THE WALSEND DISCOVERY WALK

 

Standing at the eastern end of Hadrian`s Wall, the Roman fort of Segedunum enjoys World Heritage Site status. Visitors arrive from far and wide hoping to experience a little of what life might have been like for the six hundred or so soldiers who were garrisoned here for over 300 years. Justifiably proud of their shipbuilding and coal mining heritage, the people of Wallsend helped stoke the furnaces of the region`s industrial powerhouse from the 18th century onwards. As you pass through the streets of Wallsend on this walk of discovery you will see constant reminders of the town`s long and industrious past. This past is the DNA of the present town. It is imbedded in the soil beneath your feet. Tread carefully.

 

 

St. Peter`s Church

 

Distance – 2.5 miles

Start & Finish – Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend.

 

1. The walk starts where Hadrian`s 73 mile long wall comes to an abrupt end on the north bank of the mighty River Tyne, at the fort of Segedunum. Meaning `strong fort`, Segedunum was the first, or last, of 17 forts along the length of the wall and it was home to a sizeable cavalry barracks. A large area of the fort has been exposed and shares the site with an award winning museum and interpretation centre. The space age 35 metre high viewing tower is a landmark in itself. With the tower on your right, head the short distance to the first junction and the four faced cast iron clock. This ornate, Gothic-style clock dates from the late 19th century and enjoys Grade II Listed status. To your right, down the steep slope, is one of the region`s most famous industrial views, the entrance to the world famous Swan Hunter`s shipyard. How many times have we seen television footage of an army of workmen rushing up the hill at the end of a day`s shift. Head over the crossing and be sure not to miss, on the end of a small single storey building, a mural depicting the many facets of the town`s history. Turn left into Station Road.

 

The Shipyards & The Ships

Shipbuilding dominated Wallsend riverside for more than 100 years and gave the town its worldwide reputation. Literally hundreds of ships were built over the years by Swan Hunter, Wigham Richardson, North Eastern Marine and Wallsend Slipway, with many of these ships bringing pride not only to the town but to the whole nation. In 1906 the ocean liner, `The Mauretania` was launched on the river and carried 2,000 passengers on its maiden voyage. It captured the Blue Ribband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, a record it held for 22 years. In 1969, the 253,000 ton tanker `Esso Northumbria`, left the slipway to huge celebrations. It was the largest merchant ship ever built in the U.K. The aircraft carrier, `HMS Ark Royal` was launched from Swan Hunter`s on the 20th June 1981 by the Queen Mother and was the fifth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name of the flagship of the English fleet which repelled the Spanish Armada. Its smaller sister, `HMS Illustrious` was also built at Wallsend.

 

 

2. When you reach the station it is worth climbing the stairs to either platform to peep at the bi-lingual signage and other Latin language installations. Created by artist Michael Pinsky, as part of a wider project, the signage is an example of the town`s highly visible Roman roots. Pass under the railway bridge and within less than 200 metres you reach St. Luke`s Church. Designed by Oliver & Leeson, who were also responsible for designing Cullercoats Lifeboat Station, this 1886 church was described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his authoritative 1957 book, `The Buildings of England : Northumberland` as being “a big serious early English church“. It contains a 1922 stained glass First World War memorial window, by the Irish artist Wilhelmina Geddes, a window described as “the best north of the Alps”. Turn left into Frank Street, quickly reaching the Memorial Hall, erected in “memory of members of the staff and workmen of Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd. who fell in the Great War 1914-18”. The war memorial, by sculptor Roger Hedley, set into the side of the building, was unveiled on the 15th August 1925 and contains, to either side, bronze life size figures of  a seaman and a gunner, with rifles reversed. Turn right into Atkinson Street and then right again into High Street.

 

 

`Chicken in a basket` - Wallsend style

 

3. Cross over immediately, heading to your right in the direction of the Anson public house. On your way, you will meet, the eye catching `Market Woman` by artist and sculptor Hans Schwartz. Born in Vienna in 1922, Schwartz was orphaned as a teenager when his father died in Auschwitz concentration camp. Eventually settling in England, he became a full time artist in 1964 and was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint the portraits of Nikolaus Pevsner, Joe Gormley and Tom Jackson.  The `Market Woman` was installed in 1966 and Schwartz wanted her to “appear as a tough hardworking peasant and not a graceful girl”. At the time of unveiling the work was greeted by a storm of criticism. These days the bronze work is much better loved and deservedly so. The Anson public house was named after the 35,000 ton battleship HMS Anson which was launched from Swan Hunter`s shipyard in 1942. A board attached to the wall of the public house `tells the tale`. You are standing on the edge of the 1965 built Forum Shopping Centre, the name being another reminder of Wallsend`s Roman lineage.

 

4. Continue to the right of the Anson public house, rejoining Station Road as it heads away from the main part of the town. After you have passed, on your left hand side, the Trinity Methodist Church cross over and on reaching the cross roads turn right into North Road. On the opposite corner stands the former Buddle School. Built in 1876 for the Wallsend Schools Board, this Grade II Listed building, built in the Scottish baronial style, is now home to the Buddle Arts Centre. Just after the Arts Centre, in North Road, is the entrance to Richardson Dees Park and, if time allows, spare a few minutes to wander along its pathways. The park was developed around a piece of land, formerly part of Wallsend Colliery, presented to the town by Newcastle solicitor, Robert Richardson Dees, who lived in Wallsend Hall. It is worth seeking out the renovated bandstand. Be sure to leave the park by the same gate as you entered, turning left towards the red brick and sandstone trimmed Allen Memorial Methodist Church, named after John Allen a well known local chemical manufacturer. Notice the stunted tower, the original spire having being removed when it became unsafe.

 

 

Perfectly proportioned art décor style

 

They once called it home!

Born in Wallsend in 1920, Albert Stubbins played football for Newcastle United and Liverpool before retiring from the game in 1953. In 1967 he once again found a place in the spotlight when his photograph appeared on the sleeve of  the “most influential rock album of all time”; the Beatles`, `Sgt. Pepper`s Lonely Hearts Club Band`. The town has produced more than its fair share of footballers, with Newcastle United`s 1972 born Lee Clark and Tottenham Hotspur`s 1981 born Michael Carrick following Albert Subbins into the professional ranks. Between 1985 & 1988 and 1990 & 1991, Joanne Conway dominated British Figure Skating. Born in Wallsend in 1971, Joanne went on to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games. A certain Gordon Matthew Sumner, better known to music fans the world over as `Sting`, was born in the town in 1951, and gained international stardom, first with the group `The Police` and then as a solo performer.

 

 

5. As you head straight on, you are now entering the Wallsend Green Conservation Area and the original village of Wallsend. Made up for a long time by only a handful of farmhouses built around a green, this area became popular in the mid-19th century with Newcastle merchants who had their large `country` houses built here. Spend time to have a thorough look around. Wander a few metres down Lily Bank to admire the fine Elm Terrace and, en route, notice the Victorian post box set into the wall on your right. The buildings and grounds of Wallsend Hall were presented to the town by Sir G. B. Hunter and were opened to the public in 1916. The Hall became a hospital in the 1920`s and in the 1950`s an extension was built to create the Civic Hall. Beyond the Hall stands the 1940 art décor influenced Health Centre. Built as part of a government scheme to provide `model` facilities for mothers and young children, this building was affectionately known as the `Sunray Clinic` as a consequence of the treatment used for the prevention of rickets. It is a stylish and perfectly proportioned building. On the corner, where Crow Bank falls away steeply, stand the Grade II Listed Jasmine House and Cross House. The two storey Cross House is the former village school whilst the picture postcard Jasmine House was the residence of the schoolmaster.

 

 

Picture Postcard - Jasmine House

 

6. At this point take the road bending gently to your right, which descends slightly before rising into Boyd Road. Continue, past Burnside Community High School on your left, until you reach the junction with High Street East. Turn left and as you proceed St. Peter`s Church will soon come into view. On your left is the 1894 New Winning public house, the name being a nod to Wallsend`s coal mining past. Who can forget the terrible events, on the afternoon of the 18th June 1835, when an underground explosion killed 102 men and boys at Wallsend Colliery. Cross over and enter the churchyard. Immediately to your right is the Millennium Seat, presented to the town by the Wallsend Pensioners and the Victor Mann Trust. Time perhaps for a short rest. The church of St. Peter`s was consecrated in 1809 and was built to replace the 12th century Holy Cross Church, half a mile away to the north west. It was extensively rebuilt in 1892 when it was “enlarged and gothicized”. In the churchyard there is a small plaque in memory of those who died in the 1835 colliery disaster.

 

It is a long way from Russia to Wallsend

Born in Russia in 1884, Yevgeny Zamyatin graduated as a naval engineer. In 1916 he was sent to England to supervise the construction of a number of icebreakers at shipyards in Wallsend and Walker. Whilst he was in Wallsend he wrote `The Islander`, a novel satirising English life and this was subsequently published on his return home after 18 months by the River Tyne. It marked the beginning of a literary career spawning the book, `We` which influenced George Orwell`s `Nineteen Eighty-Four` and Aldous Huxley`s `Brave New World`.

 

 

 

A proud coal mining past

 

7. Leave the churchyard and turn left back into High Street East, which you will now stay with for some time. You are following the route of the old North Shields to Newcastle turnpike road and soon you will pass the still `youthful` Richardson Dees Primary School. To your left watch out for the advertising sign, painted above the ground floor of the house on the corner of Myrtle Grove, which proudly declares, “This is Whitfield`s. The Bacon Specialist”; a remnant of the time when this building housed one of the many corner shops which dotted these terraced streets.  Now the ornate building of the Coach and Horses public house looms large, standing alongside the equally imposing Baroque-style Town Hall. The 1902 public house pre-dates the Town Hall by some 6 years and stands where an Inn, of the same name, has stood since at least 1739. The Town Hall forms part of a larger block of buildings, which also contained a fire station, public baths and a police court. Continue along High Street East, crossing over Station Road before passing once again the Forum Shopping Centre.

 

8. Now turn left into Carville Road and only a short distance from journeys end. As you wander towards the river, note the 1957 brick built Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Columba`, with an interesting steeple, tightly squeezed next to the railway line. As you pass under the low bridge, the riverside cranes dominate the view and remind you that despite a dramatic worldwide decline in shipbuilding, Wallsend still plays a small role. When you reach Buddle Street, so named after John Buddle the Manager of Wallsend Colliery who was actively involved with Sir Humphrey Davy in the development of the safety lamp bearing his name, turn right. Here stands a reconstructed section of Hadrian`s Wall, unveiled on the 5th June 1997 and running alongside the foundations of the original wall. Nearby, the scant remains of Wallsend Colliery`s B Pit can also be seen. As you close the iron gate and step back into Buddle Street you come to the end of your walk of discovery at the place where Wallsend`s long history first began, at the fort of Segedunum.

 

 

Segedunum`s space age viewing tower

 

Devised & Written: Geoff Holland 2006

Photographs: Geoff Holland 2006

Previously published in leaflet form. In this respect the assistance of Town Centres Management and North Tyneside Council is gratefully acknowledged.

 

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