The Ouseburn is a familiar and much loved feature of East Newcastle which, for much of its course, forms the boundary between Heaton / High Heaton and Sandyford / Jesmond. But how many of us knew that another burn once meandered through the township? Until recently, historic maps provided the only readily accessible documentary evidence of the stream. Recently, however, aerial photographs, which really bring the lost landscape to life, have come to light. They were taken in the 1920s before the building of the North Heaton bungalow estate and are reproduced here courtesy of English Heritage.
This first picture clearly shows the tree-lined burn on the bottom right. You can estimate its position relative to today’s streets by reference to the railway line, the cemetery wall on the left and the original Coast Road running through the picture. There are few signs of any buildings but football goalposts can be seen just north of the stream. The furthest of the two treelined roads this side of the railway line is what is now Benfield Road.
This photograph was taken on the same day, 20th October 1927. Older Victorian houses on Chillingham Road can be seen in the foreground. They still stand today, the block with Solomon’s Lounge Indian restaurant at one end and a dental practice at the other. Opposite this row is Norwood Avenue, again still standing. Music dealer J G Windows was living there when this photo was taken. The houses nearest the present Coast Road were demolished when the road was widened.
The walled Heaton and Byker Cemetery is clearly visible on the left and in front of it what look like allotments (but please get in touch if you know better) where Hilden Gardens is now. Not only were the bungalows south of the Coast Road not yet built – they followed in the 1930s – but neither were the post-war Wills factory or Crosslings (formerly Smiths Crisps). There is, however, a house and possibly some farm buildings in the middle distance on the right. Judging from where Benfield Road meets the railway line, they could be round about where Danby Gardens meets Redcar Road or Debdon Gardens?
We will feature more aerial photos of Heaton and High Heaton on this site over the coming months but in the meantime you can see some in the Old Heaton Group on the Britain From Above website. You can add comments and point out features of interest.
Thee is plenty of evidence from estate plans that the burn once formed the northern boundary between Heaton and Benton.
Compare the shape of the burn as depicted in the plan with that of the photographs. The fields immediately to the south of the burn were at this time (1860s) called Benton Nook (the field furthest North East), Little East Close and Little West Close. Further back still, Little East and Little West Close were one big field, known as Well Close. You can access 18th and 19th century estate plans, which show the field names of old Heaton in both Newcastle City Libraries (Local Studies) and Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn (Ridley Collection). Some of the field names are particularly evocative: South Spanish Close, East Hunny Tacks, Horse Boggs, Bull Sides and, beloved of many Geordies, Great Night Close, to name but a few!
So which burn is it?
The stream is Wallsend Burn which, once it leaves Heaton, is unculverted most of the way from Wallsend Golf Course, across Richardson Dees Park to the Tyne at Willington Quay, just west of the pedestrian tunnel. It’s not a long watercourse – we aren’t sure but it seems to rise just north west of Heaton and Byker Cemetery – and neither was it wide but in times past our small river will have been an important resource for local people, it has played its part in the history of Heaton for thousands of years and presumably still flows beneath our feet. Please let us know though if you think differently or can provide more information about the burn or the history of this area. There’s definitely more research to be done!
I was born in 1944 on Chillingham Road opposite what is now Ravenswood school. Before the school, my grandfather had an allotment on the land where the school was built. I remember “helping” him there. The allotments must have been behind what is now the block containing Solomon’s Lounge.