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Tyne and Wear HER(5935): Birtley Fell Way (Rudston's) - Details

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Birtley Fell Way (Rudston's)






Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

Francis Rudston obtained his coal from Northside, on Birtley Fell, and erected staiths at Bill Quay on the Tyne, nearly three miles below Tyne Bridge. Bill Quay was chosen because the Rudstons were collier ship owners and wanted to bring inland coal by waggonway direct to seagoing ships, something impractical any further upstream of Walker. Bill Quay represented the first attempt to do this, thus eliminating transhipment to an from keel, and the first pit-to-market coal concern on Tyneside. A lawsuit of 1749 states that Rudston laid a waggonway “over Birkley Comon abt 24 or 25 yrs ago” and is shown on the plan of 1728 on which it is about four miles long from Bill Quay to Birtley Colliery. Much of the course of the Birtley Fell Way is uncertain, but it probably lay on a line later used by Liddell waggonways. Its main difficulty was that the colliery lay on the western flank of a long ridge, and a considerable and lengthy pull was necessary to climb over the fell. It is reputed to have had the first stationary haulage engine on Tyneside. Once over the fell top, the way must have been that of the later Mount Moor Way. The colliery caught fire in 1732 and was drowned, probably to extinguish the fire. Rudston went bankrupt in 1733.




<< HER 5935 >> G. Bennett, E. Clavering & A. Rounding, 1990, A Fighting Trade - Rail Transport in Tyne Coal, 1600-1800, vol 1, p 152-153 P. Cromar, The Coal Industry on Tyneside, Northern History, 14, 203 E. Hughes, 1952, North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century, pp 237-45 P.M. Sweezy, 1938, Monopoly and Competition in the English Coal Trade, p 25 A. Williams, 2004, A Fighting Trade - Review and mapping of routes; unpublished document for Tyne & Wear Heritage Environment Record; Turnbull, L, 2012, Railways Before George Stephenson (entry 42) 85, 169; Alan Williams Archaeology, 2013, Waggonways to the South Bank of the River Tyne and to the River Wear;

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