Heaton Station: a whistle-stop tour

Heaton’s place in history is bound up with railways so we thought we’d chug along its stations’ timeline to see what we could find. The original Heaton Station was on the first railway to pass this way – the line from Newcastle to North Shields and later Tynemouth, which opened on 18 June 1839. The station was situated just to the North East of what later became called Heaton Road. The precise construction date is a little uncertain but there are press adverts which mention trains stopping at a station at ‘Heaton Hall Lane’ as early as 1841.

Mention of Heaton Hall Lane Station, May 1841

Advert in ‘Newcastle Journal’, dated 15 May 1841

The first mention we have so far found in news reports dates from 1844 when a passenger walking home from the station after dark fell from the bank by the lead factory into the Ouseburn. By the mid 1840s, there were already plans for a new line to Berwick, which meant that Heaton was destined to become an important junction. The stretch from Heaton to Berwick opened on 29 March 1847. This illustation dates from that time. Thank you to Alan Morgan in whose book ‘Heaton: from farms to foundries’ it appears.

Drawing of the original Heaton Station, 1847

Drawing of the original Heaton Station, 1847

Royal visit

Here is a selection of news stories featuring Heaton Station in its early years.

On Friday 28 September 1849,  Queen Victoria travelled down the new east coast line on her return from holiday in Balmoral. A public holiday was declared in Newcastle and although the weather was inclement,  the crowds were undeterred:

‘Heaton Station was the point at which her majesty entered the borough of Newcastle, and here was a profuse display of flags and ornamental devices in flowers and evergreens.’

‘Commencing at Heaton Station a long and dense crowd lined the railway to the Ouseburn Bridge and even the hills some distance from the line were covered with spectators.

While she was here, she opened the new High Level Bridge. This picture of the royal train that day is from the Illustrated London News.

Queen Victoria's train in Newcastle

In August the following year, there was another local public holiday when the queen and her family again passed through Heaton, this time after after stopping in Newcastle to open the new Central Station on their journey North.

New station

In 1861 advertisements inviting tenders to build a new station and station master’s house at Heaton appeared in the press. This would explain why the next photograph, dated 1886, looks quite different from the much earlier drawing.

Advert for tendeer for new station and station-master's house

Newcastle Journal, 6 May 1861

The original Heaton Station

Heaton Station, 1886

This photograph is published by kind permission of Beamish Museum and John Moreels of Photo Memories.

Then on 6 November 1886, when the track was also widened, The Newcastle Courant announced that work had begun on a completely new station which

‘is situated to the west of the present one. … bridge building will be necessary as the platform will be intersected by lines of rails. These works are giving work to a large number of men, and as a large amount of house-building is going on in the locality, that part of the town presents quite a brisk appearance.’

On 1 April 1887, the old station closed and on the same day the new one opened on on North View on the opposite side of Heaton Road. Again the photograph below is published with the permission of Beamish Museum and John Moreels of Photo Memories.

'New'Heaton Station

‘New’ Heaton Station

Notorious murder

Moving into the twentieth century, an incident took place which brought Heaton Station to the attention of the whole country. On 18 March 1910, John Innes Nisbet, a colliery employee who lived in Heaton, boarded the 10.27am train at Central Station to deliver wages to Widdrington Colliery. When the train arrived at Morpeth, Nisbet’s dead body was found. He had five bullet wounds to the head.

A key witness was Nisbet’s wife, who had gone to Heaton Station to talk to her husband while the train was stopped there. She claimed that she saw the man later identified as John Dickman, the alleged murdererer, sitting in the same carriage as her husband. Dickman, who had also previously lived in Heaton, was found guilty on what many people believed to be unsubstantiated circumstantial evidence. He was hanged but long afterwards the case was cited by opponents of the death penalty.

Suffragettes

On 17 October 1913, suffragettes were reported to have attempted to burn down Heaton Station. According to contemporary press coverage, one of the porters had smelled burning: he saw smoke coming from the direction of the ladies’ waiting room and upon investigation found a large cardboard box behind one of the lavatory doors. It contained open tins of oil, fire-lighters soaked in oil and a piece of candle. It had been positioned in such away that, once alight, it would ignite the contents of the box and then the door. Had it not been discovered, the station may well have been destroyed as it was constructed almost entirely of wood. A few weeks previously Kenton Station had been burned to the ground and earlier that year, a bowls pavilion in Heaton Park destroyed. All three incidents were thought to have been perpetrated by suffragettes, who at this time were accelerating their campaign for womens’ right to vote. 

More information about Heaton Station

That takes us to 100 years ago. Heaton Station finally closed on 11 August 1980 in preparation for the extension of the Metro system. The following photographs are reporduced by kind permission of Alan Young, railway photographer and author, who was brought up on Meldon Terrace. They date from 1972.

Heaton stationHeaton StationHeaton Station, 1972 <

Further information and more images can be found at the Disused Stations website.

Can you help?
If you have information, memories or photographs of Heaton Station or Heaton’s railways, please get in touch.

18 thoughts on “Heaton Station: a whistle-stop tour

  1. oldheaton Post author

    Alan Young told us: You won’t be aware that it was Heaton station that triggered my interest in stations in general. Being brought up on Meldon Terrace, a few minutes from the station (1951-55) it was the first one I ever saw or used. I was taken there frequently to wave to my Uncle Frank who drove the Newcastle – Edinburgh expresses, but I confess to being more interested in the station than the locomotives! My gran had a shop around the corner on Second Avenue. The memories come flooding back ….. and then we moved out to Longbenton in 1955.

    Reply
  2. Keith Fisher.

    Les Turnbull mentioned during his recent lecture that the Ridleys forced the rail company to bury the railway line where it ran across their land – which it certainly did: right in front of the hall from one side to the other. I bet they made a lot of money on the deal. Point is: the Ridleys sold Heaton Hall to Potter in 1841 so the railway line was in place before that. That’s another reason they got rid of the place.

    Reply
  3. Keith Fisher.

    And another thing; Queen Vic was so disgusted by sight of Newcastle that she insisted the blinds be lowered when she came through in future. Silly old Moo!

    Reply
  4. Christopher Goulding

    The date of Queen Victoria’s visit in September 1849 must have been the same day she and Prince Albert formally opened the High Level Bridge. According to legend, when the royal train stopped on the bridge, she stayed in the carriage, while Prince Albert gamely stepped onto the parapet to cut a ribbon. This is the least they could have done, as the bridge was the last link in the chain fir the East Coast main line – before 1849, they’d have had to de-train at Gateshead, cross the river by carriage, and then get on another train at Central Station (which they also “opened” that day in 1849). The story about QV keeping her blinds drawn whenever passing through Newcastle is told so often, it’s probably true, though I read somewhere once that she stopped her train there when passing through in 1854 to survey the damage from the great quayside fire that year.

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      I think that they opened the Central Station the following year. In 1849, the station was a temporary one in Carliol Square.

      Reply
  5. Keith Fisher

    Just past noon on June 21st 1839, two trains: ‘The Wellington’ and ‘The Hotspur’ left the newly opened Ouseburn Railway Viaduct and entered Heaton carrying 800 dignitaries and friends of The North Shields Railway Company from Trafalgar Street Station to have lunch at The New Inn, Tynemouth in celebration of the opening of the bridge. Info courtesy of Sue Bright from her new book ‘Bridging the Ouseburn’.

    Reply
  6. John Dixon

    I was brought up on Heaton Park Road, living there from 1950 to 1970. The railway and station were close by and a big part of my childhood. You could watch the trains from an area of rough ground next to the railway bridge, where people walk to and from Morrison’s car park now, or buy a platform ticket for 2d.and watch from the station. As a small child the station could be a bit scary when the northbound expresses pounded through. The station’s design and location seemed to accentuate the noise and vibration. Also, Heaton Station was where we caught the electric train to the Coast for days out. I remember the newstand in the station and a large grandfather clock next to it. The station used to smell of disinfectant and I remember the toilets where horrible. But there was a cute ticket office which issued thick cardboard tickets and a booking office with huge wide wooden counter and, in the Winter, a lovely coal fire.

    Reply
    1. oldheaton Post author

      Hi John,
      Thank you so much for adding to what many of us know about the station. I wonder what happened to the grandfather clock. You don’t say whether you still live locally but if you’d be willing to give up an hour of your time, we’d love to interview you about your memories of Heaton before 1970. We can do it in person or by phone. Please email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org if you think you might be able to help and I can explain further.

      Reply
  7. oldheaton Post author

    Heaton History Group member Keith Fisher has written this poem:

    Heaton Station: the smell of grey wood.

    With a warm, fat sound

    of softened hardwood under foot

    my boots would softly thud

    on curled and grooved terrain

    beaten into spongy desiccation

    by steam and smoke and plodding distress;

    the hardest element

    an eternal dust between the planks

    stamped into a solid mass

    as sooty grime conformed

    in wooden pools worn deep by footsteps

    tripping sprightly one way

    and dragged wearily the other;

    plimsoll rubber soles

    embedded with a billion grains of sand

    from nearly as many seaside trips

    smoothed-out the pock-marks

    of a hundred thousand hob-nails

    trudging slowly from shift’s end

    bearing grit and iron filings homebound,

    the daily grind, a daily grinding down

    of once brave oak.

    Reply
    1. Yvonne Young

      Love this. reminds me of Elswick Station. Used to look over the top of the wall to see the steam trains belching smoke.

      Reply
  8. oldheaton Post author

    Keith Armstrong has sent us this poem:

    HEATON STATION

    The trains

    speed through

    your memories:

    the old lady waiting

    with a pram,

    the boy in black and white.

    Days in the Heaton sun

    swept aside

    demolished

    in the rush

    to rationalise.

    I was that boy,

    still am,

    on the platform

    looking for the words

    to express

    true feelings

    for my home;

    drifting in the smoke,

    spotting

    derelict clouds

    along First Avenue

    and out of sight

    into local photographs.

    Reply
  9. Anne Baxter

    Having lived in Heaton Park Court from 1960-1967, I remember Heaton Station well. It was the main thoroughfare from one side of Heaton to the other. Went out for a while with Sidney, who worked in the shop which did well as everyone walking through/using the station had to pass it. Happy times! – Anne Onions (now Baxter)

    Reply
  10. Keith Newton

    Living in South View West, I well remember the express trains flying along the track and the green electric trains which took us off on a Sunday to the coast, heading down the slope onto the platform, looking for anyone we knew in the crowd of folk on the platform for the train at around 10.20 with their sandwiches and flasks, buckets and spades heading off to meet join large groups of families and friends , all at their own special place on the beach. The long walk from Tynemouth Station, Cullercoats was always much closer to the beach!
    Our spot on the Long Sands opposite the church spire, shuggie boats, rock pooling and plodging. Buying hot water to make a cup of tea and always the treat of an ice cream cone. I remember slicing my finger open with my new penknife and trying to stop the bleeding before my mam saw it ( having been told not to open it on the train), the ticket office and those little cardboard tickets.
    Standing on Heaton Park Road bridge waiting to be engulfed in clouds of steam and smoke as the Flying Scotsman swept through heading off to Berwick and on to Edinburgh.
    Climbing over the fence opposite the house and cutting roses from a wild bush.
    Being unsure if you were allowed to cut through the Station if not taking the train.
    Then later, coming home from University in Edinburgh, passing Wills factory – time to start getting ready for arrival, heading through the junction , looking for signs of my pal in Spencer Strret, passing the house and then on through Manors into the Central Station and out onto the bus or the train for the last leg of the journey

    Reply
  11. oldheaton Post author

    Chris Boylan emailed us with seasonal thoughts on ‘Spooky Stations’:

    The one station that I was very much on edge was Heaton Station. A most dark and unsettling station at night. With it being in a cutting when a Deltic hauled train came past the sound would reverberate off the walls long after the train had passed.

    My wife to be worked on Shields Road and would travel by train to Monkseaton.At times if possible for her well being I would travel to Heaton Station and meet her there and, if it was time free from work I would drive up and meet her at her shop.

    I worked for British Railways for many years and sometimes if passing through with the breakdown train Heaton Station never failed to generate a comment about the “lonelyness and isolation” of it.

    Chillingham Road Metro Station was another station which like Heaton had an unsettling aura about it. If I finished work from Heaton Depot at 10pm I never felt easy in that station so more often than not I used the car for work on that shift. Again I never felt safe in that station at night.

    Reply

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