to finance the creation of the Newcastle Whale Fishing Company. Sir Walter Blackett MP, subscribed, as did Ralph Sowerby, mayor of Newcastle and many councillors and aldermen. The Newcastle Whale Fishing Company was formed on 4 December 1751, and they purchased "Swallow", 297 tons for £2000. She returned to the Tyne in July 1752 with four Greenland whales. Two more vessels were added to form a whaling fleet - "Resolution", 420 tons and "Dolphin", 390 tons. In 1755 John Baker & Co and Edward Mosley & Co., merchants and aldermen, also entered into the trade. They had two vessels - "Robert", 268 tons and "Phoenix", 260 tons. Newcastle became the principal outport in the Greenland trade between 1756 and 1765. Trinity House collected tax from whale owners at a rate of 2 pence per ton of bone and blubber. Francis Hurry, who had begun building ships at Howdon in 1758, took an interest in Greenland whaling in 1764 with Thomas Airey, whose daughter he had married. On the foreshore, on the east side of Howdon Burn, were facilities for whale bone cleaning and blubber boiling and storage facilities for harpoons, lines etc. Their first ship was "Newcastle", 340 tons, but she was burnt down in 1766. "John and Margaret", "Royal Exchange" and "Annabella" were added to the fleet by 1765. "Annabella" was wrecked in 1768 and "Royal Exchange" in 1773 [although she had returned to Howdon in 1768 with twelve whales and 2300 seals]. By 1766 Newcastle was in decline as a whaling port, and Whitby had re-emerged. By 1830 the whaling trade in Newcastle was dominated by one person, Thomas Richard Batson. He was the sole owner of two vessels - "Grenville Bay" and "Lord Gambier". He made huge profits in 1832-3. Greenland whaling had collapsed by 1820 so the ships were sailing to Baffin Bay, Davis Straits, Lancaster Sound and Pond Inlet in Arctic Canada. "Lady Jane" was the best known Newcastle whaler, built in London in 1772 and transferred to Newcastle in 1804 by Matthew Plummer & Co. During her 50th journey to the Arctic in 1849, "Lady Jane" was crushed by ice at Melville Bay. The whaling enterprise from Tyneside was effectively over. "Volunteer", an iron-hulled screw-driven steamship, was the last Arctic whaler to sail directly from a North-East Port. She sank in 1859.




<< HER 5468 >> Drawing Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, C188, The Northumberland Sketchbooks, T. Barrow, The Whaling Trade of North-East England, 1750-1850

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