Jean F. Terry.

Northumberland Yesterday and To-day online

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There are many beautiful memorial windows in the church, and many
memorials in other forms to the various eminent North-country folk who
have been connected with Newcastle and its chief place of worship. The
Collingwood cenotaph is the most interesting of all; the brave Admiral's
body, as is well known, lies beside that of his friend and commander,
Nelson, in St. Paul's Cathedral, but this memorial of him is fittingly
placed in the Cathedral of his native town, within whose walls he
worshipped as a boy. There are two monuments by Flaxman - one of the Rev.
Hugh Moises, the famous master of the Grammar School when Collingwood
was a boy; and the other of Sir Matthew White Ridley, who died in 1813.
Of the newer monuments, those of Dr. Bruce, of Roman Wall fame, and of
the beloved and lamented Bishop Lloyd, are particularly fine.

Near the east end of the church, which was raised to the rank of a
Cathedral in 1881, is hung a large painting by Tintoretto, "Christ
washing the feet of the Disciples"; this was presented to the church by
Sir Matthew White Ridley in 1818. There are many more things of interest
in the Cathedral, but mention must be made of a wonderful MS. Bible,
incomplete, it is true, but beautifully written and illuminated by the
monks of Hexham, and other manuscript treasures carefully kept in the
care of the authorities.

The oldest church in the town is St. Andrew's, supposed to have been
built by King David of Scotland at the time when that monarch was Lord
of Tynedale, in the reign of King Stephen. It suffered greatly in the
struggle with the Scots, whose cannon, planted on the Leazes, did it
great damage, and some of the fiercest fighting, at the final capture
of the town, took place close by, where a breach was made in the walls.
In such a battered condition was it left that the parish Registers tell
us that no baptism nor "sarmon" took place within its walls for a year
(1645). But a marriage took place, the persons wedded being Scots, who,
we learn from the same authority, "would pay nothing to the Church."

In the church is buried Sir Adam de Athol, Lord of Jesmond, and Mary,
his wife. It is supposed that this Sir Adam gave the Town Moor to the
people of Newcastle, though this has been disputed. A fine picture of
the "Last Supper," by Giordano, presented by Major Anderson in 1804,
hangs in the church.

St. John's Church ranks next to St. Andrew's in point of age; there are
fragments of Norman work in the building, and it is known to have been
standing in 1297. To-day the venerable pile, with its age worn stones,
stands out in sharper contrast to its environment than does any other
building in the town, surrounded as it is by modern shops and offices.
The memories it evokes, and the past for which it stands, are such as
the citizens of Newcastle will not willingly let die; and when, a few
years ago, a proposal was made for its removal, the proposition aroused
such a storm of popular feeling against it that it was incontinently

All Saints' Church was built in 1789, on the site of an older building
which was in existence in 1296, and which became very unsafe. Here is
kept one of the most interesting monuments in the city - the monumental
brass which once covered the tomb of Roger Thornton, a wealthy merchant
of Newcastle, and a great benefactor to all the churches. He died in
1429. He gave to St. Nicholas' Church its great east window; but, on its
needing repair in 1860, it was removed entirely, and the present one,
in memory of Dr. Ions, inserted; and the only fragment left of
Thornton's window is a small circular piece inset in a plain glass
window in the Cathedral. He gave much money to Hexham Abbey also.

Besides the famous men already mentioned in connection with the town,
Newcastle possesses other well-known names not a few. In the Middle
Ages, Duns Scotus, the man whose skill in argument earned for him the
title of "Doctor Subtilis," owned Northumberland as his home, and
received his education in the monastery of the Grey Friars, which stood
near the head of the present Grey Street. He returned to this monastery
after some years of study at Oxford; in 1304 he was teaching divinity in

Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London in the reign of Edward VI., whose
Northumbrian birthplace at Willimoteswick has already been noted,
received his early education at the Grammar School in Newcastle, and on
going to Cambridge was a student at Pembroke. We are told he was the
ablest man among the Reformers for piety, learning and judgment. As is
well known, he died at the stake in 1555.

William and Elizabeth Elstob, who lived in Newcastle at the end of the
seventeenth century, were learned Saxon scholars, but were so greatly in
advance of the education of their times that they met with little
encouragement or sympathy in their labours.

Charles Avison, the musician and composer, was organist of St. John's in
1736, and afterwards of St. Nicholas'.

It was he to whom Browning referred in the lines -

"On the list
Of worthies, who by help of pipe or wire,
Expressed in sound rough rage or soft desire,
Thou, whilom of Newcastle, organist."

These lines have been carved on his tombstone in St. Andrew's
churchyard. He is best known as the composer of the anthem "Sound the
loud timbrel."

Mark Akenside, the poet, was born in Butcher Bank, now called after him
Akenside Hill. His chief work "The Pleasures of Imagination," is not
often read now, but it enjoyed a considerable reputation in an age when
a stilted and formal style was looked upon as a true excellence in

Charles Hutton, the mathematician, was born in Newcastle in 1737. He
began life as a pitman; but, receiving an injury to his arm, he turned
his attention to books, and taught in his native town for some years,
becoming later Professor of Mathematics in the Royal Military Academy at

John Brand, the antiquary and historian of Newcastle, was born at
Washington, County Durham, but came to Newcastle as a child. After
attending the Grammar School, he went to Oxford, by the aid of his
master, the Rev. Hugh Moises. He was afterwards curate at the church of
St. Andrew.

Robert Morrison, the celebrated Chinese scholar, was born near Morpeth,
but his parents came to Newcastle when the boy was three years of age.
He died in China in 1834.

Thomas Miles Richardson, the well-known artist, was born in Newcastle in
1784, and was at first a cabinetmaker, then master of St. Andrew's Free
School, but finally gave up all other work to devote himself to his art.

Robert Stephenson went to school at Percy Street Academy, which for long
has ceased to exist. There he was taught by Mr. Bruce, and had for one
of his fellow-pupils the master's son, John Collingwood Bruce, who
afterwards became so famous a teacher and antiquary.

Newcastle is not, as most southerners imagine, a dark and gloomy town of
unrelieved bricks and mortar, for, besides possessing many wide and
handsome streets, it has also several pretty parks, the most noteworthy
being the beautiful Jesmond Dene, one of the late Lord Armstrong's
magnificent gifts to his native town. The Dene, together with the
Armstrong Park near it, lies on the course of the Ouseburn, which is
here a bright and sparkling stream, very different from the appearance
it presents by the time it empties its murky waters into the Tyne.
Besides these there are Heaton Park, the Leazes Park, with its lakes and
boats, Brandling Park, and others smaller than these; and last, but most
important of all, the Town Moor, a fine breezy space to the north of the
town, of more than 900 acres in extent.

Of statues and monuments Newcastle possesses some half-dozen, the finest
being "Grey's Monument" - a household word in the town and familiarly
known as "The Monument." It was erected at the junction of Grey Street
and Grainger Street in memory of Earl Grey of Howick, who was Prime
Minister at the passing of the Reform Bill. The figure of the Earl, by
Bailey, stands at the top of a lofty column, the height being 135 feet
to the top of the figure. There is a stairway within the column, by
which it can be ascended, and a magnificent view enjoyed from the top.

In an open space near the Central Station, between the _Chronicle_
Office and the Lit. and Phil., there is a fine statue of George
Stephenson, by the Northumbrian sculptor, Lough. It is a full length
representation of the great engineer, in bronze, with the figures of
four workmen, representing the chief industries of Tyneside, around the
pedestal - a miner, a smith, a navvy, and an engineer. At the head of
Northumberland Street, on the open space of the Haymarket, stands a
beautiful winged Victory on a tall column, crowning "Northumbria"
typified as a female figure at the foot of the column. This graceful and
striking memorial is the work of T. Eyre Macklin, and is in memory of
the officers and men of the North who fell in the Boer War of 1899-1902.
Two other noteworthy statues in the town are those of Lord Armstrong,
near the entrance to the Natural History Museum at Barras Bridge, and of
Joseph Cowen, in Westgate Road.


As I came thro' Sandgate,
Thro' Sandgate, thro' Sandgate,
As I came thro' Sandgate,
I heard a lassie sing
"O weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row,
Weel may the keel row
That my laddie's in

"O who is like my Johnnie,
Sae leish,[5] sae blithe, sae bonnie;
He's foremost 'mang the mony
Keel lads o' coaly Tyne
He'll set and row sae tightly,
And in the dance sae sprightly
He'll cut and shuffle lightly,
'Tis true, were he not mine!
[Footnote 5: Leish = lithe, nimble.]

"He has nae mair o' learnin'
Than tells his weekly earnin',
Yet, right frae wrang discernin',
Tho' brave, nae bruiser he!
Tho' he no worth a plack[6] is,
His ain coat on his back is;
And nane can say that black is
The white o' Johnnie's e'e
[Footnote 6: Plack = a small copper coin, worth about one-third of a

He wears a blue bonnet,
Blue bonnet, blue bonnet,
He wears a blue bonnet,
And a dimple in his chin
O weel may the keel row,
The keel row, the keel row,
Weel may the keel row
That my laddie's in."




Sailed from the North of old
The strong sons of Odin;
Sailed in the Serpent ships,
"By hammer and hand"
Skilfully builded.

* * * * *

Still in the North-country
Men keep their sea-cunning;
Still true the legend,
"By hammer and hand"
Elswick builds war-ships.

- (_Northumbriensis_).

For a mile and a quarter, along the north bank of the Tyne, stretch the
world-famed Elswick Works, which have grown to their present gigantic
proportions from the small beginnings of five and a half acres in 1847.
In that year two fields were purchased as a site for the new works about
to be started to make the hydraulic machinery which had been invented by
Mr. Armstrong.

In this undertaking he was backed by the wealth of several prominent
Newcastle citizens, who believed in the future of the new
inventions - Messrs. Addison Potter, George Cruddas, Armourer Donkin, and
Richard Lambert. At that time Elswick was a pretty country village some
distance outside of Newcastle, and the walk along the riverside between
the two places was a favourite one with the people of the town. In
midstream there was an island, where stood a little inn called the
"Countess of Coventry"; and on the island various sports were often
held, including horse-racing.

The price of the land for the new shops, which were soon built on the
green slopes above the Tyne, was paid to Mr. Hodgson Hind and Mr.
Richard Grainger; the latter of whom had intended, could he have carried
out his plans for the rebuilding of Newcastle, not to stop until he made
Elswick Hall the centre of the town.

Until the new shops were ready to begin work, some of Mr. Armstrong's
hydraulic cranes were made by Mr. Watson at his works in the High

All the summer of 1847, the building went briskly on; and in the autumn
work was started. At first Mr. Armstrong had an office in Hood Street,
as he was superintending his machinery construction in High Bridge, as
well as the building operations at Elswick. On some of the early
notepaper of the firm there is, as the heading, a picture of Elswick as
it was then, showing the first shops, the little square building in
which were the offices, the green banks sloping down to the waterside,
and the island in the middle of the shallow stream, while the chimneys
and smoke of Newcastle are indicated in the remote background. Along the
riverside was the public footpath.

The first work done in the new shops was the making of Crane No. 6; and
amongst other early orders was one from the _Newcastle Chronicle_, for
hydraulic machinery to drive the printing press. The new machinery
rapidly grew in favour; and orders from mines, docks and railways poured
in to the Elswick firm, which soon extended its works.

In 1854, when the Crimean War broke out, Mr. Armstrong was requested to
devise some submarine mines which would clear the harbour of Sebastopol
of the Russian war-ships which had been sent there. He did so, but the
machinery was never used.

At the same time, in his leisure moments, he turned his attention to the
question of artillery. The guns in use at that time were very little
better than those which had been used during the Napoleonic wars; and
Mr. Armstrong devised a new one, which was made at his workshops. It was
a 3-pounder, complete with gun-carriage and mountings, and is still to
be seen at Elswick.

With the usual reluctance of Government departments to consider anything
new, the War Office of the day was slow to believe in the superiority of
the new field-piece; but when every fresh trial proved that superiority
to be beyond doubt, the gun was adopted. And then Mr. Armstrong showed
the large-minded generosity which was so marked a feature of his
character. Holding in his hand - as every man must, who possesses the
secret of a new and superior engine of destruction - the fate of nations,
to be decided at his will, and with the knowledge that other powers were
willing and eager to buy with any sum the skill of such an inventor, Mr.
Armstrong presented to the British Government, as a free gift, the
patents of his artillery; and he entered the Government service for a
time, as Engineer to the War Department, in order to give them the
benefit of his skill and special knowledge.

A knighthood was bestowed upon him, and he took up his new duties as Sir
William Armstrong. An Ordnance department was opened at Elswick, and the
Government promised a continuance of orders above those that the Arsenal
at Woolwich was able to fulfil. All went well for a time, but after some
years the connection between the Government and Elswick ceased; the
Ordnance and Engineering works were then amalgamated into one concern,
and Mr. George Rendel and Captain Noble - now Sir Andrew Noble, and one
of the greatest living authorities on explosives - were placed in charge
of the former.

Released from the agreement to make no guns except for the British
Government, Elswick was open to receive other orders, which now began to
roll in from all the world. Elswick prospered greatly, until suddenly
there came a check, in the shape of a strike for a nine hours day, in
1871. After the strike had lasted for four and a half months, work was
resumed; but the old genial relationship between masters and men had
received a rude strain, and was never the same as before.

Shipbuilding had been taken up a year or two before this, but the
earliest vessels were built to their order in Mr. Mitchell's yard at
Walker. The first one was a small gunboat, the "Staunch," built for the
Admiralty. In later years the Walker ship-yard was united to the Elswick
enterprises, and a ship-yard at the latter place was also opened.

Meantime, Captain Noble had been experimenting further in artillery, and
in 1877 another and better type of gun was produced. It was adopted by
the Government, and all guns since then have been modifications, more or
less, of this type. In 1876 the famous hundred-ton gun for Italy was
made, and was taken on board the "Europa" to be carried to her
destination; this vessel being the first to pass the newly-finished
Swing Bridge, another outcome of the inventive genius of the head of the
Elswick firm. The gun, which was the largest in the world at that time,
was lowered into the "Europa" by the largest pair of "sheer-legs" in
existence, and was lifted out again at Spezzia by the largest hydraulic
crane of that day, and all these were the work of the Elswick firm.

Soon after this the firm became Sir W.G. Armstrong, Mitchell, and Co.;
and in consequence of the continued increase of business, it became
necessary to open Steel Works also. This is one of the most notable
features of the Elswick works; the wonders of ancient magicians pale
into insignificance before the marvels of this department, and no
Eastern Genius could accomplish such seemingly impossible feats with
greater ease than do the workmen of Elswick.

The works continued to grow still further, and soon Elswick was building
cruisers for China, for Italy (where works at Pozzuoli - the ancient
Puteoli - were opened), for Russia, Chili, and Japan. Tynesiders took a
special interest in the progress of the Japanese wars, for so many of
that country's battleships had their birth on the banks of the river at
Elswick, and Japanese sailors became a familiar sight in Newcastle
streets. Groups of strange faces from alien lands are periodically seen
in our midst, and met with again and again for some time; then one day
there is a launch at Elswick, and shortly afterwards all the strange
faces disappear. They have gathered together from their various quarters
in the town, and manning their new cruiser, have sailed away to their
own land, and Newcastle streets know them no more; but, later,
Tynesiders read in their newspapers of the deeds done on the vessels
which they have sent forth to the world.

The ice-breaker "Ermack" is one of the firm's most notable achievements,
the vessel having been built and designed in their Walker yard, to the
order of the Czar of Russia, in 1898, for the purpose of breaking up
ice-floes in the northern seas, and more especially for keeping open a
route across the great lakes of Siberia.

The Elswick firm became Armstrong, Whitworth and Co., Ltd., in 1897,
which was also the year of another great strike; and two years later, a
disastrous fire burned down three of their shops, throwing two thousand
men temporarily out of employment. Still the works continued to grow,
and business to increase, until, instead of the five and a half acres
originally purchased, the Company's works, in 1900, covered two hundred
and thirty acres, and the number of men on the pay-roll was over
25,000 - that is, sufficient with their families to people a town three
times the size of Hexham. And the scope and extent of these works are
extending, and yet extending; and now Elswick and Scotswood form an
uninterrupted line of closely-packed dwellings, which stretch without a
break from Newcastle, and make a background for the immense works on the
river shore; and one would look in vain for any signs of the pretty
country lanes and village of sixty years ago.

The founder of this great enterprise, in the early days of the Company,
built for his workpeople schools, library, and reading rooms, as well as
dwellings, and met them personally at their social gatherings and
entertainments - generally provided by himself; but the increasing size
of the concern, the excellence and capability, amounting to genius, of
the various heads of departments chosen by him, and his own increasing
years and failing health, led to his gradual withdrawal from personal
attendance at Elswick. The last time he appeared there officially was
when the King of Siam visited the works in 1897.

One who knew him well has written of him, "His mind was at the same time
original and strictly practical; he noticed with a penetrating
observation, and drew conclusions with intuitive genius. Abstract
speculation had no charm for him; he never cherished wild dreams or
extravagant ideas. But if his conception was thus wisely restricted, his
execution of an idea was unrivalled in its thoroughness. Whether he was
founding an industrial establishment, or building a house, or making a
road, the hand of the man is quite unmistakable. There is the same solid
basis, the same enduring superstructure. Every stone that is laid at
Cragside or Bamburgh seems to be stamped as it were with the impression
of his great personality, and the thoroughness of his work." All his
life long, the thoroughness with which he was able to concentrate his
mind on the one subject which occupied it at the time, was a marked
feature of Lord Armstrong's character.

In the early period of his career, while he was still in a solicitor's
office, and when the study of hydraulics was absorbing all his leisure
hours, he was quizzically said to have "water on the brain." Electrical
problems also engaged his attention, and in 1844 he lectured at the Lit.
and Phil. rooms on his hydro-electric machine, on which occasion the
lecture room was so tightly packed that he had to get in through the
window. In the following year he explained to the same society his
hydraulic experiments and achievements; in 1846 he was elected a Fellow
of the Royal Society; and the next summer, 1847, saw the Elswick Works

It is difficult to realize the fact, brought home to us on looking at
dates like these, that Lord Armstrong and Robert Stephenson were
contemporaries, and that both great engineers were engaged at the same
time on the works which were to bring them lasting fame. The life and
work of Robert Stephenson seem so remote, so much a part of bygone
history, that it strikes the mind with an unexpected shock to realise
that here is a life which began about the same time, yet has lasted
until quite recent years; for Lord Armstrong's long and successful
career only closed with the closing days of the nineteenth century.

In the later years of his life he was greatly interested in repairing
and partly re-building the historic castle of Bamburgh, which Mr.
Freeman calls "the cradle of our race," and which Lord Armstrong
purchased from Lord Crewe's Trustees. Of his personal character, the
writer above quoted says, "Apart from his intellectual gifts, Lord
Armstrong's character was that of a great man. His unaffected modesty
was as attractive as his broad-minded charity. In business transactions,
he was the soul of integrity and honour, while in private life his mind
was far too large to regard accumulated wealth with any excessive
affection. He both spent his money freely and gave it away freely. His
benefactions to Newcastle were princely, and his public munificence was
fit to rank with that of any philanthropist of his time."

Princely, indeed, were his gifts to his native town, as the list of them
will show; they embraced either large contributions to, or the entire
gift of, Jesmond Dene, the Armstrong Park, the Lecture Theatre of the
Literary and Philosophical Society, St. Cuthbert's Church, the
Cathedral, St. Stephen's Church, the Infirmary, the Deaf and Dumb
Institution, the Children's Hospital, the Elswick Schools, Elswick
Mechanics' Institute, the Convalescent Home at Whitley Bay, the Hancock
Museum - to which he and Lady Armstrong contributed a valuable collection
of shells, and £11,500 in money - the Armstrong Bridge, the Armstrong
College, and the Bishopric Endowment Fund.



From the crowded, bustling scenes of Tyneside to the solitude of the
Cheviot Hills is a "far cry," even farther mentally than in actual tale
of miles. Yet the two are linked by the same stream, which begins life
as a brawling Cheviot burn, having for its fellows the head waters of
the Rede, the Coquet, and the Till, with the scores of little dancing
rills that feed them.

Nowhere in this land of swelling hills and grassy fields can one get out
of either sight or sound of running water. Every little dip in the hills
has its watercourse, every vale its broader stream, and the pleasant
sound of their murmurings and sweet babbling fills in the background of

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Online LibraryJean F. TerryNorthumberland Yesterday and To-day → online text (page 8 of 17)