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Until the nineteenth century, Dunston was a small settlement at the junction of the Team and the Tyne, with houses spreading to the west along the Tyne bank for about half a mile.

The original reason for a settlement here was probably the abundant supply of salmon in the River Tyne - this was long before industrial development polluted the river.

The fishing was so valuable that there were disputes over ownership of the river, and in about 1070, the river was divided into thirds, with the northern third belonging to Northumberland, the southern third the property of the Bishop of Durham and the centre strip common and free to all.

Even as late as 1833, over 400 salmon were caught in the Tyne on one June day for the Newcastle market.

As Dunston was at that time part of the Parish of Whickham, finding early information about it is difficult, although some references in Whickham records to houses on the riverside probably refer to Dunston.

More recently, Whickham parish was split into four quarters, one of which, Whickham Lowhand, covers the area of the modern Dunston.

Much of the coal mined in the surrounding area was shipped from staithes in Dunston.

Coal was also mined within the Dunston area at Dunston and Norwood Collieries, and nearby at Farnacres.

Newcastle Hostmen
The hostmen of Newcastle controlled much of the mining and transport of coal, leading to the expression "Coals from Newcastle" whereas the coal was mainly from the Gateshead, Whickham and North West Durham area.

Keelmen worked flat-bottomed keel boats, collecting coal from the staithes and transferring it to colliers (larger sea-going vessels) which transported the coal to London.

Napoleonic Wars
The French Revolution caused unrest in England.

The ironworkers at Swalwell would have nothing to do with the doctrines of Tom Paine, but the keelmen were roused to fight for their rights, and in 1794 presented a set of demands to their employers.

When their demands were turned down, they rioted, causing considerable damage to the staithes, closing down the pits. The rioting was eventually stopped by the military.

A troop of 500 volunteers was raised by Mr. John Carr and other local gentry to protect the area in case of invasion.

In July 1824 smallpox was brought to the village by a child from Sunderland whose mother brought her on a visit to Dunston. At least ten children were infected. None of those who had been vaccinated were affected.

The cholera epidemic of 1831 - 1832 caused many deaths

Reform Bill
Following the Reform Bill of 1832, many householders in Dunston were able to vote for the first time

The section of the Newcastle to Carlisle Railway from Blaydon via Dunston to Redheugh was opened in 1837, but completion of the route to Newcastle had to wait until the opening of the High Level Bridge (1848).

Dunston Lodge
Dunston Lodge was for many years a lunatic asylum, noted for the care of its patients and the fact that many were cured and returned to the community.

King’s Meadows

This island in the middle of the Tyne stretched from Redheugh to Dunston. At low tide one could wade across from the Dunston Bank. It was the last of the islands in the Tyne to be dredged away, to allow shipping upstream.

Especially on Barge Days, when the mayor of Newcastle sailed the river in a ceremony arranged by the brethren of Trinity House, the island was popular for its public house, horse races and amusements.

The Cooperative Wholesale Society was one of the largest employers in Dunston with its Flour` Mills and Soap Works. Other factories in the Gateshead`area included the many factories including printing, tailoring and drugs, all built in the Pelaw area from the end of the nineteenth century.

There were also large warehouses in Newcastle which now house the Newcastle Discovery museum.








Bill Quay


Blackhall Mill




High Spen



A History of Low Fell
A History of Low Fell
A Four part series By M. Hope Dodds

Gateshead Central Library
Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, NE8 4LN
Tel: 0191 433 8410

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