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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 the Tyne Bridge. Bill Quay was chosen because the Rudstons were collier ship owners and wanted to bring 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 and 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 it is shown on the plan of 1728 on which it is about four miles long from Bill Quay to Birtley Colliery. The colliery caught fire in 1732 and was drowned, probably to extinguish the fire. Rudston went bankrupt in 1733. However, Brown’s map of 1754 (Northumberland Record Office SANT/BEQ/9/1/3/25) clearly shows a waggonway, designated as Rudston’s, running from Northside in a north easterly direction before turning to due east and heading south of The Mound. This suggests that Rudston had recovered from bankruptcy. This waggonway may be on the course of his original way. Much of the course of the Rudston’s Way is uncertain. Archaeologist Alan Williams has suggested a route following Mount Lane then up what is now Springwell Road, which was a public road across Usworth Common at that time. Local historian Andrew Hoseason has suggested that from the point opposite the Perseverance Arms in Springwell, the line ran north following the route of the present day footpath also marked on the 1857 OS map. This path follows the edge of the modern Bowes Railway site and gradually merges with that Railway’s descent to Wardley. It is assumed that the later Washington Waggonway used Rudston’s old trackbed and therefore we assume Rudston’s turned North again at 54°56'21.7"N 1°32'14.4"W (between Beaufort Close and Ridgeway) thence through what is now a housing estate to Pelaw Junction where the 1857 OS map shows an old embankment, now Station Road, going North, down to the staith at Bill Quay Although no direct evidence exists for this or any other route, this line from Birtley Northside to Bill Quay would be the flattest route to avoid climbing The Mount.




<< 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; Notes by Andrew Hoseason and Les Turnbull, November 2017; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2019, Land at Springwell Washington, geophysical survey; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2016, Land at Mount Lane Springwell Washington Tyne and Wear, Archaeological desk-based assessment and heritage statement report 4202; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2019, Springwell pipeline and reservoir, Washington, Tyne and Wear: Heritage Statement, report 5083

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