There is very little information available about the ancient history of Gateshead. The town was a minor settlement of little importance, being overshadowed by its larger neighbour, Newcastle. Roman coins were found in Church Street (in 1790) and Bottle Bank (in 1802) so there may very well have been a small camp at the southern end of the old Roman Tyne Bridge. There was, of course, a major Roman fort at Newcastle, and, as was the case in most Roman forts and towns, a small settlement probably grew around the gates at what is now the end of the Swing Bridge, Pipewellgate and Oakwellgate. Little is known of Roman activity in the area around Gateshead, but the exploration of a fort discovered by aerial photographs on Washingwell farm at Whickham may give some clues as to the settlement of the area.
Gateshead was not included in the Domesday Book, but separate surveys were completed for the Bishopric of Durham, included Gateshead. The first such survey is known as the Boldon Book, made in 1183 Gateshead is listed as having watermills, salmon fisheries on the Tyne and bake-houses. Obviously, the town was not now entirely dependent on agriculture. In the late twelfth century dyeing and shipbuilding are mentioned. At this time, Gateshead was paying a tax of £10 per year to the bishop of Durham, the highest sum for any Durham town.
The first record of coal being mined in the Gateshead area was in 1344 and there were staiths at Pipewellgate in 1349. The manors of Whickham and Gateshead became the best coal mining areas in Europe and were, of course, the envy of Newcastle merchants.
Throughout the nineteenth century the population expanded rapidly. This expansion resulted in the spread southwards of working-class houses. Terrace upon terrace of houses and flats were built over what had been large country estates and the character of the town changed from rural to urban. The descriptions of Gateshead as a dirty lane leading to Newcastle' and 'huge dingy dormitory' were partially true during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but the rows of houses which today seem drab were a big improvement on the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century slums down by the river.
In 1889, Gateshead was made a county borough. The Team Valley Trading Estate was built in the mid-1930s to alleviate the situation of unemployment. The borough boundaries were extended in 1951 to provide more building land and slum clearance was started and is continuing today.
And now we had the development of the Gateshead Quays and the building of The £22 million Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The Bridge provides a footpath and cycle-way linking ambitious new arts and cultural developments at Gateshead Quays on the south bank with Newcastle Quayside. The cultural area on the south bank of the Tyne called Gateshead Quays, includes Baltic The Centre for Contemporary Art, the biggest temporary art space in Europe, and The Sage Gateshead, a pioneering international centre for musical discovery.
Some links to Gateshead related informationGateshead Millennium Bridge
BALTIC The Centre for Contemporary Art
The Sage Gateshead
The Angel of The North
Tomorrows History ~ Images of the North
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